From the event

the Netherlands

25 Oct. 2007

Final press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the meeting of NATO defence ministers

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Let me, after the meetings we had this morning, update you on the two meetings. I would like to start with the NATO-Russia Council and then tell you something about the meeting the 26 NATO Allies had earlier this morning on a number of subjects.

Let me start with the NATO-Russia Council then. I think we had a very good meeting with Minister Serdyukov. First of all, the atmosphere was good; the atmosphere was positive; the atmosphere was constructive. It proved again in my opinion that the NATO-Russia Council, where you agree on many things and where you disagree on a few items, is the forum we should use to the full to see that we do not only discuss what we agree, but also discuss issues where we might not agree.

Let me start on the side of what I consider the growth areas in the NATO-Russia relationship. We have the Russian participation in Operation Active Endeavour, as you know the naval operation in the Mediterranean which, like last year, now sees active participation of a Russian warship. We have the very important cooperation program on counter-narcotics training; training for Afghan personnel, for Central Asian personnel, where NATO and Russia are cooperating together. We saw the ratification by the State Duma of the so-called Status of Forces Agreement.

We had a reinforced meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels on October 17th on missile defence and there and here it was clear that a few things are noteworthy in this regard. That is that first of all, based on what I heard this morning, the two-plus-two talks which were held in Moscow not that long ago, 10 days ago, have been held in a constructive atmosphere. Two-plus-two talks on missile defence, but also in the framework of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

That does not mean that there is agreement on everything, but I think I could distil from the briefings we got, that this fear in Moscow was constructive and I saw that atmosphere reflected in the NATO-Russia Council this morning. An important element of this atmosphere is that the Russian Federation has decided to participate in an important so-called computer assisted exercise on theatre missile defence which will be held in Germany in a few weeks time. There was some hesitation in the beginning if the Russian Federation would participate. That means that that participation is an important element in the cooperation we have already for some quite some time on the issue of theatre missile defence. The U.S. third site discussions were discussed as I said in Brussels a few weeks ago in the NATO-Russia Council.

We have many other areas of practical cooperation where, I think, there is still very constructive work to do.

We have our disagreements on Kosovo, on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, on the issue of missile defence, but we do discuss these issues and the right place, I say again, is the NATO-Russia Council. If we have the right spirit on top of that, I'm relatively and moderately positive on what we can achieve. To be continued in Brussels this meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.

Before the NRC, the 26 NATO Ministers discussed NATO's transformation; discussed the way, first of all, how NATO can answer to 21st century threats and challenges. I'll come to that in a moment. Before they did that, they had a discussion on the pressure on the NATO Forces in the different operations and missions, and more specifically on the NATO Response Force.

Let me tell you at the outset, the concept of the NATO Response Force is not going to change. The NRF will stay as it is. What we are going to do probably because the military have to give us advice and we're waiting for that military advice, what we're going to do a bit differently than before is generating the force. We'll generate a core force for the NATO Response Force and if and when the situation arises that we have to generate more, we'll force generate. The call will be there; the concept doesn't change and the NATO Response Force will be able to perform all the missions it should perform.

This was a concept - we call it in our jargon, excuse me, the graduated approach - and graduated is of course the way the NRF will be force-generated. Our military advisors have now been tasked by... as soon as possible provide us in the North Atlantic Council with advice on how to further proceed. The bottom line here is that the NRF will stay the same, but the number of forces we'll have on permanent stand-by (as you know at the moment 25,000) will decrease.

If I discuss and talk with you about the challenges and the threats of the 21st century, do think about energy security. We had a tasking at the Summit in Riga about energy security and defining NATO's added value in the field of energy security. NATO is of course not a prime player in this regard.

I mention cyber defence as well. How do we defend ourselves in the 21st century against all forms of cyber attacks? A package of measures, in other words, which is a building block and that building block has been laid here in Noordwijk for the meeting the NATO Defence Ministers are going to have in Vilnius next spring, and finally of course for the Bucharest Summit in April next year in Romania.

That in brief is what I can tell you about this morning's meetings. I'm ready for your questions.

APPATHURAI: Let's start right there. We'll take two.

Q: I'm from Danish Broadcasting Television and Radio and I would like to jump, if you will excuse me, back to yesterday.


