From the event

  • Weekly press briefing by the NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

11 Sep. 2007

Press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Friends, thank you for coming.  I'm sorry after the slight delay.  It's very nice to see so many of you again.  Let me start with something which gives me enormous pleasure.  I will just draw your attention to the new GMF poll Trans-Atlantic trends which shows growing support for NATO in Europe.  Indeed, taken prior to the current crisis, now basically 60% of Europeans find NATO to be vital... Let me repeat the word "vital" to their security.  I don't often get to say these nice things.  But let me simply mention that, before we begin the actual briefing. 

Let me run through... more seriously... though I was not completely unserious about that.... run very quickly through some elements of the agenda today, yesterday and then where we're going. 

First, to jump quickly back to last night.  We had a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. I'm guessing some of you are wondering what the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council is.  But it is the meeting that brings together the NATO allies and their partners.  I know some of you are wondering.  Because when I raised this yesterday with a couple of you, you asked what the EAPC is.  So it brings together the 40 countries that are NATO allies and partners.  It meets on a regular basis.  And for us, it is a very important forum.  Even it doesn't necessarily get the public attention we feel it deserves... 

This was a very interesting meeting in that it was devoted almost entirely to the situation in Georgia.  The Georgian ambassador set out the Georgian government's positions... position on the current security situation and the way forward. 

Ambassador Rogozin did the same from the Russian point of view.  I know that some of you went to speak with him afterwards.  What I can tell you, because I'm guessing you know the viewpoints of the two ambassadors, was that I would say in their totality the interventions from the 26 allies and from I believe every one of the partners who spoke with a maximum... no, I think pretty much everyone, they expressed their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia, support for the six principles agreed by the two presidents through the negotiation of President Sarkozy, called for the withdrawal of Russian forces back to the August 6th lines and in general subscribed to the principles that the European Union and NATO have agreed in the past... in the past few weeks. 

There was universal support around the table with, as I say, the obvious exception, for those principles.  And might I add that included condemnation of the excessive use of force or disproportionate, excuse me, use of force by the Russian Federation.

This morning, we had a meeting of the Council with the ambassador of Georgia.  This is a NAC plus one meeting which had three elements to it.  An update on the current situation on the ground again where the ambassador set out the Georgian government's position on what is happening; preparations for the North Atlantic Council visit led by the Secretary General to Georgia which will take place on Monday and Tuesday, the 15th and 16th of September and I will go through the programme with you, and the first meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission.  This was, as you know, decided by NATO foreign ministers in August as one of the main reactions to... or responses to the crisis, to establish this commission.  The Commission will be signed by, the founding document of the Commission will be signed by the Secretary General and the prime minister in Tbilissi on Monday, following which there will be a first meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission, as I say in Tbilissi.  And we can come back to this if you wish. 

The...  Before I go through the programme of the Georgia trip, let me mention that tomorrow the Secretary General will go to Riga.  It's a bilateral visit.  But it will have a multilateral element in that he will have a meeting tomorrow morning with the three ministers of foreign affairs of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  He will then have a bilateral meeting with the president Mr. Zatlers (sic).  They will have ... 


APPATHURAI:  Zatlers, thank you.  They will have a joint press conference at around noon.  He will then be transferred by ship and sadly for seasick spokespeople also we will be transferred by ship to observe for many, many hours exercise Open Spirit 2008.  You will have the commander-in-chief of the German fleet.  This will be a multinational NATO exercise which will have as its focus with, of course the Baltic States navies, interoperability, mine counter-measures and other I would say traditional elements of NATO operations and then he will return home. 

The programme for Monday, the NAC visit to Georgia.  The entire North Atlantic Council will arrive in Tbilissi in the early afternoon.  The Secretary General will meet bilateral... bilaterally with President Saakashvili.  After which, the entire North Atlantic Council will meet with President Saakashvili.  This will be in the Marriott Hotel.  There will be a press conference by the Secretary General and the President around five o'clock.  Then there will be the signature of the NATO-Georgia Commission by the Prime Minister and Secretary General.  Following which, as I mentioned, there will be the first meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission.  That will be the activities for that day. 

