Upcoming NATO Ministerial MeetingDaniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
November 25, 2008
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: All right. Let me just start. Thanks, nice to see everybody. And I suppose we’re doing this a bit early because of the Thanksgiving holidays, and I hope that Sean McCormack walked you through the general timeline of the trip so I won’t have to. I’ll get to the substantive issues of the two – really, the two ministerials. One is NATO; the other is OSCE.
There is an underlying strategic commonality to our approaches in the world. And in my opinion, certainly, the United States has a natural – there will be a natural coming together of the United States and Europe because of the commonality of values. I’ve said this before. I think it remains true. Let me go into some of the specifics, though.
At NATO, there will be really two kinds of issues discussed. One will be NATO’s operations and its missions particularly in Afghanistan, but also in Kosovo. I expect, as Sean said yesterday, that the Secretary will talk about the way ahead in Afghanistan. And this is – we’ve been thinking about the way ahead. We’ve been learning some lessons. It is an enormously complicated issue. We have made progress, obviously. Obviously – equally obviously, there is a great more to do. So she’ll be talking about the way ahead. This is – NATO’s premier military mission has to succeed.
There will be discussion of Kosovo, and although the issues are very complicated there, NATO’s mission remains critical, especially as we enter a time of transition from the UN mission to the EU mission, which may sound to some of you a technical change, but it isn’t. It’s a very serious one, and there has been a lot of intense diplomacy over the past three weeks having to do with this.
NATO’s mission, though, is accepted universally. It’s very popular with the Kosovars. And NATO commanders are doing a good job. U.S. is about 10 percent of the force of about 15,000. Europeans are – make up the rest. So there will be a discussion of that. There will be a discussion of missile defense and I suspect a reaffirmation of the Bucharest decision, which supported missile defense. Since Bucharest, NATO’s military experts have been studying various options for linking the NATO system with the U.S. system.
Now this is really not for foreign ministers; it’s for defense ministers and it is a process that is not going to lead to a dramatic decision now. But I mention it because even as there is a large debate about missile defense, NATO has taken a position in support of missile defense, and NATO is even trying to find out how to make this system that the U.S. plans to put into Poland and the Czech Republic as multilateral as possible and work and combine it with NATO systems, and hopefully, therefore also give us the basis to work with the Russians.
If the Russians accept or ever accept our proposal about strategic cooperation on missile defense, it turns into not just a U.S.-Russia deal, but a potentially knitting up – potential to knit up a NATO missile defense set of systems, the U.S. system, and the Russian existing missile defense system into something which will benefit all of us and significantly improve security overall. So this will be – there will not be a decisive moment on missile defense, but there will be a discussion as we advance along the lines I’ve discussed.
There will also be discussions of NATO’s capabilities. Again, this is defense ministers, not foreign ministers, but it’s part of what foreign ministers do. NATO has been working to develop strategic lift capability, cyber defense capability -- there’s a NATO office in Estonia. And as part of this, also, there will probably be a discussion of piracy and NATO’s role with the EU in combating piracy, which obviously is a major and growing problem.
Finally, there will be the issue of continued process of NATO enlargement, of NATO’s relationship to Russia, and in particular, the issue of Georgia and Ukraine and their future relations with the alliance. Now this was a major theme of Bucharest. And some of you remember all the drama in Bucharest, where there was – this was – in my experience, this was the most dramatic summit and the most open-ended NATO summit I’ve ever attended, because leaders went into the room not knowing what the outcome would be, and came out with a compromise outcome which left, actually, all sides in the debate feeling pretty good about it.
That Bucharest decision has as its foundation that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of the alliance. Understood, though not stated, but clearly understood was that they will become members when and if, but when they meet NATO’s standards and requirements. And it is understood and agreed that both Georgia and Ukraine have a lot of work to do to meet these requirements. Different – they have different challenges. These are different countries. But they have a lot of work. There was never ever a discussion of actually extending to either Georgia or Ukraine an invitation to join NATO. This is, by all accounts, some time away, matter of years, and the Georgians and the Ukrainians acknowledge this. That is not controversial.
