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Diplomacy in Action

The NATO Strategic Concept Seminar February 2010

FPC Briefing
Alexander Vershbow
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
February 26, 2010


Date: 02/26/2010 Location: Washington, DC Description: Alexander Vershbow, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, Briefing at the Washington FPC on "The NATO Strategic Concept Seminar February 2010." - State Dept Image

Video

12:30 PM EST

"The NATO Strategic Concept Seminar, February 2010"

Ambassador Vershbow: Good afternoon, thank you very much. It’s good to be with you all here today.

I’ll make some opening comments, and then I look forward to your questions. But I’d like to begin by offering a short update on some of the issues that NATO has been discussing recently.

As you know, we had some interesting and very important meetings this week in Washington at National Defense University on NATO’s new Strategic Concept. The conference was the fourth and final of the official series of NATO Strategic Concept seminars.
This one focused on the transformation of NATO’s structures, forces and capabilities. It was also an opportunity, given the venue, for top U.S. national security leaders -- Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, and the National Security Advisor, General Jones -- to give their vision for the future of the alliance . We also had good opportunities to exchange views with many of the visitors, including the Secretary General.

This is a very big year for NATO. Of course, Afghanistan dominates the headlines. NATO is pursuing a revised strategy in Afghanistan with additional resources that reflect the size and the scale of the mission.

Today I’m going to focus on the Strategic Concept review. As we fight the war in Afghanistan, NATO is taking a serious look at its strategic direction by developing a new Strategic Concept -- which is something that doesn’t happen every year. It happens about every ten years. I had the dubious honor of having participated in the last two Strategic Concept Reviews in 1991 and 1999. But this one is especially important given the changing security environment.

Very much related to the Strategic Concept is the issue of reform. Over the course of this year, in parallel with the Stratetgic Concept review, NATO is going to be pursuing ways to fundamentally reform the alliance and to better implement the kind of vision that will emerge from the Strategic Concept. This was given new impetus at the meeting of defense ministers a few weeks ago in Istanbul, and it reflects Secretary Gates’ very strong -- indeed passionate -- belief that NATO needs to change the way it does business if this Strategic Concept is going to be worth the paper it’s printed on.

There are a lot of other things going on in NATO that we can talk about -- missile defense, strengthening the partnership with Russia, but I’ll leave that to the Q&A.

Just a couple of words about Afghanistan. As you know, NATO is embarking on a very important -- crucially important -- offensive in Helmand Province. With the new strategy and new resources to match the size and scale of the mission, we’re already seeing some of the pieces come together to make measurable progress. As we’ve said many times, the goal of the new strategy is to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, secure the population, and redouble efforts to build the Afghan National Security Forces so that they can take over security responsibility as conditions permit.

Over the past year allies and partners have demonstrated an unparalleled level of commitment to the Afghan mission, with non-U.S. troops increasing over the past year from approximately 30,000 last summer to nearly 50,000 today. I think this does show that the international community has the will and the resolve to see this mission through to a successful conclusion.As Secretary Gates said in his speech, the challenge for the alliance is to apply the level of commitment that it’s demonstrating in Afghanistan to the longer-term challenges that the alliance faces: How to redefine the Strategic Concept and form the structures so that we can keep NATO as relevant to the future challenges as it has been for the past 61 years.

Talking about the Strategic Concept, at the summit that’s going to take place in November in Lisbon, the NATO heads of state and government will have an opportunity to determine the strategic direction of the alliance for the coming decade. We hope it will be an opportunity to recommit to one another’s defense, to better understand the variety of new challenges the alliance is facing, and to prepare ourselves to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Just as important is the public dimension of the Strategic Concept. We want this to be a vehicle to help our publics, our parliaments, and especially the rising new generations to better understand what NATO means, what it’s for, and what it can do in the 21st century.

One major theme of the discussions at this week’s seminar and over the last few months has been just how should NATO adapt to face the new strategic landscape?

In this new environment lines are getting more blurry. As NATO has seen in Kandahar or in the Gulf of Aden, threats can come from failed or failing states or fractured states, as well as from traditional aggressors.

New vulnerabilities to our alliance on cyber networks, the increasing importance of energy resources have prompted the alliance to examine new ways to address potential attacks against members of a non-traditional kind.

