News

Press Point

of Mr. Javier Solana, NATO Secretary General
and Minister Igor Rodionov, Russian Defence Minister

Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defence Ministers Session
NATO HQ Brussels 18th Dec 1996

Secretary General: Let me first of all welcome Minister Rodionov to Brussels. Itís the first time he has visited NATO Headquarters. He is the first civilian Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to visit NATO Headquarters, and let me start by saying that we have had a very long and, to my mind, very constructive exchange of ideas and views.

In two months, we have met with Minister Rodionov twice: we met together in Bergen a couple of months ago and we have met again for a 16+1 meeting in which we have devoted part of the time first at an informal lunch and then in a formal meeting to go through the bilateral relations between NATO and Russia and also to analyse the whole situation of security on the continent. Important events have taken place in the last weeks and months: the OSCE Summit in London, at which important decisions were taken, in particular about CFE, the meeting we had here last week of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the 16+1 with Minister Primakov.

As you know, we have taken an important decision between NATO and Russia, despite the points on which we do not agree. We have decided to start conversations in order to explore the possibility of reaching an agreement, a charter, a document, whatever the name will be in the end, in which the bilateral relations between NATO and Russia will take a formal form. I want to say that Minister Rodionov has expressed himself, as we have done, with frankness and with friendship. The atmosphere has been really very, very constructive, very friendly and let me finish by saying that we have also touched upon SFOR.

In a few hours, SFOR will be deployed on the ground and I want again to thank the leadership and the people and the Defence Minister of the Russian Federation for their contribution to SFOR. The fact that we have been together shoulder to shoulder, trying to defend peace and stability in Bosnia throughout 1996 and that we are to continue doing so for another 18 months without any doubt will be a solid element upon which to construct the bilateral relation between Russia and NATO. Without any further ado, I want to concede the floor to Minister Rodionov, thanking him very much for his presence here, as I said before, and for his constructive attitude throughout the day.

Minister Rodionov: Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, the issue of Russia and NATO relation is one of the most important and pivotal issues when we talk about composing, forming a new model of pan-European security. Just like in Bergen on the 26 September this year, today I have stated our basic approach to this problem and the position is as follows: NATO enlargement to the East is unacceptable for Russia and of course very logical questions are in order here: Why is it that the highest political management of Russia is so very much against NATO enlargement? What are Moscowís arguments? Have they any basis? Talking today to Ministers of Defence of NATO countries, I tried to answer these questions.

Today, I know very well that Mr. Solana is a very diplomatic and patient man, and of course he will never show that he is listening to my speech for the second time! Of course, dear Secretary General, I will have to repeat myself to some extent. So, why is it that Russia is so against NATO enlargement to the East? First of all, because the military- strategic balance in Europe is being violated, because in fact we see that international agreements on disarmament are being violated. For instance, if Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia joined NATO, the land forces of the Alliance would increase by 15 to 20 per cent, if we look at the main combat components of the land forces. Secondly, you havenít taken into account the CFE Treaty adaptation, the correlation of armed forces and armaments in Europe would shift very much into NATOís favour and that would again violate the present balance.

We shall practically lose the zone of reduced armed forces concentration. The so-called buffer zone which appeared between NATO and Russia when former USSR forces were withdrawn and Warsaw Pact forces were withdrawn. This buffer zone at present decreases the risk of armed conflicts, but this will disappear. Thirdly, if new countries are to join NATO, other steps might follow, for instance, armed forces could be deployed in the territory of armed forces of other members, infrastructure will be developed and used. Besides, we cannot ignore the fact that NATO infrastructure in Eastern Europe will be expanded, it will be adapted for NATO armed forces and that would allow the placement of tactical nuclear weapons in the territory of these countries and to be made them ready for tactical use.

So these arguments can be extended, the list could be much longer. These are our concerns and we donít understand why other countriesí concerns are taken on board and Russia is being ignored. Where is our fault if NATO enlarges to the East? We shall have to be objectively placed into a situation where weíll have to take certain, appropriate measures and we cannot exclude the following measures. In fact, today we should not describe them, but of course they will involve the political, economic and military relations between Russia and NATO countries. We canít rule out that NATO enlargement will stall implementation of certain existing treaties and will make it much more difficult to ratify new agreements and treaties, including open sky treaties.

That is, as you can well understand, a return to the bad old days, to the Cold War and in fact Russia and other countries in Europe did so much to do away with the Cold War and its legacies. I have to stress particularly that we do not support this development of events. We are forced upon this road. So looking forward to the 21st century, we feel that todayís task for all of us is to create a joint comprehensive security system, not just for Europe, but for the rest of the world as well - a stable system that would be looking forward long-term.

