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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Preview of the Upcoming NATO Ministerial

FPC Briefing
Jim Townsend Jr.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
October 12, 2010

Date: 10/12/2010 Location: Washington, DC Description: Jim Townsend Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy briefing at the Washington FPC on the Upcoming NATO Ministerial - State Dept Image


9:30 a.m. EDT

DASD Townsend: Good morning to all of you, and thank you very much for coming out this early in the morning and talking about NATO and Europe and the transatlantic relationship.

What I thought I would do, and I appreciate Andy and the crew here at the Foreign Press Center and also our OSD Public Affairs folks for putting this all together. What I'd like to do is to do more of these kinds of backgrounders, if you will, or on the record, as this is, discussions about not just the ministerial but the NATO Lisbon summit, which is coming up in November.

The last few years for NATO and for the transatlantic community have been pretty big years, whether it's ISAF, Afghanistan, whether it is NATO reforms, whether it is a whole range of missions that NATO has been on, there's been a lot of -- gosh, how even to put it? I would say there's been a lot of activities that I think 10 years ago as we were looking at NATO and thinking about where NATO was going, we wouldn't have thought that NATO would be off the coast of Somalia trying to deal with the piracy problem there, Afghanistan, the Balkans, just the full range of missions that as a defense planner, which is what I was 10 years ago, I certainly didn't think we'd be having to do.

So as NATO gathers for the ministerial meeting on Thursday, it's going to be the first one in many ministerials where both the foreign and defense ministers will be there, but as they gather for that ministerial on Thursday and get ready for the NATO Summit, we are looking ahead at where NATO will go.

As you know, part of the NATO Summit in November will be agreeing to a new NATO Strategic Concept which we do about every 10 years, providing the vision for where the alliance is going, what the alliance wants to try to do, what the ambitions for the alliance are, of the NATO people, of NATO heads of state and government who approve these documents and will be doing that in November.

And so it will be interesting -- As I said, 10 years ago, or 11 years ago, 1999, we did the Washington Summit, the 50th Anniversary Summit, and that was the last Strategic Concept that we did. And I was part of that work at that time. And as I said, back in 1999, I'm not so sure I would have predicted where NATO has been and what it's going to be doing.

So as we gather next month for another 10-year look, we'll see how things change, as we look 10 years out to what we think might be coming at us in terms of new threats or in terms of new responsibilities that the alliance will take on and the missions that it will do.

So this meeting on Thursday of defense and foreign ministers, it takes place during the entire day. The defense ministers will meet first, early in the morning, to take care of work that defense ministers do. After lunch, the defense and foreign ministers will meet together, sitting side by side at the big NATO table, talking about the Strategic Concept and other issues that we know we need to work on as we run up towards the Lisbon Summit.

And then at the end of the day, the foreign ministers will close it out. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be there at the table and they will finish up their discussions on a broad range of topics.

So it's going to be a very full day. I'm sure I'll be exhausted by the end of it. If you're going to be there, you'll be exhausted too. But I think there's going to be a lot of very good work that will come from that that will set us up nicely for the summit in November. And I hope all of you will be able to go to the summit or have people there in Lisbon to record what's happening. And I promise that if I do well today, I'll be back before the summit, if Andy will let me, and we can talk about the summit. And even when we get back, I'm more than happy to give you all a debrief and we can talk about how NATO will go about implementing its decisions and taking forward the work of the alliance.

So once again, thank you all for coming. And I'm ready for questions if you are.

Moderator: Okay. As we move to the Q&A portion, please state your name and publication if you wish to ask a question, and wait for the microphone, which could be coming from either side.

Also, we have U.S. NATO in Brussels via digital video conference. There will be a three- to five-second delay as we speak to Brussels. And if you have a question in Brussels, please stand up so that we can recognize you. Once you're called on, feel free to sit down and ask your question.

Please go ahead if there are questions. Come right down here to TASS.

TASS: Thank you. Andrei Sitov from TASS, from Russia.

Did I hear you correctly, sir, saying that this will be the first of a series of ministerials in this two-plus-two -- the defense and foreign ministers format?

