From the event

the Netherlands

25 Oct. 2007

Press conference

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

(...) Discussion for this morning.  That was again NATO Defence Ministers only.  And this morning's session was focussed principally on what we call transformation.  In other words, the modernisation and the availability of NATO forces and how we can do better in both regards. 

The centrepiece of the discussion, but it was certainly not the only part of the discussion, was on the NATO Response Force.  In essence, the ministers agree to take forward discussion on what we call a "graduated approach to the NATO Response Force". 

What does that mean?  In essence it means that the concept of the NATO Response Force should remain the same.  The range of missions that the NATO Response Force should be designed to meet remains the same.  And the ultimate size of the NATO Response Force should remain the same, which is around 25,000 as you know. 

The military will now look, based on the direction they have received, at elaborating what size of the force a core of the NATO Response Force should be in essence kept on permanent stand-by.  Should that be the 25,000?  Should it be a lower number?  And of course, they are looking at a smaller core of the NATO Response Force with the framework in place to ramp up attached forces to that smaller core up to the ultimate potential size of 25,000 in the event of a larger crisis that could obviously be foreseen. 

The ministers were very clear.  This is not to be seen as an ultimate change to the ultimate size of the NATO Response Force.  This is an interim measure to be examined in the context of -  I think it's very important to mention here - in the context of the larger issue of pressure on NATO forces and in particular on NATO land forces. And that was very much the second element of what they discussed.

The issue of force generation for ISAF, you're very familiar with.  And of course, we spend a lot of effort at NATO headquarters and in all of our capitals trying to generate the forces to meet the 100% requirement for ISAF.  We also have to work to provide forces for reserves.  We also have to provide forces for Kosovo and for the NATO Response and for Operation Active Endeavour. 

But it is not just NATO that is putting in request demands for these forces.  Western forces are in demand due to their... of course, their high quality on military operations for the European Union.  Look at Chad for the United Nations;  look at Darfur, the hybrid force which is soon coming is going to require support from Western countries, for the kinds of capabilities that we all need, not just boots on the ground, but also helicopters, fixed wing transport aircraft, logistics, combat... what we call combat support, combat service support.  These capabilities are in very, very heavy demand.  And that was an issue that many defence ministers raised around the table. 

We need to have a broader look as we enter the 21st century and look at what will continue to be very likely this high level of demand for Western Forces, at how we can do better at providing them, what does that mean? We have to look of course, very simply at the levels of defence budgets. NATO has always had as a somewhat informal benchmark 2% of GDP devoted to defence spending, not all NATO countries meet that. 

Indeed, I can tell you, the Secretary General will be very happy to see a much higher number of NATO countries meeting that, because I think it's only 7 out of the 26 that actually meet that 2% benchmark.  We can do better.  And that's the first element that I think certainly the Secretary General would like to look at. 
But, of course, he believes... and I think many NATO Allies said at the table that we can do better when it comes also to showing greater financial solidarity within the Alliance which can help liberate more resources for our operations. 

Let me give you an example.  If one country buys a helicopter or buys a fleet of helicopters, they have to pay for the purchase.  Then, if they choose to use it they have to pay for the transport of that helicopter into theatre. They have to pay for its use which can run into the millions and millions of Euros. And then of course, because it is being used for example in an environment that is as harsh as Afghanistan, the air frame itself is used up much more quickly than it would have been otherwise, and they have to pay for the replacement cost of that helicopter.  All the costs are borne by the one country that took the initial step.  We can do better, the Secretary General believes, at sharing the cost of these kinds of operations. 

I'll give you another example.  If a country has helicopters but can't afford to even deploy them into theatre or operate them in theatre, can a country that doesn't have those helicopters but has a chequebook provide financial support which will help get us as an Alliance more resources into the field?  Can we do better at commonly funding, or funding together, in various ways joint logistics in theatre?  I could go on but you get the idea.  More financial solidarity I think was very much a theme that we heard around the table.  And there will be work taken forward, conceptually, within NATO on that as well. 

