From the event

  • Weekly press briefing by the NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

17 Sep. 2007

Press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman):Thank you, friends and colleagues. I will be relatively brief as I try usually to be. Let me just wait a second.

I want to do just a couple of things. One is give you a little bit more of an update on the trip to Georgia yesterday and the day before, discuss the Secretary General's meetings today and then preview the ministerial Thursday, Friday and the trip to New York the Secretary General will take.

Georgia. Let me just touch on the schedule for those of you who could not attend and then some of the highlights from my perspective.

The Council, led by the Secretary General, had extensive discussions with the President, with the Prime Minister, with the Parliament, government and opposition, as well as with members of civil society, non-governmental organizations on the first day and parts of the second day.

During all those meetings the Secretary General and the ambassadors, with their interlocutors, did a number of things. One, from the NATO side, one very clear and consistent message was the need to ensure that reform continues. Put more bluntly, that the current crisis cannot be a distraction from, or an excuse to not push forward with reform, political, economic, military reform, which is essential for the strength of Georgia's candidacy for MAP and then eventually membership.

Clearly, President Saakashvili was not simply responding to NATO's moves when he went to the Georgian Parliament yesterday, but did announce what I understand to be a robust package of reforms in all parts of Georgian society. That's economic reform, it's electoral reform. The report by the OSCE/ODIHR review of the last elections, the final report was not as positive as the interim report, and that is of some current concern to NATO allies. So reforms in terms of electoral law, in terms of the judiciary, in terms of media freedom, these are all areas in which the allies wish to see improvement. President Saakashvili has announced a package of reforms which clearly is a step in the right direction.

There was also, as you might expect, extensive discussion of the current security situation. Extensive discussion of what exactly happened when, and you have seen the New York Times article and other articles flowing from the Georgian briefings on their view on what happened. Certainly NATO's... the Secretary General's perspective was forward. How do we move forward from here? He and all of the Council continue to express their strong support for the six-point plan, for President Sarkozy's leadership in helping to broker a way forward, and called on all parties to fully implement their commitments.

Then the ambassadors, led by the Secretary General, and with of course the Chairman of the Military Committee as well, went out to see... went outside of Tbilisi to see the effects of the conflict. Went to an army barracks that had been flattened by Russian forces, and you've seen the photos. Went to an internally-displaced persons' camp.

Let me here, and I think I certainly speak for all of the allies, and for the Secretary General, pay our strong compliments to the work that the United Nations and the Red Cross are doing in that camp. It is extremely well run. They have taken a very difficult situation, in particular with regards to the health and the education of the children, and made it into what I think is something very encouraging for those of us who went to see it. Many of us have some experience with these kinds of situations and all of the ambassadors who do have that kind of experience, and the Secretary General, were very impressed with what the international organizations are doing there.

So that is where we are on Georgia, and I'm happy to take any questions that you might have as a result of that.

Today, the Secretary General has met with the Azeri Foreign Minister Mr. Mamedyarov.


APPATHURAI: Mamedyarov. They had a very interesting discussion, as you might imagine, of the internal or the regional security situation, energy security issues, and of course Mr. Mamedyarov met with the North Atlantic Council as well, where they discussed the partnership between Azerbaijan and NATO.

I can tell you that the NATO view on this relationship is quite positive. Azerbaijan is a very active partner. They have made a number of substantial steps forward when it comes to reform supported by NATO. There are, of course, areas in which there must be further reform, there is no doubt. These are priorities set, let me stress, by the Azeris, and not by us, or in cooperation with us. But certainly the review from NATO is they are very, very active and this is a partnership that is, I think, one of the most fruitful for them and for us.

This afternoon the Lithuanian Prime Minister, Mr. Kirkilas, will be in fact in the next five or six minutes having a bilateral meeting with the Secretary General. Robert will be... (Laughs), off right now, to sit in, so if you have any questions about what happened in the meeting I happily direct you to him. But we will see what they want to raise.

Tomorrow, the Secretary General and all the ambassadors will be off to London. On the initiative of Secretary Des Browne a NATO informal informal, as we call it—it is at the far end of informal—defence ministerial meeting is taking place.  The working... well, I'll come to that in a minute. Before that, the Secretary General will be giving a speech at RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute. To be... do you know what time the speech is Damien? What time?

