by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson at the Press Conference after the meeting of the North Atlantic Council
Good afternoon. Since the September 11th attacks, the world has become a very different place. NATO Foreign Ministers met today for the first time since then to discuss how to adapt the Alliance to meet the challenges of that new world.
Terrorism was at the centre of our discussions. On September 12th, NATO invoked for the first time in its history Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. NATOs rapid action galvanised nations into joining the fight against terrorism.
Nobody of course expected the Alliance to tackle terrorism alone. But we are playing a big practical role in the global campaign.
We continue to defend the United States by flying NATO AWACS over American cities. NATO forces have smashed Al-Qaida cells in the Balkans. Others measures are less visible, such as the provision of ports, bases and airspace.
But they are, however, equally important to the success of our common efforts to ensure zero tolerance for terrorists.
Today, ministers agreed to develop a package of measures in the run-up to the Prague Summit to strengthen the Alliances capacity to respond to this challenge.
A key partner in this respect is of course Russia . The Alliance deeply appreciates the unequivocal stance of President Putin, not only on terrorism, but also on other areas of cooperation. When I met the President two weeks ago, we agreed that there is now a strong logic of common interests in NATO-Russia relations.
Today NATO set the goal of creating, in the coming months, a new NATO-Russia body to allow us to work at 20 on issues where we have a common interest.
Deeper, more concrete cooperation will, however, not be at the expense of NATOs fundamental objectives. We will retain our prerogative to undertake independent action at 19. President Putin knows this and accepts it of course.
And new structures will not be enough. We need a more constructive mind-set to take full advantage of this unique opportunity to build a new quality to our cooperation.
In the Balkans, NATO working with others, has headed off two major crises.
In Serbia, without fanfare, we oversaw the reopening of the Ground Safety Zone around Kosovo, heading off a predicted major conflict there. Our missions in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) have demonstrated that a modest number of NATO troops can avert a bloody civil war. Today, we paid tribute to the men and women of Task Forces Harvest and Fox, whose work has been the model of crisis prevention.
In Kosovo, NATO forces have created a peaceful environment without which the recent successful elections, the first free and fair elections in Kosovo history, could simply not have been held. And NATO continues to support the stabilisation process in Bosnia-Herzegovina, preparing the way for an increasing transfer of tasks to civilian authorities.
At the same time, NATO has pressed forward with an ambitious enlargement agenda which will culminate at the Prague Summit with at least one new member.
This is good record. And one which demonstrates that NATO is an organisation of action; an organisation that can deliver; and an organisation that can adapt to new challenges with speed and effectiveness.
Within the hour you will get a copy of the communiqué of the meeting that took place today and I think you already have the Joint Statement, the statement that has been produced on terrorism.
Question (Jonathan Marcus, BBC) : Secretary General, in the past there have always been debates about out of area operations and this kind of thing. If you are talking about transforming NATO to meet new challenges, global terrorism is clearly an international challenge, a threat coming from many quarters, do you think that the old debates about in area and out of area have to be now put into the past and that NATO has to take on much more of a global role if that is necessary.
Lord Robertson: The first thing to say is that NATO is one player in the war against terrorism. It is a multi-faceted war which involves legal and political and economic aspects as well and they have achieved much less attention than the military ones in recent months but they are going to be where the action will count and where it will prove to be effective. NATO is concentrating on those areas of activity where NATO is relevant and intelligence gathering and intelligence sharing, on acquiring and reinforcing the military capabilities that will be required for the range of challenges posed by what we know at the moment and what we at this stage cannot predict, and we have got to be able to adapt our structures to deal with all of that. I dont think that some grand debate or in or out of area at the moment is of any great consequence. The international, the global terrorist threat is there and it has to be tackled if the world is going to attain a level of safety and stability. Where we operate is a matter for the 19 nations of NATO to decide and they will make that decision collectively when they believe it is appropriate.
Question (Andrea Copple, CNN) : Lord Robertson , I recognise that the details of NATOs adaptation are going to be worked out later when Defence Ministers meet, but could you give us an idea as to how you see NATO adapting to deal with the global war against terrorism, how you think it might work.
Lord Robertson: I think first of all that we need to look at those capabilities that would give protection to our Armed Forces and indeed to civilian populations in the event of what are called asymmetric attacks, the novel attacks like chemical and biological weaponry. Have we got enough in the way of detection equipment, which some countries have got? Do we need to reinforce that capability? Have our troops got the right training to be able to deal with these situations? Can there be a cross-fertilisation between the military sphere and the non-military sphere so that we are all working to the same objectives and with the same degree of urgency? We also I believe have to focus on prevention. How are we going to politically and in security terms create the conditions where the terrorist will not dream of using these techniques that they used on 11 September or they might use if they were to use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. So these are the key areas that have to be focused on. There are capabilities at the moment but not enough of them. There is also new thinking that needs to go along with new threats. If the terrorists are being inventive, and for them boundaries and borders have become irrelevant, then for the civilised world we have got to be similarly inventive and similarly visionary in the way we tackle these problems, and that is why I draw attention to this new level of cooperation with Russia because the terrorists dont know the meaning of national frontier but in the past we have been pre-occupied by them, not just by national frontiers but by lines of perception and they have to be broken down and there are good signs that that is happening. I hope that gives you a small indication of what is a big picture.
Question (Peter Miller, NATOs Nations) Lord Robertson, Article 5 was acted on very quickly, how long will Article be activated and what is the procedure to de-activate Article 5?
Lord Robertson: The time as long as is necessary. The procedure is a decision by the 19 members of the North Atlantic Council that safety and security has been returned to the Euro Atlantic area.
Question (Betsy Stuart, NBC News) : You mentioned that the US is using Awacs to patrol over the United States and that is one of your contributions. Are there other things that the US asked from you today of a concrete nature like that or in any other way?
Lord Robertson: The United States asked us for a number of things right at the very beginning in the 8 areas to do with airspace, to do with ports, harbours, the acquisition of fuel, the redeployment of the Standing Naval Forces Mediterranean to the eastern Mediterranean, all of these things were asked for and all these were delivered. So if the United States believes that there are other things that NATO collectively can produce at this time then obviously it gets priority given the invocation of Article 5, that many individual NATO nations have made contributions and have been encouraged by us to make contributions, again within that framework of Article 5 and a lot of these contributions have been extremely important and greatly valued.
Question : You said that your top priority is now zero tolerance to terrorism, your second priority should be better cooperation with Russia, what about enlargement in this order, is it still a priority? And you said at least one new member will be allowed into NATO, what at most could be the number of those admitted?
Lord Robertson: Nine, because there are nine applicant countries. So the zero option is off the table, it will, I can with confidence predict, be a number between one and nine. I did not give numbers in terms of priorities because we operate simultaneously here. NATO is very much in business, three crisis management operations, an enlargement process going on, Article 5 in relation to terrorism, the renewal of the Mediterranean dialogue, much more activity in the Partnership for Peace and a 46 nation Euro Atlantic Partnership Council that is moving ahead, never mind the developments in our relationship with Russia which we will be discussing with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov tomorrow, or our relationship with Ukraine which we will be discussing with Foreign Minister Valenko in about an hours time. All of that is going on, proving that NATO matters in this world today. So each of these are major priorities that we have, but inevitably todays preoccupation is with what happened on 11 September and making sure that it never happens again.