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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2001 > December

Remarks following the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council

Secretary Colin L. Powell
NATO Headquarters
Brussels, Belgium
December 6, 2001

9:40 a.m. EST

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The world has changed dramatically since September 11 and NATO has responded dramatically. Immediately after the September 11 attacks NATO was the first to offer its support, invoking Article V for the first time in its history. On a personal note, I will never forget the afternoon of the 12th of September, the day after the attack, talking to the Secretary General, Lord Robertson, and getting this expression of solidarity on the part of NATO.

It has meant a great deal to us in the United States to have this immediate response on the part of this great alliance we have proudly served within over the last many, many years. Fifty-two years. And to see that everybody recognized that this attack was so severe that it warranted Article V. This unflinching decision, and the critical assistance this alliance has provided, has sent a clear message to our enemies about the depth of our common purpose.

These attacks have demonstrated just how indispensable the NATO alliance with its collective defense commitment remains to our security, fifty years after the creation of NATO. Our resolve is shown by the NATO AWACS flying over the skies of North America and by NATO naval forces deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Allied nations sent forces to the field to fight side by side alongside our forces, and more are standing by should they be needed.

A decade ago, allies decided to address the threats of the 21st century, including terrorism. September 11 added new urgency to this process. Today, building on our obligations under Article III of the North Atlantic Treaty, we agreed to move rapidly to defend against terrorism and other emerging threats.

More broadly, NATO continues to enhance stability and security throughout the Euro-Atlantic area. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has sought to build closer ties with Russia as a means of increasing that security. Today, the Alliance discussed ways to enhance our partnership with Russia, to build a more open, cooperative and confident relationship that reflects the values and interests we share with Russia. Our goal is to create a NATO-Russia Council to pursue opportunities for joint action at 20 when our views converge. We have asked our ambassadors in Brussels to work out details in the coming months. This is an opportunity for NATO and Russia to improve qualitatively the way we work together.

Let me stress, however, that as we strengthen ties with Russia, it is not becoming a NATO member. NATO, at 19, will maintain its prerogative to act independently on any issue. So we are not limiting NATO by NATO "at 20" but, in fact, we’re leveraging NATO with the inclusion of Russia in NATO at 20.

NATO has a lot of other important issues on its plate as it prepares for next year’s summit in Prague. We have made great strides since the end of the Cold War in overcoming divisions of the past and reaching out to former adversaries. But we have yet to complete our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

We remain firmly committed to continuing the enlargement process at the Prague summit in November of 2002. NATO will continue to anchor the continent’s new democracies firmly in the transatlantic community and to ensure the success of democratic institutions and the democratic transition process.

We also discussed ways to intensify our outreach to all of NATO’s partners, many of whom are playing vital roles in the campaign against terrorism. We particularly welcome NATO’s efforts to strengthen partnerships with the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus region.

NATO’s success in the Balkans demonstrates our ability to meet whatever challenges confront us. Alliance solidarity remains the cornerstone of our policy there. As President Bush has said clearly, "We came in together. And we will leave together." This commitment has not changed even as we work together to hasten the day when the region can look forward to a secure future in partnership with NATO and its Partnership for Peace, and without a NATO-led force present.

As allies prepare the way to Prague next November, NATO and the transatlantic community continue to form the indispensable foundation for the peace and prosperity of all our nations and those who are friends of NATO as well. Since NATO’s creation over fifty years ago, we have met our challenges together. And together we will conquer today’s challenges as well.

Thank you very much. Now I’m prepared for your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there has been a report in the last hour, so I'm not sure you're aware of it, that Mullah Omar has talked about relinquishing control of Kandahar Friday. Are you aware of it, and do you have a comment?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am aware of the report. I can't confirm it. I think it reflects the fact that Kandahar is under a great deal of pressure, and the Taliban control in that part of the country is starting to fragment and come apart. And I think it is just a matter of time. And if this report turns out to be accurate, I think it will be a very positive move, as we get rid of the Taliban regime and prepare the country for the return of legitimate government in the form of the interim administration, which was created earlier this week in Bonn.