The next day, the North Atlantic Council will meet with the Parliament.  The NAC will also meet, then, with OSCE and UN and I believe European Union representatives as well.  The Secretary General will give a speech at the University...  Tbilissi State University. It will be open to the media.  And at the same time, the ambassadors will split into separate groups and meet with different parties in Tblissi including...  Sorry, I don't mean parties as in political parties.... I mean representatives of civil society, members of the opposition.  I'll run through their meeting with.. in a moment. 

Just to finish the Secretary General’s schedule, they will all then leave Tbilissi to visit... to see what has taken place as a result of the operations.  So they will go outside of Tbilissi to see the effects of the operations before leaving. 

One of the things, yes, so the ambassadors will split up into different groups.  They will meet with NGOs.  They will meet with members of civil society, members of the opposition.  And one group will visit the site at which the air situation date exchange system is connected inside in Tblissi. 

Now, let me explain what this is.  It was established.  It was connected on the 28th of August.  It is a longstanding programme.  Something with which we already... Something which we already have with Austria and have had for many years.  And a number of other partners have indicated an interest in joining.  It will, in essence, allow for better air space awareness in the border area, in a defined border area between Georgia and NATO territory which in this case will be Turkey. 

So it is not all of Georgian airspace.  It's certainly not providing a picture of NATO airspace to Georgia.  But within that area, there will air situation data exchange between NATO and Georgia which will a) enhance air safety; and b) in general, more in general, provide a better air picture.  As I said it is... been long planned...  This is not a response to the current crisis. 

It is something NATO has with other partners.  But it has been plugged in already on the 28th of August and ambassadors... some ambassadors I don't know who yet, because they haven't chosen where they're going to go, will go and witness...


APPATHURAI:  Austria has signed up.  But I don't want to name the other partners who have indicated an interest until they wish to.  But they're at least four.


APPATHURAI:  Four non-members.  The NATO systems are obviously all connected already.  Then, after the trip to Georgia.  On the 17th of September, so next Wednesday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, M. Mammadyarov, will meet of course with the Secretary General but then have a discussion with the entire North Atlantic Council.

This is in the normal rotation of NAC plus one as we call them, meetings with foreign ministers of our partner countries.  I imagine the regional security situation will be on the agenda.  And according to this schedule, though we will have to confirm it with a media advisory the Lithuanian Prime Minister M. Kirkilas will also... Did I mispronounced that too...?  Okay... will also be visiting the Secretary General without meeting the North Atlantic Council.  But we'll confirm that.

Final thing for your planning is that there will be an informal-informal... So let me stress the informal informality of the meeting... an informal meeting of NATO defence ministers in London on 18th and 19th of September.  So on Thursday evening, first, let me say the Secretary General will be giving a speech at RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute. 

According to current planning, at least two of the issues that will be dealt with in a very significant way are, of course, the Russia-Georgia situation and Afghanistan and the regional security situation there including very much Pakistan.  So I suspect it will be an interesting speech for those of you who might want to try to attend.  RUSI is in charge of the invitations.  It's not me. 

So let me just say if anyone of your colleagues wish to attend, they should be in touch with RUSI.  The...  Then there will be a working dinner for...  The meeting is taking place in Lancaster House.  There will be no media access of any kind.  And frankly almost no access even for the "pauvres fonctionnaires" who also will be going.  They are aiming for a very intimate informal atmosphere, a bit in the spirit of the... What are those when they have the ministers only meetings of the Secretariat?


APPATHURAI:  Gymnich, Gymnich.  In the spirit of the Gymnich kinds of meetings.  The original intent of this meeting when it was planned was to focus on defence transformation.  In other words to take a step back from the day to day of immediate policy issues and crises and look at the longer term development of defence capabilities, how do we provide the necessary funding in a time when economies are a little bit difficult, where there are of course competing priorities for funding?  How do we ensure we have enough helicopters for all the operations, not just NATO?  But that all of our countries have to contribute to.  We have a shortage everywhere of the kinds of helicopters that we need. 

