Toward a Europe Whole and Free
Defending the Vision

Welcome and Moderator: Barry Pavel, Vice President and Director, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council
H.E. Irakli Alasania, Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense of Georgia;
H.E. Sven Mikser, Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense of Estonia;
H.E. Milica Pejanović Đurišić, Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense of Montenegro;
H.E. Martin Stropnicky, Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic;
Alexander Vershbow, NATO Deputy Secretary General, NATO

Toward a Europe Whole & Free

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

BARRY PAVEL:  Well,  thanks very much again for rejoining us.  This is the panel on Defending the Vision.  This panel is on the record.  And for tweeting purposes – I wish I could tweet while moderating, but I haven’t mastered yet – it’s hashtag ewf2014.

I’m Barry Pavel.  I’m a vice president at the Atlantic Council and director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.  And I’m just really thrilled and honored to be here with my distinguished panelists, ministers of defense and my former colleague Sandy Vershbow, the deputy secretary general of NATO. 

It’s been such a great conference, where we’re looking back to celebrate historic trans-Atlantic milestones, but even today we know that the crisis we’re meeting and that we’re being tested about – I think that future historians will look back at 2014.  And so what we do over the next nine months, over the next years, I think, will be yet another milestone that future conferences look back to.

And so we do a lot of work at the Scowcroft Center on trends out to 2030.  And my hope is today, and my goal is, that this panel, this discussion and this entire conference really sets up some of the key defense strategy pillars so that when the Atlantic Council has a conference in 2024 celebrating the next rounds of enlargement, they’ll look back on the work that we did today as gratefully as we’ve been looking back on the previous rounds of enlargement during this conference.

So let me set up a couple of what I think are the primary questions for the purposes of this panel.  I mean, I think foremost is, how should NATO respond to this crisis and in a way that makes us more secure as we come out the other end?  In other words, not just reacting, not just tactics, as we heard Secretary Albright and former national security adviser Hadley discuss, but acting strategically in using this, using this time of change to push through on measures we would have liked to have done before but we didn’t have the flux in the strategic environment to accomplish.

So I’d like to sort of push through what can we try to get out of this crisis not just reacting but strategically acting.  And then I think importantly, what role and perspective should we take on NATO enlargement, on next rounds of NATO enlargement and on our partnerships and on what NATO does as an alliance and what the trans-Atlantic community does together in the south and in the east?  And we heard some very good suggestions from the previous panels on the need, in light of some of the new tools – which we’ll get to in this conference – the need for NATO and the EU to coordinate more, to deal with some challenges like energy security that are beyond the political-military instruments. 

And I think as Steve Hadley said very importantly, we need to get our vision going.  I mean, this – the alliance should use this crisis as an opportunity to revitalize itself, to revitalize its machinery to deal with the crisis and to get the vision that we had established long ago but we’ve been adapting, to get that moving again to further strengthen Europe and to achieve our vision of a Europe whole and free.

So I want to talk less, and I think I want to get to the panelists.  But let me very briefly introduce them.  You have their bios.  I’ll go in alphabetical order.  Minister of Defense of Georgia Alasania, thank you very much for coming.  He previously served as Georgia’s permanent representative to the United Nations from June 2006 to December 2008 – a busy time, I imagine.  And before becoming Georgia’s U.N. envoy, he served as the adviser to the Georgian president on the Abkhaz conflict, and I would love to hear from him on the strategic issues and on how Georgia sees these things.

We also have the minister of defense of Estonia, Minister Mikser.  He became minister of defense about a month ago.  I’m not sure about the timing of this portfolio, but it is the second time he’s been minister of defense of Estonia, and he has been the leader of the Social Democratic Party since 2010.

We also have the esteemed minister of defense of Montenegro – thank you again for coming to the Atlantic Council – Minister Durisic.  She was appointed as minister of defense two years ago, in March of 2012.  She’s a professor of telecommunications, which I would imagine brings some needed expertise to the discussion of cyber and of media and other things which we’ll be talking about.  She also has held numerous ambassadorial positions on behalf of her country. 

At the end of the row, but certainly not last, Minister Stropnicky, who has served as the deputy of the Czech Parliament, but throughout his career has gone from culture to politics to culture to politics, and would love to bring that set of expertise to bear as well on these very important problems and has also held numerous ambassadorial positions. 

And then finally, my former colleague Sandy Vershbow, the deputy secretary general of NATO.  He assumed the position in February of 2012.  Before that, he was an assistant secretary of defense in the Pentagon for international security affairs, before that a career member of the foreign service, numerous ambassadorial positions, including to Russia, and his educational background is on Russian studies and international relations.  So we have not only the deputy secretary of NATO but on an expert on Russia, and would love to hear him render his views on those questions, as well.

And so I think with those introductions in mind, I would love to turn to my Estonian colleague for your views, sir.  How do you think NATO should deal with this crisis?  What are the short-term issues?  How should we respond to Ukraine’s needs?  And then how do we handle enlargement and partnerships?  A few small questions for you.

MINISTER H.E. SVEN MIKSER:  Well, these aren’t a few small questions to be answered in five minutes, but let me – let me start.  The title of this panel, Defending the Vision,  I think we should first ask – well, this is a vision of Europe whole and free, based on these liberal democratic values, but we should ask, what are we up against?  What is this alternative vision that we need to defend ours against?  And we see this expansionist, imperialist Putin’s regime in Russia trying to use the same salami tactics that Soviets employed during the Cold War against its neighbors, against what the Kremlin has traditionally called their sphere of privileged interest.

And I think that – well, when we see the role of political leadership, the role of government in our value system in promoting the welfare of people, advancing the welfare of our people, then I think in Putin’s dictionary, a good leader, a good ruler is something entirely different.  I think when it comes to the – how Putin sees his legacy, it’s rather expanding the empire rather than improving the welfare of his people.  It’s very, very dangerous, I think. 

He has invested quite considerably over the last few years in his military capability, improving its deployability, its equipment.  It’s still very much inferior to what we have as the NATO alliance collectively, but it is quite sufficient to actually act aggressively against his neighbors, against the countries that he deems to be in his sphere of privileged interest.

I think that one of his calculations has been – and we saw this in Georgia in 2008 and also in Ukraine right now – that he believes that time is on his side, that he can take decisions on his own.  He doesn’t have any sort of bureaucratic drag in decision-making.  And having acquired this enhanced mobility and ability to deploy his troops quickly, he can actually change realities on the ground before we can get our act together and respond adequately.  And he basically believes that if he manages to change the realities on the ground quickly, then the emphasis of the international community will be on the cessation of violence, on de-escalation of tensions, rather than the immediate reversal of his territorial gains.

And that actually worked for him in Georgia.  And in Georgia – well, we say that Ukraine is a very powerful wakeup call for the international community.  I think Georgia actually should have been the wakeup call.  We decided to push the snooze button and go back to sleep.  I think we shouldn’t let anything like this happen this time, with regard to Ukraine; not because Ukraine is larger and more important, I think no country is less important than any other country, but because now we see a pattern.  It’s not a one-off thing. 

