September 28, 2009
Transcript: NATO Secretary General Rasmussen - First Major U.S. Speech
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.
September 2, 2009
FREDERICK KEMPE: Well, the first message about tonight’s event is that we have to get a larger room. (Laughter.) This is standing room only. Mr. Secretary-General, I think this is a testament to how interested people are in hearing what you have to say this evening. Good evening and welcome. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, and it’s great to see so many of you with us tonight.
I’m particularly happy to see so many European ambassadors, four former U.S. ambassadors to NATO, board members of the Atlantic Council and members of the council’s strategic advisors group. It’s a privilege to welcome you all to the second of two major speeches today on the future of NATO at the Atlantic Council as part of our NATO forum.
I recognize a number of faces in the crowd who also were able to join us earlier today to hear Sen. Richard Lugar deliver an important speech on the future of the alliance and provide a congressional perspective on the debate concerning NATO’s new strategic concept. For any of you who weren’t here, we’ll have that transcript on the Web, and it was also taped by C-SPAN, which is here with us again tonight. Both Brent Scowcroft, the Atlantic Council’s international advisory board chairman, and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Gen. Stephane Abrial were with us earlier today and it is an honor to have you both with us again tonight.
I also want to extend a particular thanks to BAE systems and our board member Lucy Fitch. This entire series has been supported by them and it is great to have you with us today, Lucy. Mr. Secretary-General, I hope your address along with Sen. Lugar’s remarks today at the Atlantic Council will spark a major debate here in the Untied States among key legislators. We were lucky enough to host you here during the transition, where we had some very good conversations and I know your intention in the strategic concept is not to provide a piece of paper, but to provide a debate that will drive the alliance forward in a more effective and meaningful fashion. And we hope that this forum will help you achieve that.
It is a particular pleasure for me now to pass to Sen. Chuck Hagel, one of America’s leading foreign policy thinkers and the embodiment of the Atlantic Council’s bipartisan nature and commitment to renewing the Atlantic community for global challenges. What I mean by bipartisan is Sen. Hagel, last week, gave a speech in Minnesota called the Eugene McCarthy speech and he’s about to go off to Michigan to give the Gerald Ford speech; I think it is safe to say that this is the first time in history that one man has given both those speeches. (Laughter.)
It is also a great privilege to say welcome home to national security advisor and immediate-past Atlantic Council chairman, Gen. Jim Jones. As Atlantic Council chairman, Gen. Jones and Gen. Scowcroft led the Atlantic Council’s strategic advisors group, providing leading thought and analysis on critical issues to the alliance such as Afghanistan and the difficult topic of NATO reform. Now co-chaired by Sen. Hagel and Airbus CEO Tom Enders, the group is engaged again on these difficult issues and we’re working to help shape and influence the debate on NATO’s strategic concept. So with that, it is my honor to turn over to our chairman, Sen. Chuck Hagel. (Applause.)
CHUCK HAGEL: Thank you, Fred, and the glowing introduction was overpowering. (Laughter.) It does give you some sense of my reach into McCarthy’s views and Ford’s and also the fact that I really stand for very little – (laughter) – and have no principles. Thank you, Fred. These actually – these are lecture series, which many of you know, so that’s about all I’ve got to say – the hell with you, Fred if that’s the way you want to – (laughter).
But that is what they do to chairman, you know. They kick them around and there is really no use for them other than to finally do something useful, and that is to introduce Gen. Jim Jones, who many of you, if not all of you, not only know who he is, but have worked with Gen. Jones for many years on many projects. I don’t know of a wider-lens thinker, not only in our government, but in our country and the world today than Gen. Jim Jones.
I had the opportunity and privilege to work with Gen. Jones on many occasions – when he captured me out on a boat in the Mediterranean for a couple of days and made me sit through a lot Marines talking about a lot of things than an old Army guy has no capacity to understand. But nonetheless, I am a better man for it today. (Laughter.) This man, Jones, really does span the gamut and is really one of our country’s greatest public servants and as you all know today, he is the president’s national security advisor.
He is still learning from Brent Scowcroft of course – that’s according to Scowcroft. (Laughter.) But nonetheless, we talked very favorably about you today, Jim, at lunch because Fred had a table full of former national security advisors and we had Brzezinski and Scowcroft and Powell – of course none at your level – but nonetheless I think together, Secretary-General, they made up a pretty good group.
Jim Jones always adds a dimension to whatever he does. And he’s doing that now at, I think, one of the most defining times in the history of the world. And I think what the Secretary-General is doing and so many of you in this room, not only in past careers, but what you continue to do, is adding to how we are going shape that world that we’re all going to have to live with over the next few years.
And Jim Jones has his steady hand on the throttle and for one mere mortal American, I’m glad he does. So I think that’s enough about Jones, don’t you Fred? It was a hell of a lot better than what you said about me – (laughter) – but nonetheless, ladies and gentleman, a dear, dear friend and one of America’s great leaders, Gen. Jim Jones. (Applause.)