How do we ensure that the NATO Response Force has the capabilities that it needs?   And how does that relate to the rest of NATO's operations.  When would you use it in the more philosophical sense?  There are a whole range of very fundamental issues.  How do we do better in terms of interoperability etc, etc?

That will be the substance of the discussions on Friday.  There will be basically two working sessions and a working lunch.  The working lunch should end around three.  The Secretary General will hop in a car and come to the Victory Services Club.  And that is where the press conference, his press conference will take place.  Around 3:15 is what we're guessing and I think that’s actually quite realistic, 3:15... 15:15 London Time on Friday.  I think that is realistic.  We probably won't be late this time. 

But the evening before, the working dinner... while any subject can come up, I anticipate that the situation... not the situation in Georgia per se... but perhaps the situation... the Georgia issue, let's put it that way, the Georgia issue and its implications for NATO, for security, for defence planning, those will be the issues that I believe will be addressed at the dinner.  As I say, it's informal.  There's no structured agenda.  But the indications that we have are that ministers will wish to use the dinner to focus their attention there and not, therefore, be "diverted" if that's the right word from the original intent of the discussions on Friday.

Finally, but I'll brief you more on this next week because we will have a briefing around 3:00-2:30 next Wednesday with a number of briefers, the Secretary General will of course be attending as usual the General Assembly Week in New York.  But I'll brief you, we'll have more details then on that.  I've...  That's okay.  Thank you though.  Okay, I'm done.  Happy to take your... Happy to take your questions.  Shall we start at the front and go back?  Please.

Q:  Speaking about Georgia, yesterday the Russian ambassador to NATO, M. Rogozin presented five propositions or recommendations as you like it to the attention of NATO.  Are you aware of those five propositions?

APPATHURAI:  Well, having sat through a three hour Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting yesterday, I did not hear five propositions from the Russian ambassador.  I do not know... or have any information that these have been formally conveyed to NATO, unless I'm missing something.

Q:  At the EAPC...

APPATHURAI:  Certainly not at the EAPC.  I'm not aware of any other channels that these have been conveyed to NATO so...  He said it to you.  But as far as I'm aware he hasn't said it to us. 

Q:  Not to me...

APPATHURAI:   Yes, no, I understand.

Q:  ... Active embargo on arms for Georgia, what have you heard?

Q:  Control on the Montreux Convention etc., etc.  Things like that.

APPATHURAI:   Okay, he did mention in the EAPC meeting for example, the arms embargo.  This is an issue that I believe is going to be raised in the UN Security Council by ambassador Churkin of the Russian Federation.  I don't have...  I wouldn't put my monthly paycheque on it's achieving consensus in the Security Council.  Montreux Convention was mentioned only peripherally.  Let me mention however that NATO's temporary deployment into the Black Sea with our Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, as we had announced, we had followed all the rules and regulations of the Montreux Convention with regards to tonnage, with regards to notification and with regards to time in the Black Sea.  And they have left yesterday on time as predicted.  So let be no doubts that NATO completely fulfills as it has always done the requirements of the Montreux Convention.  And I don't know what the other ones that he mentioned are...  I'm going to go row by row.  Please...

Q:  (INAUDIBLE) Radio Latvia.  James, could you please tell me more about tomorrow's...  Mr.  Scheffer's tomorrow visit to Latvia?  How related to Georgia's question is that?  And can we expect that possible NATO Defence Plan for Baltic States will be discussed?  Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI:  Thank you.  The Secretary General's visit to Latvia was long planned.  So this is not something that was put together in response to the Georgia situation.  That being said, the three foreign ministers requested a meeting with the Secretary General.  That was put on the agenda after the Georgia crisis.  Could the...?  I believe they would wish to discuss, of course, the situation in Georgia. 

As you know, the countries of the Baltic region are very interested and in some cases have played a very active role in the... as the crisis has gone on.  I know that there is interest in the Baltic States to discuss defence planning or to put it more specifically, whether or not more routine planning should take place within NATO for the defence... article 5 defence of NATO States.  That is something that I would...  I would be surprised if it did not come up tomorrow.  I would also be surprised if it didn't come up in London. 