And because few of the dangers today are purely military or purely conventional, meeting them requires a comprehensive approach with enhanced civilian capabilities together with stronger military capabilities.

This being said, the original goal of NATO since its birth 61 years ago -- namely defending NATO members, strengthening trans-Atlantic ties and fostering European integration -- those goals still hold and are still what bind members of the alliance together today.

So as we as an alliance consider how NATO can best address new challenges, we’ve all reiterated our commitment to one another, -- a commitment that is absolutely sacrosanct -- and we want to guarantee that this commitment under Article 5 is credible in the future. As President Obama said in Prague, Article 5 is a promise for our time, for all time.

In addition to Article 5, Secretary Clinton put strong emphasis on the importance of reaffirming our commitment to Article 4, namely the allies’ pledge to consult together about political and security developments so that we can more effectively manage crises as they emerge, before they rise to the more existential level of an Article 5 threat.

To fully protect alliance members, we support a continuing role for nuclear deterrence as well as development of NATO missile defense capabilities to protect territory, population, and forces throughout the alliance.

So the Strategic Concept is aimed at helping the alliance strike the right balance among old and new missions, and to ensure that sufficient resources are made available both to meet today’s threats and prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s.

The process I think you’re familiar with after this last seminar: a group of experts that Secretary General Rasmussen appointed last summer chaired by Madeleine Albright is now going to carry out some final consultations in NATO capitals, and then submit a report with recommendations for the Strategic Concept probably by the beginning of May. Then the pen is passed to the Secretary General himself who, in consultation with allies, will draft the Strategic Concept with the goal of having it approved by heads of state and government in Lisbon.

Before I open up the floor let me just say a few more words about NATO reform. As I said, Secretary Gates is quite passionate about this subject. He said on Tuesday that unless the Strategic Concept spurs operational and institutional changes, it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on. So at Lisbon, along with the Strategic Concept, we’re hoping that allies will have the chance to approve a package of reforms that will help us meet the vision and the ambitions set out in the Strategic Concept.

We’ve been telling our allies that in this exercise there are no sacred cows, and that nothing should be off limits. Over the last few years, even as NATO has been taking on many new challenges, we have not been as effective as we need to be in managing the alliance’s financial resources. So we’re going to have to take a hard look at how we can ensure that we have a more rigorous system for setting priorities so that both current operations and long-term requirements are adequately resourced. We also need to streamline excess infrastructure and a very outdated command structure that’s no longer relevant to our 21st century needs.

So Secretary Gates proposed and his colleagues agreed in Istanbul to give a tasking to Secretary General Rasmussen to offer some far-reaching reform proposals for defense ministers to consider when they meet in Brussels in June.

Part of the reform effort is also ensuring that we have the kinds of capabilities needed to meet both traditional and non-traditional threats, so it was appropriate that Allied Command Transformation, which has the responsibility for this, was a host of the Strategic Concept seminar.

I’ll stop there. I hope that’s given you some food for thought and for some good questions. Over to you.

Moderator: Our Russian colleagues are poised right here in the front, so there’s no escaping. I think we should just deal with them head on. [Laughter]. We might as well start with Petr and his question there.

Question: Petr Cheremushkin, Interfax. Actually I didn’t ask for it, but I will be happy to. Good to see you sir, as always.

There is still a big gap in the vision of the world between NATO and Russia. And after the Secretary’s speech, almost the next day, Russian Ambassador to NATO, Mr. Rogozin, whom you know quite well, said that Moscow will never agree to the Washingtonian centric model of the world and NATO rule of the world, as you probably heard this speech. What do you think still could be done to bridge this gap between Russia and NATO? And to find more common ground like working with Shanghai Group, for instance, or any other models that Mr. Brzezinski suggested in one of his articles not long ago. Thanks.

Ambassador Vershbow: That’s a good question, one that’s seized my attention for several decades now. I think it is clearly an uphill climb to close the gap between Russia’s perception of NATO and what NATO is really all about.

Certainly we like to say that NATO is the most successful alliance in history and it is in our view an alliance that has done great things in terms of making war unthinkable in Europe, after the end of the Cold War building the foundation of an integrated security community in Europe. And as part of that effort I would say it has made enormous efforts to reach out to Russia, to make Russia an integral part of that security community, and that’s still our goal.