The key role here would be played by a real partnership between Russia and NATO that should be based on realistic and practical understanding of each otherís interests. We should follow the principle of equal security for all European nations. We see the following basic directions of our partnership with NATO: number one, we should harmonize our military, political and military/strategic views and doctrines; secondly, we should develop a concept of pan-European security for all European countries, irrespective of whether they are NATO members or not.

Whilst developing such concepts, we could provide for specific, purpose-built programmes, for instance crisis and conflict prevention and settlement, disarmament and arms control, cooperation in the development and manufacture of certain types of armaments and military equipment, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missile technology, fissile materials, promotion of nuclear safety systems, our joint fight with all types of terrorism, environmental cooperation and other types of activity. Development of mutual military and technological security should be based on openness, confidence-building measures, equal cooperation in the area of conversion and the development of a realistic, reasonable defence potential. We should develop a unified approach to OSCEís role in the European security system.

The Lisbon Summit decided that OSCE will play a pivotal role in securing the new security architecture in Europe. We often hear that the OSCE will not be able to play this role, that it canít be an effective institution for pan-European security because this organization, they say, doesnít have the mechanisms and the instruments, doesnít have the power to maintain peace and prevent potential conflict. A logical question comes to mind here: what is stopping us from giving the OSCE such mechanisms and instruments? NATO structures could complement the OSCE and Western European Union structures, armed forces of Central and Eastern Europe, CIS, Russian and other nationsí armed forces could play a vital role here.

We should discuss these problems together. They are of mutual interest and the Ministry of Defence of Russia is ready and very keen to take active part in preparing agreements that would form the basis of NATO/Russia relations. This basis would determine our relationship, would make official our commitments in the security sphere, they would determine consultation mechanisms, decision-making mechanisms, decision implementation mechanisms. Now these tasks are enormous; we can only do all this work if we are active, if all interested parties work very hard, if there are no unilateral actions like the decision to enlarge NATO today. Now, dear ladies and gentlemen of the press, this is our position. Thank you for your attention.

Charles Allinger, Reuters: Iíd like to ask General Rodionov if NATO and the Russian Federation agreed today to a rapid exchange of military officers as the first small step towards a possible document or charter? If not, why not? NATO had hoped that you had come here willing to do so.

Minister Rodionov: I think that this matter is not that complex. There is no particular difficulty in implementing this idea. We are ready. We are ready also to take other measures to develop and to strengthen NATO/Russia cooperation and confidence between us, but in our view, we have to solve the main issue first: NATO/Russia relations and we should remove the problem from this issue. Russia has done a lot in recent years, and NATO as well, but Russia in particular and you mustnít forget how much Russia has done to relieve potential military tension and to remove potential military threat, to strengthen stability, to strengthen confidence in Europe. Once again, I stress and repeat that you must take into account this fact and all that Russia has done. I would like to say that if we Europeans are all dreaming about the Europe we keep discussing so much, we canít create this Europe without Russia. Thank you.

Secretary General: Of course we have talked at length about that, the position of the Russian government - and you know NATO is prepared to exchange liaison officers - is that they would prefer to get that in the process of conversations we are going to open in the near future and we hope very much that that process, this question of military exchange will also be solved. But taking advantage of this opportunity, let me tell you that it is true Russia has done a lot in order to bring stability and to relax tensions in Europe.

But let me emphasize that NATO has done a lot to try and bring peace and stability to our continent. We have been talking about so many things today. We have spent four hours together and I can tell you that the four hours have been more enlightening that we have listened to Minister Rodionov. We have discussed, we have exchanged ideas, we have been constructive and I think we can say that at the end of the day, we are closer from an institutional point of view, we are closer from an intellectual point of view and without any doubt, we are closer from a personal point of view.

The three ingredients: intellectual, institutional and personal I think are very important. I wanted to give you that impression, so from that point of view I think that the meeting - as I said, itís the second meeting in two months - I think it has been as productive as the first, in the same time as the first, but still we have things which separate us but beyond that separation is the wish of the Russian authorities, it is the wish of NATO, to engage in a course of conversations to explore the possibility of finding an agreement and if possible to have it on track before the month of July, and that means before the Summit. Thatís our aim, thatís the aim we share and we are going to do our best to be able to get that on track in due time.

Question: Minister Rodionov, one of the arguments in your exposition was as follows: Russia does not accept NATO enlargement and one of the main arguments is that NATO nuclear weapons may be stationed in the territory of new members and military personnel of other countries may be stationed, but Secretary General Javier Solana has many times assured you that nuclear weapons will not be stationed, positioned on the territory of new NATO members and the Minister of Defence of Germany proposed that not any nuclear but no other conventional forces of other countries would be stationed in the territory of new members. Is not that a good enough argument for you to remove your opposition?