That being said, of course, the commitment to article 5 amongst NATO nations is a treaty commitment.  It is a firm political commitment.  The question I think that is to a certain extent on the agenda is how does our routine defence planning, how should our routine defence planning be adapted or should it be adapted to reflect the current situation?  And that I think is what may be on the agenda tomorrow.  Thanks, please. 

Q:  Well, Monday’s visit to Tbilissi.  What in terms of the defence capabilities of that country, what would be the main subject to be addressed?

APPATHURAI:   Thank you, in terms of defence capabilities, one of the commitments that NATO allies have made to all of our partners through Partnership for Peace is to assist them in determining their defence requirements.  Now, Georgia clearly has quite specific defence requirements now that have changed somewhat over the past few weeks.  A lot of their very basic military equipment has been destroyed or severely damaged. 

In the context of Partnership for Peace...  So sorry, let me put it this way, within the framework of Partnership for Peace, but in the context of the current situation, we have already had a team come to Georgia and work with their authorities to assess their defence requirements. That work will continue from our Defence Planning and Policy division.  We do not...  NATO will not...  Yes, thank you...  NATO will not be providing weapons to Georgia.  NATO does not have weapons.  So if that is to happen, it would happen on a bilateral basis or some other format but not from the Alliance.  Indeed, Robert quite rightly highlights to me that the NAC has tasked, as I mentioned, the Defence Planning and Policy Division of NATO to... with the Georgians begin the assessment of the state of the Georgian MOD and armed forces.  So that is the context in which...  That's the framework in which this takes place. The context, of course, is what everybody knows.

Q:  You're speaking about 18.  It is 18... fonctionnaires...?

APPATHURAI:   A team... A team...  No, "a" team, one team. 

Q: One team.

APPATHURAI:   I don't know how many people.  The "a" team.  B.A. Baracus...

Q:  Specifically on the NATO-Georgia Commission which is going to be signed into being on Monday and then will immediately have its first real meeting.  What specifically are you expecting from that meeting itself?  What's likely to come up out up other than, say, hey nice bomb craters, what’s next?

APPATHURAI:   Well, it is an inaugural meeting.  So one of the things it will do is inaugurate the session.  But the NATO-Georgia Commission has clear goals to foster deepen... sorry to deepen political dialogue and cooperation between NATO and Georgia; to take forward the process that was set out at the Bucharest Summit.  And you all know the process that was set out at the Bucharest Summit.  It is to coordinate Alliance efforts to assist Georgia in recovering from the recent conflict.  And it is, of course, to underpin Georgia's efforts let me stress Georgia’s efforts to take forward its political, economic and defence related reforms.  Now, they will... Those are the goals...  And I think that that is the key actually... that is the key to the meeting.  Now, there will be of course practical steps that follow from that.


APPATHURAI:   It will be at the ambassadorial level.  But it will be chaired by the Prime Minister and the Secretary General. 

Q:  Given Russian diplomats' highly diplomatic views particularly of NATO's relationship with Saakashvili is there concern that anything too overt will just antagonize the Russians further?  And are you worried about yet more protests, problems from the Russian side on this, given the sensitive timing and location?

APPATHURAI:   The clear consensus amongst the NATO allies is that they do not want a total rupture with the Russian Federation.  We want Russia to be a partner with NATO according to the principles that are set out for example in the NATO-Russia Founding Act including not least the respect... full respect for international law.  And we believe, Allies believe firmly that the relationship between Russia and NATO is an essential strategic bridge across Europe.  And we will not take steps to undermine that.

That being said, the people of Georgia have chosen their president.  That is a president with whom NATO allies will work until such time as the...  whoever it is.  And it is very important to the NATO allies that the Georgian people have the right and the freedom and the political space to make their own choices. 

And that means the choice of president.  That means the choice of orientation.  And the allies will respect that decision whatever it is.  But they must... the people of Georgia must be given the political space.  And by the way, the military space to have that freedom of choice.

Q:  James (INAUDIBLE) Russia, can you tell me please why until now NATO was reluctant to receive the minorities, I mean the Ossetian people, to listen to their opinion?

APPATHURAI:   NATO does not have a tradition, I can tell you, of meeting with groups from within countries.  And in this case, in particular, this... one can understand the sensitivity that might cause.  NATO deals with governments.  And that is what we are doing here.