The controversy at Bucharest was about the NATO Membership Action Plan and whether or not they should be allowed to join this weigh station or particular path in the longer process of joining NATO. And there was a huge and heated debate about this. And to some degree, the debate about MAP took on a life of its own and the issue of MAP became weighted down with all kinds of issues. There is always the danger in foreign policy of forgetting what it is you set out to do. MAP was never an end in itself. It was created in 1999 when NATO was not ready to extend membership invitations to a number of countries, but it wanted to show that these countries were on their way to NATO eventually. So it created MAP.
It was a perfectly good idea and it served – it has served its purpose well of showing a political commitment to help countries get ready for NATO membership when they were not ready yet to receive an invitation. But it was not an end in itself. I mention this because the debate about MAP, as I said, took on a life of its own. And we were all, as an alliance, in danger of having a huge debate about MAP, forgetting that we had had a huge consensus decision that, for Georgia and Ukraine, NATO membership is the agreed end state when and if they’ve made the grade.
And so to some degree, the debate is almost – the debate about MAP is not as important as it once was. Because having made this decision that NATO membership is the end state, then the challenge is for these countries to demonstrate their readiness, and for us to help them. The burden should be on them to demonstrate their readiness and undertake the reforms they need. And our task is twofold: to help them and find a mechanism to help them; and to make clear that we really mean it, that the process of NATO enlargement will continue.
For both Ukraine and Georgia, there are mechanisms to help them achieve these reforms, and in the case of Ukraine, it’s the NATO-Ukraine Commission; in the case of Georgia, it’s the NATO-Georgia Commission, which is – which was established last August right after the Russo-Georgian war. So I cannot tell you where foreign ministers will come out in this debate, but we think that rather than have a huge debate on MAP which is, after all (a), a secondary issue and (b) is itself nothing but a mechanism to achieve an agreed aim, we ought to concentrate on the areas where the alliance is already agreed, which is that these countries will join NATO, but they have a lot of work to do and we will help them achieve this.
There will also be a lot of discussion about relations with Russia. And there will be a discussion about how the NATO-Russia relationship can develop when Russia has, after all, attacked one of its neighbors. The Georgia-Russia war had complicated origins, not simple ones. This is not a simple issue. But Russia did attack Georgia. This is a huge problem. The alliance has to decide what kind of relations it will have with Russia. Nobody agrees there should be no relations with Russia. Nobody believes it should be back to business as usual. So within that middle, there is already – there is already an understanding in the alliance that somewhere in the middle, we need to articulate NATO’s relationship with Russia.
Finally, there is also the issue of how NATO will respond and how NATO countries will respond to President Medvedev’s proposal for a new European security architecture. No one knows quite what that means. The Russians have not been terribly specific about it. But we have a number of questions, and serious questions. And I think there is sense in the alliance that we should work together on formulating a common response to this Russian proposal.
Now this is a lot of work and I haven’t even gotten to the OSCE ministerial, but rather than go on and monopolize, why don’t I stop, answer questions about this and about the OSCE ministerial. And of course, there will be ample opportunity on the road, on the plane, late at night to go through all of these things as the trip unfolds.
So there it is.
STAFF: Rob is going to moderate.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Okay.
MR. MCINTURFF: We’ll start with questions over here.
QUESTION: You mentioned on MAP for Georgia and Ukraine that the point is to get them to the point where they meet NATO standards. But is there some other mechanism besides MAP that they could pursue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well --
QUESTION: Is that the only way to get there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Historically, no, MAP is not the only way to get there. Before 1989, NATO had enlarged several times -- you know, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain. MAP didn’t exist. The post-’89 – the first and most -- in some ways, most dramatic post-1989 enlargement to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary was also decided without MAP. The invitation was extended in ’97; MAP was created in 1999. So it is a factual matter that MAP has not been the only mechanism to NATO enlargement. The question is: Is it the only mechanism? Though it hasn’t been the only mechanism, and so there is some discussion of what – how this useful tool should be considered. And NATO staff were all discussing this, trying to find the best way forward.