At the same time, while NATO has done great things, we’ve never claimed that NATO is the center of the universe or that NATO should be the hub of the entire international security system. Indeed, one of the themes at this seminar and at previous Strategic Concept seminars was the importance of NATO developing closer links to other international institutions, to other major partners, as part of the comprehensive approach to dealing with future challenges and future crises.

Russia is clearly a key partner. The potential for that partnership was demonstrated in the ‘90s when we were operating shoulder-to-shoulder in Bosnia and during Kosovo. We’ve seen even in recent years Russia working with NATO in the Active Endeavor counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterranean, and Russia’s engagement in the counter-piracy mission. So there are a lot of shared interests that should provide the basis for NATO and Russia to achieve this kind of cooperation in the future, and that’s what we will be trying to do.

Some of the institutions you mentioned, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, have a distinct role in Central Asia and I think NATO is open , on a pragmatic basis, to seeing whether there are specific activities where we would work together.

The key is to come back to a recognition of the shared interests that we have, the common threat that we have to deal with together, and I think we can get past some of the misperceptions that were reflected in Ambassador Rogozin’s, as always, very piquant comments.

Moderator: Andre, did you want to ask a follow-up?

Question: Andrei Sitov, TASS. I guess, frankly sir, from what you just said, I have the distinct impression that we are hearing again that it’s not us who needs to change, but it’s the outside world, in this particular case the Russian public and the Russian government that needs to change their perceptions. It doesn’t work that way in international relations, as you know.

I could only again ask for specific actions, examples of specific actions that may be taken to convince the highly skeptical Russian public and the Russian government that what you really mean is a partnership. We know for a fact from the Georgian example, as my Georgian friend will probably mention that the existing arrangements don’t work. When Russia tried to involve the Russia/NATO Council at the beginning of the conflict, it was stalled.

So again, what can we specifically do? And maybe not even, let me ask you two parts. First, how is it reflected in the Strategic Concept? But secondly, what can we probably start doing even before the Concept becomes operational? Because you are with the Pentagon now. Practical steps.

While we are at it, what do you think about Russia actually entering NATO? Thanks.

Ambassador Vershbow: I can’t tell you yet how the Strategic Concept will apply because it hasn’t been written yet, but I think that this is an area where there probably won’t be a dramatic change from the previous concept because the commitment to partnership I think is going to be constant.

But to get to your basic question, certainly this is going to take effort on both sides to overcome the deep gulf of mistrust that clearly exists, and which was, I think, further deepened as a result of the conflict in Georgia.

I think it was probably a mistake. I think the Obama administration does consider it to have been a mistake to have suspended the NATO-Russia Council. We believe that mechanisms like that are even more important at times of tension or disagreement as a way to air our differences and try to overcome those disagreements, or at least manage them if we can’t fully bridge the gap.

I think the path to a higher level of trust is to expand the numbers of concrete activities and projects where we work together to advance our respective interests, and to demonstrate in practice that those interests do coincide or at least overlap. Afghanistan is one potentially fruitful area. We know Russia is deeply concerned, and for good reason, about the flow of narcotics out of Afghanistan to Central Asia and then on to Russia as having tremendous social costs for the Russian people. So working together on a NATO-Russia basis, and maybe on a broader basis with regional states in Central Asia on the narcotics issue is one area where we could show NATO-Russia cooperation in action.

I mentioned counter-piracy. There may be other areas of counter-terrorism where we can collaborate in terms of sharing information, trying to help each other prevent terrorist acts before they occur.

But I think - looking at the future challenges - we believe, and I know this is a sensitive subject, that proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, is something that threatens Russia as much as it threatens NATO, and that we should develop more forms of cooperation here including cooperation on missile defense to meet the kinds of threats posed by existing and future short-and medium-range missiles in countries like Iran or Syria.

This could be something that is not just a one-way street, as some Russian critics allege. We could go beyond the sharing of early warning data from our radars, more substantive forms of cooperation, joint testing, maybe over time technological cooperation. So this is an ambitious area, one where there’s a lot of baggage that has to be shed, but I think it would be a very significant breakthrough if we could establish a NATO-Russia partnership in missile defense.

