From the event


8 Feb. 2008

Press conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
following the informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Two meetings this morning as you know; a brief update on both. The first was with the non-NATO ISAF contributing nations. The United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and last but not least, Afghan Defence Minister Wardak. A few key points to note I think.

First of all I said it already yesterday: cautious optimism on the reconstruction and development front. When it comes to access to health care, infant mortality rates, education, women's rights, economic growth, things are getting steadily better for the Afghan people.

The second element: clear agreement. We had such a meeting in the Netherlands in Noordwijk as you know a few months ago. By the way there will be another one at heads of state and government level in Bucharest. Clear agreement that we need more co-ordination and that includes the importance of naming as soon as possible a weighty individual to head-up the United Nations mission in Afghanistan. I repeat, that is an appointment to make for the Secretary General of the United Nations, because NATO does not call these meetings to start co-ordinating other international organizations. Not co-ordination of, but co-ordination with, and between the "of" and the "with" there is a lot of distance of course. But more co-ordination and the naming of the weighty individual.

Third point: the need for more improvements in governance on the Afghan side with of course support from the international community in a host of areas. I think Defence Minister Wardak heard commitments by his ISAF colleagues to step up efforts to train and equip the Afghan security forces for which he is responsible. We all know that this is the future for Afghanistan and also the future for the mission, for our mission that is, and that is why nations must, I repeat again what I said yesterday, this is why nations must and will provide training teams to support the Afghan National Army (ANA).

Let me stress again this must be a comprehensive effort. It is a NATO meeting, but NATO is only in the lead when it comes to security. United Nations, European Union, World Bank, the donors, and first and foremost the Afghans themselves, must take their full responsibilities with NATO support of course wherever we can, but NATO has a certain responsibility.

All in all what I heard in that meeting was a unified international community, a determination to improve co-ordination between us in support of the priorities of the Afghan government of course, and a clear commitment that we are in this for the long haul. This is not a short term commitment and I think the Afghan people should not have a shimmer of a doubt about that.

That was earlier this morning. We just completed - and that meeting took a bit longer than expected because there were many interventions - we just completed our second meeting at 26 with the NATO Defence Ministers to discuss NATO's ongoing transformation. Based on what I have heard today between now and the summit in Bucharest in early April, I hope we can make progress in a number of areas important to defending security in the 21st century.

First point: cyber defence where NATO should have and is developing a substantial policy outlining the Alliance's role. That is of course a strong national role, a national responsibility, but this is outlining the Alliance's role in defending against these kind of attacks.

Second point: missile defence where NATO continues to discuss how we take forward the tasking we got from our heads of state and government in Riga and what further we are going to discuss in the run-up to Bucharest taking into account the bilateral discussions going on between the United States of America and our Polish and Czech allies.

And point number three: the NATO Response Force (NRF) where, as you know, we agreed on what we call the so-called graduated force option on an interim basis. Upcoming rotations of the NATO Response Force (NRF) will be on this model, but we have to continue to look at how to make sure the NATO Response Force (NRF) is useable in the real world because we do not have the luxury of parking it into a luxury garage ad infinitum.

We have one more meeting left as you know - the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). Unfortunately Minister Serdyukov has fallen ill, so we will have the meeting with his Deputy Colonel General Kolmakov. That is what I have to say as a brief report about this morning's meetings.

Thank you.

Questions and answers

Q: Pravda Daily Newspaper, the Czech Republic. Mr. Secretary General can you specify issues that must be discussed before the U.S. missile defence system is integrated with the NATO system? What remains or what is left to be discussed?

De Hoop Scheffer: What is left to be discussed is that we are working at a technical level to answer a number of technical questions, but we are also of course discussing this at the political level in answering the question how NATO responsibility for missile defence relates to the so-called U.S. third site. Well there again, as I said, bilateral discussions are going on between our American friends, your nation the Czech Republic and Poland. In the weeks we have until Bucharest we are preparing what I hope would be a decision in Bucharest. Not a final decision of course because many, many things will have to be worked out, but what the NATO responsibility on missile defence will be; how it will look like taking into account the U.S. system. That is what is on the agenda.