Minister Rodionov: I remember very well the times when the first president of Russia, Mr. Gorbachev, met with European leaders and they were discussing the withdrawal of Soviet and Russian troops from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc. Verbal assurances were given from many, many leaders that there will never be any talk about NATO enlargement to the East. Nevertheless, it is happening. Fine, nothing against it, but verbal assurances and promises should be embodied in official documents, in treaties, in agreements. We need official guarantees to these verbal assurances, to these words. Thank you.

Secretary General: Itís very important. You will see today in the communiqué the same thing that you have seen last week in the same communiqué of the Ministerial of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. On the nuclear posture we can practically say that we have a posture of three "no's", which I think is a very clear manner of presentation: no intention, no need, no plans to deploy nuclear arms in the territories of the new members of the Alliance. That is the commitment which we have put down in a formal document of the Alliance, in the Ministers of Foreign Affairsí communiqué, and today you will see it again in the Ministers of Defence communiqué. Three "nos" - no intention, no need, no plans - that is our position. And I think it is very important that this is well known and understood, and well understood for everybody and by everybody.

Rüdiger Lentz, Deutsche Welle TV: Is your status as the first civilian Defence Minister of Russia at least an indication that you take the democratic armies of NATO as a role model for the democratization and the civil control of Russiaís army? To the Secretary General: you have been optimistic in Berlin, you have been optimistic in Bergen, that you will settle the problems with Russia, but after this tough statement today by Minister Rodionov, do you still think you can make it to the upcoming Summit?

Minister Rodionov: This is my personal dream, in fact. Itís always been my personal dream, as soon as we had our first president in Russia. I was one of the first generals who proposed this idea to our president, then Mr. Gorbachev. I said "Why donít you make a civilian your Minister of Defence?" However, it didnít come about, I never thought it would be me, I was unexpectedly made a civilian - within several hours from a General I have become a civilian. This was not a surprise for me in sort of a normal course of events, it was not a surprise. The fact that a civilian person is now Minister of Defence of Russia is part of this normal, natural process of our societyís democratization. You have to respect Russia for this as well to some extent. Russia is moving forward, is moving along this road. It wishes to be a fully-fledged member of this European house.

Secretary General: Let me say to the honour of Minister Rodionov that I know very well some time ago he was the one who said to the president several years that the Minister of Defence of Russia should be a civilian and he was the one who recommends this, so he has been convinced of that and I am a witness of that situation some time ago, so that is to the honour of Minister Rodionov. Let me answer your question which is about optimism and pessimism.

When I listen to Minister Primakov, I listen to Minister Rodionov, I listen here in public, I listen in private, and you listen carefully to what Minister Rodionov has said: itís a long intervention, it has a beginning, it has an end and before he ends, he says what Minister Primakov also said, despite all these questions that separate us and despite these questions on which we do not agree at this point in history, we are prepared to get engaged in a conversation, to lead if possible to a bilateral agreement between NATO and Russia. Why? Because we need it, NATO needs it, Russia needs it, Europe needs it and it would be a lost opportunity if at this stage we are not able to do that. And I think, not being an optimist or pessimist, but a realist and being concerned with the security of my continent, Europe, being concerned with the future of this continent, with the generation that will come after Minister Rodionov and myself there is something there to do and therefore we will do it.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: A question for Minister Rodionov and then for the Secretary General: Minister Rodionov, NATO has expressed its determination to expand eastwards whatever Russiaís feelings and Russia has accepted to go into negotiations towards a NATO/Russia charter, but in your speech earlier, you seemed to indicate a return to Cold War conditions if NATO continues its plans for expansion. Could you please explain how Russia and NATO can have a charter or a dialogue in Cold War conditions? And, secondly, Mr. Solana, you said this was a good meeting, in spite of the points on which you did not agree. That would indicate that there were some areas of agreement. Could you tell us what those were?

