Updated: 22-Nov-2005 NATO Speeches


16 Sep. 2005

Video Background Briefing

by the NATO Spokesman

Audio file .MP3/4680Kb
Video interview
James Appathurai

Hello, and welcome to the latest in our series of monthly briefings on what is happening here at NATO and at NATO Headquarters. I was reminded that it has, in fact, been more than a month since our last briefing, And a lot has happened since then. A lot is happening here now, as we speak. So I'm very glad that you've tuned in.

Let me begin with a discussion of what happened very recently at an informal meeting of Defence Ministers in Berlin. We call these informal meetings because no decisions were taken or were expected to be taken. This was a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers and of the NATO Russia Council Defence Ministers. That's the 26 NATO members with the Russia counterpart. There was no meeting of what we call the EAPC, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The last EAPC was hosted very graciously by our Swedish partners in Åre. This was a NATO and NRC meeting only.

Let me begin by addressing what the discussions were like in the NATO meeting on the afternoon and evening of the.... I'm sorry. Let me begin by discussing what took place at the NATO-only meetings.

Ministers began with a discussion not of the immediate nuts and bolts of our operations and missions, but by looking a little bit into the future. This is an informal meeting, a meeting where ministers can discuss without having to take decisions.

The Secretary General wanted Defence Ministers, and they followed his lead, to lift their eyes and look to the future, to see what kind of strategic environment they foresaw 10 to 15 years from now and how they thought NATO should plan and shape its armed forces and its missions to meet the challenges of that security environment.

So there was a very open and very political discussion amongst Defence Ministers about where they saw the future of the Alliance and the balance, for example, that they foresaw between the requirement for stabilization forces or high-end combat forces.

The role also of the NRF was discussed, the NATO Response Force. There are, of course, many different ways in which the NATO Response Force can be used. Ministers, of course, discussed various options. Options which, of course, covered the spectrum. Some Ministers leaned towards a model where the NATO Response Force would be kept more in reserve for extreme contingencies, whereas others foresaw more regular use of the NATO Response Force for broader ranger of requirements.

There were no decisions taken, as I mentioned. But it was a good opportunity for Ministers to share views, established their positions and come closer together. So as I say a good political discussion. One of the best I have certainly seen between Defence Ministers and something that the Secretary General will wish to pursue as we move forward.

There was then, of course, a very practical discussion of our missions and operations. By the time you see this, the elections in Afghanistan will have taken place. By any standards, these elections of such a scale, and in a country that simply has not seen a democratic process for a very long time, if ever, are a real success. And NATO has played a part in that success and support of the Afghan government. We have deployed over 10,000 troops into Afghanistan now for the election period. Two thousand are there for the election process itself and will be withdrawn in the coming weeks and months.

But certainly NATO has played its part, alongside Operation Enduring Freedom and alongside the United Nations, the NGOs, the EU, the G8 and the international donor community to help these elections run smoothly, all in support of the Afghan government, support of the Afghan national army and the Afghan police that have played such an important lead role in maintaining peace and security through this election period.

Despite all the difficulties that we've seen, this is an historic success. But, and this is something that was discussed at the Defence Ministers' meeting, this is not the end of the road, it is the beginning of the road. Afghanistan will need long- term support as it takes the lead in building its own future. And Defence Ministers did two things. One, stressed NATO's long-term role and look al forward to the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led peacekeeping force to the south of the country from where it is now in the capital, in the north and the west, and then looking farther forward to where NATO will take responsibilities throughout the country.

But this, of course, requires ever closer synergy between the NATO mission and Operation Enduring Freedom, that is the coalition-led that is now predominantly in the south and the east of the country and that focuses more on counterinsurgency and counterterror operations.

And Ministers, while sharing a broad range of views on overall command structures, agreed on a common way forward. And that is greater synergy, greater cooperation between the two operations. They will move closer together both geographically and in terms of mutual support. And there will be discussions here, along broadly shared lines, of what the precise command range should be as the two missions move closer together, establish greater synergy. These discussions will begin at NATO in the coming months. And I do expect them to go into the right direction and achieve relatively quick conclusions as we look towards expansion to Stage 3 next summer.

Ministers also discussed Kosovo. Kosovo is, this month, very much in a period of evolution. NATO ambassador, Kai Eide, will release his report to the United Nations, and then of course it will become public, on how he sees Kosovo's progress in meeting the standards set by the international community and whether he assesses that Kosovo can move forward towards status talks.

This, of course, will be, in the end, a decision for the United Nations, but certainly there is great volatility now in Kosovo as everyone is looking to see the political process move forward. And Ambassador Eide's report will obviously trigger some progress in one direction or another.

NATO will be there, KFOR is there to stay. It is restructuring to become more mobile, more flexible, more visible in the field, with more contact with the people of Kosovo and it will continue to what it is there to do, and that is to protect all of the people of Kosovo, in all parts of Kosovo, as the political process moves forward.