Q:  On the question of who started the war in Georgia, I think Sec. Gen. said in August that NATO is not going into who started, what, and when and where.  But isn't NATO ever going to ask that question?  And is it going to be asked on Monday next week.  And how important or unimportant is it to NATO in deciding whether to offer MAP to Georgia?

APPATHURAI:   NATO has as an organization, you know this, no indigenous intelligence gathering capability of its own.  So the allies, of course, have their own resources.  But NATO as a body has no way of observing what happens inside any particular territory. 

Are the allies exchanging information on what has happened?    I'm quite sure they are.  Is that taking place in a NATO format?  Until now, no.  They're discussing bilaterally the information they have, the approaches they wish to take.  The...  thank you...  The... The allies have taken a position and I think this is an important point on the way forward.

What is the way forward?  And the way forward is of course for Russia... well both parties, all parties to meet the requirements of the 6 point plan.  In the Russian case, because they're the ones who actually have to do something, that means withdrawal back to the August 6th lines, etc, etc. 

There has been discussion...  I think the European Union has called for an independent investigation.  One which has Georgia and Russia associated but not party to it.  The general sense I heard around the table at the EAPC yesterday was that the allies support that call.  But, of course, it would not be NATO, I think we all understand why, that will be participating in that.   I think...

Q:  Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence, two separate questions if I might, Jamie... James.

APPATHURAI:   It never stops.  He left five years ago. 

Q:  Sorry about that... more than that. NATO-Georgia Commission and defence reform.  NATO has already been helping Georgia do defence reform under PFP...


Q:  So are we looking at a higher level or different nature of defence reform and will that include military?  That's one question.  And second concerns this airspace picture sites.  The U.S. unilaterally provided ASOCs (Air Sovereignty Operation Centres) to all the East European countries including Poland in the late Nineties on behalf of NATO.  And they have all been tied into the airspace picture of NATO.  What's at play here?  Who provided this equipment?  And who helped set it up?

APPATHURAI:   Which... With the A.S.D.E. equipment?

Q:  This airspace picture site in Georgia, who provided the equipment and helped set it up?

APPATHURAI:   That's a good question.

Q:  Can you tell us about it?  We need to know those details.


APPATHURAI:   Yes, yes, but as to who...

Q:  The Georgians generally don't have the capability to set that up on their own.  So who helped them do it?

APPATHURAI:   NATO helped.... NATO as a body, and NATO teams have helped establish the connectivity.  

As Robert says and quite rightly, the A.S.D.E. connects the NATO, in this case the Turkey base NATO air data awareness capability to the Georgians, based on Georgian asset.  As to which nations provided the NATO personnel to help provide the connectivity, I don't know.  And I don't know that we’d provide it.  I don't know if it's really relevant.  As to higher level of defence reform, no, I think the NATO-Georgia Commission is very similar to the Ukraine... NATO-Ukraine Commission.  And that is it provides let us say a higher level of political engagement, a more focused political engagement.  But the requirements for Georgian defence reform and that includes military reform, absolutely, are to  be worked out between Georgia and the NATO experts.  I don't know if they would have been any different with or without the Commission.  But clearly the context has changed and the requirements are changed as well.  Pascal?

Q:  Just wanted to insist on this Baltic thing.  Remember last week you were asked about Ambassador Volker’s declaration to the FT.  You said that, of course, this debate has been going on for quite a long time, I mean, as a routine thing.  But now, as you say, the context has changed, so first could you tell us if this "open" thing exercise that the Russians were not allowed to participate into... has been changed in format or whatever.  And if among the scenario you've evocated, there is one of kind of invasion by the neighbour, of course, you're not going to answer directly but...  But is it possible that this kind of scheme is now studied carefully.  And the question also is tomorrow, do you know in advance if the three ministers are going to ask for something publicly announced from NATO Secretary General on this matter.  Or is it just a symbolic meeting? Telling them that article 5 of course will be no doubt applied in case of emergency.  Or is it as Minister Volker said political promise that article 5 would be put into action in case of aggression is one thing, but on the ground do we have the ways and means to face aggression attack in case the Russian minorities with Russian passports of those countries would ask for such an intervention.