GEN. JAMES JONES: Well, Sen. Hagel, thank you very much; Fred, thank you for your work here at the Atlantic Council. And congratulations on the tremendous success that you are bringing to the Council in terms of revitalizing this venerable institution and turning it into the wind for the 21st century. So congratulations; it’s a pleasure to watch you, albeit from a removed position. Mr. Secretary-General, Sen. Hagel, Gen. Scowcroft, Fred, members of the Atlantic Council, and distinguished guests, thank you for the opportunity to say a few words this evening.
As it enters its seventh decade of existence, NATO remains the most successful military alliance in history; of that, there is no doubt. Yet, it and the 28 member states now face a new 21st century, a new series of threats and challenges that were unthinkable 60 years ago. NATO’s proud reputation as a provider of peace is being put to the test in Afghanistan, where allied servicemembers and civilians from 42 nations work together to defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban to build a stable and peaceful state. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology threaten alliance populations and our territories. Cyber warfare capabilities seek to undermine the very infrastructure that many of us take for granted in our daily lives.
The list of real and potential threats in our interconnected world – piracy, climate change, energy security, failed and failing states, and the resumption of old ethnic hatreds – is daunting and requires the closest cooperation among allies. Some outsiders have declared that NATO is outmoded, a Cold War relic that cannot possibly adapt to these new challenges. I emphatically disagree and our speaker tonight also emphatically disagrees with that notion.
He has arrived at the helm of NATO at a truly extraordinary time, when these challenges have prompted a sense of opportunity and a collective desire for action. He brings to the table the political savvy of a head of government, the economic acumen of a finance minister, the energy of an avid outdoorsman, and the compassion of a father and may I say, new grandfather.
He has hit the ground running. In only two short months, he has begun to lay the groundwork for a new NATO strategic concept, one that will address the challenges that I just spoke about and pave the way for a NATO that remains ready and relevant well into the 21st century. He has called for a re-examination of relations with Russia, one that seeks practical cooperation on issues of mutual interests, while acknowledging the fundamental issues on which NATO and Russia still continue to disagree. He has embraced new media, working to bring the message of NATO to a new generation that has grown up never knowing firsthand the experience of a divided Europe or a Warsaw Pact.
He has recognized the growing ballistic missile threat to the alliance and the need for NATO to play a central role in adopting a phased, adaptive approach to missile defense that will protect all allies. And he has reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to our shared task in Afghanistan, on which he will share his views and vision with us tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to welcome to the podium the man who will lead our alliance into a new era, the 12th Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Anders Rasmussen. (Applause.)
SECRETARY-GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASUMUSSEN: Fred Kempe, Sen. Hagel, Gen. Scowcroft, Gen. Jones, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, thank you very much, Jim Jones, for your kind introduction and let me also thank the Atlantic Council for inviting me to speak here today. I know that the Atlantic Council, which already has a longstanding reputation as a pre-eminent think tank, has new energy and new wind in its sails. And that is the kind of atmosphere I like, which is why I am so pleased to make my first speech in the United States as the new NATO secretary-general here today.
As you heard during that very kind introduction, I was prime minister of Denmark for nearly 8 years before taking up this post. And I can tell you, a lot of people asked me, at the time, why I wanted to give up that very special job to head up an organization some consider out-of-date and which is struggling with a very, very difficult operation in Afghanistan.
My answer then was as clear as it is now: because NATO remains the gold standard when it comes to international security cooperation; because I believe firmly, in the benefit and the potential of the trans-Atlantic partnership now as much as ever; because we must succeed in Afghanistan and I intend to help make that happen; and finally, because I want to help shape the new NATO, not least through the new strategic concept.
These are the more specific reasons why I accepted my new job. However, there is what I would call a more overall reason, and that became even more clear to me during the past weekend. I visited Springfield, Illinois – as you all know, the hometown of Abraham Lincoln – with the impressive Lincoln library and museum and the old state capitol where Lincoln served as state legislator before his presidency. In 1858, Lincoln gave a speech in which he praises the desire for liberty as the strongest defense against despotism.
I quote: “Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as a heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.” Of all dates, Abraham Lincoln gave this speech on 9/11/1858 – a reminder of the timeless truth and significance of these words.
And I consider it a duty to work for the accomplishment of these values and principles in the world of today and tomorrow. Therefore, I was pleased to take on the responsibilities as leader of the world’s strongest military alliance – an alliance that is not just military, but built on shared political values. Of course, taking the job was the easy part. Making it all happen is slightly more complicated.
Meeting the security challenges we face today will take all 28 members of this alliance, standing together and pulling together in the same direction. And it is my job to help make sure we do. As NATO secretary-general, I have to straddle the Atlantic with one foot in Europe and one in North America. When Europe and North America come together, I am more comfortable; when they drift apart, I am the first to feel the pain. (Laughter.)