DASD Townsend: Well, no. This is the first ministerial where we've had the defense and foreign ministers meeting together in a long time. In fact, I can't remember the last time they met together. I know they did, but it's been a while. And usually, as you know, NATO foreign ministers meet a couple times a year by themselves in their own ministerial meeting, and defense ministers meet as well. And so it seems at NATO every other month or so there's a ministerial of some type going on. But this is the first time in a number of years, that I can remember at least, that the foreign and defense ministers have met together on the same day, working the same issues together.

And what makes this one unique, obviously, is the Lisbon Summit, and wanting to make sure that the ministers handle issues this week and on Thursday so that the heads of state and government can go on and do other things at the summit in November.

TASS: -- it's preparatory? You're not expecting any decisions to be made at the ministerial?

DASD Townsend: I think what'll happen at the ministerial, there will be reports that will be given to ministers. During the course of the year, defense ministers, foreign ministers will task work to be done by the NATO committees. They'll task the SecGen to produce various reports, and so ministers will receive these reports. Some they will approve, some they will endorse and submit up to heads of state and government at the summit. So it just depends on what the report is and what the issue is.

TASS: [Inaudible]?

DASD Townsend: Well, there's one report that's going to ministers for their review and hopefully, they'll send it up, which concerns changes being made to the NATO command structure. I was personally involved in that one. We met for many, many days in Brussels, trying to figure out what command structure would suit NATO best as it goes forward into the next 10 years of the Strategic Concept. What would work best to provide command and control for NATO operations, for instance.

There are reports dealing with missile defense, there are reports dealing with the comprehensive approach, which is, you know, an approach to conflict where you try to have a melding of civilian and military capabilities together to handle conflict, based on lessons learned over the past 10 years or so.

So there are those kinds of reports that will go to ministers. Some will be noted, some will be approved, some will be endorsed, some will be sent to heads of state and government; but it's all how NATO goes about its work. It's always sending reports to ministers and higher, and getting taskings from them for follow-on work. And the SecGen is in charge of conducting the orchestra, if you will, at NATO: all the committees and all the work that's done by nations to try to keep NATO moving forward.

TASS: Last but not least from me, and most important for me, is Russia on the agenda in any way? Thank you.

DASD Townsend: Well, there's been discussion about meeting with the NATO-Russia Council, and I still think they’re on that type of thing. But on the agenda for the ministerial and the agenda for the summit, Russia is not on the agenda. What’s on the agenda is NATO’s structure for the future, NATO’s vision for the future, what the Strategic Concept, NATO’s reform efforts to try to increasingly make it an affordable alliance as well as an efficient alliance, and how it goes about its day to day operations.

Bloomberg: (Brussels) Hi. I'm Jim Neuger, from Bloomberg.

Just looking ahead to Lisbon, I wondered why the Russian President has yet to accept the invitation to attend. What is the hang-up? Does this have to do with missile defense, perhaps, or some other issue? Does the U.S. government intend to go ahead with missile defense, even if Russia does not accept the latest proposals from the Western side?

DASD Townsend: There are two questions in there and I'll take both of them, one by one.

The first question, as far as Russian participation in the summit, these things are always something that are subject to talks back and forth about what should be on the agenda, how the meeting should be run. It's not something that, in a summit context, can be quickly answered and dealt with, but we're all working on it. And there are other details for the Lisbon Summit that are still coming together as well. So I'm sure that these discussions will continue on, and we'll see how they'll be resolved.

But in terms of missile defense, the phased adaptive approach which is the U.S. program for missile defense that we have, that we’re beginning to talk to some nations about that we’re working on on a bilateral basis right now. We’ve gone to the alliance over the past year and have suggested to the alliance that this is something that should become an alliance capability. That frankly we should build on the existing program that NATO has in terms of missile defense which is designed around protecting deployed forces. So it’s not necessarily a territorial missile defense, it’s a bit of a smaller scale. But our suggestion is, given the unknowns and the threats of the future that it makes sense for the alliance to have a capability to defend allies. So we’ve suggested that to NATO. That’s one of the reports that is being worked on at NATO now is how can we go about doing this, what would the costs be, the feasibility, et cetera, and that work has pretty well progressed. Those are the kinds of things that will be discussed at NATO, at the ministerial on Thursday

But the involvement of Russia in this missile defense -- you know NATO has been working with Russia in the past on theater missile defense, on cooperation on how this can be done as part of the NATO-Russia Council in the past. So there's been a good experience there. And certainly we've talked to Russia as well about participating in this phased adaptive approach and participating in it if NATO, in fact, picks it up as a NATO capability. I think we're all open for Russian participation.