Q: Ben Nimmo from the German Press Agency DPA. Secretary General on cyber defence was there any consensus today that a massive cyber attack on a NATO member should fall under Article 5 and can you outline the kind of concrete measures that NATO could take on the Alliance level on cyber defence?

And briefly on energy security, did energy security get mentioned today? And in particular, did the latest Russian-Ukrainian dispute get mentioned?

Thank you.

De Hoop Scheffer: The Russian-Ukrainian dispute was not mentioned. Energy security is, as you know, one of the elements which is under discussion and we are in the process of developing NATO's added value. You will remember the Riga tasking, the protection of critical energy infrastructure and all that might imply, but here again with energy security, like with cyber defence, there is of course a national responsibility and that is why I am speaking about added value.

On cyber defence it was discussed not in relationship by the way with Article 5. Article 5 was not mentioned. But on cyber defence itself, you start with a national responsibility and nations have a course a responsibility to protect themselves against cyber attacks, but here again NATO can offer first of all consultations; that is what NATO is for in the case of serious cyber attacks. NATO has expertise to provide to nations NATO has mobile teams, as we have used in the case that Estonia suffered a cyber attack not that long ago.

So there is agreement on the concept as far as cyber defence is concerned. It is now a matter for further fine-tuning this concept. But I say once again cyber defence is a national responsibility like I said about energy security.

Q: Chris Dickson from Agence Europe. Secretary General I am interested in the plans and responsibilities in Afghanistan concerning the police force. I am thinking of the report last week by the International Institute of Strategic Studies which singled out the police as something that was not progressing as fast as the Afghan National Army. What are the responsibilities of NATO in that area and what are the plans and measures?

De Hoop Scheffer: The responsibilities of NATO are not many. You touched a fundamental point. I think I said yesterday NATO does not own Afghanistan. We have a responsibility on the basis of the ISAF mandate. In that mandate, we do consider training and equipping the Afghan National Army (ANA) as one of NATO's important responsibilities. NATO Allies do a lot in police training. The Germans do a lot in police training the north. I know that the Canadians are doing police training in Kandahar.

But you're asking about NATO. NATO has no direct responsibility for training of the Afghan National Police. The European Union has started a police mission. I would hope that that could be broadened as time progresses because you say quite rightly, and I do agree with the IISS I think you mentioned analysis, on the police. We have to step up our efforts in NATO on the ANA. I think others have to step up their efforts on the training of the Afghan National Police (ANP), because both elements are important.

But here again NATO does not own all these areas. The same goes for counter-narcotics. I saw comments yesterday also in newspapers the counter-narcotics strategy is not going well so NATO is not doing its job. No, that is not the point. That is not the point. Counter-narcotics is important, but you cannot bring everything on the plate of NATO because that's not what NATO is for. NATO should do its own job well and we are trying to do our utmost to come to that conclusion.

So I take your point. ANP of great, great importance, not a direct NATO responsibility. We can have a supporting role, but not a direct and primary NATO responsibility.

Q: Lithuanian News Agency. You told that Mr. Serdyukov arrived because he was ill. Don't you have any information and can you assure that this do not have any political implications that he did not arrive to Lithuania?

Thank you.

De Hoop Scheffer: I do not think that... people can fall ill you know. You and I too. I do not have any indication or impression that there is something behind Minister Serdyukov falling ill. So I have no problem. I regret that he cannot come because Russia is of course an important partner and the NRC is an important body in the NATO-Russia co-operation. But everybody can fall ill at a certain stage.

Q: Mark John from Reuters. Secretary General the embedded training effort was heralded some time ago as a corner stone of the NATO strategy. Since then you have mentioned the shortfalls, quite serious shortfalls, on that. Is there at this stage a danger that the embedded training team strategy is simply failing and if that is the case, what can be done now to prevent it from failing?

De Hoop Scheffer: No, it is definitely not failing because a lot has been done and a lot is going on and we have heard offers of new OMLTs. So we are making headway. We are making progress, but I am still not satisfied. But there is no question of failing of the strategy. It is very important indeed. Those OMLTs, as you know, they need flexibility, they need to be able to go with the KANDAC, with the Afghan battalion, where that Afghan battalion goes. So here again the word flexibility is of crucial importance.

But we are still short of the number I would like to see, but the strategy is working well. There's no alternative for this by the way.

De Hoop Scheffer: Thank you so much.