Third element and final element.  There was a lot of discussion of what you might call the "forward-looking missions" or sorry the "possible new missions".  No "missions" is the wrong word.  Let me start again.  There was a lot of discussion of some of the "new challenges" there that NATO faces.  "Challenges" is always a good word, that NATO faces in the 21st Century and how we can as an alliance address them. 

What I'm referring to? Missile defence, there's was a lot of discussion on missile defence around the table.  No decisions were taken.  This was not a formal meeting.  But there was a discussion by Allies of their assessment of the missile threat which, as you know, or as you may know, is a subject of discussion and indeed recently a subject of agreement within the Alliance.  NATO Allies have agreed on a joint assessment of the missile threat in recent months. 

Second, of course, Secretary Gates brought Allies up to date on the latest discussions that he has had not only with the Russian Federation but also with other Allies within the Alliance, other members of the Alliance.  And there was discussion on how to take forward the work within NATO, which at the very least conceptually complements and must take into account the US discussions with Allies for example in Poland and the Czech Republic.  All of this with an eye towards Bucharest. 

Also, with an eye to Bucharest, there was a discussion of cyberdefence.  And I believe, my impression is, that there is more and more traction within the Alliance to look at where NATO can play a role, adding value to the capabilities of individual nations and of course work of other international organizations such as there is in cyberdefence.  In this area, in particular, I feel there is a growing consensus within NATO that the Alliance could add value and should define exactly where it can add value, again, I believe with an eye to Bucharest where I feel that at the Summit this will be very likely an issue of discussion.

Finally, another area where there is growing discussion within NATO and again at the table today was on what we call "maritime domain awareness", giving NATO the capability as an Alliance to have a greater awareness of what is taking place on the high seas.  This is potentially a very, very valuable capability in the event of a crisis.  As you well know, in the air, there is a very well developed system.  In general, most aircrafts can be identified and tracked.  On the sea, we simply don't have that capability.  On the water, we don't have that capability.  So there is now a discussion within the Alliance of developing that or enhancing what is already there in terms of technical capabilities to have a greater awareness of what's taking place on the water. 

That was in essence the discussion that has had taken place today.  The Secretary General will, of course, provide you with his own perspective when he comes after the NATO-Russia Council meeting which will take place relatively soon and he'll update you on both of those for the moment foreseen at 13:20 is that right?  13:20. Thanks.  Questions?  Mark.

Q:  Yes, James, is it still realistic to expect a decision on the bolt-on complementary assistance NATO is discussing to missile shield in Bucharest?  Have there, for example, already been kind of decisions consensus on who is going to pay for the bolt-on?

Appathurai:  Is it realistic to expect a decision in Bucharest?  I simply don't know where the discussions are going to go now.  What I can tell is NATO Allies have agreed, as you know, to discuss how NATO’s Missile Defence Initiative has to take into account the American one.  Now, we have to see where that goes.  I do not know if they are going to arrive to a decision in Bucharest.  I'm not aware at all that they have had discussions about cost-shares.

Q:  Yes, James, two questions please.  First one, still on the missile shield.  The NATO's assessment of the threat, does that mirror in particular the threat from Iran, the position of the United States, or is there some sort of difference there?  And then you mentioned, if I can go back, talking about the military, looking at elaborating the core size of the NRF.  Did the military receive some sort of instruction as of today, as of recently?  What's the calendar for that, when did that happen?

Appathurai:  Thank you.  I cannot go into...  There is a classified document.  I cannot go into detail, of course, as to specific countries.  What I can say is that is a consensus document.  So all twenty-six have agreed to it, including of course the United States, as to what they consider to be the missile defence threat.  And I should point out this is not just a technical paper.  This is very political.  The political level has of course had its good look at it.  So... this is a document which has, I think, some significance for Allies when it comes to assessing the missile threat which they agree is growing.  All twenty-six agree it's growing... in terms of elaborating the core... The sequence is as follows... The military has presented their recommendation that we should look at as an alliance elaborating the core.  The political leadership has today given its endorsement of that concept.  And now the work has to begin, take it forward. 