APPATHURAI: It's 4:00 or 5:00, but we'll... if you go to our website, or we'll put out a media advisory to let you know exactly the time. But it is RUSI with whom... with which you need to accredit yourself if you wish to go. It will be, I promise you, an interesting speech on two main subjects. One is, of course, Georgia relations with Russia. The other is Afghanistan. Not just Afghanistan, the regional security situation, including with regard to Pakistan.

Then there will be a working dinner at Lancaster House. There will be basically no media access of any kind. Let's be just blunt about it. And that is the desire of the Ministers, to have it in a quasi-Gymnich format. So no journalists on site. No shot of the Ministers coming in, no nothing.

The discussion on Thursday night, for those of you who didn't hear it last time, will revolve around the implications for NATO of the current security situation. Put more bluntly, the implications for NATO's transformation of the post-Georgia Euro-Atlantic security environment. How will that discussion go? Well, we'll see, but you understand what the subject will be.

Let me be clear, it is to see how NATO's ongoing transformation will have to take into account the current security environment.

The next day, the entire day, which will start at 8:30 and end at 3:00, 15:00, will be devoted to transformation. And I would say to the nuts and bolts of transformation, but not that they're getting down to the nuts and bolts discussions. But how much are we really paying for defence? How can we raise the level of resources devoted to defence? Why is it difficult to come up with helicopters for all of our various operations? You know that we're short of helicopters in Afghanistan. You also know that the UN mission in Darfur has a grand total of zero helicopters. And is quite handicapped as a result of that.

The EU faces shortages. The NATO Response Force, how should it be used? Again, in this new security context how do we make sure it's fully resourced? How does it relate to our reserves? These are relatively prosaic issues, I suppose for Defence Ministers. This is the meat of their business, and that is what they will be addressing throughout the day.

At 15:15, and I'm pretty sure we'll be on time this time, because there's travel issues, the Secretary General will have a press conference at the Victory Services Club and you can accredit with the Brits or with us. On the NATO website. Thank you. 

Satellite trucks, are, for your information, are not apparently a feasible option for technical reasons, but live broadcasting of the press conference is permitted. If you want to consider that as an option please talk to Damien and he'll see if he can't make it work. EBU will be providing stand-up positions outside of Lancaster House if you want to use Lancaster House as a backdrop for any stand-ups.

That is Thursday and Friday. And then Monday is New York. I don't have any great detail to provide you except to say that like usual the Secretary General will be spending four or five days with the Foreign Ministers of the world in New York. The agenda of bilaterals is really right now under discussion, which is why I couldn't bring you a programme and they are shifting. The one meeting that I can, of course, guarantee, is that he will be meeting with UN Secretary General Ban to discuss a whole host of issues, the two most prominent I imagine being Georgia and Afghanistan.

That is what I wanted to say. I have plenty of time for your questions. Shall we just kind of go around? Please.

Q: James, just to follow up on what you were saying about Georgia. In the terms of Georgia's military capabilities at the moment and how much they have been damaged, I mean, how much has the conflict with the Russians affected or been a setback for its achieving a MAP?

APPATHURAI: The Secretary General has been quite clear, I think even yesterday at his press conference, that it is the 26 allies who will make the decision on granting Membership Action Plan to any aspirant and that that decision will not be influenced by outside parties.

The key that was stressed throughout the meetings was reform. That Georgia had to take the steps necessary to meet the NATO standards. To make any decisions on MAP possible they had to continue the reform process. That is within their power. NATO is willing to provide support and does provide support where possible. President Saakashvili stressed, and this is something that we at NATO stress with all of our partners, that reform is first and foremost in Georgia's interest for the Georgian people and not as a tool to achieve any other goals. That is his view. It is also our view.

So I would say that the key message coming out of the situation... of the visit was, keep up the reforms. You control this. It is essential to your MAP aspirations.

I think that's... that's the answer to the question.

Q: Pour reprendre la question de mon prédécesseur, tu n'as pas répondu à la question précisément. L'appareil militaire géorgien, je sais que les ambassadeurs ne sont pas des spécialistes militaires, mais en principe la mission militaire de la semaine dernière et celle d'avant ont donné quelques éléments au pays.  Donc, est-ce que tu peux nous dire à quel point l'appareil militaire georgien a été détruit? Une sorte de pourcentage ou d'idée.  Est-ce que c'est possible?

