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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2002 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

NATO: An Alliance for the 21st Century

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Rome, Italy
April 16, 2002

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Thank you very much for coming out. I understand that the competition today is a general strike and Chairman Karzai [Afghan Interim leader Hamid Karzai]. So I appreciate the fact that you are here. I wanted, first of all, to thank our Italian hosts for having us today. I came to Italy for three reasons. First, I came to thank Italy for the continuing effort that Italy is making all around the world in the global war on terrorism; that Italy is making in the Balkans, and that Italy is making as a NATO ally. And I started my conversation today, and every time I had a chance, to say "Stop -- before we get into our business, I want very much to thank Italy for everything that is being done." Second, I wanted to come here to express our continuing support for the NATO alliance and point out that for Americans, NATO can be an alliance for the 21st century. The line I've been using is NATO has adapted, it can adapt, and it will adapt to the new threats and the new challenges that we face in the 21st century. And the third reason I came to Italy and the reason that I am also on this European trip, is to consult with Italy and to consult with other NATO allies about the themes that we ought to be using as we move toward the Prague Summit. Some people are saying, "The Prague Summit is not until November. Why start consulting about it here in April?" But we thought that it would be good to have a conversation with as many of the allies as possible about what can be accomplished at Prague. And the proposition that I made today to our Italian colleagues was that we might consider three different themes for the Prague Summit.

The first theme is "New Capabilities." And that is, that the alliance needs new military capabilities to meet the new threats of the 21st Century -- weapons of mass destruction threat, terrorism threat, other threats that we have seen; and new ways of operating, as we have seen in the military operation in Afghanistan.

The second theme that we discussed today was: "New Members." And that is, that we believe that the Alliance should continue to be open, and continue to expand to those new democracies in Europe who are prepared to bear the responsibility of NATO. We had a good conversation with our Italian colleagues about that. And then the third theme that we proposed for Prague was: "New Relationships." And the new relationship with Russia is high on that agenda. Perhaps a new conversation with Ukraine and Central Asian countries, and I know very important to Italy is the issue of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue. Obviously, coming here today was a good time since we were able to hear from our Italian colleagues about plans for the possible summit on May 28. So new relationships was a very important part of our conversation. So, as I said, our proposition was: here are three themes for Prague: new capabilities, new members, and new relationships. I think -- and obviously the Italian side can speak for itself -- but I think that they were interested in what we had to say. I thought they were very appreciative of what we had to say. And I think, by and large, we're very much going down the same path as we move toward the Prague Summit. With that, again, to just thank my hosts and to thank all of you, I'd be glad to take a few questions. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (AP) -- I just wanted to know something more about a new relationship -- especially with Russia. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has almost hinted that a newer relationship could pave the way, maybe, almost to a new Russia -- to almost becoming a member of NATO. How does the U.S. see this?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: The way we see it is that the foreign ministers, when they met last December, made a promise to themselves that when they got back together in Reykjavik this May, that there would be a new NATO-Russia body. And I believe, and I'm actually quite optimistic, that the negotiations can be complete for that new NATO-Russia body, which is called the NATO-Russia Council, to be complete by Reykjavik, so that foreign ministers of NATO can agree on it, and then, perhaps, in the summit here in Italy, this can be announced; and, as our Italian colleagues said today, can be celebrated. That seems, to us, to be the place on which to focus our attention -- getting this new relationship with Russia, and getting it right. As you know last Friday, the White House Spokesman came right out and said that we supported the position to have a summit here in Italy at the end of May. The summit is between NATO and Russia, and so NATO has to speak yet, but I hope they will do so over the next few days.

QUESTION: (ANSA) - Do you think this Summit will be held in Rome, or is it possible that it will be held in another place?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Oh, I have no idea. That would obviously be up to Italy to make a proposition. It wouldn't be for me to say where this would be.

QUESTION: (Il Sole-24 Ore) - Mr. Berlusconi said recently that the NATO and Russia joint body could be the first step for Russia to be included in the European Union, or associated to the European Union. What do you think about this statement?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, there's an easy answer to that question. One is that Mr. Berlusconi obviously needs to speak for himself; and secondly, we're not members of the European Union, so I wouldn't have any opinion of that one way or the other.

QUESTION: (TIME) - I just wondered if in the course of your meetings here in Italy, and your other meetings in Europe, you've been talking about the situation in the Middle East; if you've been conferring, particularly here, also if you've had any meetings with anyone from the Vatican about the situation in Bethlehem, and if that's been on your agenda, in terms of coordinating Secretary Powell's work with the European allies.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, it has not. It has not. I was yesterday in Brussels, this morning in Turkey, and I've been here in Italy this afternoon, and I have been here to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have had the good fortune to see people here, but it was wholly and solely on the question of NATO and Prague. Okay? Thanks a lot.

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