Minister Rodionov: Iím trying to find a very suitable, brief answer for this philosophical question. Iíll try to be short in my answer. Why? Just a second, Iíll try to formulate it in this way: during our discussion with the Defence Ministers of the NATO countries, I actually said I do not believe in NATOís possible aggression against Russia but the issue is such that the world is operating on the following principles: the economy, policies, and other influences exist and are driven by military force, by power, and when this military force and power are superior - I underline they are superior, theyíre not equal, but superior to the other side and this is the way we assess the new NATO - a possibility may arise where using pressure or military power to achieve specific goals or objectives. Thatís the way I might formulate my answer, in a more or less clear-cut way. Thatís the way Iím answering your question "why our nation is so much concerned?" Itís not my personal concern or my presidentís concern or my governmentís concern, itís the people who will ask the question. Now, they might say "look, so much has been done, the Soviet Union is no longer in existence, the troops have been withdrawn, youíre initiating democracy and presidential rule and what weíll end up with again is a Cold War situation". This is our responsibility today to resolve this issue in the interests of both Russia and NATO. Thatís our aim. Thank you.

Secretary General: If NATO is not a threat to Russia today, if NATO plus some countries that may be invited to join NATO in 1997 probably will be members at the end of the century, will not be a threat to Russia. That is the first thing I would like to clarify. Secondly: you asked about areas where we agree. We agree on something fundamental, as I said before, weíre going to start conversations leading possibly to a formal agreement between NATO and Russia. That was already agreed with Minister Primakov and has already been underlined with Minister Rodionov and by the Russian authorities. The challenges that we have as members of the Alliance are the challenges that are also faced by other countries including Russia. Therefore, we have to work together in order to face those challenges with an emphasis on weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical, etc., in which the challenges are the same for Russia as for the countries of NATO and therefore we have to work together, we have to set plans together, because the challenges are the same for the one as for the other. So we have been trying to construct step by step, itís not going to be an easy process, we know that, but everybody can solve easy problems, the important thing is to solve the difficult problems and that is what weíre trying to do.

Alexander Zhilin, Moscow News: Mr. Solana, donít you think in NATO that by initiating the expansion of NATO you are not taking into account the internal situation in Russia, you are actually supporting Yeltsinís opponents, you are making him hostage of those forces Lukashenko is in a very intricate situation, there will be other forces in action, so what should we move forward to as a result, towards stability or instability?

Secretary General: As you know, itís a decision which has been taken in 1994, we have done it in a very transparent manner, in a very slow manner, but in a determined manner, so itís nothing new. Weíre going to take a final decision about what countries probably at the Summit in 1997 and the final decision, the final convocation will be taken at the end of the century: 1999. Itís not a rush, weíre doing things in a very transparent manner, a very vivid manner, in a way that important decisions have to be taken. What we have to do, we, as leaders of the Alliance is to explain in the best manner we can to our fellow citizens the amount of change that has been produced in Russia.

It corresponds also to the Russian leadership that knows that the enlargement of NATO signifies nothing against the security of Russia. To do nothing else than to explain that and to explain to their own people, leadership is that, leadership is not to be waiting until your fellow citizens change their opinion alone, you have to say something, you have to talk to them, you have to explain. And we are doing that in the 16 countries of the Alliance, we have been able to explain that Russia has changed, we are helping Russia, we do not want to isolate Russia, we want to cooperate with Russia, but leaders have the responsibility to explain and to lead, and what we are trying to do is to guarantee as you know, to extend security in our continent.

We have taken important decisions in Lisbon at the OSCE. As we explained, we have taken an important decision as far as the CFE - it has to be explained - we have taken an important decision about the charter with Russia, it has to be explained. Let me say again, Minister Rodionov said something I share completely: security nowadays at the end of the 20th century is something else than defence, or something else than the classic concept of security. I want to say that security is economy, security is trade, security is environment, security is many things and I want to say that we are trying to construct, and I am talking now as a European also, weíre going to construct, weíre trying to construct with Russia a very, very fundamental relationship.

Weíre doing that in the European Union, weíre doing that in the Council of Europe, we want to do that in NATO, we want to do that in the European Union and the WEU, we want to do that. Iím not talking now as a European, in the G-7 also, so whoever says that the Western world wants to isolate Russia, if you look around the world and see what is going on, the least you can say is that that is an overstatement.

Minister Rodionov: Perhaps just by way of concluding this press conference, ladies and gentlemen, itís within the authority of NATO to expand or not, to open the doors for new members or not, to expand to the east or not, itís the sovereign right of every state to seek admission or not. We understand this, but nevertheless, I am quite confident that without due concern for Russiaís position, for Russiaís stand, Europe will be incomplete, it will not be the Europe weíre dreaming of, leaving us a legacy to our children and grandchildren. Thank you.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC: A very brief question, Minister Rodionov, just for clarityís sake: can we have both NATO expansion as planned and a solid and workable charter between NATO and Russia?

Minister Rodionov: I think itís quite possible. But of course at the negotiating table, an agreement should be concluded which would meet the interests of both Russia and NATO.