And I must say, up front, that I am a little concerned about the doubts I hear these days in the United States about NATO. Some look at the operation in Afghanistan and wonder if the Europeans have the will to fight. You know Kagan’s Mars and Venus. Some wonder if the Europeans have the capability to fight, even if they wanted to. Others simply think that the days of strong trans-Atlantic bonds are a relic of the past and that the future for the United States is Asia, or India, or maybe somewhere else.
I want to tackle these doubts head-on because I must say, I get the impression that many Americans are losing sight of what NATO is and how much it does in the interests of U.S. security and international security. And that is a trend we need to reverse. Afghanistan is a case in point.
I know that there are many here in Washington who are frustrated by the restrictions some NATO nations put on their forces, by the time it takes for NATO to take decisions, by reluctance of some countries to send more forces to the mission, even for training. Let me be very clear: I understand those frustrations and I am already working hard to address those very real problems.
But I also think that people are missing the forest for the trees. Yes, running this mission as a NATO operation has its share of challenges. All things considered, that is to be expected. But those challenges are far, far outweighed by the benefits including very much for the United States. First and foremost, all 28 NATO countries are in the mission, without exception. That is solidarity. And there are 13 other countries, all NATO partners, with troops in the field as well – 41 countries in total, NATO and non-NATO, but all under NATO command.
This is no ad hoc coalition of the willing; this is an alliance that is proving its staying power every day, which brings the second benefit: boots on the ground. There are 35,000 non-U.S. troops in the mission. That is 40 percent of the total and that number is going up. Over the last 18 months, about 9,000 extra troops have been provided to the mission from the non-U.S. members.
Sixteen countries have increased their contributions over that period. None has cut back. I’m not sure all of this gets as much visibility in the U.S. as it deserves. And the allies are not running from the fight, despite the conventional wisdom. Fourteen countries have forces in the South and East alongside U.S. forces.
And while body count is no measure of solidarity, it is, unfortunately, a symbol of commitment. Over 20 countries have had their soldiers killed, some in large numbers. Every Wednesday in Brussels, I begin the meeting of NATO ambassadors by offering my condolences to the countries that have lost soldiers in Afghanistan during the previous week. That has happened every week without exception since I took office. So I will not accept from anyone the argument that the Europeans and the Canadians are not paying the price for success in Afghanistan. They are.
Let me mention one other benefit that sometimes goes unseen: development assistance. Billions have been pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, and hundreds of millions have been spent by NATO allies in Afghanistan. It’s all part of the same package – a team effort to achieve a common goal at a very high price in blood and treasure. These are not costs the U.S. can afford to pay alone. Because of NATO, and through NATO, they are costs we bear together.
To my mind, Afghanistan doesn’t suggest NATO is past its prime. It proves just the opposite: The solidarity built up over 60 years in being strongly tested in Afghanistan, and it is holding up over years, despite casualties and setbacks. That is a huge achievement, and a precious asset. I hope that is recognized here in the United States.
Let me stress there is no doubt that the United States is an indispensable part of this mission, and all allies respect the sacrifices the United States has made. But talking down the European and Canadian contributions, as some here in the United States do on occasion, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they don’t feel as if their efforts and sacrifices in NATO are recognized and valued, they will be less inclined to make those efforts and those sacrifices. And that is not in anyone’s interest, and it doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground, first and foremost, in Afghanistan.
We are there together. And that is the only way we should go forward. That is my first main point tonight. If we have to succeed in Afghanistan, it will only be if we do it together. I deliberately said “if” we succeed. I know that despite everything we have already done, reaching our goal in Afghanistan is not guaranteed, which brings me to my second point: We cannot simply continue doing exactly what we’re doing now. Things are going to have to change.
The reasons are clear: Public support for this mission in troop-contributing countries is falling – because of rising casualties, because of concerns about the way the election was held, but most of all, because of a sense among many people that despite all the progress, we aren’t getting anywhere. Part of the problem is simply communications. We, in governments, haven’t managed to show to our populations how much has been accomplished.
Seven million Afghan students are in school – a third of them, girls. Eighty-five percent of the population has access to basic health care, up from 6 percent a few years ago. Millions of people can vote, and did so in the past elections, despite Taliban threats. Women can walk the streets, hold jobs and sit in Parliament; and al-Qaida has no safe haven, no training camps, no launch pads in Afghanistan for terrorist attacks against us in the West. These are huge achievements in just 8 years.
But the reality is that this mission cannot continue forever, and it should not continue forever. And our populations, Afghan and international, want to see light at the end of the tunnel. They want to see the beginning of transition to Afghan lead. That means, from a security point of view, Afghans taking lead responsibility province by province with international forces in a supporting role. It means Afghans running their own schools, their own hospitals, their own government.