APPATHURAI:   Thank you.  First I have no information that Open Spirit has been changed.  Its intent was not, as I mentioned, ever to defend against a possible Russian invasion.  And I don't think it has been adapted in any way to reflect that possibility.  If I'm wrong I will tell you.  But I don't think so. 

This is certainly not a PR exercise the meeting of the Secretary General with the three foreign ministers, not least because there will be no PR.  They are not doing a joint press conference.  There will be a photo op and that's it, as far as I understand.  They're there to have private discussions.  So it is of substance.  I do not think they are there to discuss, and I know they're not there to discuss emergency planning against a possible attack.  That is not the climate in which we find ourselves.  And we should avoid getting carried away.  Nobody is talking about an imminent Russian attack on the Baltic States.  That is cer...  absolutely not in the cards. 

But in a context where there is concern, flowing from the Georgian crisis there are some who quite legitimately want to have a discussion about whether defence planning within NATO should be for Article 5 contingencies done ad hoc, in other words when you find yourself facing a crisis, something which NATO can do.  Or, whether it should be done on a more routine basis. 

I can tell you, having done defence planning in the Canadian Ministry of Defence, every NATO country when it does its annual defence planning... some of you heard this last week...  allots... a very very substantial number of forces for Article 5 contingencies.  And no matter what those forces would be doing, if an Article 5 contingency were to come up they would be withdrawn and put to the Article 5 contingency.  That is the way that NATO allies plan.  And there is a heck of a lot in the hamper when it is needed.  So there should be absolutely no doubt about that, I can speak from some experience.  This is simply a question of the nature of defence planning on a day-to-day basis.  Please.

Q: James, pure technical question concerning the London meeting.  Do you expect the ministers will meet some officials from Georgia and Ukraine for example in that sense we'll have with them some informal discussions about the current situation.  And the second part of the question, obviously, we are speaking about a MAP where quite not only the technical, let me say so, applications of military reforms, but political applications appear.  So what changes was made on the position of NATO countries on MAP, particularly for Ukraine and Georgia.  Thank you.

APPATHURAI:   Thank you.  First no, there will be no participation by the Georgian,  the Ukrainian ministers.  This is NATO only in London.  What changes have there been with regard to MAP...

Q:  This is the United (INAUDIBLE) positions.

APPATHURAI:   There will be a first... Let me put it this way.  There will be a first assessment in December.  Then, we will know where the Allies are.  Until then, I think it would be impossible for me to foresee that.  Now, let's go here and then there and then there.   And then I have to go. 

Q:  James (INAUDIBLE), I would like to ask a couple of clarifications and questions.  So, first of all, do I understand right that for now there is no discussion inside NATO allies about the cause and the... how can I say it "the initiator of the Georgian conflict.  Second... second question...


Q:  Second question is could you please clarify what's now the legal situation of the NATO-Russia Council?  It is suspended.  Is there any conditions  how it could be...?  How the sessions could continue?  And is there any political will from any side to continue this sessions on the NATO-Russia Council. And last question, I still don't understand exactly the situation with the assessment of the Georgian needs for rebuilding its military potential. So is that NATO has no weapons to deliver to Georgia, okay.  You said that there is 8 teams...

APPATHURAI:   No, "a team", one team.

Q:  Okay. 


Q:  Now, it's okay.  Since when, they are Georgia now?

APPATHURAI:   They have been and gone.

Q:  I see.

APPATHURAI:   But there will be others.  This is not just one.  The division has been tasked to...

Q:  Hum, hum, okay.

UNIDENTIFIED:  Civilian teams...

APPATHURAI:   Yes, civilian division... civilian division in the organization.  There is no formal process within NATO to determine the exact events of the evening of August 7th... was it the seventh... my birthday.  But as I said, I'm absolutely sure allies are discussing amongst themselves what has happened on a bilateral basis.  The NRC... the Secretary General has said that the NRC... he cannot see the NRC meeting until Russia meets the requirement set out by... at ambassadorial level, until Russia meets the requirements set out in the agreements. 