But everyone agrees that NATO membership should be a function of the readiness of these countries to meet NATO standards. And let me be very specific. Chancellor Merkel was opposed to a MAP for Georgia, but her opposition was -- the Germans told us – and she said, and I believe, was not based on somehow giving Russia a right of veto, but was based on concerns about Georgia’s readiness.
So given that, and the fact that I think that is – that actually reflected her views, the issue of Georgia’s readiness is one that we can easily handle. We all know that Georgia is not ready now for NATO membership. We all know that it has a prospect of NATO membership. So let’s not debate theology. Let’s help Georgia build up much stronger institutions, consolidate its democracy, and of course, now after the war, consolidate its sovereignty in conditions of peace. That’s going to keep us all very busy and quite gainfully employed.
There will be – I think it’s fair to predict there would be no membership – NATO membership offer for, you know, some years to come, just taking a look at these countries realistically, and they wouldn’t disagree.
MR. MCINTURFF: Tom (inaudible).
QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. You know, you said so clearly that MAP was never an end in itself. The Estonian President, when he convened the defense ministerial two weeks ago, went further. He accused NATO of having made a fetishization of MAP. So I see how you want to do away with MAP as the focus as a compromise. But Germany and France and those who oppose letting Ukraine and Georgia in like the MAP as a way to keep them out for right now. So I understand your logic, but those who are opposed to speedy membership might not buy it because they think that you’re actually fast-tracking them by saying, “Let’s not worry about MAP.”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, it is certainly the case that – a fact that nervousness about some rush to grant NATO membership may be playing a part in some Europeans’ thinking. But I do not believe there would be any interest in extending – on the part of any country in extending an invitation to join the alliance before a country was ready.
There is a great deal of realism in Washington, but in other capitals, about how much work Ukraine and Georgia have to do. But it is also important that the alliance make clear that we were serious in Bucharest, that NATO membership ought to be a function of these countries’ own readiness, and NATO’s own decisions about what will benefit security and not a Russian veto.
Now this is not an easy issue. Russia has always regarded NATO enlargement with suspicion. That is a mistaken view, in my opinion, because the result of NATO enlargement has been to significantly and undeniably increase security in Central and Eastern Europe. And I would cite as evidence the many predictions in Washington that after 1989, the newly liberated countries of Central and Eastern Europe would, surely it was felt – wrongly – but would, surely it was felt, fall into the kind of hostile nationalist squabbling that had characterized their relations in the 1930s. And the antidote, the remedy for that was to bring all of these newly liberated, insecure, nervous countries into a wider European security and political structure. And it worked. It worked so well no one can ever believe that this much larger, much securer Europe was anything other than inevitable. But I can assure you, at the time, it was not only seen as not – it was seen as highly unlikely.
So NATO enlargement has worked well and worked exactly as the proponents hoped it would. And this is back in the Clinton Administration; it was bipartisan then. NATO enlargement can still fulfill this role if countries are ready. If they’re not ready, then it’s not going to work. So NATO has also been an incentive to push countries to take reforms and to clean up their act and improve relations with their neighbors with NATO membership as the goal out there. And it’s worked very well.
EU – you know, the U.S. isn’t part of the EU process, but EU enlargement has had a similar effect, profoundly stabilizing, profoundly beneficial. So that’s what we want to keep. We want to keep that process in motion, even though the circumstances have changed, and it may take more time and the Russians are very much opposed. But it is still a process that can work. It will not be simple; it will not be easy; it will not be swift, but moving forward, is still something that we believe is in the interests of the alliance and Euro-Atlantic security. Help these countries get ready.
MR. MCINTURFF: Michele.