So it's something that is on the agenda as NATO works with Russia and as the United States does as well, how we can go about working together on missile defense, which we think is something important for all of us. And we would hope that as the months come towards us and we begin to work post-Lisbon as well, that there will be an opportunity for us to work with Russia.

TASS: I'm sorry, but I do have a follow-up.

The Russians keep saying that for them the sequence is important. That is, they don't want to be put in front of a fait accompli where NATO makes the decisions first and then invites Russia to take it or leave it as it wants.

Basically, what prevents and is there anything that prevents NATO from working together with Russia from the beginning? Thanks.

DASD Townsend: Well, as I had mentioned, I think Russia and NATO have worked on TMD, as it's called, theater missile defense, for a number of years now they've worked together. And the decision that you're mentioning, NATO's decision, is actually an important step because right now NATO has not agreed with the idea of developing a capability for territorial missile defense. They're looking at it quite seriously and have delved deeply into the details. We've been working with NATO on it. But that's something that hasn't been decided by the alliance. So before Russia can work with NATO in a more expanded program, there does have to be a decision made at NATO. And that decision, we hope, will be one where the alliance says, yes, we need to have this capability for territorial missile defense. We think the U.S. idea is one, acceptable to us and we'll work on it all together.

And once they make that kind of political decision, which I think will probably happen certainly no later than Lisbon, then I think NATO's on board and we turn to partners and say would you like to participate. So I can imagine sequencing is important. That's always, the choreography of these things are always important. And I don't think there's any interest in providing a fait accompli to anyone.

This is something, as you point out with sequencing, where the U.S. has developed an idea. We're pursuing it on a bilateral basis. We want to make this something that we do within the alliance context, and we want Russia to participate. If we can find some good ways that's beneficial for everyone, we want to pursue that. But before we can do that, NATO's got to make a political decision.

Hurriyet: Tolga Tanis from Hurriyet, it’s nice to see you.

Can you give us some details about this bilateral negotiation with the allies on this missile defense system, especially on Turkey? And what is the main topic nowadays? What is the position in this negotiation, the last position in this situation, in these negotiations?

And could you give some details about the importance of Turkey on this program, why U.S. wants to see Turkey on board on this missile defense system? Why the locations, strategic importance? What is the reason?

DASD Townsend: There are a couple of questions in there too, and I will split those out and address them.

We’ve developed a phased adaptive approach and I won’t go through all the technical details, I’m sure you already know them as well. As you know, we started off with a system, the U.S. had started off with a system called the third site, if you will. If you remember back a few years ago working with Poland and the Czech Republic, for various reasons -- changes in technology and the intel assessments, things like that -- this administration shifted to another approach, which was the phased adaptive approach.

And so as we shifted to that approach, one of the major changes from the former to this approach on missile defense is involving the NATO alliance. And so what we did was we began to talk within the alliance and suggest this is an important capability for NATO to take on. But at the same time, we began to talk to other nations on a bilateral basis because, you know, nothing had been decided at NATO. As we were just saying before, it is still looking at this as a political decision.

But we began to talk to nations that could play a role in at least the first phase of this phased adaptive approach, and other phases too. As you know, one of the first nations we talked to was to Poland to see if they could host some of the capability. We've talked to the Czechs, we've talked to Romania, we talked to Turkey. So there are nations we talked to about the phased adaptive approach and asking if they would be willing to host some of the capability.

Turkey plays an important role in this, but I have to start off by saying Turkey plays an important role in NATO to begin with. I would say that there's not a particular program that makes Turkey so important as much as the fact that Turkey has been a very strong ally from the very beginning, and a very active one, and so working with Turkey is something very natural to us.

In the context of the phased adaptive approach, Turkey plays an important role in this program as well, because of its geographic location. And as we look at where the ballistic missile threats can come from, Turkey seems to us to be very much along the front lines. And so in terms of geography, as you pointed out, Turkey would be a good place to have some capability there.