There are a lot of things we’re trying to do bilaterally which also can be done on the NATO side in terms of military-to-military exchanges, discussing one another’s military doctrines, unit exchanges, ship visits, all these things to demonstrate that both sides do, in fact, have the same concerns, the same aspirations, and that we really have to stop viewing each other as adversaries.

So I think there’s a long list of things we can be doing, and part of my job at the Pentagon is to try to give more momentum to those kinds of efforts.

Voice: Our Georgian colleague, has a question.

Question: Thank you. David Nikuradze, Georgian Broadcasting Company, Rustavi 2.

Mr. Secretary my question is broad - NATO enlargement. Secretary Clinton underlined earlier this week that no other countries outside NATO should have veto, but we all understand that Russia must always be against Georgia’s membership. What do you think, how do the NATO member states should deal with Russia on this issue?

Ambassador Vershbow: Secretary Clinton was very clear that NATO’s door should remain open in the future. We believe that NATO enlargement has contributed to security and stability in Europe. It has provided a framework for the kind of collective efforts to deal with European security challenges that we’re seeing every day in Afghanistan.

We think that as Secretary Clinton and many other U.S. representatives have said that this is a sovereign decision for any European country that aspires to apply to seek membership. The country has to meet the standards and criteria, and then has to secure a consensus on the part of NATO members, but this is a cardinal principle of the Helsinki Accords, that each sovereign nation has the right to choose its security alliances.

The question of Georgia’s candidacy is still on the agenda. Clearly there’s a lot of work still to be done on the part of Georgia, both to improve its defense capabilities, and to demonstrate to all allies that it is doing everything to contribute to stability in Europe and in its region. But I expect that the Strategic Concept will likely reaffirm NATO’s open door just as it reaffirms NATO’s commitment to a long-term partnership with Russia. We don’t see these being in contradiction.

Question: My name is Tom-Jan Meeus, from NRC Handelsblad, the Netherlands.

As you know, the Dutch government collapsed over Afghanistan this week. Can you please comment? And if I may, the remarks by Secretary Gates this week about the demilitarization of Europe have been widely perceived in that part of the world as a comment on the Dutch decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Can you please talk a little bit about that too? Thank you.

Ambassador Vershbow: I think it would not be wise to say too much about delicate domestic matters on the part of the Netherlands. I would say that we have highly valued and continue to value the Netherlands’ contributions to the mission in Afghanistan. Netherlands forces have been deployed in the south where they’ve been in the real fight and have made an important contribution. Of course the Netherlands has been an important contributor to past NATO operations in the Balkans.

So, we have every hope that, looking down the road, the Netherlands will continue to be a good contributor to the alliance whether in Afghanistan or in future contingencies.

I think it’s a little too much to interpret Secretary Gates’ comment as directed toward any one country. Indeed, I think the sentiment he expressed predates recent events in the Netherlands.

It’s important to highlight that while he was reflecting a deep and long-held U.S. concern about the under-resourcing of defense in the budgets of most European allies, he also did highlight the fact that allies in the last year have demonstrated what he called an unparalleled level of commitment to the mission in Afghanistan. The increase in troops just in recent days, increased commitments of trainers to help developing the Afghan Army and the Afghan Police, have been very encouraging.

But I think the real challenge is to look beyond the here and now where people are scraping together the resources, in most cases, to support the high-priority Afghan mission. But to apply that same kind of commitment to the longer-term challenges. There are structural problems that loom for NATO and we have to invest in the future even as we fund the operations that we’re engaged in today.

Question: Sabina Muscat, Financial Times Deutschland.

The German Foreign Minister has basically called for including the nuclear disarmament of Europe into the NATO Strategic Concept debate. What is your view on that? Does that have to play a role in there? Or would you rather want to reserve, perhaps, these discussions for future bilateral talks with Russia, perhaps even touching on reduction of tactical nuclear weapons?

Ambassador Vershbow: I think the Strategic Concept, in its essence, is going to be a strategic document that is probably not going to get into specific questions relating to future negotiations on tactical nuclear forces or the specifics of NATO’s nuclear force posture. If you look at previous Strategic Concepts, they focused more on the principles, the continued importance of nuclear deterrence as part of NATO’s overall mix of deterrence capability, and on such key principles as burden-sharing and risk-sharing as part of the essence of the trans-Atlantic Alliance. So clearly this will be important and I’m sure a delicate subject to work out in the Strategic Concept. But as President Obama said in his Prague speech, even as we look toward the future vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, in the here and now we still need to maintain an effective deterrent, and I think that applies to the alliance as well as to the United States.