I believe that if we can show transition actually happening, our publics will continue to support this mission’s route to success. But I’m convinced that if we do not clearly and concretely begin to move towards consistent to Afghan leads, it will be impossible to sustain public support for this mission over the long term.
Sooner, rather than later, transition must begin. But let no one spin this as a run for the exits. It is not. NATO will stay for as long as it takes to succeed. And I want to repeat that: as long as it takes. But that cannot be forever, which means we have to start doing things a little differently.
Gen. McChrystal’s top-secret, close hold strategic assessment is being studied not only by anyone who reads The Washington Post but also by the NATO nations and our partners, as well. On the military and on the political aspects, we will discuss it within the alliance, and when the time is right, we’ll discuss the resource aspects, as well.
But one thing is already clear: If the Afghan security forces are to take the lead, they will need to be better-trained, better-equipped, and, likely, more numerous, which means we are all going to have to invest more in training and equipping them because they’re not ready now. It is a very simple calculation: We have to do more now if we want to be able to do less later. That is why NATO has just established a training mission in Afghanistan, and why I’ll be pushing allies very hard to resource it and resource it fully. We cannot do transition on the cheap; that would be the ultimate false economy.
And that applies to the civilian effort, as well. I discussed that with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week, and we looked ahead to the conference on Afghanistan that will be held at the end of the year. In a nutshell, I believe that that conference needs to set out a clear strategy, identify concrete benchmarks and earmark sufficient resources for transition to Afghan lead across the board in the coming years.
I have no illusions; none of this will be quick and none of it will be easy. We will need to have patience. We will need more resources. And, unfortunately, we will lose more young soldiers to the terrorist attacks of the Taliban. But I fully agree with President Obama when he says that this is not a war of choice, but of necessity. It is obvious that if we do not succeed, Afghanistan will again be a terrorist camp; Pakistan, nuclear-armed Pakistan, will be severely destabilized; extremism will spread fast into Central Asia and then to Europe. That is simply the reality.
Which brings me to my third point: Today, our territorial defense begins far away from our own borders. The 21st-century NATO needs to look and to act beyond Europe and North America in order to keep Europe and North America safe. Proliferation is another good example. The proliferation of missiles far away from our borders is a clear and growing menace to our territory and our populations. Nonproliferation measures are important but they are not enough. Iran shows us why. And that means we should also look at deploying missile defense.
The recent announcement by President Obama on missile defense was, to my mind, important for two reasons: first, because he laid out a roadmap for deploying missile defense in a realistic timeframe with proven technology against a visible threat. But second, because this plan puts missile defense solidly in a NATO context with participation open to all allies, with protection for all allies. That is a way in which we need to face 21st-century challenges; not going it alone, but together sharing the risks and the costs.
Which brings us full circle back to Afghanistan. To my mind, the way forward may be very difficult to navigate, but it is clear: First, the NATO allies must continue to stand united, to recognize each other’s contributions and to see this through together. Second, we must, as an international community, begin now to plan for and invest in a comprehensive transition to Afghan lead – military and civilian. And third, we must take onboard a fundamental truth that this mission makes very clear: that today, and into the future, territorial defense begins far beyond our borders. That understanding must be an important part of shaping NATO’s future.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have come to NATO as a reformer. And I do not intend to deviate from that mission. Sec. Albright is leading a team of 12 experts I have selected to start the process of drafting a new strategic concept for NATO. It is, of course, not for me to say what I think their conclusions should be. They will arrive at their own results. But I can tell you what I think should be the principles that guide their work.
They should be ambitious, but realistic with regard to resources; they should be firm on NATO’s core task – defense of our territory and populations – but flexible in their understanding of what that means in the 21st century; and they should see NATO not as an island but as an organization that needs to be more fully anchored and engaged in the international system.
They will submit their report to me next spring, and I will then lead a process of negotiation amongst allies that will see a new strategic concept approved at a summit in Portugal next fall. I can assure you that the results will be a NATO that is more modern, more outward-looking and more capable than ever of proving security for its members.
But I am convinced that some things in NATO will not change. We will stand united, for, as Abraham Lincoln put it, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The United States will continue to be the ultimate guarantor of peace and security in Europe. America’s allies in NATO will remain your closest friends, your most reliable partners, your brothers-in-arms. And NATO will remain the home in which now almost 1 billion people are safe and secure. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for making a truly important statement on NATO, on Afghanistan, on, also, the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan, and in choosing the Atlantic Council as the place to do it. I do want to thank Gen. Jones and you, Mr. Secretary-General, for your praise to the Atlantic Council. After Sen. Hagel’s opening remarks, I was getting a little worried about my job, so it was nice of you to do that.