And the previous panel basically made a very sort of ominous prediction that the Baltics might be the next region where Putin may wish to try his luck.  We do – in the Baltics, we in Estonia, we have absolute confidence in the NATO Article 5.  We have absolute confidence in collective defense.  But obviously, we would not like to see an event that triggers Article 5.  We would much like to see anything like this prevented. 

And this, I think, leads me to my first conclusion, that a key is to actually improve our early-warning capabilities, to be better warned and have a clear idea as to what Putin is up to.  I mean, it’s very difficult to get in his mind, inside his mindset, but basically, we should sort of redirect many of our senses that have been turned elsewhere over the last few years back to Russia and take much closer look at what is happening, really, in Russia, how the troops are moving, what is the planning going on inside the Kremlin.  That’s number one.

Number two, I think that we should put very big emphasis on deterrence.  I think Putin understands strength, and deterring him is possible.  He knows that we are superior militarily, we are superior economically, and we have upper hand – the moral upper hand.  So I think that we are capable of deterring him, but we should make it very clear, very visible, very credible. 

We have been rather quick in implementing these immediate measures.  I would in fact call them short-term because I do think that they have to be short-term.  Now as these immediate measures are being implemented, we should concentrate on the longer-term – longer-term deterrence reassurance measures.  This is being done.  I hope that we’ll come to a very comprehensive, strong conclusion by the time of the summit in Wales in August.

And the third, final, point is that I think that it’s – someone said once that a vision that is not properly resourced is a hallucination.  I think that we should not deceive ourselves into believing that we can actually – when it comes to defense, that we can do more with less.  It’s not possible.  So I think that having had this wakeup call, we should all make sure that we actually properly resource what we’re about to do .  That is to say, to put it plainly, we should actually focus on getting our defense spending where it really needs to be.  (Inaudible) – among a very select group of countries in the alliance that spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.  I would like to see this go up much larger.

MR. PAVEL:  Great.  Thank you very much.  So what I heard from you is more focus on intelligence towards Russia, more focus on deterrence and more focus on the necessary resources to underwrite our activities.

I’d like to ask you a follow-up question, though, on deterrence.  I mean, these initial measures, for whatever reason we can talk about, don’t seem to have deterred Putin from trying to destabilize eastern Ukraine.  Activities are going on as we speak in key cities, no doubt led by Russian intelligence operatives, special forces, a few sympathizers, but certainly Russian instigated and led.  Is there more to come on deterrence measures?  Can NATO do more? 

And how worried is Estonia?  As you said, you could be one of the next more direct targets, and if there’s large-scale instability in Ukraine, we could have instability right on the borders of the Baltics, if not within.  And so this must be really a – quite a moment for your country.

MIN.  MIKSER:  Well, it is, in a way.  I think that I said Ukraine has been a very powerful wakeup call.  I don’t think that we in the Baltics, or those Black Sea borderline states in the south, that we needed any waking up.  I think that we are pretty much awake throughout.  So it hasn’t been so much as a surprise for us as it was, probably, for some other – some other Europeans.  It’s sort of a “we told you so” moment, but I wouldn’t like to say that.  But anyway, I think it’s  –

MR.  PAVEL:  You just did.

MIN. MIKSER:  (Chuckles.)  I just did, yeah, as a matter of fact.  (Laughter.)  I think that this window of opportunity of doing some things to be better prepared in the future is not going to be open indefinitely.  We have to seize the moment, as we have seized right moments in the past.  I mean with regard to enlargement, we are celebrating 10th anniversary of the big-bang enlargement.  I think it would be much more difficult politically to do anything like this today, unfortunately.

When it comes to Ukraine, well, there is – as was said in a few previous panels – there is a key difference between members and non-members, from allies and would-be allies, unfortunately.  And this obviously is something that Putin has been taking advantage of.  I think when it comes to reversing what he has done in Crimea, it will take some time and patience.  There should be absolutely rock-solid non-recognition policy of this, as there should be with regard to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and their occupation.

And so I think that we should make sure that what we do to punish him is not just punishment, but actually has very clear aim of reversing the gains he’s made and making it hurt so he knows that irresponsible behavior has consequences and these consequences are more negative to us – or to him than to us.  We are capable – I mean, we shouldn’t be talking about Putin’s regime being able to hurt us more than we can hurt him.  I think it’s simply untrue, and we should make sure that he understands that and he will not get away unpunished for behaving in this sort of 19th century fashion or 20th century fashion in the 21st century.

MR. PAVEL:  Great.  Thank you very much.

Now I’d like to turn to Minister Stropnicky.  What’s your take on how NATO’s doing so far?  Are we taking the right strategy?  What should we be doing?  And how does the Czech Republic feel about this new environment that we’re already in, with a much more threatening Russia in Europe?

MINISTER MARTIN STROPNICKY:  I’m sorry.  I have a beautiful brief 20-minute speech.  So I have to throw it away and stick to the question.

It’s not an easy one.  I would start this way, maybe.  I think that we both need each other very much – I mean the U.S. and European Union – and this should be underlined twice.

We have the impression that the U.S. priorities have changed to a certain extent.  It’s pretty visible.  And we don’t think it’s the best choice.  Why?  Because I think, with all modesty, that even the United States needs a stable, wealthy and balanced Europe as a strong partner, as a(n) ally, to cope with other complicated areas. 

And as I know, after three months of being minister, how the things are proceeding in Brussels – it’s not a criticism, but nevertheless, it’s quite difficult from time to time to take a common position.  We are still able to do so, which is of course very good, but it takes a lot of work, and the big players are not always, let’s say, in harmony with the priorities or – of the smaller ones.  But that’s always the case. 

But that’s even a reason – one more reason for an important role of United States, which doesn’t mean that we don’t want to take our part of responsibility; that’s for sure.  We don’t want to be protected and to sit and watch TV.  I mean, we are prepared to (deepen ?) our budget.  Of course that’s the first enemy of any minister of defense.  So for example now we are preparing the budget for the next year, and I have to say that, for example, the visit of Sir Robertson or the Secretary-General Rasmussen in Prague helped me because they just said, look, you have 1.1 percent of GDP, so what do you expect? It was not that rough, but nevertheless – (laughter) – it helped me a lot.  And gradually – that’s my task number one – we have to push this budget upwards.  That’s definitely the only choice.

As far as the conflict or the situation in – one more sentence, maybe – I don’t know whether in the United States it’s the same case, because I’m not a specialist on the United States.  But in Europe I think that the population takes the peace for granted.  It’s something obvious, something like oxygen.  Next year we’ll commemorate the end of the second world war, and the witnesses are disappearing rather rapidly.  So the young generation or even my generation knows the conflict from TV or PC game.  And that’s something that should be repeatedly explained, with great patience.  And otherwise we’ll not convince, as politicians, that this must be taken as a kind of sacrifice, let’s say, even in terms of economic wealth or economic obligatory spending, let’s say.

On the other hand, of course, we must buy – if I speak about armament, we must buy the things we need in the good quality, in a reasonable price.  That was not always the case in my country, for example.  That makes the job even more difficult.