QUESTION: How do you think how the newly established friendship between Russia and NATO will reflect on the relationship between NATO and the US, with the Caucasian states, in particular with Georgia?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it will enhance our ability to deal with difficult issues such as Georgia. We will be meeting NATO at 20, when we get it all established. The 20 will be meeting on a very regular basis here in Brussels. I would expect they could meet several times a week. There is an opportunity for greater consultation and coordination, a greater opportunity for us to present our current concerns to Russia, and for Russia to respond to those concerns and to give us their perspective.

So I think this will make it easier for us to deal with these sorts of issues as they come along that affect the entire Euro-Atlantic community. And so I think it will enhance our ability to deal with these kinds of issues.

QUESTION: Could you please comment on another aspect of the situation in Afghanistan, with General Dostum appearing to oppose the government deal?

And also, on the Middle East, you have been asking President Arafat to make 100 percent effort; he seems to have done just that, and he has run into some difficulties. What would you like to say to him now?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to General Dostum, I don't have any details on the position you just described. I am confident, however, that the interim administration that has been selected is representative of the Afghan people and all the various parts of Afghan society. It will enjoy the support of the international community. It will be able to set up a government that then can expand into a broader government.

And so I hope that upon reflection all of the leaders in Afghanistan, the military leaders and other leaders, will welcome the arrival of the interim administration on the 22nd of December. And notwithstanding what differences may exist between individuals and the administration, I hope they will put those differences behind them in order to give the Afghan people a new lease on life with this new government.

With respect to the Middle East, our message has been clear and consistent for the last several days, that Chairman Arafat has to make 100 percent effort. I have noticed in the last 24 hours that there have been more arrests, there have been other activities on his part that are promising. But I think more is required. I recognize that he is having some difficulties with those organizations which resist his authority. The very fact that they are resisting his authority makes it that much more important for him to apply that authority.

I have been in contact with General Zinni, our envoy in the region, and my diplomats in the region, and we are still doing everything we can to get the situation under control and to see if we can start conversations again with security officials on both sides, and that is not a lost cause. There has been some minor progress in the last 24 hours, as General Zinni has talked to both sides, and start to put in place a way in which the two sides can start talking to each other, security officials to security officials, to bring some order out of this chaos and this very, very dangerous situation.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a question on the campaign against terrorism. Prior to the offensive against the al-Qaida and the Taliban, the United States made a great effort to lay before its allies the evidence that it had for the links between this organization and the attacks in the United States.

If and when you decide to move to another stage of the campaign, possibly targeting other countries, will you be, as a preliminary, setting out your evidence in that sort of detail prior to taking any military action against other countries?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States will not act against another country or another group without a basis for taking such action. Taking military action is a serious matter, and we don't do it unadvisedly or without having solid evidence. It will depend on the specific country involved or the specific group involved as to what we are able to put in the public domain with respect to evidence. With respect to al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden and the Taliban, we were able to put some information out rather quickly, and then our British colleagues were able to put out another body of information, and then we were able to follow up.

And there were those then who said, do you have all the evidence that you need? And we were quite sure we did, and put out as much as we reasonably could at that time, considering security concerns. But I don't think there is anybody who doubts now that al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden were responsible for what happened on the 11th of September. And we will act with the same care and consideration as we move forward to Phase 3 and the subsequent phases of our campaign against terrorism.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, before you arrived here in Brussels, you said that you were going to be talking with US allies about various offers to contribute to this international peacekeeping force, this coalition of the willing. You said you were going to try to answer questions about the mandate, the size, who would lead it. Have you come any closer to that, in putting this force together, and is it necessary for this force to be in place before December 22nd, when the interim administration moves to Kabul?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have had some bilateral discussions with my colleagues here, and I expect to have more in the course of the afternoon, just to share with them my thinking on it, the United States thinking on it, and to get their views. The interim administration that was created in Bonn has asked for an international force to come in, and we are now talking to our friends, talking to the United Nations about what the mandate of this force should be, what mission should it be ready to perform. They asked for it initially to be in Kabul. Where will we put it in Kabul?

And what has impressed me so greatly are the number of countries who have stepped forward and said they are willing to contribute troops to such a force. There will be no shortage of troops. Getting the right mix and determining the leadership of this force has yet to be sorted out. For the foreseeable future, General Tommy Franks, our commander, the CENTCOM commander, will command all of the coalition forces that are in the theater, because he still has a mission of going after al-Qaida, the Taliban and Usama bin Laden.

