23 Mar. 2007

Countering WMD proliferation

Transcript of video interview with NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, Ambassador Martin Erdmann

Q: Ambassador Erdmann, you chair several major NATO committees and one of them is the Senior Political Military Group on Proliferation. The group is hosting an important seminar on proliferation issues, hosted by Lithuania in Vilnius on the 18th and 19th of April 2007. Is this the first time that NATO organizes such an event?

ERDMANN: In fact this event has turned, over time, into a flagship event in the non-proliferation arena, so to speak. It is the third event, will be the third event. The first two meetings have taken place in Rome in 2004 and last year in Sofia where the Bulgarian hosts organized that meeting, together with NATO.

Altogether some 60, 6-0, nations will participate in this flagship event, and as I said, in the global arena of non-proliferation discussions this is one of the most outstanding events.

Q:The seminar in Vilnius will focus on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Does NATO have a policy on this issue?

ERDMANN: The guidelines for us is the strategic concept of NATO. That dates back to 1999 and there it says that the aim of NATO's activities is to prevent proliferation from occurring, and should it occur, to revert it through diplomatic means.
This is very important because it sets the parameters of NATO's activities which take place in the political and diplomatic field. And in this respect a meeting with representatives, officials, high-ranking academics from 60 countries, it is this kind of political debate that is based on the strategic concept and its guidelines for dealing with the issue of proliferation or non-proliferation.
We will receive academics, as I said, and high-ranking officials from many, many countries, and we are looking forward to a very open and substantial debate.

Q:Could you tell us a bit more about the seminar? What makes it a noteworthy event?

ERDMANN: The high-level participation, the fact that we have governmental representatives, as well as academics renowned in this field and the fact that we will have a very open debate; due to the informality of the event, this is a seminar. It's called seminar. It's not a negotiation round. A seminar where nations and academics can put down, lay down their views on the issue. And as I said at the outset, it's a flagship event in global terms.

Q: What to your mind are the most important topics on the seminar's agenda?

ERDMANN: All topics are really important, but let me just highlight one, and that is the presence of the Chairman of the United Nations Non-proliferation Committee, Ambassador Burian from Slovakia. It's the so-called 1540 Committee that is dealing with the legal aspects of proliferation and which is aiming at criminalization illicit activities in the field of proliferation. So we have a very high-ranking representative of the United Nations, and let me add that Slovakia only recently had the presidency of the United Nations Security Council.
So it is this level and this kind of debate that we will have there.

Q: What about Iran and North Korea? Will they be on the agenda?

ERDMANN:The North Atlantic Council, the supreme decision-making body of the Alliance, has issued two strong statements last year in 2006 concerning North Korean nuclear tests and missile tests. Even though NATO is not a Pacific power and has no appetite to play a role in the region, allies thought and deemed it necessary to condemn in the strongest terms the North Korean activities in this field.
NATO is not involved in the six-party talks either, but we do, of course, follow closely the events and we do hope that after the successful round that has taken place recently, the implementation by North Korea will now be on the agenda.
Concerning Iran, as we all know, there are activities of the EU3 going on. The issue is now, as we speak, with the Security Council in New York. NATO is observing closely the events, but has no direct role to play in this context.
Let me add to the seminar again, one word, and that is this is an informal event, an event without conclusions or decisions at the end of the day and that is the strength, as well, of the seminar, because all participants can express themselves freely, irrespective of constraints that informal negotiations we would otherwise have.

Q: Thank you, Ambassador Erdmann, for this interview. I hope the seminar will turn out to be a successful event.

ERDMANN: Yeah, thank you for this interview, indeed, and let me add that I hope this seminar will be an event where everybody will speak up freely and will contribute to the discussion and I hope that all the speakers that we will welcome there will focus on solutions on the question that we have put to the front of the seminar; namely, what can we do, what can we better do, to prevent proliferation from occurring.
Thank you very much.