So we've been talking to Turkey as well as to these other nations since the beginning of the phased adaptive approach as we began to refine the plan, as we looked at questions that nations have had about, well, how will this system work, et cetera.

A lot of the discussions also have been going on at NATO, too. As I said, we've been talking bilaterally to some countries, but within the alliance we've been answering questions there dealing with cost. What are the cost factors here for the alliance, for individual allies? How does it work that the United States, you know, with the phased adaptive approach and the equipment that we bring forward, is that included in this?

There are lots of questions as you can imagine that nations have as we've gotten into this work. And I think by now many of these questions have been answered. As I said, a couple NATO committees have been working on aspects of this, and we've gone and seen some of the nations, such as Turkey, Poland, others, we've gone to see them a couple of times with senior-level groups of experts, to sit down around a table and answer detailed questions that nations have.

So it’s been an ongoing process. It's been one that has been very useful, helping us sort out issues as well as the nations involved. And Turkey has played a very helpful role. We've had some very good, deep discussions with Turkey. And now the decisions are in Ankara to make, both on Turkey's role but especially, and this is another important point, especially on where Turkey is when it comes to voting at NATO in terms of this political decision for NATO to take on missile defense as a NATO capability. And it goes back to the question from our TASS colleague here about decisions and sequencing and that type of thing.

And a very important point in this sequencing is this NATO decision on whether to take on missile defense, territorial missile defense, as a NATO capability. And Turkey's got a vote. So we're hopeful that Turkey and all the allies will come forward as we get closer to the summit or at the summit and join in agreement to making missile defense, territorial missile defense, a NATO capability.

Associated Press: Slobodan Lekic from the Associated Press.

I was wondering, do you have any ideas how the new Strategic Concept will try to address this divergence between the United States and some other European countries which favor more activist roles for NATO in overseas operations? And then some European countries which would like to focus more on its traditional, you know, theater of operations in Europe?

DASD Townsend: Thank you. That's an important question, and it's a good one.

The Secretary General has produced his first draft and given it to the allies. I think and a number of colleagues believe that he’s done a pretty good job of trying to strike this balance, if you will.

If you look at the ambitions that the allies have for the alliance, the vision, if you will, that allies have for the alliance, you've got 28 variations on that vision. You’ve got the United States, you have Luxembourg, Iceland, Poland, Estonia, Italy. Everyone as they look at the future, as they look out 10 years and consider how they feel, what the best way is to address security threats over the next 10 years, everyone looks out at a different vector from their capital. Some look south, some look north, some look east, some look west. Some are concerned about terrorism. Some are concerned about WMD. Some are concerned about cyber. You have a number of different and variating views of what we all feel the alliance should be doing in the next 10 years and where the threats to our security lay. And what we want the alliance to look like.

We also feel that NATO needs to work with international organizations such as the UN or the EU in a closer, more cooperative fashion, then we’re able to help out if the need is there on humanitarian types of crises. So there are a lot of missions, a lot of views on where NATO needs to go.

So when you try to write a document that captures all this with a balance it’s pretty difficult. I think we feel the SecGen has done that.

Before I came in as a Deputy Assistant Secretary I was in the civil service, and I worked at NATO and at the Pentagon and I was a defense planner for part of that time. And my job was, as I mentioned earlier, was to look 10 years out and say well, what are the capabilities that we think we're going to need over the next 10 years? What do we think the threats are? How should we ask nations to contribute to the alliance? As you know, that's how the alliance goes about acquiring its capabilities as nations bring them to the table, but they need to kind of have an idea of what might be required. If you will, it's like a potluck dinner, you know. Everyone can't bring desserts. Everyone's got to bring, you know, something that makes sense.

So as defense planners it was our job to take that Strategic Concept and to look ahead and see what it is that we felt we might need. One thing that I learned is that there's no way to know what you think you might need. As I said, when I was doing this in 1999, 2000, 2001, I didn't foresee us being in Afghanistan.