These are issues that the German government itself has said need to be discussed and worked out in the alliance, and we’ve had a good track record of working these issues out through consultations and ultimately reaching a consensus.

Question: Christoph von Marschall, Der Tagesspiegel. To the same point of tactical nuclear weapons, probably the German Foreign Minister raised a lot of doubts and misunderstandings with his first approach, but in the mean time there have been visits to Washington. And after talking to representatives from different U.S. government departments, I’m not quite sure whether the U.S. government is on the same side and everybody understood what is behind the German proposition. I mean just to make it clear; we have the opposite situation than in the Cold War. It’s not that the West needs nuclear tactical weapons to stop Soviet aggression in the Fulda Gap, it’s now that the Soviets, Russians, sorry, the Russians have much more nuclear tactical weapons in Europe than the West has. Two thousand in Kalingrad are directed against Poland and Germany. So that is why we want to talk about tactical nuclear weapons after the START agreement, not at the same time, after the START agreement. Is that understood in the Pentagon as well?

I hear from the State Department that the misunderstandings which were raised by Minister Westerwelle are sorted out at the State Department? I’m not quite sure where the Pentagon stands.

Ambassador Vershbow: I certainly don’t want to get into discussing or even speculating on views of different agencies or colleagues in my own administration. I think that we have a good understanding of the German approach, but I would just say that we’re in the final stages of our Nuclear Posture Review, so I don’t want to get too deeply into discussing these longer term issues.

I would say, though, that it’s important to recognize that in today’s world when we talk about deterrence, including the nuclear dimension of deterrence, we’re not talking so much about Russia. We’re talking about a wide range of threats, and indeed the potential for proliferation embodied today in the nuclear programs of Iran now have to be part of the discussion of what would constitute an effective NATO deterrent posture for the future.

But I think I’ll stop there because there will be more material to talk about after the NPR is finished.

Question: Thank you, Ambassador. This is Tulin Daloglu with Haberturk, the Turkish Daily newspaper.

I have two quick questions. The first one is for the next NATO Strategic Concept, do you foresee a nuclear recognized Iran? The second one is, where are you now with the Turkish government on your negotiations over the missile defense program? Thank you.

Ambassador Vershbow: Again, the Strategic Concept hasn’t been written yet so I can’t predict what it will say on any particular aspect of the future threat environment. That will be one important part of the drafting exercise, to provide a summary assessment of the likely strategic environment that NATO will be dealing with in the future, as well as to look at potential worst-case scenarios.

The consultations with the government of Turkey on missile defense can be viewed as part of our broader consultations with all members of the alliance, and I think I would not want to get into exactly where they stand, but do very much agree with what we’ve heard from Turkey that missile defense should be embedded in a NATO framework; that this isa great opportunity to give physical expression to Article 5 as it applies to the new threats that NATO faces today and will be facing in the future. And the U.S. phased adaptive approach is designed specifically to provide for defense of all of NATO territory as the system evolves over the coming years. So I think we have a common basis on which our consultations are proceeding, and I’ll leave it at that.

Question: Laure Mandeville, from the French Daily Newspaper Le Figaro.

I have two questions, but first I want to come back to the question of demilitarization of Europe that was mentioned by Secretary Gates in his speech at the National Defense University. How serious, I mean you have mentioned that this question is an old debate between the allies in Europe and the States. But how serious will be this question for the future? If the budgets continue to slow down and fall in defense budgets of Europe, to what extent can we have a NATO capable of meeting its responsibilities in the future?

And I was wondering to what extent the demilitarization of public opinion of Europe, as it was described, also refers to the disagreement on the nature and the seriousness of the threat the Europeans are facing. Could you say something, for instance, concerning Russia or other topics? Could you expand a little bit on that? Thank you.

Ambassador Vershbow: It is a longstanding issue, the resource gap between what the United States and a few other allies invest, and what the majority do; I think it’s a matter of increasing urgency and that’s why Secretary Gates said what he said. Clearly I think all allies, while they may put the accent on different dimensions of the threat environment, nevertheless agree that as one looks to the future, the old threats may be diminishing. They don’t disappear, but they may be diminishing, and the range of new threats that are coming into focus is getting more and more challenging and requires not only new capabilities but new ways of thinking about our defense.