QUESTION: In helping get them get ready, does that include helping Georgia rebuild its military? Would you like to see other NATO countries help do that? And secondly, there’s the question of, sort of, the decision making there in Georgia. Is it – do you think it would be useful -- the Europeans have already started a commission to look into what started this war -- whether the U.S. is starting to look into the signals that it gave to Saakashvili early on?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, with respect to the latter question, I am personally familiar with the signals we gave to the Georgians. And our -- the signals we gave to the Georgians were unambiguous, consistent, and extended over a period of time. I think that the European proposal of a formal study – of a formal European study on the causes of the war could have certain advantages. It is likely, based on the evidence I’m familiar with, that there will be – that the Georgian Government will be criticized for its decision to move into Tskhinvali on the night of August 7th, 8th.
The United States has publicly and formally said that this was a mistake. We think it was. But it will also find that this – the Georgians didn’t move out of the clear blue sky. They did so after months of repeated provocations and under conditions of instability and constant attacks. Now there’s – obviously, you can always look at more and more evidence, but I think that a serious study – and take a look at the Amnesty International report or the Human Rights Watch studies, they all end up saying pretty – these are credible organizations, highly credible in most cases.
They have concluded that the shelling and the ethnic cleansing against Georgians was pretty severe. They’ve also criticized the Georgians. And I think that somewhere in that range of – well, there were a lot of mistakes, but, you know, Russia was the country that crossed an international boundary, not Georgia, to attack its neighbor, is going to be the bottom line conclusion. Anyway, I think that the – that such a study could be useful.
With respect to the Georgian military, we’re looking at that, of what – of how we can work with the Georgian military in the future. And we certainly, as an objective, want to help Georgia be able to defend itself, but I don’t think there’s much interest in providing Georgia with, for example, a massive ground assault capability – you know, a ground assault offensive capability. Now I’m not a military person, so what kind of programs make sense.
First, however, we want to see the situation in Georgia stabilized. Last week, I was at the Geneva talks about Georgia which made some modest progress. Georgians participated in that. All the parties participated. We want to see the situation stabilize. We want to see these incidents and the shootings and the raids across the border by South Ossetian militias diminished, halted if possible. We want to see the Georgian economy recover. And we think that the way forward is not just – is hardly just military assistance, but the way forward involves helping Georgia stabilize its economy, help it stabilize the security situation in the area, work with Russia to the degree Russia share these – shares these aims, despite our disagreements with Russia on other issues like their highly unfortunate recognition of these breakaway territories.
So there is a tremendous amount of work to do. And we think that giving Georgia an ultimate goal of membership in the institutions of Europe and the Euro-Atlantic family is a good way to help stabilize them if you’re also being very clear that there are certain standards they have to follow. Okay? Long answer, but this is a complicated issue, not – you know, it’s not the bumper sticker answer. Sorry.
QUESTION: Secretary Fried?
MR. DUGUID: Wait to be recognized.
MR. MCINTURFF: Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Secretary Fried, what about FYROM, since the U.S. wanted FYROM to become a full NATO member in December?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, we have supported the UN process of trying to negotiate a solution to this problem. I regret very much that there hasn’t been a solution found. It is a pity. It certainly would serve everyone’s interests if this issue were removed from the agenda. It does Greece no good, it seems to me, as an outsider, to have an unhappy and insecure neighbor to its north. And it does Macedonia no good to have a bad relationship with Greece. So we want to see the relationship develop. Matt Nimetz is a creative, thoughtful person. He’s come up with some ideas that seem reasonable, but we’re –we can’t force any party to come to a conclusion on this. We just hope that they will soon.
QUESTION: And do you think that the decision by Skopje to refer the name issue to the International Court of Justice makes the matter more complicated because it’s going to take more than five years?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, I hope that the process of resolving the name issue can go forward anyway. It’s important that it does. I understand that it is a very frustrating process for Macedonia. But nobody in the Balkans is going to be changing their geography anytime soon. Everybody has got the neighbors they’re going to have forever, and the question is can people find a way to settle these issues. The United States has recognized Republic of Macedonia as Republic of Macedonia, as you know. And Greece disagrees with that, but we support the UN process and we hope it succeeds. Thank you.