APPATHURAI: Je n'ai pas vu ces rapports. Alors, je n'ai franchement pas une idée claire. Je sais qu'il y a eu deux destructions. Mais je n'ai pas vu des analyses, désolé.


Q: (Inaudible...) James, the Baltics wanted to reintroduce the debate inside the NATO, whether under Article 5 we have sufficient defence planning, or as you were saying last week, whether this has to be a bit more tight with a shorter timeframe...


Q: ...(inaudible) time. So how much do you think this discussion will come up in the ministerial defence and when... during the dinner?

APPATHURAI: I would not be surprised, let's put it this way, if the question of defence planning, and in particular whether more routine defence planning for Article 5 contingencies, is raised. If it is raised it would most likely be at the dinner.

Q: James, you mentioned that the NAC respected the six-point agreement, but reportedly the Secretary General mentioned that he's not satisfied with the Russian troops in the South Ossetia. So how do you think the relation between NATO and the EU?

Secondly, could you confirm, is there any fight between NATO troops and Afghani troops in the border of Afghanistan?

APPATHURAI: A fight between NATO and Afghan troops?

Q: Yeah, there's some reports saying that.

APPATHURAI: On the second point I've only been out of the building for two hours, but I have not heard any reports of a fight between NATO and Afghan troops. Is that what your note... okay. So I would have to go and look at that. I cannot imagine.

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: So Pakistani or Afghan?

Q: Pakistani.

APPATHURAI: Ah, okay, that's a different thing. Let me say what I have said many times. No NATO forces under NATO command have crossed the Pakistani border, and they will not cross the Pakistani border. NATO's mandate ends at the Pakistani border. They can fire back if they are fired on in self-defence, and that is where the line is drawn for NATO.

Yes, the reporting on the Secretary General's comments I have to say very frankly was inaccurate. The Secretary General has never, and I have the transcript if anybody wants to wander by my office, the Secretary General has never criticized the EU six-point plan. On the contrary, he fully supports and that is the NATO point of view, he fully supports the EU's... the plan negotiated by the European Union and wants to see it fully implemented. He does have concerns about the implementation, in particular by the Russian Federation in returning to the pre-August 6th lines, and that doesn't necessarily mean all of Abkhazia and all of South Ossetia.

Prior to this conflict, for example, in South Ossetia, one third was controlled by the separatists, or... one third was in essence neutral and one third was under Georgian direction. That is no longer the case.

So there are some questions to be resolved by the Russians, let me stress by the Russians, in terms of returning to their August 6th lines, and force levels is another question. If we are returning to the status quo ante as President Sarkozy negotiated, then there are some fundamental questions about force levels as well. And these are the questions that the Secretary General has raised.

Sorry, just to finish, there is not a, as he would say, shimmer of light between NATO and the European Union on this issue.

Q: (Inaudible...) Is this working? If I could get a clarification. The Sec-Gen's speech had a paragraph yesterday; he was talking about recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Moscow being a bad decision....


Q: ...and not only saying that, but saying we've asked Moscow to reverse it.


Q: And there's a full stop here. And then it gets onto we can't do business as usual and we're reinvestigating our relations. Can you help me with the full stop. Does business as usual mean Russia must withdraw recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

APPATHURAI: Well it's a good question. The decision not to conduct business as usual came as the culmination of a series of steps, which included what the allies considered to be a disproportionate use of force, but certainly the recognition of the two republics is in essence a redrawing of borders through the use of force. And it is something which all of the allies have profound concerns about. All of them agreed that Russia should reverse that decision. That may not be happening tomorrow, from what I understand, but anyway that's the position of the allies.

But you're right, there was a full stop. They then took the decision that there should be no business as usual. I don't know what conditions will be required for the allies to reverse that decision. There is no explicit list. This was, as I say, a culmination or the result of a culmination of steps.

Clearly adherence to and full implementation of the spirit and letter of the six-point agreement, and the subsequent... I think it's September 8th, Sarkozy-negotiated arrangement is a sine qua non of a return back to or towards a normalization of relations.

And let me, I think, say something that's very important. NATO allies want a normal relationship with Russia. They do not want a chill blowing across Europe, which will make things more difficult across a whole host of very important areas of cooperation. Not just in the very specific area of the Caucasus, but across a much wider spectrum. And not just for the West. Also for Russia.

Nobody benefits from a situation in which Russia's stock market falls 40 percent. There is capital flight. This does not just hurt the Russians. It also hurts the investors in Russia. Nobody benefits from a situation in which unnecessarily hot rhetoric creates a climate of instability for all of us.

