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NATO and Russia Looking at New Challenges

NATO and Russia Looking at New Challenges

Press Conference By NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson And Mr Sergei Ivanov, Minister of Defence of the Russia Federation, Brussels, December 18, 2001.

Lord Robertson: We have just had a very productive meeting of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council of Defence Ministers. I am delighted to be chairing this platform now with the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergei Ivanov.

I draw your attention to the press statement from the PJC. The main results of today's meeting were Ministers discussed possible areas for joint consultations, decisions and eventually joint action at the level of 20 in the political military field, following the decisions by Foreign Ministers on 7 December to embark on a new level of NATO-Russia relations.

We today exchanged letters on the establishment of a NATO Military Liaison Mission in Moscow. This was not just a symbolic event, the mission will both reflect the new climate of relations between NATO and Russia, as well as contributing to the further development in practical terms. Ministers had a thorough discussion today on the defence and military role in combating terrorism. There is full agreement that NATO and Russia together can achieve much more than separately and we shall use all available instruments to further scope. It was also provisionally agreed that the NATO-Russia Conference on the military aspects of counter-terrorism would take place early next year at the NATO Defence College in Rome.

We looked at new challenges which have brought to the forefront the crucial importance of defence reform. This applies both to NATO and to Russia. Specific defence and military capabilities are required to meet the demands of today and the demands of tomorrow as well. The Ministers therefore reviewed very favourably the work plan of our military representatives which represents a very rich menu of activities.

Finally we considered our common operational engagement in the Balkans and Ministers reaffirmed the commitment to use our forces deployed there to uphold regional peace and stability.

So I hope that this brief account of today's meeting proves beyond doubt that NATO and Russian Defence Ministers are capitalising quickly on the political impetus for a new quality in our mutual relations. Both NATO and Russian Defence Ministers are vigorously pursuing these opportunities. Real substance, practical progress, these are the best guarantees of the success towards which the Alliance and Russia are jointly working.

Mr. Ivanov: Over and above what Lord Robertson has just said, I would like to add that in fact we were able to reach consensus, we noticed a consensus on cooperation between NATO and Russia, henceforth at 20. There will be a deepening of our cooperation on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Those are after all the new problems, the new threats with which to our great regret we find ourselves confronted. Today we heard a lot about that, a lot of very direct words about that today, and we are prepared to proceed together to confront those awful threats.

There was also a discussion of some other areas in which NATO and Russia might cooperate in the format of 20, these are such problems as crisis management, problems or perhaps the prospects better for joint cooperation to create theatre missile defence and in my speech, in my remarks, I pointed out particularly that this isn't directed against American plans in that area but are intended to be complementary to them so as to enable both NATO and Russia, who are equally interested, to be equally able to avert the threat which we both see ourselves as being confronted with, not so much against intercontinental ballistic missiles but against tactical missiles, perhaps even aircraft, an integrated missile defence system, then integrated with air defence systems.

In addition to which, as Lord Robertson has said, we had some little detailed discussion on the problem of the Balkans which obviously causes some little alarm to both sides, and there was discussion of a series of matters besides anti-terrorism at the forefront of them and I am glad to be able to say that we thought that there was a good deal of consensus today already on the broad philosophical approach. We are agreed that it would be wrong of us to miss this uniquely favourable opportunity that we find ourselves with today to reinforce the cooperation between Russia and NATO.

Question: Mr Ivanov, Russia-NATO relations, in the USA it is thought that there is an unprecedented support from Russia to the anti-terrorist campaign in diplomatic, financial, information terms, and on the other hand there is the anti-missile defence matter. Is this a favour for a favour or is this a concession from Russia in terms of an abandonment of parity?

Mr. Ivanov: I would not accept that parallel at all because it strikes me as being artificial, if not positively - excuse me - invented. Russia knows from direct experience, from long experience, what terrorism is all about and we have had a longstanding battle against terrorism both on our own territory and at one remove on the territory of Afghanistan. Let me remind you that we were one of the initiators of the resolution taken two years ago by the UN Security Council imposing really rather strict sanctions against the Taliban regime and now it has become entirely obvious that that was, however rigorous we thought it was at the time, it was not rigorous enough. We have always proclaimed the principle that double standards in the fight against terrorism are not acceptable or appropriate and we feel that in offering our assistance and support to the United States we are continuing to follow that same logic, not just in words but by deeds as well.

As to America's abandonment of the ABM Treaty, I have given you our views on this already, I don't intend to repeat them now, I don't intend to repeat my own view on that matter now, but I will emphasise the point that in the first place in purely formal legalistic terms that the USA haven't abandoned the treaty and they are proceeding legally, correctly; and there is the second question, which is when their new system might be created; and then there is the third question, which is the main thing, and nobody really knows the answer, will it be created ever? The experience we have from the '80s and what was called in those days Star Wars is obviously a reminder of what might happen, but even in that eventuality Russia has sufficiently modern missile potential to enable her to feel pretty safe in terms of her own military security. So that we think the US decision is erroneous, we feel that our position, which is the same position as we had a year ago, two years ago and we have maintained ever since, we are not content to abandon the treaty jointly with the USA, although that was suggested to us, we would prefer a more flexible approach to this problem, but this is a decision that our partner in this matter has taken, we respect that opinion but it doesn't mean that anything is going to change in the fundamentals of our approach to strategic stability or in our dealings generally with our partners across the civilised - and I stress civilised - world. And this is what we have been talking about when we have been talking about today in our dealings by way of cooperation between Russia and NATO. Neither Russia nor NATO has any great interest in purely military integration, we are more interested in the politics of the thing, we are more interested in the pragmatics of the thing, both Russia and NATO are most interested in coordinating on security policy which I hope you will agree is a slightly different kettle of fish. So we have arranged for cooperation at the moment, we have arranged for cooperation at the Ministry of Defence level for the coming year in terms of search and rescue at sea, use perhaps of Russian military transport aviation or possibly NATO's military transport assets in peacekeeping operations and that is what we have been looking at particularly as a Ministry of Defence.

Question: Minister Ivanov, can you point out specifically military qualities Russia has to offer to NATO in this new relationship?

Mr. Ivanov: I would actually take a slightly broader view and look at the total Russian military organisation which is a slightly different thing. What we can offer is firstly information support, information not just about Afghanistan, let me emphasise that in particular, and we have every grounds for saying that. We are running already an active exchange of information on terrorism and as I say not only, not mainly even about Afghanistan but also about other areas, with particular attention going on where terrorist groups get their finance from. Also, perhaps to be specific for a moment about Afghanistan, there is a large amount of experience that Russia as a successor to the Soviet Union has. We know a lot about the situation on the ground, we know a lot about the humanitarian aspects without which no settlement of the situation and no support to the interim administration in Afghanistan will be possible. Russia is also engaged actively on humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, we have over 150 rescue personnel in Afghanistan, doctors, and they started yesterday to work on restoring the tunnels, the crossing it, and that is one way in which we are extending practical direct assistance in the northern parts of Afghanistan. Also important we think are matters of non-proliferation and we are less concerned with nuclear than with biological and chemical weaponry. If you again look here at the US-Russian exchange then I can draw your attention to the Joint Declaration signed by our Presidents at their meeting in Washington.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).