The activities of the NRC at all its various levels are under review within NATO according to the principle "no business as usual" which was agreed by the NATO foreign ministers.  But it has not been suspended formally.  It has not been broken.  But we are in a particular situation now where the NRC will not be meeting at ambassadorial level.  And all meetings below that are under a constant review by the allies.  Okay, I have exactly five minutes.  So can I do something.  Could we just group all the questions?  And I'll just do them, yes, I haven’t forgotten you Paul.  1,2,3,4, like this, and then I'll answer them all at the same time.

Q:  James, just on Afghanistan...

APPATHURAI:   Yes, ooh!

Q: Reports out of the States, New York Times talking about cross-border commando raids.  I mean, what's the view of NATO with regard to that?  Is there any concern among the allies about the effect that that... or on the part of NATO about the effect that that could have on relations with Pakistan? 

APPATHURAI:   Thank you.

Q:  (INAUDIBLE)  The NAC going to Georgia next week. They go to weird and wonderful places.  How is their security handled, are any special measures being taken for the Georgia visit.

Q:  Then back to the air surveillance...


Q: ... with Georgia, is it now or will it be next week fully operational.  Because I'd heard that a lot of the Georgian radar facilities were destroyed in the war?  And had it been operational several months back when Russia was committing its violations of Georgian airspace, would this have enabled someone at NATO to essentially watch these events in real time?

APPATHURAI:   Thank you.  Paul, at the back.

Q:  Thanks, James, sorry if you already answered...  I was late in arriving.  But a little bit more about the exercise in the Baltic Sea.  Who's participating?  What sort of level.  Don't the Russians usually send observers to these type of exercises.  Is that going to be the case this time?

APPATHURAI:   You're going to answer that one.  Afghanistan, you know the NATO policy, and that is our mandate ends at the border.  So there are no ground or air incursions by NATO forces into Pakistani territory. 

The solution to the tension across the border or on these cross-border issues is first and foremost a solution to the growing extremism in the tribal areas.  And that means first and foremost that Pakistan need to take effective action in cooperation with the rest of the international community and the Afghans to address a problem that is increasingly threatening Pakistan's stability as well as Afghanistan's.  I'm sure the allies will be discussing with each other this particular issue.  But let me stress it is not NATO that will be sending forces across the border. 

The security for the NAC in Georgia, you won't be surprised that I can't describe too much the security.  But let me assure you there has been a very, very thorough security assessment and sufficient security has been put in place.

ASDE, is it fully operational?  It is fully connected.  Yes, it is true that there has been quite some damage to the Georgian radar system.  But as I say ASDE does not provide an air picture of all of Georgia.  It only provides an air picture of this defined area on the basically Turkish Georgian border on both sides to enhance air defence so I don't...  I'm sorry "air picture awareness and air traffic safety".  I'm not sure if that would have been applicable.  But that being said, if you wanted an idea of what happened, I think all you had to do was to tune into You-Tube from what I saw and you had a pretty good idea of what happened.  Robert, do you want to talk about this exercise a little more? 

ROBERT PSZCZEL:  I don't have all the answers because my printer didn’t work. I tried to print it before we left.  But basically it's a pretty regular exercise.  This is not the first time, this type of exercise happening.  It's mainly to do with, as I say, testing and improving interoperability.  So of course, testing the communications, the ability of different ships to operate in one area.  The particular focus is demining and countermining measures.  So there's a number of ships from obviously the Baltic countries there will be, by the way, the minister and other... chiefs of defence essentially of all the three countries.  And there's a German ship I think Donau who is, I think, if I'm not mistaken, commanding ship. There's a Polish ship and a few others.  I'm not sure if Russian colleagues have actually been observers to that before.  We can check that.  And even more details on the exercise, of course, will be provided tomorrow.  And we can find out the appropriate reference.  But that's the gist of it.

APPATHURAI:   If it's urgent for you we can find out when we get back to the office and please feel free to call.

Q:  Russian sending observers...

APPATHURAI:   Yes, yes, we'll check.  We don't know.  Okay, I'm really sorry, but I have to run....Thank you very much