MR. MCINTURFF: Let’s go over here.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, can you expect some sort of a new civilian initiative? I know the Administration is outgoing, but can there be a new proposal undertaken in terms of putting --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, we’ve been – we have been thinking about our Afghanistan strategy for a long time. I am actually not the – I don’t have the lead on this issue, though obviously, I followed it very closely. For – ever since the – starting with the Riga NATO summit, NATO has realized, the United States has realized that there was not a military solution to this that success would lie in knitting together military-civilian governance issues, economic issues. And increasingly, we’ve realized that progress will also depend on progress with Pakistan.
Now this is a complicated set of issues. The Administration is looking at this. And no doubt the Obama administration will do so as well. I don’t think there will be a dramatic announcement, but I think there will be a discussion of the way ahead.
MR. MCINTURFF: Charlie.
QUESTION: Dan, (inaudible) in if you will, the – during the war, there were -- some U.S. military equipment was taken by the Russians. What’s the status of that? The last time I looked, they were still not – had not been returned to us. And if that’s true, they haven’t been. What’s being done to try and get them back, if anything?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: It is true that the Russians took – I believe it was some humvees, and at one point, a Russian general said it was war booty or prize of war; struck us as rather curious. The – but it has not been returned as far as I know. We have asked about it, and again, the Russians said it was a prize of war, a rather odd phrase.
QUESTION: Have you dropped it? I mean, is it --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, we have asked the Russians about it. I will – I can find out when is the last time we have asked the Russians about it. And my colleagues at the Defense Department may have more to say.
QUESTION: Going back to MAP, do you expect there to be a discussion of MAP for Georgia and Ukraine, or is – from the U.S. standpoint, is it completely – it’s – you see there is no point because it’s become a distraction and you’re abandoning it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: There will certainly be a discussion of NATO’s relationship and the membership track for Ukraine and Georgia. There are discussions ongoing now about all of this. So there will certainly be a discussion of these issues and the role of MAP. As how that discussion will come out, I can’t say, but it’s one of the issues that we’re working on now. And I didn’t say so before, but President Ilves of Estonia is both articulate and accurate in describing, you know, rather pungently, the way this debate got off course and focused on what is a secondary issue, ignoring the real issues of how do we frame up the challenge of the membership track for Ukraine and Georgia in a way that makes sense for the whole alliance.
QUESTION: Yeah, just back to Afghanistan. How do you expect President Karzai’s statement today about calling for a timeline for ending the war in Afghanistan to affect the debate there at the NATO ministerial?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I haven’t seen the statement. Obviously, we are aware that – we’d all like to see the conflict over. We’re not the ones perpetuating it. The problem is that the insurgents, the Taliban commanders, terrorists are the ones perpetuating this. So we – the question is how do we and the Afghan Government increase stability; what combination of political, economic, good governance and reconciliation measures work.
And that’s something the Administration is looking at and we’re talking to the Afghans. And I suspect it will come up both at the ministerial and on the margins.
MR. MCINTURFF: We have time for a couple more.
QUESTION: You said you expect a debate on MAP, but do you expect a vote? And will you push for a vote -- will you push this issue to a vote?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: A vote?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Oh, you mean --
QUESTION: On whether to offer MAP now.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I think there will certainly be a discussion and we will want to find a strong consensus in the alliance based – taking the Bucharest decision as a foundation and moving on from there. Look, I found the Bucharest meeting to be just, in a sense, exhilarating to see an alliance grapple with an issue at the level of leaders without a safety net. But I don’t have to repeat all exhilarating experiences every time, but (inaudible).
QUESTION: But given what happened in Georgia, given the war, there’s no way MAP would pass now, would it? Is there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, the issue – but as I was saying earlier, the debate about MAP took an odd course, because if you started focusing on this instrument, the Membership Action Plan, which we created to serve a larger end, which was to have a measured, thoughtful pace of helping countries get ready for NATO membership, the purpose of NATO enlargement isn’t to serve itself. The purpose is the greater security for Europe and greater support for countries emerging from – well, for some of the countries emerging from communism, and that’s the end we have to try to achieve.