So to nations who feel they know where the real threat is or they know what they think they're going to need in the next 10 years, my experience has been that you have to be ready for many contingencies; you have to have what we call a full range of a capabilities or a full range of ability to take care of things that you have no idea today will actually be on your plate five to 10 years out.

So what the SecGen did with this first draft, and the reforms that we're doing right now in NATO in terms of command structure, in terms of budgeting, in terms of so many things, is to make us more nimble to handle that unknown.

I think over time what's happened is, I think the allies have realized this. I mean, piracy, who would have thought that NATO would have a mission off of Somalia, a naval mission dealing with pirates?

So it's something that no matter if you're navy or air force or land forces, or you have one political perspective or not, or one historic perspective or not, the future doesn't necessarily hold true to what you think it's going to be. So I think the balance arrived at between what allies might consider to be security threats was a very good one, and it's come down on being ready to handle whatever the future might hold and being disciplined and providing the resources so that you are able to do something, whether it's on the high seas off of Somalia or it's something closer to home or it's something halfway around the world in a place like Afghanistan.

That's the place where we want to be, is with this idea of balance and with this idea of being nimble and able to handle what the future's going to hold for us.

Reuters: Thank you. David Alexander from Reuters.

Is Afghanistan going to be on the agenda in some format this weekend? And what are the issues likely to come up there?

DASD Townsend: Well, Afghanistan, as you can imagine since ISAF began, Afghanistan has been the top of the agenda at every ministerial. It's an operation as important as that one is, as large as that one is, with the participation of so many nations in it, both all the allies as well as international partners, it's hard for ISAF and Afghanistan not to occupy a good part of the ministerial.

For the ministerial on Thursday, much of the focus is going to be on issues related to the summit, as I said earlier. And those issues involve strategic concept, it involves reform, it involves a lot of different issues. Afghanistan itself, as a stand-alone issue, at least as of today, is not on there. But Afghanistan impacts so much of what we do, so that no matter the agenda item, no matter the report, no matter, you know, the discussions and the thinking that's going on around the table, Afghanistan plays a role one way or another. I think there's actually going to be a meeting right before the ministerial of all the ISAF contributors. So there will be a big meeting, but not at the ministerial, a couple days before.

So much of this ministerial, this joint ministerial, will be focused on Lisbon items, but as I said, it's hard to do work at NATO and to look into the future and to work with the issues at hand that don't have a connection there. So it's always present.

DPA: Ben Nimmo here from the German Press Agency, DPA.

Coming back to the question of capabilities and the strategic concept, you talked about the lessons from Afghanistan. Is one of the lessons the difficulties which the European allies have in matching the U.S. when it comes to capabilities? I'm thinking particularly of things like strategic lifts, helicopters and the [inaudible]. And is one of the points of the Strategic Concept to try and get the Europeans in particular to up their capabilities to parity with the U.S.? Thank you.

DASD Townsend: Thank you for that question. It's a very important question, and it's a question that has always been a part of the alliance discussion, I think since 1949 at least, which is providing capabilities of the alliance.

There has always been a gulf between the United States as a nation and individual allies in terms of military capability. There's always been a gap. It's something that in some ways is to be expected, because the United States has global interests, we have a military structure and military responsibilities that are more than just in Europe but in fact to span the globe. And so our military structures, our military leadership, our military decisions are broader than the individual allies.

So that's an important point. But the second point is that as we look at alliance capabilities and we look at what individual nations bring to the alliance, keeping up with what NATO has requested these nations provide is the key point.

It's not keeping parity with the United States, or trying to reach parity with the United States, or trying to bridge that gap. I don't expect to see allies building aircraft carriers, you know, four or five of them, or developing -- that's not what we're looking for. What we're looking for is that nations within the alliance meet the terms of the alliance they provided in terms of force goals and this type of thing.

We are looking for nations to keep up defense spending; we've set a target of two percent. I think nations are having a difficult time in this economic situation to meet this two percent of GDP to be spent on defense. We've asked nations to try to come together and make up some of the gaps in terms of key enablers. You mentioned helicopters and strategic lift; those have been on the alliance agenda for years in terms of trying to improve the alliance capability in those areas.