Q:  A question on NRF... Is it going to be debated till... or throughout...months ahead till Bucharest or has it been decided to solve it before?

Appathurai:  Solve it...  Well, the question...  There is no debate over the question of concept.  There is no debate over the question of missions.  And there is no debate over the question of size.  So I think we should be very clear on that.  They don't want to change the concept.  They don't want to change the range of missions.  And they don't want to change the ultimate size.  Where there is now going to be military work would be on the appropriate size of a stand-by core as we are call it, C-O-R-E, not C-O-R-P-S which would be significantly larger than the current NRF, if we were to go with a corps core. 

So, no, there is no debate on any of those issues.  Now, the military will go and elaborate what the appropriate size of a core should be, a core NRF should be, with of course as I mentioned the framework in place to generate forces and add them into this baseline for the larger contingencies. 

And will it take place on the way to Bucharest timelines?  I don't know that any timelines have been elaborated for this, Robert?  Okay, he says “preferably before Bucharest”.  I don't know what the timelines are.  Please.

Q:  Speaking on cyberdefence, also the European Union is taking action, making an institution for that, or something like that.  Are you not afraid of copying the EU on this or do you have contact with the European Union on cyberdefence?

Appathurai:  It's a very good question.  The core principle for NATO in this area is absolutely not to duplicate work that is taking place elsewhere and only to add value to work that is taking place elsewhere.  So you can be sure... I'm sure that none of the nations within NATO who, by the way, are almost all also in the European Union, intend to waste resources by duplicating what takes place in one organization in the other one, particularly in this area where the Alliance does potentially have a significant added value, not least because the military has been for years investing in what we call information operations. 

And an element of information operations is protection of IT infrastructure.  This is what they do everyday for all of our military operations, for our headquarters and of course in terms of communications in the broader sense that military expertise has often been applied to civilian intelligence or IT systems in the past. 

So there is a significant well of expertise in the military that's the first point.  And second, a significant well of expertise of doing this on a multinational basis.  And by definition cyberdefence has to be multinational.  So all this to say there is experience on which NATO could draw. And they will elaborate now exactly where NATO can add value. But I do believe as I said there is a growing sense within the Alliance that this is an area where NATO can add value.  I think there was Paul. 

Q:  James, on missile defence, how did the Allies react to the suggestion that Secretary Gates made in Prague about delaying the activation of the facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland?  And secondly, on cyberdefence, around the time of the problems that Estonia had, there was some talk of a sort cyber article 5.  Is that still something that's being discussed?

Appathurai:  Secretary Gates, to my knowledge, didn't raise the issue of a possible delay nor was it raised at the table, unless I missed it.  Oh, apparently, I could be wrong on that.  Let me go and check... So let's just bar that because I need to go and check this.  Cyber article 5, this has not certainly been formally discussed at the NATO table.  What I can tell you is there is a general sense that cyber security is an issue of potential national security. 

That is a realisation around NATO nations, precisely because the Estonian example illustrated the crippling effect that a sustained and directed cyber attack can have on the functioning of any of our societies.  Estonia came under such a sustained and directed attack which as you all know attacked government services, attacked banking systems and I would not in public list what else could be attacked, but there is potential for more.

For that reason... let me also point out that while the Estonians are heavily IT dependent, they're also extremely capable, we discovered, at defending themselves.  And as the Secretary General has said, it's not clear that all of our nations would be as good at defending themselves against that kind of sustained and directed attack.  So it is a very relevant issue.  So is it an issue of security?  Yes.  Is it an issue of national security?  Potentially, and therefore something which Allies do want to cooperate in defending against.