But let me actually start the questioning by getting back in the good graces of my chairman by quoting from his book. And everyone loves a good book pitch – it’s a brilliant book. And he quotes Lincoln – since you quoted Lincoln. From “America: Our Next Chapter,” quote, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
In a way, you’ve been saying, we must disenthrall ourselves, and thus we can save our alliance, save Afghanistan, et cetera, et cetera. So here’s my question off of that, because I think what you said, in your own language, was things are going to have to change. Certainly, Gen. McChrystal’s top-secret, closely-held report says things are going to have to change. Do you agree with the report? Secondarily, what input does the outcome of that report have on our allies?
On the one hand, people say if the U.S. gets more deeply involved with more troops, then European allies might back off and say, well, this is an Americanization of the struggle; we can relax now. Others say if the U.S. is showing weakness, then, of course, the same outcome would be reached. So I wonder if you could speak to that – to the report and also what impact it could have on the allies.
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: First of all, I would say that, basically – basically – I share the views presented by Gen. McChrystal. His assessment opens for a more comprehensive approach in addressing the problems in Afghanistan. It clearly states that there’s no military solution solely; we have to step up our endeavors within civil reconstruction and pursue a more population-centric approach.
Basically, I agree with his recommendations. It would be premature to make any judgment here and now as regards the resource question. Now we have to go through his initial assessment and analysis, discuss it within the alliance, agree on the approach and then we can make a decision on resources.
But one thing is clear to me: We need more resources for our training mission in Afghanistan to develop the capacity of the Afghan security forces. And therefore, I would urge all allies, including the European allies, to provide more resources for the training mission – trainers and also financial contributions – to ensure that we can actually fund an increased number of Afghan troops.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much. I’ll ask one more question and then I’ll turn to the audience, and catch my eye and I’ll try and get you as much as I can in the order that you’ve raised your hands. Missile defense – you spoke briefly about that. Obviously, it’s a big topic at the moment. One argument is that the way it was – one argument in the press is that the way it was announced, without consultation, hurts the U.S. relationship with allies.
We had a senior Pentagon official at the Atlantic Council, Alexander Vershbow – Amb. Vershbow – where he actually talked pretty compellingly about how NATO could get much more involved now with the land-based system, including Poland and the Czech Republic and others. Do you see this, actually, as more of a chance for NATO, or do you see this as something that could be disruptive for the U.S. and its allies?
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: If I may, I would like to slightly correct you. I do not agree that the United States did not consult; on the contrary, I appreciate very much that the United States consulted and briefed NATO allies before announcing this decision. And I consider the new missile defense plans more flexible, more inclusive than the previous plans. And in that respect, it accommodates wishes expressed by a number of European allies.
So I look very much forward to a process in which NATO will be strongly engaged and that will also be beneficial for – let’s put it that way – some of our Eastern allies that might be concerned about this, because the new plans allow flexible and decentralized systems that can include all allies and protect all allies.
MR. KEMPE: So this system is better for the alliance than the previous?
SEC. GEN. RASMUSSEN: Seen from an alliance point of view, yes, it’s better.
MR. KEMPE: First question – and please, identify yourself as well. Ambassador Burns?
Q: Secretary-General, welcome back to Washington. I’m Nick Burns. I’m a former United States ambassador to NATO. I want to thank you for what you said about Afghanistan. Obviously, it’s the issue of the hour here in our country, and we appreciate your leadership and the way you spoke about it today.
I want to ask you address one of the points you made, perhaps with more specifics. I was the American ambassador to NATO when the alliance made the decision to go into Afghanistan. I know we, on the American side, certainly saw that as a combat mission, given the foes involved – Taliban and al-Qaida. And we’ve been gratified to see so many allies respond to that.
I agree with you: We don’t want to have a war of words in the Atlantic about who’s doing what and who’s not contributing. But could you address, looking forward, what your hope would be for the contributions that members could make, both on the civilian side of counterinsurgency and the military side?
And on the military side, the largest European ally just had an election yesterday. Mrs. Merkel’s been returned; she’ll be chancellor of Germany for the next few years. Would you hope that Germany could take on a combat role – that the German people and the Bundestag could work through a discussion that would allow Germany to take its place in the East and South, should NATO require it, alongside the combat troops there from my country and many other countries? Thank you.
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: Thank you very much. Of course, a very tough question – and you know that. Let me, first of all, give you a more general answer: Obviously, it would be an advantage for our commanders in the field if they could make – if nations allowed a more flexible use of troops. It’s obvious. We’re speaking now about the so-called “caveats,” and as secretary-general of NATO, I would urge allies to allow as much flexibility as possible in the use of their troop contributions in Afghanistan. That’s my general remark.
More specifically, you refer to Germany. And I know this question has very often been up for discussion. I think it is fair to say that we should take into consideration Germany’s history and also take into consideration that it was really a huge step forward when Germany actually decided to contribute to our mission in Afghanistan. You should not underestimate the importance and significance of that step in domestic German politics.
So I think we should realize that this is a gradual process. So I do not participate in Germany-bashing. I think we should recognize their contribution and let it be a gradual development. But then let me return to my introductory remarks: I would, nevertheless, urge all allies to allow flexible use of their troops in Afghanistan.