In Ukraine, I think I would explore a bit what Sir Robertson said in Prague.  We are constantly being surprised.  We are always surprised.  We have been – or our dads were surprised by Anschluss of Austria before the second world war; then, for example, surprised by the coup d’état, to be precise, after ’45 in the eastern part of the Central Europe, then by the Russians coming in Budapest in ’56, then to Prague ’68.  We were – have been even surprised, of course, by the fall of the Berlin Wall.  And we are surprised again and again. 

So what can we do not to be so surprised always?  Frankly speaking, Mr. Putin repeatedly said, since 2000 or something like that, that he will try to restore somehow a kind of big Russia.  Mr. Medvedev spoke the same language, absolutely.  They even spoke about the notion of protecting the Russians abroad, a very dangerous sentence.  He spoke about necessity to invest in the army, and he did so.  And we just were sitting and watching all that, and then surprised by Crimea.  And Crimea is a fait accompli.  Nobody’s talking about Crimea anymore. 

OK, so that’s lost.  Let’s look at the east of Ukraine, what will be happening there.  And we are only reacting.  He is provoking, he’s testing us, he’s mocking at us, and our reactions are – I’m sorry to say so, but – we don’t have a space to maneuver; that’s true.  But on the other hand, the reaction is weak.  And as said our Estonian friend, Russia – and that’s not a prejudice; please believe me; we have a certain know-how about it – understands only a strong voice, only the language of strength.  It doesn’t mean military conflict.  But if Mr. Putin repeatedly lies, maybe it would be better to tell him, you lie.  We don’t say, you lie.  We say, are you ready to negotiate, please?  It’s maybe not the best reaction.

Thank you.

MR. PAVEL:  Thank you very much.

I just want to come back at you on one point, because you’re – the Czech Republic’s really well-placed.  We’ve heard a bit of – about a divide in Europe, you know, on the question of the strength of the response to Mr. Putin in particular, on economic sanctions, which hit some more disproportionately than others, and on energy issues.  But sort of as the Czech Republic, I mean, are you satisfied with the response of all NATO members and of – and of all of the EU?  And can you – do you see the Czech Republic itself developing the necessary defense resources to deal with what’s likely to be a sustained crisis, if not a new era in international relations?

MIN. STROPNICKY:  One can hardly be happy with the sanctions, to be honest, because I think that they may seem, even for Putin, in some respect, ridiculous.  On the other hand, I repeat that we don’t have the space to maneuver, and Europe – for example, Europe is not ready, not yet, for a big economic sacrifice. 

And as we are, as everybody knows, dependent from the point of view of energy supplies, the space is very limited.  So the first thing I would say is – and not only me – is some common policy in terms of energy in Europe, which is obvious task number one, maybe, for the years to come.  Otherwise, we’ll be always weaker than we want.

We have missed the right time to react.  That’s what I have been talking about.  Now the possibilities are really restrained.  The right time was at the beginning of the – 2000, 2001, or when we were witnessing the first strong proclamations of Mr. Putin.  And I think that it was really pretty clear that he will go on in this direction. 

Nevertheless, if there is a major event in Ukraine, some real clash, I think that there is the capacity – within EU, for example – for a certain economic sacrifice, which means serious economic sanctions.  But it will come at the very end, I mean, I would say.  That’s my guess. 

MR. PAVEL:  Great.  Thank you very much.

Minister Alasania, I’d love to turn to you right now.  You are the minister of defense of a country that’s been invaded by Russia just six years ago.  What’s your sense of how NATO’s handling this and then what sort of advice would you give to the Ukrainians on how to deal with what’s essentially a slow-motion invasion of their country?

MINISTER IRAKLI ALASANIA:  Well, thank you.  First I want to express my gratitude to Atlantic Council for putting this together.  It’s very timely, and it’s very important discussions that we are having in this room.

Well, on the other hand, Georgia doesn’t get anything for granted, because we went through our filter of experience with Russians for the invasion, the war in 2008, and this is why, probably, the Georgians put a lot of faith in NATO and European integration.  Eighty percent of the population supports NATO integration; 85 (percent), European Union integration. 

From our side, I think what we really need to see continuing is – and very important for us – to see the Americans and Europeans working together.  This unity of cross-Atlantic actions is very important for us to be reassured.

Second, I think it’s also important for the United States to show the leadership.  And I think this is what about happened, because this is something that now lays with the superpower like United States to make sure the next steps that NATO will make, for example, on the summit, which is in September, will be adequate to the – in the response to what’s happening in Ukraine.  I think the – we’re talking about the membership action plan, but we don’t really know how the discussions will – going to end up while honestly, in fact, we should be talking, after Ukraine, about the accession talks of Georgia and other aspirants to NATO.  But this is the way it is.

Now we are putting a lot of efforts in just forming the Georgian armed forces after the 2008, which – I commissioned the lessons learned, which gave us a full picture what went wrong on the military side, and we’re improving this.  We’re putting together our military forces that are now capable of being great partners to NATO troops in Afghanistan.  We’re not just a partner; we are actually the – contributing more than some other NATO countries in Afghanistan, fighting shoulder to shoulder with your guys.  We just volunteered to be a part of the European mission in Central Africa. 

So all of this means that Georgia is actually pushing above its share of responsibility, and we think that responsiveness should come from NATO and the summit that will have the impact.

Now I want to make sure that we understand that the response should be – should have strategic implications and the – (a print ?).  I think the sanctions that we are talking about – this is something that will come and go.  As soon as the crisis one way or another will end or will be freezed (sic), I bet that in three to six months business will be as usual in Russia. 

So this is why we should do something that will have strategic importance.  What is this?  This is expansion of NATO.  This is another round of enlargement – actually, starting the enlargement – with Georgia and other allies, aspirants who are putting actually a lot of – on the plate on the security stuff.

And also we talked about the military deterrent, a little bit.  I want to make sure that we understand that without military deterrent, nothing going to happen.  And I think it’s rightly now they are thinking through to put additional military assets in the NATO countries, eastern countries, but we should not forget about the partners.  And I think what Caucasus should see and Georgia should see – more limited time, maybe, but protracted exercises from the NATO countries to have a footprint in Georgia.  This is one thing.

Another:  a lot of trainings that we can do together in the regional context – Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan.  We have to have the very good strategy of security enhancement, cooperation about how we’re going to defend the critical infrastructure, the pipelines, the gas pipelines that are running through Georgia.  This is very important, to have alternative energy resources for European Union. 

Now on Ukraine itself, I think three things they need most is to have legitimate government, a legitimate president – this is lacking in the Ukraine, and this is one of the targets of the Russian aggression, not to – to make sure that there’s not going to be legitimate elections – secondly, to have a very efficient strategy how to fight the corruption and how to fight the infiltration.  The counterintelligence services to be – should be very active to make sure that that they are right loyal national peoples of – loyal to the state people are in the places.

So this is three main – major challenges I think they are facing.  I’m very glad to hear from IMF and other donor organizations that they are putting together with the United States the economical package, and this is way to go. 