So the allies wish to see a return to the normalization of relations, but what does that require? Basically it requires that everybody plays by the same rules, and that means working out disputes in non-violent ways. It means using political methods to resolve political disagreements, and if we can, and I think... I know all the allies want to return to that kind of normal relationship, I think it will be a benefit, and we think it will be a benefit to NATO, to Russia, and to Euro-Atlantic security. That is the basic principle.

There should be no misunderstanding as we discuss the immediate issues here, where there is a profound disagreement, between the 26 allies and Russia on the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is we don't like where we are. Allies do not like where we are and want to go back to a better place and a better relationship with the Russians.

Shall I go back there and then...?

Q: James, when Russia will withdraw from Georgia is there any chance that NATO will start again with partnership talks with Russia? The first question, and the second one is, the EU has something like a commission to find out whose fault this war was. Does NATO have something like it too, or does it simply believe what the EU commission will find out?

APPATHURAI: Our partnership for Russia, first, has not been totally ruptured. I think that's a very important point. At the ambassadorial level, yes, the NRC meetings have been suspended for the foreseeable future, but if conditions change they will be, I am quite sure, reinstated.

Below that, at the working level, and in key areas of partnership, like on Afghanistan, like on counter narcotics training, like on theatre missile defence, the relations have not been broken. So I think there is a pragmatic engagement between Russia and NATO that has continued, and we expect it to continue. We want it to continue.

I understand, and someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but what I understand is, the EU has called for an investigation, an international investigation into the events, with Russian and Georgian observation, and is willing to either participate or lead in it.

The Georgians have accepted this. The Russians have not accepted this. So that is my understanding of where we are in this process. NATO as a body would not be part of an investigative process. I think we all understand the political reasons why that would not be particularly helpful.

Of course, the allies all have, to varying degrees, intelligence assets, capabilities and information which they're sharing with each other on a bilateral basis, and which I'm quite sure would be part of any kind of investigative process.

Paul, I think you were next. Then...

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: That's a different question. Would NATO cooperate? I'm quite sure NATO would cooperate if asked to, but will NATO take a lead or active role, for reasons which you perfectly well understand? That would not be particularly helpful.

Did you have another question, because you had your hand up before? Yeah.

Q: (Inaudible...). Do those standards include... Sorry, do those standards include a commitment to friendly relations with neighbours and a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes just generally? Is that one of the standards which NATO applies for enlargement?

And looking... trying to look at it with a little bit more detail about the Ministers' dinner on Thursday night. The past few years we've been told that NATO's strategic plan is for lighter, mobile deployable forces and that the idea of having lots of tanks to defend the north European plain is no longer part of the game. Are the talks on Thursday night to resume that part of NATO's history?

APPATHURAI: Yes, thank you. In essence, the answer to the first question is yes, a commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, of territorial disputes, is a principle which allies wish to see aspirants work towards. I am not the Georgian government spokesman. I don't want to speak for the Georgian government, but... what I heard President Saakashvili say is, yesterday, is that they do have that. That they see, of course, the events in terms of self-defence. They point out that this was taking place inside their own country and not against a neighbouring country. This was inside Georgian territory, so there is a discussion anyway, an intellectual discussion, to be had about whether or not what has happened in the past few days is in contravention of that.

But bottom line is, yes, NATO would expect that, and certainly I know the Georgian government has said that it would commit itself to that.

And again, in the answer to your second question, there is a powerful, or a strong stream of thought within NATO that substantially the transformation that has been taking place over the past 15 years is applicable in very large measure both to expeditionary operations and to the more traditional defence requirements, in terms of being able to move forces to where you need them to move. Forces that can move quickly to new territory, that can sustain themselves where they are needed, that are network enabled, in other words, that can talk to each other in a very sophisticated way, air, land and sea connected, in other words the... and I used to write speeches, so you may have heard me... well you haven't heard me say it, but you may have heard George Robertson say it, no more heavy metal, let's listen to techno.

There is... the techno is still applicable. Now whether that needs a rebalancing, I think that that is the kind of discussion that is being had in some capitals. Whether it comes up or not tomorrow night we will see. But as I say, my sense of the discussion within NATO is that much of the transformation agenda of the last 15 years, the techno agenda, is seen as as applicable in the current context as it was two months ago.


