Nato-Russia Council

Meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) at the level of Ministers of Defence

Press conference by Secretary General, Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Portorož, Slovenia

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me update you on the two meetings we had this morning: first of all, the second part of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers Session and secondly the NATO-Russia Council.

As you know, the NATO session was devoted to transformation: NATO's change; NATO's adaptation to the 21st century. And, of course, as I mentioned, there were transformation that was... you can say a preparatory meeting for the Summit which is going to be held in Riga at the end of November.

The first round of discussion was exclusively devoted to the NATO Response Force where we... the Ministers got an update on the progress to meet the criterion of what we call full operational capability of the NATO Response Force which is one of the objectives for the NATO Summit.

There was a shared belief of course on the importance of the NRF as a unique capability on the one hand as a transformational tool, a tool for change, a tool for adaptation on the other hand.

We still have to discuss a few things. I have been making pleas, and they have generally been accepted for a longer-term roster so that you can, and nations can plan well in advance about when they're going to participate in a rotation of the NATO Response Force. Because, you know, it is organised on a rotational basis. And the second... the second element we discussed is how exactly the short-term deployment needs, so the short-term deployments of the NATO's Response Force, are financed. And I'm happy to report to you that we have made progress here as well.

We discussed what we called in our jargon Comprehensive Planning and Action, CPA. In normal speak, that if you look at Afghanistan, many international actors have responsibilities. NATO has a very important one, as we all know, so has the G8, so has in the first place, the United Nations, the Afghan government, the European Union, non-governmental organizations. How can you... and preferably before you enter an operation, and also during the time you are in that class of operations, how can you better relate to those other... many other actors in the field?

And I think Afghanistan proves every single day that is important. And this a subject that I hope we can bring to our Heads of State and Government to discuss at the Riga Summit. And here, of course, when I discussed Comprehensive Planning and Action, the military of course are clearly involved in this as well.

On the ground, for instance, in Afghanistan, it functions quite well. But I think we have to think how we can improve also the planning as the operation goes or even beforehand.

The funding issue, how NATO is funded, I mentioned it briefly with respect to the NATO's Response Force, was also discussed. And I was glad that I heard echoes around the table of my plea... and I think I should use a bit stronger word than a plea, my insistence with nations on meeting the benchmark they have set themselves for a 2% GDP spending on defence.

I know that cannot happen from one day to the other. But if I see the list at the moment on what the Allies spend on defence and you know, there are the good exceptions, I see a lot of Allies who are far away from the 2%. And I must add add that it often embarrasses me when I visit partner nations or aspiring nations who want to become a NATO member who spend much more that I tell them: "Go on with what you're doing or increase your defence budget." At the same time, at the back of my head, I know that many Allies do not, by far, reach that target. So plea is too weak; I have to insist as Secretary-General.

Then, the NATO-Russia Council where we had two main issues in fact. Of course, the general theme of the state of play in NATO-Russia cooperation, what was meant, and what I think what was mentioned and what I think is important, I told this before, very important indeed is the Russian participation which has ended the past week in the maritime operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean. You know, this is an anti-terrorist operation based on Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. And I think it was a milestone in NATO-Russia cooperation that Russia has participated. We have an important Afghanistan counter-narcotics program together with the Russian Federation that relates to Central Asia as well.

We have what we call a Cooperation Airspace Initiative which is moving forward. We're working together on theatre missile defence. And there was an important element I should mention. There is, I think, the need... , and I discussed in my bilateral meeting with Minister Sergei Ivanov as well, the need and the hope that the Status of Forces agreement we have with the Russian Federation in the framework of the Partnership for Peace should be brought forward. And we sincerely hope that the Duma in Moscow which has to approve this Status of Forces agreement will do so expeditiously.

You might ask me a question... , I don't exclude this after the NATO-Russia Council, on Georgia which is... which is of course on everybody's mind today. Russian foreign minister... Russian defence minister, excuse me, Russian defence minister Ivanov clearly stated the Russian position. It is of course a bilateral matter between the Russian Federation and Georgia. NATO, of course, does not play a direct role in this. It is a bilateral issue. Nevertheless, I asked a representative of my staff to speak with the Georgia... Georgian deputy foreign minister because I think it's important also given the partnership relation between NATO and Georgia that, also, on my behalf, there was a call for moderation and for de-escalation. And that's relevant for all parties that is as relevant for Georgia as it is for our Russian friends.

General appeal also from my side to both sides to moderate and de-escalate the current situation. But I say again of course this is not an issue where NATO will play any direct role apart from my appeal.

That is what I had to tell you about this morning's meetings. I'm ready to take your questions.

Q: Mister Secretary-General, the ISAF declaration of this meeting was to bring more