We had a great leap forward actually a few years ago with the C- 17 consortium. I don't know if any of you are aware of this, but it's been a very good initiative where nations buy flight hours, if you will, in C-17 aircraft. And so nations that did not have strategic lift in the past now in fact take part in this consortium and have called upon C-17s that can fly them to Afghanistan or wherever it is that they need to go.

So we are making progress in trying to improve our abilities with these key enablers.

Helicopters are something else. There are a couple of initiatives now going on at NATO to try to improve, through an international approach, improving alliance helicopter holdings, particularly heavy lift helos. This is something that still needs a lot more work. It's something that has been on our agenda, and it's something we have to press hard to make progress on every year.

But again, in the economic situation such as we have now, it's becoming harder for nations to do that. In fact, many nations are having to make dramatic cuts in what they currently have. We know that the UK is going through its strategic review and will be making some announcements about the shape of their military forces. Germany, sir, as you know, is going through something similar. The United States is going through and trying to find economies. All of us are trying to become more efficient and affordable nationally in the way in which we provide for our national security.

NATO is, too. We were talking about these reports in these committees, and NATO has been going through and making reforms to try to make itself as an institution more affordable and more nimble.

So we're all trying to do this. And what's important is that as we go about trying to find these efficiencies and trying to be more affordable, that we not make such cuts in our military forces that we go into muscle, and that as we go about and become more affordable, that these monies that over time might be freed up can be put back into, reinvested back into national defense budgets or into national defense capabilities.

So your question on capabilities is a very timely one. There is for the ministerial and for the summit, an initiative called the Lisbon Capabilities Initiative. Actually I think they've given it a new name, so I'm not quite sure what the new name is. But it's one where we've gone through and we've picked out what we felt were the top 10 priorities of capabilities already in the pipeline for NATO to acquire using common funds that we needed to carry forward and fund completely and take over into implementation.

These programs include those such as dealing with lift. There are programs that deal with Afghanistan and counter-IED. There are programs that deal with cyber. And there are 10 of them. And so right now the committee work and the report looks pretty good in terms of having something for ministers to approve on Thursday and to send up to heads of state and government at the summit that lay out these, and gets commitments from nations that these 10 programs we will carry forward into their concluding phase and we will implement them.

There's a missile defense aspect to one of those programs as well. We'll have to see if NATO makes the political decision first -- back to your sequencing. But these are programs where we are trying to, in these tough economic times, prioritize as best we can, just like capitals are doing, to take forward programs that we know will be important for capabilities into the future.

And I hope, as economic times get better and as we come out of these problems dealing with deficits that some nations have in terms of spending, that as we get back into better days, which we will, but once we get there, we have to turn our attention back to defense budgets, back to the military structures and try to recover what might have been cuts over the past few years.

Asharq Al-Awsat: Thank you. Mina al-Oraibi, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. I have a few questions, so bear with me, but they're all quick ones.

DASD Townsend: Sure, but where are you from again?

Asharq Al-Awsat: Asharq Al-Awsat. It's an Arabic-language international paper.

DASD Townsend: Oh, great. Thank you.

Asharq Al-Awsat: I wanted to ask you firstly, regarding Afghanistan, President Obama in his last conversation with President Karzai said that the NATO summit would have at least two Afghanistan-themed issues to discuss. One in transitioning to Afghan responsibility, and the other part on civilian support and so forth. Is this something that is going to be discussed at this ministerial, or could you elaborate a little bit more how that would come about in the summit?

DASD Townsend: I'm sure on Thursday as ministers gather, both defense and foreign ministers, separately and together, I'm sure that idea of at the summit how we're going to talk about Afghanistan and how we're going to describe to the alliance people how NATO will go about its ISAF operations into the future, I'm sure that will be something that will be discussed on Thursday in the corridors, probably around the table at some point, as well. This is something that we've entered into a very important phase as we've talked about transition and as we've talked about, with President Karzai, his view about how we would go about this transition post-Lisbon.

So I'm sure it will be discussed. As I said, it's not an agenda item on that ministerial agenda. As I said, other issues are going to be discussed. But as I said, you can't get away from this. And I'm sure that in interventions that ministers make, probably when the Secretary General talks, that this will be surfaced in one way or another.