Q: James, about tomorrow, if Baltic defence issue is on the agenda for tomorrow and if there will be discussions about paragraph 5 and the routine business, what can we expect still from this? Can you give us some ideas about practical results about that?

APPATHURAI: I think it's important... I'm glad you raise the question, because it's important not to raise expectations about this dinner tomorrow. It is informal informal. It is a first discussion amongst Defence Ministers about whether or not they might... about what the current context is, what it means for Euro-Atlantic security, but also for NATO in particular; in particular how that applies to NATO's transformation. And then, if any modifications might be made to either NATO defence planning or procurement.

So we should see this as an initial informal exchange of views in a very closed format. They are deliberately not attempting to arrive at decisions. It is certainly... A, if any decisions are necessary it would be too early to have to make them. So this is an initial exchange of views on the potential implications. Sorry to put so many qualifiers on it, but that's what it is, and nobody should expect any decisions coming out of that meeting.

Should we go there?

Q: Est-ce que l'OTAN a une réaction sur la crise en Ukraine?

APPATHURAI:  Eh, non. Non, non, franchement c'est évidemment le système politique en Ukraine est disons fluide. Ça, on peut dire, je pense sans exagération. Mais il faut aussi qu'évidemment c'est une décision ukrainienne, comment ils se débrouillent dans leur gouvernement. Et ce n'est pas à l'OTAN de faire commentaire dessus. C'est tout.

Please, then we'll go back.

Q: (Inaudible...) meeting with Lithuania today?


Q: Is this something that has been planned for long time?


Q: And I believe there was a meeting last week and was it in Lithuania or Estonia or something.

APPATHURAI: In Riga. In Latvia.

Q: Latvia, okay. Could you give us your assessment of that meeting last week?

APPATHURAI: Sure. Last week the Secretary General went to Latvia, met with the three Baltic Foreign Ministers, as well as the president. And he... we... he witnessed a very interesting mine-clearing exercise aboard a German minesweeper, part of a 14-nation, 7-ship or 14-ship, 7-nation... I can't remember which, but a multinational NATO and partner minesweeping exercise. I learned that there are some 15,000 mines in the Baltic Sea. And every year this multinational operation goes out and clears mines, which represent a threat to shipping and also to practise minesweeping and to practise interoperability.

So it was very interesting. They gathered 48 mines together underwater and detonated them and I can tell you it's quite an impressive sight, and you really feel it, even aboard a very big ship very far away.

Did they discuss the issue that we've been discussing, current security context, relations with Russia, defence planning? Yes, of course, they discussed that. As a run-up to discussions that we're going to have in... that they will have in London.

I think you were...

Q: Yes, James, on Kosovo, I'm not... I don't know if you are aware about AP reporting on the new KFOR commander declaration that KFOR it's ready to intervene militarily in the north part of Kosovo and if you are aware, do you know which purpose and why will they intervene militarily there?

So I don't know if you are aware about this declaration?

APPATHURAI: I'm not aware, but let me say for the record KFOR has a mandate throughout Kosovo. There are some questions, this is no secret, about the mandates of... or the reach of EULEX or of UNMIK. There should be no questions about the reach of KFOR. KFOR is present everywhere in Kosovo and if General Gay said that, and I'm quite sure he did if that's what you say, I think he was making the point that there should be no question. If NATO needs to be active in the north, as it has been, not least in March, it will be.

I think you were next.

Q: Going back to the 7,600...


Q: ...(inaudible) soldiers that Russia will send, the Secretary General said the other day that this was... that he would not consider, if the move is done, that this is respecting the status quo which we're trying to get back to. Does this mean the allies could debate sending a stronger signal, maybe by sending troops to Georgia, making a point? How would this work?

Because we mentioned... okay, you said that the Secretary General said that six-point plan negotiated by the European Union is fully supported by the NATO allies, but the European Union and Mr. Solana precisely he came here and said, look, we have not discussed the build-up of Russia, you know, that was really something that Russia has done bilaterally, or is intending to do bilaterally. This was not discussed in Moscow. We have nothing to do with it. So how can all this move and what can the allies do? Because it seems the European Union is going to be able to do very little considering it has just been able to get 200 observers there.


Q: So...