MR. KEMPE: It must also be said, some of the dangers of the North are looking a little bit like some of the dangers of the South these days as well.
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: The situation in the North has changed, partly because we have stepped up endeavors in the South. And this is a reason why the Taliban has now spread their activities.
MR. KEMPE: Absolutely. Another NATO ambassador – Robert Hunter – former ambassador.
Q: Thank you very much, Fred. If we just do former NATO ambassadors, we’ll be here all night. (Laughter.) Secretary-General, thank you very much for what you said, and I know that you are the NATO leader, but can I raise something about your sister institution, the European Union? Given so much requirement for governance, reconstruction, development, for police training, for law, for agrarian development, do you think there’s a chance of getting more effort out of the European Union and out of European countries on this area, which they do so well? Your own country, for example, has shown extraordinary leadership over the years.
We have, for example, today on the negative side, one NATO ally that makes it difficult to have cooperation with the European Union. Do you see any chance that, that is going to change? Because that’s one thing that could inspire people in this country to see Europeans are there pulling their weight with us, no matter what he troop numbers happen to be.SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: Absolutely a relevant question. As prime minister of Denmark, I continuously urged the European Union and colleagues to put Afghanistan higher on the agenda. And I think there’s a fair chance that the situation will change. Actually, the European Union has put Afghanistan higher on the agenda. And I think it’s very much a question of how we formulate our strategy. We do not need a new strategy but I would say a slightly changed approach to implement the strategy we have already laid down.
And I think it will be easier to get the European governments increase their contributions if they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And this is the reason why I speak about transition – also concerning security – that we should expand our training mission in Afghanistan. I consider it easier for European countries to contribute to our training mission with personnel as well as with finance, than with combat troops, to speak directly about it. So I think there might be a fair chance that we could increase – see an increase in European contributions.
MR. KEMPE: There’s a woman in the back who’s been quite patient – (inaudible).
Q: Thank you for the chance to ask the question. I’m not an ambassador.
MR. KEMPE: Speak up – I’m sorry.
Q: Miroslava Gongadze, Voice of America. I’m not an ambassador, so thank you for the chance to ask the question. (Laughter.) I would like to ask you about NATO expansion to the East. You talked about solidarity; Ukraine is the only country who are actually taking part in all peacekeeping operations of the alliance, and Ukraine is not a member of the alliance. But NATO membership for Ukraine is still an open question. My question is, what are the major obstacles for Kiev to become a member of the alliance? Thank you.
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: First of all, let me express my strong appreciation of the Ukrainian commitment to NATO-led operations. We appreciate very much their significant contributions. Next, let me stress that the decision we took at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 stands. And as you will remember, we decided that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO, of course, provided that they fulfill the necessary criteria, which is also the answer to your question.
Neither Ukraine nor Georgia fulfilled the necessary criteria at this stage. And this is the reason why we have established a NATO-Ukraine commission and a NATO-Georgia commission and, within the framework of these commissions, they prepare annual national programs with the aim to reform their defense and their societies more broadly. So hopefully, they will fulfill the necessary criteria once in the future, and then the Bucharest declaration still stands.
MR. KEMPE: Please. Microphone up here in the front. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Dave Abshire. I was ambassador in the 1980s. (Laughter.) We cannot – we couldn’t deploy missiles – couldn’t counter-deploy missiles. My best friend, Sen. Sam Nunn, was going to help us by jolting the alliance to withdraw troops. And we were really in the ditch. We mobilized on both sides of the Atlantic. We though anew and acted anew.
We did our own net assessment; we did our, with Manfred Werner (sp), conceptual framework and a new investment strategy. And you know, several of us that are here have been in long wars. I fought in Korea. I tried to get some work for the State Department in Vietnam. And I think if we don’t have a greater sense of mobilization and urgency, we’re not going to make it, domestically, in either place.
And I had a good talk with Madeleine Albright, and the domestic clocks don’t tick along with the conceptual – the strategic concept. And I think there’s got to be, if we’re going to sustain this – and I made this point to my friend, Gen. Jones – a greater sense of urgency and mobilization and really thinking anew and reform that comes more quickly than the clocks that are ticking against adversity on the domestic front. But I thank you for your leadership and your service in the greatest alliance in human history.
MR. KEMPE: So Mr. Secretary-General, clearly, the question is, is there the political will to do all the things you’re trying to achieve? And if not, what do you do about it?
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: I feel there is a political momentum, and the fact that the Strasbourg summit tasked me to lead the work towards a new strategic concept to be adopted next year testifies to that, I think. I hope that the new strategic concept will serve as a lever for the necessary reforms of the alliance.
We really need reform and transformation of NATO. It strikes me that 70 percent of the armed forces in Europe are stationary. It’s a Cold War structure. I think we have to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century in the direction of more flexibility, more mobility, more deployability. And I hope the strategic concept can serve a lever for such reforms. We also need to look closer into how we finance within NATO.
