Nato-Russia Council

Informal working luncheon of Defence Ministers from the NATO-Russia Council

News conference after the NATO Russia Council by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer


MODERATOR: The Secretary General and Chairman of the NATO-Russia Council will make a brief opening statement, and then we'll have time for some questions.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Well, once again, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. And I'm here to give you an update on the lunch we had... meeting we had with the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov which has ended.

It was a solid working session. I started with a brief bilateral conversation with Minister Ivanov to brief him on the discussions we, at 26, in the NATO meetings, have had here in Berlin; yesterday's discussion, and of course, also this morning's discussion on our operational engagements.

He raised a number of subjects, related, of course, to the ambitious program of the work we have in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council. Let me mention one example: The cooperation between NATO and Russia against the threats posed by trafficking in Afghan narcotics; training people that concerns. We discussed the NATO-Russia cooperation where it concerns the Theatre Missile Defence Project. And Minister Ivanov informed us that Russian ships in January will join Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean, so then we'll see for the first time, and I think it's a very important occasion, Russian ships steaming alongside NATO ships in the Operation Active Endeavour I mentioned this morning, which is, as you know, an anti-terrorist operation. But Minister Ivanov mentioned this... announced this and I think that is important.

In general the principle of concentrating in the framework of the NRC on topics of particular(?) interest is, of course, what makes the NRC work. You know that we signed a Status of Forces Agreement, NATO and the Russian Federation. This is now on its way, or is already in the Duma, and Minister Ivanov told us that he hoped it would be ratified by the Duma early next year. Another, I think, milestone in the NATO-Russia relationship.

You remember that when the Russian sailors were trapped in their submersible NATO countries came to help. You've all seen that. What was the plus there, that they came to help, of course, and that the people could be rescued, but also that in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, not too long before, a submarine search and rescue exercise had been held. In other words... and many other exercises we're having in many different fields, had found a very practical example here when the United Kingdom and others, came to the assistance of the Russians. So we have to build on that.

Another event which is taking place, as we speak, is the exercise which is named Senator 2005, organized by the United Kingdom and Edinburgh, focusing on the important issue of nuclear safety. This is an emergency response exercise and it follows one which took place in Murmansk in August '04. And you can imagine that when you discuss these kind of subjects, participation by observers from all NRC countries, it's a sensitive issue... is a sensitive issue, I should say, but is also a sign of mutual trust.

We're going to have, by the way, an exercise as well with special forces, a joint special forces exercise.

Well, of course, we discussed interoperability issues our military... for military contacts in general. I mentioned the fight against terrorism, Active Endeavour. And finally Minister Ivanov briefed his NATO colleagues on the Sino-Russian military exercise which was recently held, and of which we saw the pictures.

That was it, along broad lines. The Preparatory Committee, which meets in Brussels on a regular basis, has a full plate. I think it was a very useful meeting; solid working session, working lunch in fact.

I can end here. I'm ready to take questions you might have.

Q: Secretary General, Leon Bruneau, Agence France-Presse. The story of the Russian ships in January, Operation Active Endeavour, unless I'm mistaken that decision was taken quite some time ago and apparently it seems to have taken quite some time to be fulfilled, so I'd like to know really since this is a concrete example of the cooperation, how easy is it to negotiate on a daily basis with the Russians on this cooperation, and taking that example?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Not... I would answer, not difficult at all. But of course, I mean, you have these talks, but you should, I think, address this question to Sergei Ivanov when he comes to greet you. But the Russian navy needed some preparatory time. You have to do a lot of things before those ships can steam together. Think about communication, think about command and control. I mean, those are not, of course, the easiest things, and this is what... let me use the word again, I think a milestone in NATO-Russia relationships that we see an anti-terrorism operation which has been going on, conducted by NATO, is joined, not only politically by the support the Russians have given us, but factually now by ships.

So I think the fact that it took some time, indeed, is certainly not an argument for saying were these protracted and very difficult negotiations? They were not. Absolutely not. In January it's going to happen

MODERATOR: Paul, and then you.

Q: Paul Ames from Associated Press. Secretary General, the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday expressed some concern about NATO arms shipments to Georgia. I just wonder whether you've been able to ease those concerns in your discussions today with Mr. Ivanov?