I would expect, however, that as the international force comes into the theater, and as General Franks winds down his part of the mission, we would pass off control to the leader of this coalition of the willing. The point with respect to whether we get it in there before the 22nd or not, we haven't really discussed this, whether that is an essential matter or not. The 22nd isn't that far away and you just don't beam people in. There is quite a process required to identify units, get them ready to go and then actually move them into the theater.

Let me just touch on the fact that there are so many countries, not only in NATO and elsewhere, that are willing to contribute. There has been some speculation that NATO was kept on the sidelines. Quite the contrary, it was just a source of great encouragement to me to see how so many of our NATO colleagues came forward immediately and said, we'll put 2,000 people on alert, we'll put 6,000 people on alert, we'll give you more AWACS, we'll give you C-130s, we'll give you special operating forces. We're ready, tell us what you need. There are 200 liaison officers at our headquarters in Tampa, Florida, all anxious to be a part of it. I understand that.

But when you run a campaign plan, you have to feed units into the campaign as you need them, and there will be future needs as we get into this international peacekeeping force. So the suggestion that NATO has been kept on the sidelines is not an accurate one. NATO was right there at the very beginning with the offer of its capabilities.

And then we had the option, the pleasant option, of choosing from that menu that was provided and all that capability that was made available to us by NATO. That shows the relevance of NATO. And as we get further into this international peacekeeping force, I am quite sure we will be going back to our NATO allies, most likely on a bilateral basis or within the UN framework, to ask them to bring those capabilities, bring those units forward in order to keep Afghanistan moving in the right direction. Far from being on the sidelines, NATO has been front and center since day one.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we only have time for two more.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, just to follow up on this, do you see a collective NATO role in this international force in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am sure it will be discussed collectively within NATO councils. But as you know, Article V doesn't say the whole alliance has to respond collectively. Each individual member of the alliance decides how it will contribute to that Article V invocation requirement or commitment. And so I am quite sure we will be discussing with Lord Robertson and his colleagues what the needs are. But then I think the actual contributions and the deals that will be cut will be between the leader of the coalition of the willing and the individual countries who are offering capabilities, because they will not only be NATO offers, they will be offers from many other nations around the world who have made such offers, and there will have to be a UN role in it as well.

So it will be a little complicated, but we have dealt with complicated situations like this before, and they all tend to work out notwithstanding what looks like bureaucratic impasses at the front end.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in previous NATO and NAC meetings, some of the issues of contention were very much related to the US and to Russia, like the ABM Treaty, like concern over US national missile defense. And now we are told at this meeting they didn't come up, if at all, or at least weren't heated arguments. Do you think that these matters are just being obscured for the time being by the dominance and the urgency of the September 11th issues? Do you think they will come up again as contentions inside NATO and the NAC? And now with the addition of Russia, does that make these bilateral issues NATO-centric now as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: You sound wistful for a contentious past there, Teri. (Laughter.) No, we had a very, very straight, clean-cut meeting, where we knew what we were about. Terrorism was in pride of place for this meeting. And since we have been working together on this since the afternoon of the 11th of September, we pretty much knew what we had to do, and I'm very pleased with the statements that are being made.

With respect to NATO-Russia at 20, we have had good, intense conversations for the past several weeks, and I am pleased at how quickly we came to a unified position within the alliance, and we look forward to discussing it with Foreign Minister Ivanov tomorrow.

There are still issues out with respect to missile defense, and as you discussed with Lord Robertson a few moments ago, how we actually decide which of the one to nine nations will be allowed into, invited to join, the alliance in Prague in November of the next year.

So there are lots of issues out there, and there are issues that we don't even know about yet that will come up. That's what makes this alliance so vibrant, that nobody would have thought three months ago that we would be spending the fall season talking about terrorism, but here we are. And because we can't see into the future clearly, because we are looking into a glass dimly and darkly, we don't know what is going to come along. That is why it is important to have alliances such as NATO that are vibrant, that change with the times, that can adapt to new challenges and threats that come along.

But the consistency that exists within an alliance such as this is that we are likeminded nations with a firm belief in democracy and the free enterprise system, and believe that is a system that can benefit all of the nations in the Euro-Atlantic region. And that because we are able to debate contentious issues and arrive at consensus conclusions that reflect the will of the free peoples of NATO and allow us to move forward.

Thank you.

9:50 a.m. EST


Released on December 6, 2001

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