Q: About that you want to sort of step up your information strategy. Could you please tell if there's anything concrete on this? Any new initiatives on its way? And could you also tell how should the citizens trust information provided by NATO? I guess you're not interested in providing information that is bad for NATO.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well to start with the final part citizens in Denmark or elsewhere are usually well-informed adult people. So if - NATO will not do this - but if NATO would come let's say only with propaganda to explain what it is doing in Afghanistan under full cover of the United Nations Security Council mandate (I air that because it's I think important to realise that on a permanent basis)... So I don't think any Danish or Dutch or Norwegian citizen will be in a position to have him or herself cheated by NATO propaganda. That is definitely not what NATO will do.

It's definitely not something I would authorise in any way or the North Atlantic Council would authorise for that matter.

What we can do, as I said yesterday, is improve our public messaging and part of that public messaging could be to show to the people - and they would draw their own conclusions - what our opponent, our enemy in Afghanistan, looks like, what they do. That is why I made a plea in Copenhagen two weeks ago that at a certain stage we should declassify video footage we have; and that is not manipulated - it's video footage we have of a man with a burqa who is without the burqa at first. Puts the burqa on and starts shooting at people. You know that our opponents, our enemies in Afghanistan , perform the most horrible and horrendous human rights violations. But no propaganda, of course not!

On the first part of your question there was a very important Danish offer made by Minister Søren Gade on bringing NATO a bit more up to date on the video equipment we have, or we do not have at the moment in Afghanistan , to make a more efficient and effective public diplomacy strategy workable. I'm very grateful for the offer Denmark made and I'm very grateful for them, Minister Gade, Minister Per Stig Møller, to organise this seminar because it was devoted to public diplomacy and you might have heard what I said there.

Q: Mark John from Reuters. Secretary General on the NRF you say that it will retain the same capabilities that it has now under this new approach.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: This has nothing to do with the NRF by the way.




DE HOOP SCHEFFER: My spokesman had his hours with you this morning already, so he should now... Please go ahead.

Q: I'll start again. I'll make the question shorter. How can you be certain that it will retain these capabilities given that every time NATO has these problems when it has to generate forces, how can you be certain that the forces will arrive in a timely fashion?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well if... look.... For the nations, as we speak the choice is not a choice of luxury at the moment. It is often a decision in many nations (even in the bigger ones)... "What are we going to do? Are we going to commit our forces to an operation in Afghanistan or Kosovo or elsewhere? And, how many forces can we afford to have on permanent stand-by?"

Now our experience is now that we're facing a problem with the NRF, because if I have the choice as Secretary General of generating a force for a certain operation or mission or have that force in reserve, I know and you know what my choice would be. On the other hand, we cannot afford and that is not what we are doing, to conclude at a certain stage we do not have a NATO Response Force anymore.

So the political signal coming from Noordwijk, but we need military advice on this and then we'll discuss it further, is a political agreement that we keep the present concept of the NATO Response Force. Ministers who realize again politically that if we go for this so-called graduated approach and generate the call and then generate if and when necessary (in other words have less forces on stand-by) that they are in a position and have to be in a position to be able to generate those forces and they will be. So you see not a change of concept, but you see a political commitment to do what is necessary to make the NRF work.

But I admit, and that's how I started yesterday if I remember correctly, that the pressure on the forces is very big indeed and that in that regard force generation will never be an easy process. Sometimes it's political will. Let me not be... let me not show too much nuance. Sometimes it's political will, but very often in these days it is also a question of the total number of the force pool and the pressure on the forces.

APPATHURAI: Next question is here.

Q: Andrea (inaudible), RIA Novosti News Agency from Russia . I have a question. On November the 6th the Russian Duma Parliament will begin discussing a bill, a draft law that foresees freezing of Russian participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe . Could you please comment on this and on the eventuality that Russia really will pull out or freeze its participation.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I sincerely hope that will not happen and I'm saying this because, as you know, the NATO Allies consider this adapted CFE Treaty still, have always considered this adapted CFE as one of the cornerstones, if not the cornerstone, of European security. So the Allies and I would deplore very much if the Russian Federation would, at a certain stage, decide to suspend or to leave the CFE Treaty.