In short, I want to make conclusion that Russia always creates the new reality on the ground. Then they – then they eye the new target and only then start negotiating with the West.  Now West has to seize the opportunity, as my colleague was saying, and create the reality on the ground by accepting the membership of aspirant countries to NATO, by putting some defensive, purely defensive assets in aspirant countries and predominantly Georgia.  Air defense capabilities – this is something we need to put in Georgia and Russians will understand that you’re serious.  And some other actions that we’ll be discussing bilaterally as well with United States while I’m here.

So in combination, it’s going to be economic and the financial sanctions; putting military deterrent closer to Russians’ border; and helping Ukraine in achieving these three main goals that they have.  So I think we are on that track.  I’m very positive that  U.S. and European Union is working together on sanctions and other defensive measures.  And that’s the reality we are in.  And I think crisis created an opportunity, opportunity to again make sure that we understand why NATO was created, so importance and relevance for NATO is validated, what they did.  We just need to keep continuing expanding NATO because that’s the only organization that can really fast-track the spread of freedom, democracy and security.

Thank you.

MR. PAVEL:  Thank you very much.  I loved your response because it talked to strategy but also some of the specific things that we should do.  But let me ask you sort of a two-part question.  Should – as part of its measures now, should the alliance or should NATO members provide defensive weaponry to the interim Ukrainian government, number one.  And then number two, Russia’s focus seems to be on destabilizing the May 25th election in Kiev and making sure that doesn’t happen, or at least that it’s not perceived as legitimate.  Should we be thinking about what we want to do about that now instead of waiting for that eventuality to come to pass?

MIN. ALASANIA:  Definitely, yes.  We have to provide defensive capabilities to Ukraine that will actually help them to stabilize what’s happening in Ukraine.

MR. PAVEL:  Thanks very much.

Now I want to turn to your colleague.  Madam Minister, I would love to hear your views on these exact questions.  You come to this panel with a unique perspective from Southeastern Europe, and we would really love to hear your thoughts on NATO’s response:  What does it mean for enlargement and NATO partnerships as well?

MILIICA PEJANOVIC DURISIC:  Yes, thank you.  Let me first begin with thank you to Atlantic Council for enabling us and for giving us this opportunity at this very specific moment from the point of, especially, Montenegro, which we do consider to be the first in the road to become the next full member of the NATO alliance.  That’s why we’re using every opportunity to talk with our partners and to actually clarify between us how important it is to continue with the process of the open door policy, but to continue with the process in effective way.

So I do believe that, of course, when we are talking about vision for the future, when we are talking about the future of the alliance, we already have been – (inaudible) – the first place, being inside, of the fact that this year might be also crucial, no matter the developments we are having lately.  So everyone was expecting that after the end of the mission in Afghanistan, you should be working, and we as a partners with you, on trying to find out what would be the position and the role of NATO in the future.  But also, I don’t believe that we should be going that far, since we should be more focused on what is actually the mission given to NATO at the moment of its foundation.  So back in 1945, the founding fathers of NATO were talking about what should be even at this moment considered as the right messages.

Then I come to this Article 4 and 5 and what is the main outcome of that?  That is about solidarity.  And there is no doubt that actually solidarity was somewhere the base of what were the greatest success of the trans-Atlantic relations in the past, starting from, of course, what is the latest strategic concept from Lisbon summit, and then coming to the enlargement as such. 

So if it wouldn’t be for the solidarity, we wouldn’t be in a position to celebrate this year this Big Bang we were having.  And as you rightly said, we all believe that in 10 years we will have another 10 year celebration.  Not the Big Bang, but still.  And there, actually, what we do believe is that the effective open-door policy is giving a lot of opportunities, not just for the countries which are aspirants but also for the alliance as such. 

So, talking about new challenges, there is clear need to revitalize what is the position of NATO in this new world of the 21st century.  Maybe there was a lot of us who thought that in 1989 with the all of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, we wouldn’t be in a position to talk about these different poles in the world, that the story about bipolar world is (somewhere ?) over.  But also with everything which is happening in the last month, I think that we are all becoming aware that we might be facing some residues from what the Cold War was.  And that means that we’ve got to have all very clear answers in order to pursue the mission of the European Union, of NATO in building the global peace in the world and being – (inaudible) – closely in further developing Europe as a whole and free place.

We shouldn’t just think that we  might  be hoping for the further democratic developments with no further efforts.  So everything which has been done in the past, of course, resulted with, I would say, very intensive development in the democratic sense of (full ?) European countries, no matter those which are part of European Union or NATO, but the others who were hoping to become the parts of these international organizations.  And that perspective, which was clear, actually helped to all of us to do what was necessary.  We’ve been doing all these reforms for our own sake, that’s quite clear.  But still, these kinds of incentive for becoming part of the organizations which are based on this these principles is something which facilitates all the processes. 

And that’s how we are specifically (saying ?) Montenegro having a great success in what is the democratic development, what is the development of all rules which are necessary for independent justice, what are the rules for protecting minorities, for preserving human rights.  And it is very, then, important to have the result of everything we are doing.  And some of the results, a part our own good, a part of our further, I would say, progress would be to have that security umbrella.  Of course, we’ll try on our own to provide as much as possible and we already proved to be capable of providing that kind of, I would say – if I may say – services to not only our country, but also to the region and, in the last couple of years, to the alliance as well.  And that’s why we are present in Afghanistan.  We just started our presence in (number of ?) European missions, European Union missions, now starting with Mali and Central African Republic.  Everything’s showing that we actually have passed a great part towards becoming full-fledged partner of developed countries.

That’s why it is very, very important that the open-door policy would be having some specific and concrete results in the next summit.  We do know and we are aware that when it comes to the enlargement, it’s always political decision.  We are living in a moment which is full of challenges due to the developments we are having in Ukraine.  And (there are who ?) would be thinking that these events there do not have any influence on the Balkans and on Southeast Europe wouldn’t be right.  We are living in the region which passed terrible developments in the ‘90s, where still not all the issues have been resolved.  NATO had, I would say, an important role in putting the region in the place where it could be considered as more safe and secure, but not completely safe and secure. 

So we all remember what were the NATO presence there.  Still, NATO is present; still its guarantee of what was an excellent, I would say, and very much awaited agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, which wouldn’t be possible without NATO involvement as well. 

So, having all that in mind, having in mind the developments which are present in both in Herzegovina and having in mind that Montenegro is somewhere in the middle, always ready and always present in trying to resolve all the regional disputes, and having in mind that NATO actually showed that with the principles which are there present, many of the countries were very much encouraged to resolve this kind of issues in a manner to preserve good neighboring relations – I believe that the size of Montenegro is not something that could play a significant role in deciding where is the place of Montenegro. 

There is strong commitment, there is strong political will inside Montenegro to pursue with all the reforms and everything which is needed to show our interoperability with more-developed countries.  But still, we do expect from all our partners to be aware that we already did have a couple, I would say, warnings in the last months showing how these developments in other part of the world, especially regarding Russia and Ukraine, could be transponding (ph) down there in our region, and none of us would like to be a part of that kind of a problem.  So that’s why we are extending invitation to all our partners to go closely – to look closely on what is happening also and what might be the consequences for our region.  And no one wants to actually get away from this vision, which is Europe whole and free.