When one thinks of the role of non-state actors, terrorist networks, the potential for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of long range ballistic missiles, cyber attacks energy cutoffs, other forms of asymmetric warfare, it’s really imperative that the alliance get its priorities straight. We may always have some gap in terms of how much each country invests in defense, but part of the reform effort that Secretary Gates feels so strongly about should be to ensure that we get much more value. Right now money that is spent often goes for static forces rather than deployable forces, so those forces consume a lot of Euros, or other currencies, but don’t offer the capabilities NATO needs to do expeditionary operations as in Afghanistan.

Many key capabilities which are not high tech like helicopters, transport aircraft, are in critically short supply and make it hard to get your forces where they need to be in the midst of very fast-moving operations.

So we have to find ways to spend the money more wisely, and we have to be innovative by perhaps doing more things collectively than has been the case in the past: either groups of countries or the alliance as a whole pooling their resources to purchase some of the critical enablers such as transport planes or helicopters, capabilities that can be shared among many allies rather than each country having to spend its own resources for an autonomous capability.

So these are among the kinds of things that we hope come out of both the Strategic Concept and the reform effort. NATO has usually risen to the challenge in the past after sometime struggling with these issues, and we’re hopeful that the fact that we’ve had kind of a budget crisis in recent months, the costs have risen dramatically in Afghanistan to the point that they’ve exposed the underfunding that has been a problem for most of the past decade, that this will focus the minds of leaders and will get the substantial change the alliance needs to succeed in the future.

Question: Mike McCarthy, German Press Agency.

I wanted to ask you about some news today out of Germany, and that was the Bundestag’s approval of an additional 850 troops to Kunduz which is a fairly modest number, particularly when compared to the U.S. surge. Is that number satisfying to the United States in terms of its request for the European allies to do more? Or does it fall short of what Washington wanted to see?

Ambassador Vershbow: We very much welcome the fact that the Bundestag has approved the raising of the ceiling on the troops and I think that Germany already has a substantial contingent there, so the increase is something that is wholeheartedly welcomed.

I think that Germany has also indicated, I don’t have any numbers at my fingertips, that it recognizes that within its existing commitments and these new commitments, it should give particular priority to fielding trainers to help with this very ambitious effort to raise the level and quality of the Afghan National Security Forces. I will just leave it there. We’re very pleased with its decision and glad that the Bundestag followed through.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. My name is Fengfeng Wang, from China’s Xinhua News Agency.

As both you and Secretary Gates all mentioned, NATO is evolving from a static defensive force to an expeditionary force and there are longstanding, let’s say, issues between the United States and European allies on the budget issue. Will the United States be pushing for like NATO to expand to the Pacific Rim like alliance with Japan, alliance with Australia in this new concept and review? Thank you.

Ambassador Vershbow: I would say that, from what I can sense from the debate, allies agree that NATO’s area of responsibility should remain what we call the Euro-Atlantic area. But at the same time, we all recognize that threats to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area can come from afar, whether it’s al-Qaida and Afghanistan, or piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa. So NATO needs to have the capability to deal with threats to the interests and the security of its members. It shouldn’t try to transform itself into a global organization. There are plenty of other organizations with which NATO can work in dealing with global problems.

I think one thing that has been very significant in recent years has been the interest of countries from other regions in becoming partners of NATO, both to benefit from the assistance and advice to help them improve their own security capacity, but also to participate in key operations such as the ISAF operation in Afghanistan which includes Colombia from South America; has Australia from the Pacific; now South Korea, where I served for three years, is returning to the ISAF mission. So I think that NATO certainly can be the mechanism for building coalition operations involving non-member states, that they can contribute to the broader goal of the international community.

I think the Secretary General made some interesting comments on this score in Munich, so I’ll let him speak for himself on that.

Question: Naoufal Enhari, Morocco’s News Agency.

Just as a follow-up on what you just said, as NATO is reflecting now on its new Strategic Concept, what is the role that NATO and the US give to the alliance’s regional partners, especially within the Mediterranean Dialogue? Also, how do you see or assess the cooperation of NATO with Morocco and its role in countering terrorism in the Mediterranean, especially in the Strait of Gibraltar? Thank you.