QUESTION: But have you got another instrument for them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, there are other instruments. Before 1990 – you know, before the first post-’89 enlargement, MAP didn’t exist. Now there is a NATO-Georgia Commission and a NATO-Ukraine Commission which is a perfectly good instrument. But nobody’s talking about abolishing MAP either. And then beyond that, there’s – there’ll be a NATO discussion about how we put these things together. Can’t say what the outcome will be.
QUESTION: Maybe there’s no need to add anything more. Does the U.S. want something more, like a –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, we want to see -- that’s actually a fair point. We want to see – we had a decision in Bucharest. We want to see the way forward for these countries clear and unencumbered, but also made clear that the responsibility for getting ready for NATO membership is for them. We can help them, but they have the work to do. That’s the right way to look at this rather than debating, well, do the Russians like it, do the Russians not like it. If you ask the Russians, the answer will be no, they don’t like it.
But the issue is are these countries ready; do they have the strong institutions; have they met NATO’s other criteria that we’ve laid out in the past. And that’s what we need to reaffirm. And there’s actually a – I think a pretty good basis for a consensus along those lines.
MR. MCINTURFF: Let’s do one final question right here.
QUESTION: Could you talk a bit more about the part of – I mean, the relations with Russia? Or would it be a discussion only about the possibility to restore the NATO-Russia Council or are you talking about launching some kind of new mechanism, or -- because the Russians are not satisfied with that, as well. That’s my understanding. Ambassador Kislyak speaking here last week meant -- stressed the part when – you know, during the war when the Russians proposed to convene the Council, it was frozen. And basically, you are saying there would be no business as usual. Ambassador Kislyak is saying the same thing. Both sides are not satisfied with that. And what’s going to happen?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, we obviously have had concerns about whether Russia shared a set of underlying values with the NATO Alliance. We do have – there are areas where NATO and Russia have overlapping interests and we ought to find ways to work together. We do have significant differences and we’re troubled by what the Russians did, particularly by using – I hate to say it so bluntly – but using war as a means to change international borders, or attempt to change international borders, because no one really has recognized what the Russians have done except the Russians themselves, and I suppose Nicaragua. But Ambassador Kislyak is right when he says – and I’ve heard him say this before – that NATO and Russia have a certain potential to work together that hasn’t been realized. That’s true. And we want to find a way forward.
If Russia works – is able to work with us to help stabilize the situation in Georgia, help use its influence and act responsibly to help stop these raids into the rest of Georgia, these attacks on Georgian civilians, if Russia helps increase international monitoring, we would work with Russia along these lines, despite our serious and ongoing disagreements about recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and that would also improve the basis for good NATO-Russia relations.
But we want to work – there is an understanding in the alliance that we’re going to have to work, and we want to work with Russia. But no business as usual does not mean no business at all. Okay.
MR. MCINTURFF: Thank you all very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: All right.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you expect any big speeches by the Secretary anywhere in the trip? And just for the sake of broad-brushing it, can you give the dates of each stop?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Oh, I don’t believe she’s going to give a major speech. You’ll obviously see her and she will come speak – she will also speak at the NAC, but that’s closed. The – I thought Sean walked you through the trip.
STAFF: I thought we sent out an S travel advisory.
QUESTION: Maybe, but I --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Yeah, there was a release. She goes – she flies Sunday night.
STAFF: There is a press (inaudible).
QUESTION: From when to when? But --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: She goes Sunday night to London, arrives Monday -- Monday in London, I think arrives Tuesday in Brussels. But I don’t have the dates in my head. I would hate to mislead you. Sorry.
QUESTION: Okay. Sean pointed everyone to the – or Robert pointed everyone to the Press Office. Come over and we’ll walk you through it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Okay.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: And you will have plenty of opportunities to tackle me, and if you’re very lucky, you will get to tackle my new Principal Deputy Marcie Ries who will be with the Secretary the whole way. She replaced Kurt Volker, who is off to NATO. So you’ll have, you know –
STAFF: It’s only going to be wires, so you won’t be tackled. (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Targets of opportunity, okay.
Released on November 26, 2008