MR. PAVEL:  Thank you very much.  And I think as your colleague next to you pointed out, we’re very good at being surprised, and I think it’s important to remember the points you’ve made – that in the south, just because there’s not an active problem right now, or a very obvious problem like there is in the east, it’s a good idea to try to stabilize that region as much as possible to anticipate further developments.

Let me now turn to the deputy secretary general of NATO, Ambassador Vershbow.  A lot of fodder for you to address, and I think we’d love to hear your views on these issues.

ALEXANDER VERSHBOW:  OK.  Well, first of all, let me thank the Atlantic Council as well for organizing this conference, which is indeed extraordinarily timely.  And I think it is important, with the different anniversaries of the different rounds of enlargement, to recognize that it has really been a tremendous success, but at the same time, as others have said, the task is still not finished.  And we’re dealing with a very different environment than when we launched this process back in the ’90s, because we have a president of Russia who is actively trying to put up obstacles to our effort to complete the vision of a Europe whole and free – a leader who’s changed borders by force, who’s now actively subverting a sovereign neighboring state with covert means, through an information campaign.  And in his remarkable and chilling speech to the Duma on the 18th of March, he actually tried to blame NATO enlargement for what he did in Ukraine and to use NATO enlargement as the excuse for the illegal annexation of Crimea.  And, of course, he’s trying to draw some new red lines regarding the further enlargement of the alliance, especially to countries from the former Soviet Union.  

So we have a challenge to our policy and to our principles, and we have to, first of all, not water-down the vision.  We have to maintain our commitment to the principle that sovereign states in – not only in Europe, but throughout the world, have freedom of choice when it comes to their form of government, their elected leaders and their security relationships.  And we cannot allow what’s been going on in the last few months to cause us to depart from that vision.

And also, we have to do a better job in countering the false narrative that is being propagated now by the Russian media and by the Russian leadership. 

Many of the people in this room remember how we proceeded in the ’90s.  The aim from the very outset was to create a all-inclusive European security system with a place for Russia in that system.  We created new institutions, including today’s NATO-Russia Council.  We brought Russia into the G-8.  We sought to demonstrate in practice that we didn’t see Russia as an adversary but as a partner, by undertaking the unilateral commitments of 1997.  And at the same – at that time, of course, Russia said it saw NATO as a partner.  And there were some good examples of cooperation, including our forces shoulder-to-shoulder in the Balkans in two different operations. 

But now Russia’s trying to rewrite history, and of course they’ve – not just rewriting, but tearing up the international rulebook.  So we have to draw the appropriate conclusions.  Yes, the door should be kept open to Russia for the longer term.  It’s still in our interest to have a partnership with Russia.  There’s still many shared threats and shared interests. 

But we have to be realistic, because Russia’s made it entirely clear that it doesn’t view NATO as a partner right now.  NATO is the adversary, if not the main enemy, in Soviet parlance.  So we have a new strategic environment.  We have to adapt accordingly and NATO has adapted very well to previous shifts in the security environment, and I’m sure we’ll be able to do it again this time around.

Now, let me speak in more concrete terms about how NATO is responding to the crisis.  Many have already used this buzzword that, first of all, we’re going back to basics.  We’re not abandoning our current missions or the full range of our core tasks, and there are indeed many other threats out there that we still have to prepare for.  We can’t become Russo-centric. 

But we will be focusing more than in the last few years on collective defense.  And we have undertaken a series of short-term reassurance measures.  This includes augmenting NATO’s Baltic air policing mission, regular surveillance flights over Poland and Romania; additional exercises are underway on land and at sea.  The United States has been first out of the box, but other allies are now stepping up with meaningful force contributions, including the U.K., Germany, Denmark, France, Canada, the Netherlands and Turkey, and I’m sure more will follow. 

So we’re going to sustain and build on these measures between now and the end of the year, and we’ll continue them beyond the end of this year if we have to.

Now in the medium term, we have to take more fundamental decisions.  We need to re-examine our defense plans.  We have to upgrade our NATO response force to make it more capable of responding quickly – in days, not weeks – to short-warning scenarios.  And we should be thinking about whether to bolster our Connected Forces Initiative, which was launched last October, with more frequent high-visibility exercises and a greater emphasize (ph) on scenarios at the higher end of the military mission spectrum.

Looking at the Wales summit agenda, while many of the deliverables we’ve been working on for the past year are still valid, we have to look at the agenda in an entirely new light.  The crisis has made clear that we need more deployable forces to meet not only out-of-area contingences, but in-area contingencies, because defending the new members, even if we reconfigure our force posture, will require the capacity (reinforced ?) to deploy forward quickly.  And that has to be accompanied by the necessary logistical and host-nation support arrangements.  And of course, it does require that nations start spending more money.  As the virtuous Estonian minister has said, only four countries meet the 2 percent goal, and that just can’t be sustained any longer. 

As we start a new cycle of the NATO defense planning process, we have to perhaps put more focus on the capabilities for collective defense and deterrence and be even more aggressive in encouraging our allies to participate in smart defense projects to get more bang for the buck or more bang for the euro. 

Now, regarding our political posture, we still will at the Wales summit give high priority to partnerships, and, indeed, closer integration and interoperability with like-minded countries like Sweden, Finland and Australia can be a real force multiplier for NATO, which can help us meet the challenges of the new security environment as well as the – some of the out-of-area threats. 

We need to step up our support for the defense reforms and the military modernization of Russia’s neighbors, and that’s not just Ukraine, but also Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan are partners as well.  And we need to be strengthening NATO’s role in defense capacity building more generally. 

Now there may be areas – I’m picking up on what Minster Alasania said – that we can assist Russia’s neighbors, and indeed all of our partners, in the area of critical energy infrastructure protection.  We just had a mission in Ukraine recently consulting on their infrastructure situation, which is, like most of their situation, rather dire.  And we have in the past conducted exercises in our partner countries, and maybe that deserves an upgrade as well.  Permanently stationed forces, as the minister suggested, may be a little more controversial, but I’ll take the suggestion back to Brussels.

Now last, but definitely not least, we do have a challenge in conveying a strong and convincing message on enlargement at the summit:  to make clear that our open door is really open; that the process remains merit-based and that it’s taken only in consultations between the allies and the aspirant countries involved; that no third party has a veto, de jure or de facto.

As you probably know, the process between now and Wales is as follows:  Our foreign ministers will be reviewing the progress of the four aspirants at their meeting at the end of June in Brussels.  And honestly speaking, at this point we don’t know whether any of the four aspirants will be judged ready for an invitation at the summit to begin accession talks, but whatever the decision in that regard, our challenge is to demonstrate, in deed as well as in word, that we intend to work proactively with the aspirants to help them meet the standards for membership as soon as possible, that we’ll help them deepen their integration with the alliance and that we will not allow other powers to draw red lines or to challenge the fundamental principle of freedom to choose one’s security arrangements.