Ambassador Vershbow: I think that NATO’s cooperative relationships with countries in the Mediterranean and also with the broader circle of Islamic countries are among the areas where I think we have under-fulfilled the plan. I think these have been useful mechanisms for dialogue and consultation and enabling the partner countries to get a better understanding of what NATO is doing, and to reassure the states about NATO’s objectives in the region and in places like Afghanistan. But I think that the potential for more concrete forms of cooperation is the next challenge that we should be considering in the years ahead.

So, I hope that this is something that will get some attention in the Strategic Concept, because I think there are many shared interests that could be advanced by the kinds of cooperative activities that we have pursued over the last 20 years through the Partnership for Peace and other instruments.

I confess that I don’t know all that much about the level of cooperation between NATO and Morocco -- certainly Operation Active Endeavor, I think, has been a little known but very important contribution by NATO to the wider counter-terrorism efforts, and the cooperation of littoral states in the Mediterranean has been very instrumental in the effectiveness of the operation. In terms of details, perhaps we can get back to you with a longer answer.

Question: Mounzer Sleiman, with Think Tank Monitor and Al Mustaqbal News.

Since you got only one question from our region, I’m going to try to match the Russian a little bit. Probably I’m going to give you an easy question.

Let me offer some of the issues that have been raised in the region. Since we have been at the receiving end of the two security military pacts, the Warsaw and NATO originally, and after the Cold War, NATO in particular, there is some sense that the new Strategic Concept frankly is going to be expanding the theater of operations for NATO to be involved in the Islamic and Arab world in particular. I could be wrong, but that’s probably related to the last question. There is a sense, why does NATO still need to be continued? Why don’t we reform the United Nations and have a collective security, military system that could deal with all security of the entire world? Why, is no reason, what kind of threat is threatening every state now, is threatening other states, and all states should cooperate in such a fashion. And frankly, would alleviate many budget strains on the United States, on Europe and the rest of the world.

Ambassador Vershbow: On the first part of your question, I don’t think that you’re going to see any expansion of NATO’s zone of responsibility or theater of operations. I think where NATO is engaged in the future depends very much on what kinds of threats or challenges confront the alliance and lead to decisions on the part of the members in favor of action.

That action may not be military action. NATO has many different tools at its disposal, and it has been stressed by many during the Strategic Concept seminar that NATO needs to add to its tool kit for a broader range of civilian instruments to complement the military instrument so that we can be more effective in preventing conflicts, stabilizing unstable regions through engagement and political involvement and other forms of assistance, building the capacity of regional militaries so that they can keep the peace themselves, rather than requiring NATO to intervene.

So NATO may be engaged in new ways, but it doesn’t necessarily mean military, and it really will be dependent on what the future brings in terms of problems and challenges.

This is what I mean when I suggested that the Mediterranean Dialogue and other outreach mechanisms could be expanded so that we have new forms of engagement that can help states in the Middle East or in other parts of the world deal with the problems themselves. NATO has provided some assistance to the African Union on request. I don’t think there’s any consensus that NATO is the instrument that should be sending peacekeeping forces to Sudan or to Chad. I think we try to help regional institutions provide regional solutions to their own problems.

That’s part of the answer to why NATO still deserves to continue. It has a proven track record of dealing with major challenges that have arisen, looking back to the Balkans in the ‘90s and now Afghanistan. It has also shown that it has many other ways of contributing to stability and to promoting integration. So I think if NATO ceased to exist we’d have to reinvent it very quickly.

Certainly the United States fully supports the role of the United Nations, and NATO in most cases over the years, has acted in support of UN Security Council resolutions, and of the objectives of the United Nations. I think developing a more complementary relationship between NATO and the UN, as well as between NATO and regional institutions, is one of the priorities that we should be pursuing in the future.

This is a very interconnected world. Each institution has particular advantages, particular strengths, and I think it’s by linking them together and taking advantage of their respective strengths that we can be more effective in dealing with the wide spectrum of new problems that the 21st Century has brought us.

Moderator: Thank you very much, sir, and thank you everyone for coming today. We appreciate it. See you back here soon.

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