I think there's a lot of work to do between now and the summit to tee up, as we say, or to make ready how we're going to go about describing this plan, something that works for President Karzai and his government, works for the allies, works for the administration. This is all being done right now. And so I think that's an important topic for another time, when there's more to say, and particularly from someone who is more into the details of that than I am.

Asharq Al-Awsat: Lovely. And I just wanted to ask you briefly, in terms of the first draft of the Strategic Concept, do you expect many changes by the time we get to the summit? Are there huge discrepancies, or are you close to getting to an agreement on the final draft?

DASD Townsend: That's a great question. And I think contrary to what all of us imagined six months or a year ago, when we thought that might be the state of play when the first draft came out and you would have great splits and disparities, in fact I think surprisingly, there has been a lot of agreement among a number of nations that the concept looks pretty good as it is. I think there's still some tightening up of words, and hopefully some work in the concept that directly addresses the alliance people and helps to provide them an idea in plain language, if you will, about where the alliance is going and what the vision of the allies are for where NATO is going.

So there have not that I've heard of or seen, there are not the grand splits. And I will tell you why I think that's the case. As you know, the approach taken was to have former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright co-chair, along with colleagues, and one from the Netherlands, as well, who's her co-chair, and they co-chaired a group of experts that did a lot of work for about six to eight months, going to various capitals and holding pretty big seminars. Seminar is probably the wrong word. Conferences with experts and others from those various allied countries to hear from them concerns, to discuss important issues that needed to come up in the Strategic Concept. As you know, Washington, we had one of those conferences at the National Defense University that talked about capabilities and that type of thing.

And so they were very well attended throughout the alliance. Also the experts, after they had these big public conferences or these large conferences, they split off as individuals, and they went to capitals and spoke with governments and think thanks and the media.

And so they gathered a pretty good feeling for what the concerns were that nations had. And so they came back and they wrote their report, which I think you've probably seen. They wrote up their report that was pretty finely balanced. So I think the Secretary General had a very good document from which to base his first draft of the Strategic Concept.

He of course met with perm reps, too. He had away days, as they call them, of the NAC, the North Atlantic Council, with allies. And so he certainly had a lot of input. And right now the indications are that that input served him very well and he's got a draft that does not have big splits. But one can always do better, and I'm sure nations will provide lots of commentary on that first draft. And so he'll get more input, and we'll see how the second draft looks. But right now we're off to a very good start thanks to this experts group, as well as the work of the Secretary General.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Good morning. I'm Alexander Gasyuk, Russian reporter with Russian daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

I have a question with regard to cyber security. According to the numerous reports, Article 5 of Washington Treaty could be put into force if, for instance, some NATO member country is under cyber attack.

Does it mean that NATO could respond to a cyber attack with a military force? Could you elaborate on that? And do you anticipate some kind of political decision on that issue during the ministerial? Thank you.

DASD Townsend: Thank you. That's a very important question. And that goes towards looking towards the future at what we call "future threats." Cyber is one. I wouldn't say WMD and the ballistic missile threat is something that's new. I think we've always been concerned about that. But it's picked up in its intensity in terms of concern that we as allies have to be able to address that.

But on cyber, I think what's going to happen both at the ministerial on Thursday as well as the summit is that the alliance has recognized that it has a lot of work to do in terms of protecting its systems as an institution. I think allies individually are uneven in how they've gone about work to protect their systems, too.

And, you know, cyber is an interesting issue. It's not just a military thing. It's something that concerns the private sector. It concerns governments. It concerns the EU. There is not an institution or a business or a government that is not somehow dependent upon the cyber world. And if something happens to that cyber world, it's felt, and it can be a felt and the magnitude can be tremendous in terms of cyber.

So in terms of wrestling with this as a new threat, it's not something that is just NATO's to do, or the EU. Or it's not just a private-sector problem. It's something that we all have to be concerned about. And the first step, obviously, is to be able to protect your own systems. NATO has, as you can imagine, a very big cyber system, if it has to be able to command and control troops in the field, and its own headquarters and commands that are spread across Europe and the United States. It's something that NATO's got to be able to protect. And so I think the feeling is that there's work to be done there at NATO. There's work to be done nationally. Nations need to do more in terms of cyber.