Finally, there are – of course this crisis requires a coordinated and a comprehensive response in which NATO is only one player.  And I agree with the points that were made in the previous session, that this is a time when we can’t afford the institutional dysfunction in the relationship between NATO and the European Union.  If we’re going to really have an effective strategy for shoring up Ukraine and other of Russia’s neighbors, if we’re going to help them defend their sovereignty and their independence, to build strong institutions, NATO only has one piece of the action.  We need a comprehensive strategy much more coordinated than it is now between NATO and the EU, between the United States and the EU.  And I think that the character of the challenge requires nothing less than that.

MR. PAVEL:  Thank you very much, Ambassador. 

Let me – let me ask the panel a question that was just – that comes to me from an Atlantic Council member, Steve Shapiro, but that hits on this exact issue.  I mean, it strikes me when we look at the last six to eight weeks that the – Putin has been much more agile than the West, and agile in the sense that – not just even in the crisis, but in the years – in the last eight years, taking a lot of measures with tools that our governments don’t wield as nimbly.  And here I’m talking about funding pro-Russian mayoral campaigns in the Baltics, using cyber on a sustained basis, building up the energy situation to the point where it is today, throwing cash at various other Russian-favorable activities, propaganda, intelligence operatives – sort of a full gamut of tools that I don’t think the West sort of, certainly on a sustained basis, has had a good – has even recognized, sort of, first of all.  But second of all, how do we handle this sort of new set of tools that Russia will keep using?  Is the coordination between NATO and the EU the only way to get through this?  And if so, how can we strengthen that?  Or if not, should we develop some new mechanism that works across these tools in a more nimble fashion?  Because it strikes me Russia’s playing a certain kind of game and we’re not even sort of in the arena when we’re talking about sort of how to counter these very sophisticated Russian measures. 

And I would throw that out to the entire panel.  Yes, Minister Mikser.

MIN. MIKSER:  Well, if I may, I think it’s not entirely – (inaudible).  We saw the Soviets doing pretty much the same thing during the Cold War times, and they were trying to subvert the – all the – all democratic governments all over Europe.  They were sponsoring those left-wing terrorist groups or the extreme left political parties, and so it was, in a way, the same thing done in a slightly different way. 

But I think that is a problem and it actually connects this issue with the – with the enlargement issue.  There is a sort of natural reluctance of democratic nations to fight wars, or to fight – (inaudible).  And so it’s – there’s a sort of natural tendency, after an end of a war, to demobilize and to start spending resources for sort of peaceful development and reconstruction.  And we have addressed that at the end of Second World War by creating by creating the collective defense alliance.  But actually this collective defense alliance did pretty much the same sort of demobilization  after the end of the Cold War, and again we see that the non-democratic nations or non-democratic regimes do not have the same tendency to demobilize at the end of the war.  And indeed, they don’t really have to, because they don’t have to respond to the immediate needs of the people.  They can act pretty much as the – as the guy at the helm decides to act.  And I think how this leads to enlargement I think is that, well, we created NATO, and we addressed the problem by resorting to collective defense so that we can actually spend somewhat less than we would otherwise have to spend in order to counter all these threats, each one individually.

But when we come to the creation of NATO, it was created not because of the perceived security surplus by the European allies but because of the perceived security of deficit.  And all the aspirant countries, throughout the – all the rounds of enlargement, have actually been seeking to join the alliance not because they had security surplus to share with others, but because they felt security deficit.  And of course, standards are important, and standards will have to be met.  But I think when it comes to the political decision, then we should not expect the aspirant countries to have resolved all the outstanding political issues, our outstanding security issues, before actually seeking to join the alliance.  This is not an alliance of comfort.  It’s a very serious defense alliance intended to actually provide security for those who share the values and meet the standards.  So I think that we should depart from this principle.

MR. PAVEL:  OK, Ambassador Vershbow, and then we’ll take a couple of quick questions from the audience after the panel.

MR. VERSHBOW:  I would agree that the information warfare that we are now dealing with is a challenge which we are definitely not quite up – we’re not meeting it yet, and we have to do a lot more.  I mean, it isn’t by any means new.  I mean, let’s remember the Orange Revolution, there was two elections.  There was one that was manipulated by Russia, and then the people rose up, so history repeated itself again in – earlier this year.  But we’re always going to be fundamentally handicapped, of course, because we do tell the truth, and we do have some standards when it comes to the truth.  And we’re dealing with a situation where the other side is just making things up out of whole cloth, aggressively distorting the historical narrative, current events that are unfolding on the ground in Kiev.  And it’s becoming even more egregious when the label of fascists is still being applied to the new leaders, the interim leaders in Kiev, when the pro-Russian forces are using whips and baseball bats and beating the hell out of people for just carrying the Ukrainian flag.

So – but we have to raise a little our game.  And this is of course not a NATO responsibility as such, but we, the West, need to think about old-fashioned techniques like radio and TV broadcasting, using the Internet to perhaps provide Russian programming that can counter the false narrative and the slanted news coverage coming out of the Russian channels, which has huge impact across the former Soviet space.  We are learning how to use social media more aggressively.  We’re trying, from the NATO point of view, to set the record straight when the Russians distort the historical record about NATO enlargement, about the 1997 Founding Act, and also to get our people out there into the field to engage and correct some of the disinformation about NATO.  But this requires a comprehensive effort, and it also will require some real resources.  Even as we raise defense spending, we’re going to have to think about budgets for information activities and public diplomacy as a strategic priority.

MR. PAVEL:  Thanks very much.

MIN. ALASANIA:  One quick point?

MR. PAVEL:  One quick point, then I want to go back to one word you said, and then we’ll go to a question.  Yes, sir, please.

MIN. ALASANIA:  Julie (sp), we also see in Georgia now, actually, the (raise ?) of the flashing money from the agents of influence from Russia.  This is all happening, and I just wanted to emphasize the responsibility of the nation-states to make sure that they have all the legal authorities, counterintelligence, all this stuff together, not to let it happen, because we have – I mean, there is a lot of things that you can do on your own as a nation-state to make sure that you are deterring this.

On the other hand, when the countries like aspirant countries right here are performing, they’re contributing to the common security, they’re contributing the troops, they’re part of the security environment which we operate as a Euro-Atlantic country.  We need – and we have a public support to European and Euro-Atlantic integration.  We need the validation from NATO, from you, that we are doing the right things.  So the NATO summits, ministerial – this is exactly the places where you need to validate that we are on the right track, and we are also the role models for others in the region to follow.  So they have also going to have a chance in the future.

So this is very important to have timely acknowledgement from the NATO side that these countries are doing the right things, they’re meeting the criterias, and they will be part of the NATO without or with consent of Russia.

MR. PAVEL:  Thanks very much.

We’ll go to the audience for a question or two, but I just want to ask one question about a phrase you used.  You said “pro-Russian forces.”  Are these pro-Russian forces, or are these Russian pros?  (Laughter.)  Yes, or both?

MR. VERSHBOW:  I think it’s – the evidence is mounting that it’s both.  I mean, the notion that these are entirely indigenous forces has now been proven wrong, even out of the words of one of the Russians involved, Mr. Strelkov, aka Mr. Girkin, who has openly said – (in Russian) – that two-thirds of my people are Ukraine and one-third of them are Russians.  And he describes some of them as veterans of the war in Chechnya.  So –

MR. PAVEL:  In Georgia.