I think we could achieve significant synergies if we went for collective solutions and more common funding. So I think there’s a lot to do. And at the end of the day, it’s also about money – the taxpayers’ money. I think we owe it to the taxpayers to make sure that we get value for money and spend our money more efficiently than today. And unfortunately, in general, there is a gap between the ambitions and the requirements and the willingness to fund. And this is an issue I’m going to address up front in the coming weeks and months, because it’s not acceptable that we just add new requirements and ambitions without being prepared to finance it.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Please.
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman. Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for your comments. If I may, I’d like to return to the question of Afghanistan. One of the possibilities emerging from the McChrystal review could be the recommendation that we’re going to need to add tens of thousands of troops and civilian capacity, spend tens of billions of dollars or euros and be engaged there for a very long time, possibly tens of years.
If that becomes the case, how would you make that in NATO to prevent a dissolution of the alliance, because I suspect that may be a bridge too far? And if one of the requirements, certainly on the civilian side, was to put all the provisional reconstruction teams – provincial reconstruction teams – under ISAF or a single command, does that have any feasibility or possibility of happening if the situation demands it?
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: Well, I think it’s premature to make any final judgment as far as resources are concerned. I’m definitely not going to do so right now. As I said, strategy first; resources then. We have received McChrystal’s so-called “initial assessment.” On the basis of that, we will have to discuss how to fully resource our mission in Afghanistan, but I’m not going to comment on that right now. It’s – we will –
Q: What about the PRT side of it? Do you think there’s any chance of putting PRTs under ISAF or a single command?
MR. KEMPE: The question’s about the provincial reconstruction teams.
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: Yeah, yeah. Definitely, we need better coordination among the PRTs. I also think we need an improved cooperation between the PRC and, hopefully, an increased U.N. presence in Afghanistan. And I think it would be in accordance with McChrystal’s recommendations if we ensured not only a strengthened U.N. presence in Afghanistan to fulfill our ambitions to step up the endeavors in the civil reconstruction, but also to ensure a better cooperation between the U.N. and the PRTs.
MR. KEMPE: Time for a couple more questions. There’s, in the corner, a non-ambassador.
Q: Yes, thank you. My name is Annegrethe Rasmussen and as the secretary-general well-knows, for about 15 years, I suppose, I represent a Danish newspaper and now, based in Washington, D.C., – Information.
MR. KEMPE: But no relationship.
Q: Rasmussen is a very common name in Denmark. As you probably know, our two last prime ministers and the current prime minister, Mr. Rasmussen’s successor, is also called Rasmussen. (Laughter.) But anyway, I thank you for a brilliant speech and I want to know a little bit more about the Afghans taking the lead, as you quite rightly said.
And I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about your possible analysis of the Afghan government as a partner in that vital process, because obviously, it’s not just training that comes from outside; the Afghan government has to be a legitimate and a durable partner in that process?
And do you have any thoughts that you might share with us about, perhaps not the quality of the Afghan government, but at least, how it can improve the legitimacy and not least, how the cooperation between the allied forces and your work and the Afghan government might play out in the future?
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: Yeah, thank you very much. Yes, we need a credible and legitimate, of course, government in Afghanistan. We, right now, are in the midst of the electoral process. Votes have been counted. Complaints are now being dealt with. We have established institutions in Afghanistan to deal with these things. And I think that we should now let these institutions conclude their work.
They have now decided to recount a number of votes and probably publish a certified, final election result at the beginning of October. We don’t know what will be the outcome – the final outcome – of the elections. But I think, as a general remark, we should let the Afghans decide whether they consider the elections to be credible or not. Whether there will be a second round of presidential elections or not, we don’t know.
But anyway, we need a credible and legitimate Afghan government and we need to hold the Afghan government accountable to international obligations and to legitimate expectations from the Afghan people. This is the reason why I strongly support to organize an international conference before the end of this year – not that conferences solve problems, but I think we need a new compact – a new contract – between the international community and the Afghan government.
And I think we should address these problems head-on and tell the Afghan government whatever might be the outcome of the elections, tell the Afghan government that it is a prerequisite for a strong international commitment that they ensure good governance, including a strong fight against corruption, that they actually deliver basic services to the Afghan people. I think this is also an important part of the transition to Afghan lead – that we establish such a new contract between the international community and the Afghan government.
MR. KEMPE: Let me – I’m going to take three very quick questions, one after another, but please, 30 seconds, one minute for each of the questions. The woman in the back first and then two right here in the second row and the third row. And we’ll close with an ambassador.
Q: Thank you. My name is Athra Hajjan (ph). I’m from ATM Press TV. Thank you for coming here, Mr. Rasmussen. You have given us a picture of what has been lacked, and you mentioned that one of them is actually the communication, especially the last 8 years. If it’s not to go after bin Laden, what is NATO doing, then, in Afghanistan, if it hasn’t been successful in 8 years?