It's something as you know, the United States is continuing to work on. We've announced the Cyber Command just recently. And it's something that we are learning about and trying to be on top of all the time, which is this idea of a cyber, being able to protect your systems.

In terms of cyber in Article 5, that's a great philosophical issue. What constitutes Article 5 these days? And the great example, obviously, is 9/11. NATO invokes Article 5 for the first time in its history, and it was invoked in a way unexpected by the signers of the North Atlantic Treaty. Who would have thought Article 5 would have been invoked based on an attack on the United States by terrorists?

So Article 5 is something that is invoked by the North Atlantic Council. The nations are the ones, as represented around that table, that will consider an event something worthy of invoking Article 5.

So sitting here and trying to define what is a cyber attack or a terrorist attack or a whatever it might be is a great debate. And we could certainly turn the microphones off, sit in a circle, and talk for two hours on how these kinds of things are thought about. But I think the important point is that Article 5 and how the alliance reacts to an event, whether it invokes Article 5 or not, is something that isn't known until it happens, and the nations meet around the table and decide. And we'll just have to wait until that event happens before we know what might trigger it. It might surprise you the way 9/11 surprised us.

Which takes us back to this point I've been making about being ready for the unknown, having capabilities to handle the full range of threats that may come our way unthought of today. And certainly 9/11 was one of those events of the unknown where the defense planner the day before the event, I had no idea that we would soon be invoking Article 5 based on a terrorist attack.

So whether it's cyber, whether it's WMD, whatever it might be, we have to be ready in the alliance to handle these new threats. That's what the ministerial is going to do Thursday. That's what the summit's going to do. We're going to try to improve the way the alliance deals with this to deal with the future, and at the summit with the Strategic Concept provide a vision to the nations, to the publics within the alliance, and to the outside world of where we feel we need to go as an alliance, and how we deal with the next 10 years where challenges are unknown.

TASS: You referred a couple of times to the affordability of NATO. Can you give us an idea of how much NATO actually costs, and what the budget situation is at present? Thanks.

DASD Townsend: You saved the hardest question for the last. [Laughter].

It's an important question. But, you know, if you want to be really bored I could sit here and put on my accountant's green eyeshade, and I can give you all of the ins and outs of NATO financing. But I'll just give you the top line, as they say.

Much of how NATO does its business as an institution is based on what we call "common funds". Those are monies that are put into the alliance by nations according to a percentage. Every nation has a percentage we've all agreed on of how much they put in.

And the amount that is required is based on what we think we're going to need to spend next year. I mean, it's just like your household budget, assuming you have a budget. I don't have a budget. I just take it as it comes. But at NATO we try to be more disciplined than that.

So we have to figure out in terms of missions and operations that are going on how much do we think we're going to need next year; in terms of capability that we think we need to acquire -- going back to the capabilities question from Brussels. What are those projects that we need to fund next year and that type of thing.

So there are a lot of claimants that come to the budget committees and say, you know, these are the projects we need to fund, et cetera.

What's happened, though, over the past couple of years is that the cost of ISAF in Afghanistan, it gets higher and higher. And we all know that in the alliance, and we've done a lot of work this year in budgetary reform to make sure that we're able to sharpen our estimates on what we need and to make sure that we prioritize well those projects that need to be funded. And certainly missions such as Afghanistan get the top priority.

So I would love to quote you a figure right now, but I don't want to get it wrong. But I think we can certainly give that to you probably later today. I can give you a stack of papers this big, and you can see that. So why don't we you that figure, if we could, Andy. We'll give you that figure.

But it's one that we arrive at by consensus. All the nations sit around a table and for days they debate what the priorities should be and how we go about funding it. And so we agree to that number, and that becomes that top-line figure for the next year. And if we fall short midway through the year, and we need additional funds to finish out the year, we have to go back to nations. And we did that for the first time this year. We did that for the first time.

So it's something that's an important question and one that we will be getting better at handling and addressing as the years go by.

Moderator: I think that's all we have time for today. Thank you all for coming. This event is now concluded. As Mr. Townsend said, we would be fortunate to have him back for a post-ministerial briefing or for a preview to the upcoming summit in Lisbon.

DASD Townsend: Sure. I’m happy to come back.