(Cross talk.) 

MR. VERSHBOW:  Indeed.  So there should be no longer any doubt it’s beginning to leak out, even in the Russian media.

MR. PAVEL:  Great, so the Russian pros. 

Now we’ll take a question from the audience.  Please wait for the microphone.  Please identify yourself.  Ambassador Valášek, second – third row.

Q:  Thank you, Barry.  Tomáš Valášek, Slovak ambassador to NATO.  An excellent panel.  Thanks – strong agreement on the need for NATO enlargement to be part of the strategic response.  But I wonder if the way we go about enlargement needs to change to account for the far greater pushback from Russia that the next rounds will inevitably face.  And that’s somewhat different from the previous rounds.  Russia was never entirely happy about the sort of the – the vigor and the violence by which it has opposed has obviously gone dramatically up.

And it seems to me that they might actually require an adjustment on our end as well.  The old way of giving a MAP and then leaving the countries five, 10 years – 15 years in the case of Macedonia – essentially in limbo where they face all of the Russian pressure with none of the support and none of the guarantees that might actually deter Russian pressure, that approach might now work, which is why I think it was important, Irakli – Minister Alasania, that you mentioned that you were essentially after a MAP and some sort of an air defense presence at the same time, because that goes exactly to the heart of what I was talking earlier.

Let me turn this into a question for you, Minister, if I may.  Have you given much thought to the sequencing of what you are asking for, as a MAP first and some of the defensive measures later, or possibly doing it the other way around? 

MIN. ALASANIA:  Thank you.  Thank you.  I cannot agree with you more, Ambassador, about the actually changing the phasing of the enlargement, and that’s why I mentioned that probably we should be talking about accession talks, not the MAP at this point after what happened in Ukraine, but things are what they are at this point.

I think we already have a good and dynamic relationship with NATO, with United States on the military side, and we just need to enhance this.  I mean, it’s not going to be a surprise that the troops will come and train in Georgia, because we’ve done this a number of times.  So what is important here now is to put some deterrent capabilities on the ground like the defense – air defense and anti-armor capabilities that will give us the chances to defend our freedom, because we know if things will go wrong at this point, no one is coming to save us.  I mean, we’ve seen it in 2008 and that’s the reality we’re living in.  So we need to have a tool to defend our freedom if this will come to that, but obviously we need to avoid the situation. 

MR. PAVEL:  Great.  I saw another question over here in the second row.

Q:  Josko Paro.  I’m Croatian ambassador – question, or a comment. 

MR. PAVEL:  Either.

Q:  Yeah, a comment.  So, well, it is obvious that Russia has already territorially crippled every aspirant in the vicinities of the Russian borders, which doesn’t make the aspirant palatable for the enlargement.  But now, while the next phase is actually disabling democratic processes, we have to react on that. 

But I would like to bring to your attention that there is an area which is still very prone to deficiency in democratic processes, and that is the area of the Western Balkans, where talking about the need for unity we have to, for example, bring to attention the fact that for NATO members to not recognize Kosovo, we have to bring to the attention that Macedonia is ready for membership already from the Bucharest summit but we have a spat about the name that we have to resolve.  And after all, well, Montenegro is all but ready.  We have time to help them to, well, make the last – last miles of the way and invite, for example, Montenegro as a symbolic gesture to Cardiff to start the accession process.  So this is what I – what does it say?  Well, maybe some of you would like to comment. 

MR. PAVEL:  So please comment, especially Madam Minster.

MIN. DURISIC:  So just the following:  What ambassador said is that – of course and Mr. Vershbow previously – that we are talking about the standards and we are talking about interoperability.  Of course we are all waiting for the progress report from our ministers of foreign affairs end of June, but somehow I’m pretty sure that Montenegro is concerned – following whatever we’ve been having up to now will be very positive. 

And there we are a little bit caught in this situation where it might be challenging to consider an individual country being invited for membership, not the number of countries as it was the case before.  And that is also on point where NATO has to show some kind of flexibility and the right response to the moment we are living in.  Of course I would be the happiest one if we would be having mechanisms to have all four in at the same time, but following what was the process up to now, somehow I have doubts that it could be just overcome as such.  So some kind of process – (inaudible) – will still be followed. 

And in that matter, what I see is a kind of little bit or challenge when we are talking about that is that individual approach or a collective approach towards a number of countries.  And therefore I would like to of course raise the awareness of all of us that having the right answer at the right moment would be – and to be flexible in that matter as well. 

MIN. MIKSER:  I think that we have said repeatedly that we should not go back to business as usual with regard to our relations with Russia.  I think that it’s not time for business as usual also in other matters.  We should – when it comes to integration of the Euro-Atlantic space and consolidating the area of democracy, I think we should also be ready to move much more decisively now than was the case during this post-Cold War period to the period of peace in Europe. 

And when it comes to Russian attempts to cripple the aspirants territorially, then among the original members of the alliance there was one territorially crippled nation, and that was Germany.  We had West Germany in the alliance and East Germany on the other side of the iron curtain.  And it was – I mean, the fact that the Soviets managed to seize the eastern part of Germany didn’t preclude Germany’s joining NATO.  Rather, it made it imperative to create the alliance and to consolidate the area we have won for the democratic world.  So I think that we should be much more decisive right now than we perhaps were during the 1990s. 

MIN. ALASANIA:  Just one sentence I want to follow up.  What happened in 2008 in Georgia was that somehow Georgia, after the attack, became the inconvenient friend, that, well, this country has a problem with Russia; maybe we can scale down the approach.  We don’t want to have this again.  I mean, what happened in Ukraine should be really changing our mindset.  We don’t need – I mean, if Georgia is a good partner and others – in Afghanistan we’re fighting, we’re coming together when the need of security is there, and suddenly if there is a challenge with Russia, then we want our hands off, saying, well, that’s too much irritation for it.  So this needs to be changed.

And when are we going to see this validation from your side that we are as much needed partners as we need you, then I think the – we’re going to change the mindset of Putin again because that’s what he respects, the action.  And the action is a number of things:  membership action help to us, membership to – (inaudible) – and what is most important, giving on the ground – putting on the ground some military assets that will give him a wakeup call.

MR. VERSHBOW:  I think, first of all, on the issue of countries getting in alone rather than as part of a group, that I think is fully allowed by the policy and I think it’s quite possible.  So let’s see what happens in June.  Nothing is precooked when it comes to the evaluation of the aspirants.  And I think that the debate is going to take on a more strategic character than it would have before this crisis, I think precisely because, as Ambassador Valášek said, we are dealing with a Russia that is pushing back, not just on specific countries but on the whole idea of enlargement, trying to make us feel guilty about something which has in fact been a tremendous success story.