MR. KEMPE: Okay, we’ll plant that one and park that for a minute and please, gentleman right here.
Q: Greg Schulte – a former U.S. ambassador, but to the IAEA. (Laughter.) Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for mentioning Iran. I know that Nick Burns and Kirk Kessler (ph) and other permanent representatives have tried to get the North Atlantic Council to talk about Iran as a security threat to the alliance, but without success. Now that we have discovered that Iran has a second, illicit enrichment facility, has the time come for the NAC to seriously look at Iran? And what are the implications of a nuclear-armed Iran for NATO’s strategic concept?
MR. KEMPE: Good question, and then the last question.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Kurt Volker. Nice to see you again, and thank you for taking the time to come to Washington. I think you’ve made a very powerful statement about commitment of Europe to NATO and commitment of Europe to Afghanistan. My question centers on that, though, and comes back to the question that David Abshire asked, because I think it is a question of urgency.
You made a remarkable demonstration of commitment, as a prime minister, to the Atlantic alliance and to Afghanistan and have become a leader of the alliance. And when we met in April, we talked about the other leaders of NATO. And I think for the strategic concept to be a success, yes, it needs to drive reform, but it really needs to be the basis of a political compact that engages the national leaderships of each of the NATO countries to invest in NATO and to have a commitment to our alliance and to our future.
We’ve seen that and you’ve demonstrated that. But I want to ask your views: Do you see this rising on the political agenda of national leaders in each of the allied countries, whether it’s Germany or France or Italy or any? Because I think it’s going to take that kind of national political commitment to make that new kind of compact – and you talked about a compact with Afghanistan – but a compact with the United States’ continuing commitment to Europe as a European power and Europe’s continuing commitment to being a partner of the United States in dealing with global challenges?
MR. KEMPE: Mr. Secretary-General, and a former ambassador to NATO.
SEC.-GEN. RASMUSSEN: Yeah. (Chuckles.) Thank you, thank you very much. First question – our mission in Afghanistan is much broader than just to look for bin Laden. Let me stress that. We are in Afghanistan, first and foremost, to improve our own security. We cannot allow Afghanistan, once again, to become a safe haven for international terrorism. If we did, terrorists would easily spread from Afghanistan through Central Asia to Europe and further.
So this is the reason, first and foremost, why we are in Afghanistan. But in addition to that, I think it’s also, from a long-term point of view, crucial to build a stable democracy in Afghanistan, taking into consideration that there’s no military solution solely. If we are to ensure a long-term stability in the region, we should go for the establishment of a stable democracy in Afghanistan. And this will be my criterion of success that we can gradually transfer responsibility to the Afghans themselves from security to development, as I have said today.
Iran – well, I think at this stage, the right approach concerning Iran is that the international community puts a maximum of pressure – of political and diplomatic pressure – on Iran within the framework of the so-called 5-plus-1 group. And new intelligence information and the actual behavior of Iran just stress the importance of such continued international pressure on Iran. If Iran eventually acquires a nuclear capability, then it will, of course, be a matter of concern for NATO. Because then, NATO members might be threatened. So I think we should think in stages, here. Here and now, diplomatic pressure on Iran. And then let’s see.
Finally, on NATO, yes, I fully agree. We need a strengthened political commitment to NATO. And I know from my previous capacity as prime minister that NATO sometimes seems a bit distant in the daily life of a prime minister because, I mean, you have a lot of things to deal with. It will always be that way, but it is my ambition to ensure that my colleagues or former colleagues get more engaged in daily NATO work and business.
I would very much like a stronger political – general political engagement. I think it will take more meetings among ministers, and also heads of state and government, to ensure that. I know from experience within the European Union that the fact that European ministers and heads of state and government meet on a regular basis really contributes to a strong daily commitment to the European Union. And we need that kind of commitment to NATO as well. I know, for practical reasons, it will not be possible to organize just as many ministerials as we see in the European Union, but I have a secret dream – now, it’s public – (laughter) – that I could organize more ministerials within NATO to establish the compact you rightly spoke about.
MR. KEMPE: Mr. Secretary-General, I think we all have been honored and delighted to experience your first public-statement speech in the United States. This was just fantastic – a lot to think about. I want to thank Sen. Hagel, our chairman, for getting us off to a good start, and then, Gen. Jones, President Obama’s national security advisor, we know how busy you are. And it means a lot to us that you are here.
I think also, if you look throughout this room, at the level of people attending, it underscores not only the importance people give to the mission, but the confidence that they have in you. You’re seeing President Obama tomorrow. I think he very much lives by the Lincoln quote in Sen. Hagel’s book: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion.” That’s certainly what you’ve told us this entire session. And you’ve not only told us about the need for change, but also given us a lot of concrete ideas about how to start implementing it. Thank you so much. (Applause.)