From the event


23 Jan. 2008

NATO Partnership Symposium

Video interview with Ambassador Martin Erdmann, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy

Q:  Ambassador, welcome.  What is the Oberammergau Symposium?  What it will discuss this year?

MARTIN ERDMANN (Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy):  The Oberammergau Symposium or Ogau as we say here at NATO really is a flagship event concerning NATO's relations with its partners from basically all around the world. 

We have some 300 participants from countries extending from Algeria to Australia and from New-Zealand to Ireland. And we have a high number of keynote speakers. 

And what it is all about is NATO's relations with its partners, altogether some 35 nations as I say from all around the world.  And we want to hear from them if we did in the past a good job with our partners.  We want to hear from them what they believe we can improve in our partnership relations with those nations.  So we are very curious to hear what kind of tools and mechanisms and instruments these countries wish to see implemented  in our cooperation with them.  So it is this time more us listening to them than the other way around.

Q:  So there is a great significance for NATO listening to the partners?


Q:  ...and appraising the partnership?

ERDMANN:  Yes, and it shows also how political this organization has become since the end of the Cold War, since the early Nineties.  As I said, NATO has developped institutionalized relations with some 35 nations.  We have developed partnership pillars from the side of this alliance with partners in Central Asia and the Caucasus, with our Mediterranean Dialogue partners, with partners in the Arabian Gulf area and even with countries far beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, countries like Japan, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea.

 In other words, NATO's partnership network is an extensive one.  It is an intensive one.  And these occasions like we will have in Oberammergau, in the NATO School, is a flagship event, which brings together all the actors in order to have a free flow of discussion.

Q:  How would you see the further development of the partnership?

ERDMANN:  We have implemented partnership tools from our most experienced partnership.  And that is the famous partnership for peace (PfP), partnership with European nations, nations who are not members of NATO, with as I said, central Asian and Caucasus nations. 

And these tools, defence reform, security policy issues of a wider nature, concertations on various issues, how to cope with assymetric threats, all these things we are now starting to discuss with partners from the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) countries, from the Arabian Gulf and far beyond.  So we try to make use of those instruments that we have experienced with to those nations. 

But let me say one word which I believe is very important in this respect.  It is not NATO imposing its instruments to partners.  It is the other way around.  It is partners coming to NATO knocking on our door and say:  "Well, can't we do business with you? NATO is such an experienced organization in security policy terms, can we discuss with you?  Can we consult with you?  And can we possibly make use of your vast experience in security policy methods?"  And therefore, it is more partners coming to us, than NATO going to partners.  As I said, we do not impose our partnership to anyone.  It is the other way around.  It is a demand driven process.

Q: So I understand from your answer that the goal of NATO is indeed further developing partnerships beyond the Euro-Atlantic area?

ERDMANN:  Yes, and here again, let me reemphasize that it is not that much NATO reaching out to partners far beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, of course, we do that as well.  But it is a two way approach.  Because as I said those partnership that I just mentioned far beyond the Euro-Atlantic area are coming to us because they feel in the same family of nations, to face the same threats in security terms to be exposed in an insecure world to the same threat dimensions that we face but they do not have the instrument.  They do not have a NATO.  They do not have a security organization where nations stand in for each other.  So they want to be part of this family because these nations are based on the same values as we are.  And why should we not offer our cooperation to those nations.  So it is as we say in English, it takes two to tango and this is exactly what happens.  It is NATO plus those partners in a joint effort, and joint endeavour.

Q:  Would you say that NATO is becoming a global security organization through partnership?

ERDMANN:  That is an interesting term that one reads in the media and hears in the media more and more frequently.  I think it has become a sort of buzz word with some truth but also with some misleading concepts.  NATO, first of all, is not a global cop and will never be.  For various reasons, there is no political drive behind this at NATO nations. 

And second, it would simply not be feasible due to our own potential.  So no reason to talk about NATO as a global institution as such.  But it is true from another angle.  It is true in the sense that NATO is operationally engaged on three continents:  Europe of course, Kosovo mainly; second Asia, namely Afghanistan; and we are supporting the African Union and the United Nations in Darfur. 

So it is true that NATO operationally is engaged far beyond the Euro-Atlantic area and that NATO's activities in political terms also extend far beyond because we have concertations on issues like the fight against terrorism, issues in the sense on how to fight proliferation of weapons of mass destruction with many countries around the globe, and with many international institutions as well. 

So the term "NATO as a global institution" is not correct.  Whatever we do, we do under the auspices of the United Nations.  But it is true in the sense that our partnerships have developed over time into a global network.

Q:  Thank you very much.  And let us wish you all success to Oberammergau.