So that could influence the debate on whether one or more countries is ready for an invitation, but also will raise questions that we’re going to have tackle after the summit, because – Ambassador Valášek was hinting at this – we now have to reckon with the fact that a country is going to become more vulnerable in the period between when it gets an invitation and when it actually joins the alliance and becomes a recipient of the Article 5 guarantee.  There’s going to be a period of high vulnerability and we have to think through what we’re going to do in that period in light of the new strategic situation which we’re dealing.  That’s not going to be an easy one.  But of course, we have to ensure that when we do bring them in, that Article 5 is credible for – whether it’s for Montenegro or for Georgia.  And that too has become a more difficult challenge now that Russia views us as an adversary and views NATO enlargement as a – as an outright threat.

MR. PAVEL:  It’s an excellent, excellent point that I haven’t heard before.

I think we have time for one more question as the – as we await the vice president’s arrival.  So this gentleman in the second row, please.

Q:  (Off mic) – ambassador.  Do you think the alliance and the democratic West lost the moment to react or the ability to prevent?  Because it’s two basic notions that I think needs readjustment.  Thank you.

MR. PAVEL:  The question is, have we lost the ability to react and certainly – and to prevent sort of gains by Russia that have already happened or that soon may happen?  Yes, sir.

MIN. ALASANIA:  Well, I think what we’re dealing with today, it’s the consequences of the actions of Russia and us in the past.  And we made mistakes.  We gave lot of tactical advantages and victories to Russia.  And we need to be sure – we need to make sure that we’re not going to give them any more tactical victories, deny them these kind of victories in the future.  But in the long term, in 10 years from now, if we could see Russia, I mean, there is going to be a change there as well.  And this is exactly how we should structure our strategy to them.  I mean, they were raising their own regimes’ worse enemies, their children, because they were sending them out in the Western society, and these people will come to power in 10, 12 years from now, and they will be thinking more like we are thinking today.  So this is why I’m optimistic about long-term future.  But today, we have to force the response that we need to have against Russia.

MR. PAVEL:  Excellent.  Yes, sir.

MIN. MIKSER:  Well, I definitely don’t believe that we have lost the ability to act.  And indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, we might say that we should have done some things differently, say, in 2008 or earlier this year.  But actually, we are still very much able to act and react.

And indeed, what we’ve seen, actually, as these immediate measures have been very encouraging.  We’ve seen – earlier today there were Danish fighter aircraft landing in Estonia.  This Monday we saw a company from the 173rd U.S. Airborne Brigade land in Estonia.  I think this deterrent value of this – these capabilities goes far beyond their numbers.  And indeed, this is language I think that Putin knows very well.

So our ability to act and react is still very much apparent.  We should – we should not shy away from actually using that ability when necessary because I believe this change in the security environment is going to be with us for some time.  We are in this for a long haul.  And we should really make sure that we will – we will not go back to business as usual after this sort of de-escalation of this – these immediate tensions on the Ukraine system border.

MR. PAVEL:  And I think, to add to the answer we heard from Ambassador Vershbow, that there is additional measures to come later this year and beyond, and so this is sort of a down payment, a short-term down payment on a longer-term endeavor.

Other questions from the audience?  Yes, the gentleman in the middle.

Q:  Thank you very much.  Batu Kutelia, McCain Institute.

MR. PAVEL:  Can you speak up a little bit and identify yourself?

Q:  Yes.  Batu Kutelia, McCain Institute.  I am from Georgia.  Thank you.  Very interesting panel.  And I think this is – this was one of the most synchronized panel in the conference.

My question is particularly to the – Sandy Vershbow.  In Chicago Summit communique, there was a special paragraph dedicated to the Black Sea as an important region for the NATO.  In 2011 congressional hearings, Admiral Stavridis mentioned necessity of having a foothold capability for future force posture and having this in Black Sea region.  And just recently there was a comment of President Obama, important regions for the future contingencies.  In this statement, as close as Mr. President came was the Mediterranean, but the Black Sea was omitted as a region of the importance.  So my question is what are the plans, or if there are no, what should be the plans in terms of the regional approach to the Black Sea security, especially after the Crimea, where Russia is building up its military force, and potentially we will see the that French model navy ship deployed for actions.  That – the – (inaudible) – is going on as well. Thank you.

MR. VERSHBOW:  Well, we are actively looking at NATO’s maritime strategy and its force posture deployment patterns, as something that we hoped to decide at the Wales summit.  We did, as you mentioned, in 2011 actually, adopt a new alliance maritime strategy.  But it has never really been fully operationalized. 

And I think now in light of the need to show presence on a more continuing basis, both in the Baltic region and in the southern region, we’re going to put more focus on NATO’s standing maritime groups, getting more contributions to those groups, because sometimes they only have one ship in them in a given day so that we can show presence and provide a stronger deterrent and reassurance message.

As – between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, of course, the Black Sea introduces questions relating to the Montreux Convention and such.  But I think, as you’ve seen in recent weeks, there’s been no hesitation to rotate ships into the Black Sea in the current period.  And I think that that’ll get special attention in the debate over how to operationalize the maritime strategy.

MR. PAVEL:  Great.  I think we have time for one more question.  I think I hear the vice president.  (Laughter.)  Why don’t we – I think we have a lady in the back, but I don’t know if we can get her the microphone. 

(Off-side conversation.)

MR. PAVEL:  So a brief, clear question.  We’ll have a brief answer.  And then I’ll give instructions on what we do next.

Q:  Right.  In light of the Budapest Memorandum – my – first of all, my name is Ulana Mazurkevich from the Ukrainian Human Rights Committee.  In light of the Budapest Memorandum, I realize it wasn’t a NATO memorandum, but NATO countries signed it, especially Germany.  Now, I want to know, how safe and secure do you ministers feel in light of this memorandum where they were guaranteed – Ukraine was guaranteed its territorial integrity and sovereignty for giving up its nuclear weapons.  Can you please answer that?  Thank you.

MR. PAVEL:  So how safe do the three ministers feel in light of the Budapest Memorandum and what we’ve seen happen?

MIN. MIKSER:  Well, as I said, we in Estonia have full confidence in NATO Article 5.  But I think that Budapest Memorandum and the guarantees given to Ukraine by that document are really, really important.  And they demonstrate that actually this crisis may have far – consequences that go far beyond this sort of NATO collective security because, as was said in the question, Ukraine decided to give up its nuclear arsenal, which was the third-largest in the world, by that memorandum. 

And I wonder what the Iranians, for example, may be reading into the unfolding of this crisis because are trying to persuade them to give up their nuclear ambition and try to persuade them that they have no security-related fears if they so do.  But they have – read something quite different into this situation.  And I think that it’s a – it makes it a very big credibility issue for the international community as to how we resolve this crisis.

MR. PAVEL:  Excellent point.  I’m told we should wrap up.  Let me give instructions for what’s coming next before we thank our panelists.  Please remain in your seats as the vice president arrives.  Also, immediately following his remarks will be Mr. Burns, Albright and Mr. Hadley on remembrances of the enlargement architects.  So please remain in your seats also after the vice president departs.  And I think now we’ll await his imminent arrival and I’ll bring the panel to their seats in the front.  But thank you.  Please join me in thanking the panel for their excellent remarks.  (Applause.)