APPATHURAI: I think the first point is I do not foresee a situation in which NATO sends forces to Georgia. Allies... I don't know what allies will do, and I really don't know if they do anything at all or nothing, but I can say that I do not anticipate a situation in which NATO sends forces as NATO to Georgia. I don't think that that would contribute to a lowering of tensions in the current context.

Yes, the Secretary General has expressed his concern about Russian force levels, which are dramatically higher, and according to Russian announcements, are to remain dramatically higher than they were prior to the conflict. And this is not in line, at the very least, with the spirit of returning to pre-August 6 levels.

How will the... I can't speak for the European Union obviously. The allies are keeping the relationship with Russia, and in particular through the NATO-Russia Council, under constant review, and that's not a passive review. That is an active review, I can tell you.

That doesn't mean that they're closing off all channels, they are not. But they are looking at each and every activity to see whether or not it should go forward. Some do, some don't. The NRC, as I say, is not meeting, and will not meet, I think, tomorrow.

So for the normalization of relations to take place, something which the allies want very much, I think there has to be a consensus view that Russia is in good faith implementing the spirit and the letter of the agreements negotiated by President Sarkozy. And when that happens, which we hope it will, then it will be a NATO consensus view on how... to move towards normalization. I think that is... instead of looking at what negative things might happen. I think the allies are very much focused on the positive and the way forward. And the way forward is good faith implementation by all parties of the arrangement. Which will allow for a normalization of relations, something which is a goal the allies all have.


Q: Going back to the London meeting and this issue of possible rebalancing, are you talking about the possibility of... well maybe they're going to discuss a bit more heavy metal, and a bit less techno? Is that... I mean, along the lines of what might be discussed?

APPATHURAI: Yeah, there is no agenda for this meeting, and I really don't want to speculate too much as to what they're going to discuss. I don't know. I do know, and I know I've said it before, but this is as much as I can say, they want to look at the context in which we find ourselves. There are some allies who have not... who have made clear that they would like to discuss the issue of defence planning and the extent to which it should be done on a more routine basis for Article 5 contingencies.

Are there implications for NATO's defence planning and procurement more broadly? I think this issue could come up, but I don't know that it will. So that's the most I can say. I'm sorry. I really don't know. It's an informal meeting. There is no agenda.

I think you were next, and then we'll come to you, Paul.

Q: Just to follow up the questions. Are you having another informal Defence Ministers' meeting?


Q: What's the difference between to (inaudible...)?


Q: And is that something to do with this electronic warfare systems or this, what we have just heard, (inaudible) from your colleagues?

APPATHURAI: Well, to add to those... because it's two questions. I think in particular on Friday, but perhaps also in Budapest, which will be in sort of early October, there is the opportunity to discuss the more high tech, let's put it this way, elements of transformation. And in particular this push within NATO to go for what we call network-enabled capabilities, which are the future for western forces. But it is technically extremely challenging to integrate the different systems, even within one country's armed forces. It's hard to get that kind of compatibility and information sharing, even in the most sophisticated country like the United States it's hard to get that kind of integration between the services that procure on a national basis. To do that in a multinational environment is very challenging indeed.

So... but it gives you a huge advantage in terms of situational awareness, in terms of precision, in terms of mobility, and so it is worth pursuing. It is a force enabler and a life saver in both ways, yours and whoever you're fighting. So it is possible that it is discussed in either format.

This meeting is very much, as I said, sorry the London meeting, is a very informal, very small meeting designed for Ministers to air views, share their views in a very honest way amongst allies on what the impediments are that they face on a national basis, to move forward on some key questions and whether or not there are ways to share best practice, to find innovative ways to get around the roadblocks that they face, and very simply to understand each other's positions, because that is the best way to find a way forward.

Budapest will be, if you will, a more traditional meeting. For example, there will be an ISAF format Defence Ministers' meeting. They will discuss Afghanistan. Defence Minister Wardak will be there, or has been invited to come, excuse me. Has been invited to come. And I expect, for example, at that meeting, a discussion of the new level agreed by the JCMB to have a 134,000-strong ANA, Afghan National Army. What does that mean for NATO in terms of the support that we need to provide for them in terms of enablers, in terms of embedded training teams, the famous OMLTs. There will be a discussion on Kosovo. I don't expect a Kosovo format meeting. Correct me if I'm wrong, Simone?

But we'll give you a proper agenda. More to the point, this is a typical, more traditional...

UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: Yeah, to discuss operations and some transformational (inaudible). But I expect... my own feeling is Afghanistan and Kosovo will be the principal discussions of discussion, and in particular Afghanistan.

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: In Budapest, exactly.

Q: So, on Afghanistan, only the speech (inaudible...)...

APPATHURAI: Yes. I don't expect any discussion of Afghanistan tomorrow. That is not the intent. They want to have a discussion, in essence, that is preserved from the day-to-day priorities that we have, to be able to focus on the more long-term strategic issues.

Is there... Paul.

Q: Just a quick question.

APPATHURAI: Those are always... I know when to be afraid, is when you say that.

Q: The European Union Foreign Ministers (inaudible...).


Q: (Inaudible...) when that special meeting is held (inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: There has been informal discussion in NATO about this. Because as you quite rightly point out, a number of NATO allies, including Canada right now, have provided escort at request of, I think, it's the World Food Programme.

There is a strong desire in NATO not to engage in any kind of beauty contest with the European Union on this issue. The European Union has capabilities. NATO has capabilities. There is a well-developed discussion in the European Union. Can NATO in some way play a role in complementarity with the European Union? Should it? In what way? Would NATO play a more leading role? These are all issues which have been discussed, and which I expect to continue to be discussed.

In a... I expect it would continue to be discussed in NATO, and with a certain amount of urgency. People understand the problem and that we don't have all the time in the world. But there is no desire, as I say, to engage in any kind of beauty context or competition with the European Union, which has well-advanced discussions and can do a very good job. There's no doubt here in NATO that that is possible. The question is, could NATO complement that, support it, play some kind of other role in that context and that is a discussion that is being had here.

Go ahead.

Q: (Inaudible...)?

APPATHURAI: In the world? Yeah.

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: (Laughs). 

Q: (Inaudible...).


Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: Again, informal informal. No decisions will be taken at this meeting. But there are philosophical questions, if you wish, about helicopters that you can see. We have large fleets of helicopters, but they were built for a context that is, in essence, that they should fly around in Europe. So a significant amount of the helicopters that we have in NATO fleets are not useable in Afghanistan because they can't fly high enough, it's too hot, they don't have enough lift, they don't have the mission suites they need to protect themselves there. They don't have the filters to keep the dust out. So in essence they don't go.

How can we marry... should we retrofit them? How do we marry up the countries that have the capabilities, the helicopters? Many of the newer members have very robust helicopters, but don't have any money to get them out there. How do we marry up the money to the machine? To get it out. Which is not easy to do... Sorry if I'm going to bore you now, but if you're the Canadian defence ministry you have no budget line for sending money to the Czech Republic so that they can fly their helicopters. It's a prosaic issue, but the Finance Minister says so sorry, I never... you know, we don't even have a system for that. Or maybe we didn't and now we do.

So there are very, as I say, prosaic, potentially to sound boring, but very important practical issues that need to be discussed on questions like that, without coming to a formal decision, but we do have more ministerial meetings coming up in very quick succession.

I think the Secretary General sees this meeting with an eye to Strasbourg and Kehl, that we can take decisions on the big issues in Strasbourg and Kehl, but we need to lay the groundwork for that now.

I think you had a question. No? Okay.

I'm not begging for any more work.

Q: Yeah, I was just... all the concept(?) now of the new transformation that NATO has to know, it was NATO was born to deter Russia. Now we... although we don't want to say that we go back into this situation of the Cold War, how much should allies like scrap that... you know, like re-evaluating that concept which now again seems to have certain validity.

Already when we're starting to think why... you know, why is NATO still going. It has to transform, to have a new system, but...

APPATHURAI: Yeah. First, no one is expecting an attack by Russia on NATO. That is not going to happen in the foreseeable future. We have no expectation that this is even an immediate issue. So this talk of Cold War, Cold War, Cold War I think we really need to put behind us. It is not the Cold War, it's not going to be the Cold War.

We have strained relations on some important issues, but we are not going back to what we had and nobody wants to on either side.

Does Article 5 need or require... let me put it that way. Sorry. Do we need within NATO to have more routine contingency planning for Article 5 scenarios, for areas where we have not had routine contingency planning? That's an issue that will need to be discussed, or that may well be discussed, let's put it that way, in the coming days within NATO. I would be surprised if it weren't.

But beyond that, I do think it's important not to get carried away. In diplomatic circles, in the press, in the public we should not get carried away with concerns about the Cold War.