I do see now - and that is part of the same atmosphere as I was trying to describe on this morning's NRC meeting - I do see now that parties and nations and Allies are talking to each other; that there is with the Allies an understanding of some worries the Russian Federation has on the adapted CFE. My advice to all of them would be: “Allies and our Russian friends and partners, please don't make irreversible moves. Don't do irreversible steps. Give this process a chance.” I think there are proposals on the table which have also been discussed in the two-plus-two talks in Moscow by Secretaries Rice and Gates with their Russian counterparts, and with the President Putin. So while this process has now taken off, I would deplore if the Russian Federation in this process would decide to suspend it.

APPATHURAI: Next question is there and then we'll go there.

Q: Paul Ames from the Associated Press. Secretary General you mentioned the differences between Russia and NATO over the U.S. third site, missile defence third site. We've heard several talks now in Moscow , in Brussels and now here again in Noordwijk; is it your impression that those differences have narrowed at all during those talks and to what extent?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well that is not so easy to judge for me because I wasn't privy of course and present in the two-plus-two talks. If I go again from the atmosphere and if I go from the proposals put forward by the United States Secretaries when they were in Moscow , I think, and I've said this before and I repeat it, that that is a very substantial offer. I can only hope, and I've seen the first signs of this as well I can add, that the Russian Federation will continue this discussion with their American friends in a very constructive atmosphere in a very constructive way at the same time.

Because I say again: I'm not privy to those talks. I'll do everything I can as Chairman of the NATO-Russia Council and as Chairman of the North Atlantic Council, but you asked about the Russians that as Chairman of the NRC to see that the NATO-Russia Council is used to the full with our Russian partners, with the Allies, to see that we have maximum transparency in the whole development of the discussion on missile defence. We had that two weeks ago where the Russian Ambassador Antonov briefed us on the Russian position; the American team, Secretary Daniel Fried, John Obering, briefed on the U.S. position. I'll see to it that the NATO-Russia Council is used to the full.

At the same time we have in our relations with the Russians this important cooperation on theatre missile defence. Let's not forget that and that's why I mentioned Russian participation in this exercise.

So I cannot give you a concrete and specific answer. My impression is that let's say the atmosphere has changed from very negative as it was not so long ago to an atmosphere where parties are hopefully talking to each other in a constructive way and I think that's a plus.

APPATHURAI: Last question is there.

Q: Jim Nuger from Bloomberg. On the same point how would you characterize the Allies’ reaction to the latest American offer of cooperation on missile defence? Does it go far enough? And the French Defence Minister today told us that while there is general agreement on the potential threat posed, especially by Iran, there is a disagreement within the Alliance over how quickly that threat would materialize, with some seeing it as more imminent, others as less imminent. Is there a consensus on this point and what is your view?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well what we have discussed and what we have decided - and I think that's an important decision taken by the North Atlantic Council not that long ago - we have decided on how the Allies see this threat, ballistic missile threat. We had a threat assessment dating December 2004 if I'm well informed and we do agree on the threat.

On the first part of your question: from what I sense in the North Atlantic Council, the Allies are looking with great interest and in a positive spirit, in a positive way, to the proposals tabled by Secretaries Rice and Gates in Moscow. And I say again, I think they are rather fundamental and important proposals. That's why I say that I hope that the debate will be held in a most constructive way. The debate will of course also continue in the Alliance .

Let me not comment on comments made here by the French Defence Minister. Let me take my own responsibility and tell you that I have the impression that the Allies are generally positive about the way the discussion on missile defence is developing. Some Allies said this in so many words. And the discussion in the Alliance will continue because, as you know, there is a Riga tasking.

Let me repeat the principle - it was mentioned this morning - the sacred principle of the indivisibility of security in NATO. No A and B category NATO Allies. All are in the same league and that means that NATO will have to discuss of course its own project on missile defence and the consequences for NATO of the U.S. third site proposals. You know that then I'm talking about the short and medium range threats and how - but we're in the very early stages and no decisions have been made - how these two relate to each other. I think it's much too early to say what the outcome of this will be, but we're working on this towards the next meeting of Defence Ministers in Vilnius and the Summit in Bucharest in April.

APPATHURAI: That's all we have time for it. Thank you very much.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you very much.