There was also discussion of Iraq in Berlin. I can tell you that in the coming weeks NATO will open formally our training academy on the outskirts of Baghdad at Ar Rustimiyah. It is a training academy where NATO will concentrate it's training effort of Iraqi officers inside Baghdad, inside Iraq. We also do training outside of Iraq. The overall targets will remain the same. NATO will continue to train around 1,500 officers per year.

But with this training academy established we will be able to do it in a more efficient way, as I say, just on the outskirts of Baghdad. And that should happen in the coming weeks.

There was discussion, of course, of NATO's Operation Active Endeavour and how it will be strengthened. This is our counter-terror operation in the Mediterranean which involves much of NATO's Mediterranean fleet.

And this brings me of course to our meeting with Minister Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Defence Minister, in the context of the NATO-Russia Council, because Minister Ivanov announced that he believed that Russian ships will be ready to support this operation, participate in this operation, beginning in January of next year, which is something that NATO nations welcome very much. Russia's support for this, both politically and now practically with ships is a good demonstration of how far we've come in building trust and confidence between NATO nations and Russia.

There was also a very interesting discussion of the international security environment, of the need to combat terrorism, but also of the need to cooperate in combating this flow of narcotics that is coming out of Afghanistan. and to do that in a NATO-Russia Council context, and NATO-Russia context.

As you all know, I'm sure, about 90 percent of the heroin produced in the world comes from Afghanistan. Obviously it has to flow out through neighbouring countries, of which Russia is one. And Russia, like every other country, is affected by this; indeed, it is a victim of it, because this heroin is ending up in all of our streets, in all of our schools and in all of our alleys and needs to be addressed.

So there was discussion around the table of how we might, for example, strengthen border controls in neighbouring countries around Afghanistan, always in a cooperative way, but perhaps by building capacity in a NATO-Russia context. So that, too, was a sign of concrete progress.

Minister Ivanov also updated his NRC colleagues, the 26 NATO Defence Ministers about a recent Russia-China military exercise, the first of its kind. As Minister Ivanov pointed out, it was the first time that China has ever held a military exercise with any other country in its history. So it was very interesting for the other 26 Defence Ministers to hear Minister Ivanov's assessment of that training exercise and what he believed to be the conclusions. He pointed out that there might be also a similar exercise to take place in Russia at some point in the future, also with China, in the tradition of exercises that Russia holds with many countries around the world.

This was, in essence, the substance of the meeting in Berlin. It was a very good meeting, a very political meeting. And I think all the Defence Ministers, and certainly the Secretary General, were pleased with the results.

Let me turn very quickly to the upcoming schedule because there are a few events that are, I think, of interest.

One is that the Secretary General has gone to New York to do some important work. First, to meet with Secretary General Kofi Annan and move forward the establishment of setting up a strategic relationship between the United Nations and NATO. We have, of course, very good practical relations in the field, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan. We depend very much in the UN lead on Afghanistan. We depend very much on cooperation with the UN mission in Kosovo. And of course, practi.... cooperation on a practical level takes level on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis in the field.

But it is also important to have more strategic level discussions between NATO and the United Nations on issues like terrorism, on issues like proliferation, on issues like the long-term future of Afghanistan. And indeed, that's one of the issues that the Secretary General has discussed with Secretary General Annan, how to maintain a broad international coalition and a broad international consensus on moving forward in supporting the Afghan government now that the elections are finished, as they take the lead in building their own future, including a counter narcotic strategy.

The Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer believes very much that this must be an international team effort. It is impossible for any single organization to manage the challenges of Afghanistan and support the Afghan government alone. The UN must take the lead, alongside the Afghan government. And NATO will play its part, alongside the European Union, alongside the G8, alongside the major donors. This must be a long-term international team effort. And that is something that was very much part of the discussions between Secretary General Annan and Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer.

The NATO Secretary General also met with a very broad range of Foreign Ministers who were all in New York for the General Assembly meeting of Foreign Ministers. Not only NATO Foreign Ministers, but Foreign Ministers from really around the world, including from the Gulf and other areas. So it has been a very productive week for him.

He will also have a speech at Columbia University which you can see on the Web. We will put it up there as soon as it is given. So that will be his trip to New York.

I should also mention that in a few weeks, the entire NATO Council is planning to go to Ukraine to do two things: One is to have political discussions with the government which is, of course, working very hard to continue its reforms, despite the changes that have taken place in the government. We understand that the government remains absolutely committed--and President Yushchenko has said this himself--remains absolutely committed to continuing reforms, continuing to move closer to Europe and to NATO.

And NATO ambassadors who wish to go and discuss with Ukraine, in the context of our distinctive relationship, how the Alliance can continue to support that direction. Ukraine will build its future not in the East, not in the West but in Ukraine itself. And NATO wants to help that process to happen. And a visit of the entire NATO Council, led by the Secretary General, is a profound demonstration of our commitment to help Ukraine build that future.

That's it for this month. Thank you for tuning in, and I look forward to talk to you soon.

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