Active NATO is Still Not the World's Policeman
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
One Dutchman who voted by absentee ballot in today's referendum is NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. He met today in Washington with President Bush and Cabinet members. When I spoke with him this morning, de Hoop Scheffer said that failed referendums in France and the Netherlands would not affect cooperation between NATO and the EU. And he said he hopes that European forces will continue to work toward developing common defense strategies. We also talked about NATO's missions around the world, including the alliance's current commitment to train Iraqi security forces.
Secretary-General JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO): We are already training Iraqi leadership, leadership training, in the Green Zone, in the International Zone, in Baghdad. And we are now in the process of setting up what we call a training, education and doctoring center in a place called Ar Rustamiya, which is close to Baghdad. We hope for an output--we're sure of an output of 1,500 officers in total, in-country training and out-of-country training combined.
BLOCK: There has been something of a split within your membership of those who are willing to train inside Iraq and those who refuse, or are training outside Iraq. Is that a problem? Should NATO, once it signs on to this mission, have all its members in country?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: It's not a problem. We have found a pragmatic solution. I mean, we all know what happened in the run-up to the Iraqi War. There were differences of opinion. Certain allies have now decided that they train outside Iraq. May I add that all 26 allies are participating in this training mission, either by training inside or outside or by contributing financially. And let me not forget that, apart from the training, we have an important equipment program. NATO is also equipping the Iraqi army. That is mainly something done by Eastern European allies within the Atlantic Alliance because the Iraqi army uses Eastern European--read ex-Soviet--equipment in their armed forces.
BLOCK: Would the mission be more effective, do you think, if all the countries, including, say, France and Germany, who opposed the war, were in Iraq training troops?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, it would be good to have on mission, but I have to accept the facts. And the facts are that some nations, some allies are training outside Iraq, and they do that very effectively and efficiently. But I have to recognize that fact, and it's a legitimate position they have.
BLOCK: Should there be, do you think, NATO troops in Iraq under a UN mandate, not just trainers but troops themselves?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, this is not in the cards. I mean, the Iraqi government has very clearly stated that they want training from NATO. They want to stand on their own feet as soon as possible, and NATO, by the training, of course, is helping to make that happen because the end results should be that they are less dependent on the multinational force.
BLOCK: Let's turn to a place where NATO does have troops on the ground, and that's Afghanistan. NATO's gradually taking command of security in that country. At the same time there's been a rise in violence. Just today we saw the police chief of Kabul assassinated at a funeral for a cleric there. Is the country backsliding, do you think, and how does that--if it is, how does that complicate NATO's mission?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, I do not know. I certainly not hope that the country's backsliding, but on the whole we have seen relative security and stability. But you're right, in the past weeks and days we've seen terrorist acts and suicide bombings. What NATO is doing is expanding its responsibility in the frame of ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, in Afghanistan now to the west of Afghanistan, to Herat and surrounding area. We also have the ambition at a late stage to go south. And, finally--that depends, of course, on the security situation--we should have one mission in Afghanistan, so that NATO will also take responsibility for the southeast.
I could imagine that in the long run we would have two distinct missions and a unified command, distinct in the sense that you have a combat mission and you have what I would call a stabilization mission.
BLOCK: You've been reading recently on the crisis in Darfur and Sudan, and NATO is set to provide logistical support for African Union troops on the ground. Is that enough?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, it is what the African Union is asking for. The bottom line is and the red line we should not cross is that this is a mission run by the African Union, and NATO is doing nothing else than answering a request by the African Union for logistical support.
BLOCK: There are some pretty strong voices saying there should be a greater role. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook saying NATO troops need to be on the ground with UN authorization, and NATO should be enforcing a no-fly zone over Darfur. What do you say to that?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, the problem here is that in the Security Council in the UN, there seems to be no consensus on this issue. I mean, you say NATO troops on the ground; that will not happen, as I said. But these discussions, no-fly zones--I mean, you will agree with me that's only possible when the United Nations Security Council gives a mandate. So if Mrs. Albright and others say NATO should do more, I think their address, let's say, should be directed first and foremost at the United Nations. NATO is answering a request by the African Union, and that will be it.
BLOCK: As NATO transforms itself from a Cold War institution to something far broader than that now, with these missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and Darfur that we're talking about, are you getting a sense of mission fatigue among your members, that the organization is stretched beyond its bounds?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No, I do not have that feeling. I do not sense any form of fatigue at all. Let me, on the other hand, stress that NATO is not developing into the world's policeman. That's definitely not the case. But where interests are at stake, be it, as we see in Darfur, humanitarian interests, you see that the allies can decide that they're going to help.
BLOCK: It does take...
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: This is a unique alliance, a powerful alliance. We have the United States of America in our midst. We have the Canadians. We have 24 European allies. They have a large military inventory. So, I mean, if anybody of the allies would come to me and say, `Well, isn't that a risk for a certain fatigue'--I would say, `Come on.' I mean, the United Nations has given us our mandate in Afghanistan. The UN has given us a mandate in Kosovo. We're operating in Iraq under UN mandate. We're going to assist the African Union in Darfur. I do not want to hear about fatigue.
BLOCK: There is a constant tension, though, isn't there, for money, for people?
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Oh, yes, there is definitely. And this transformation process of NATO, which is, on the one hand, political transformation, NATO is the principal security actor. We should enhance political debate in NATO. This is a political military alliance. And I agree that there is a lot to do. I do see defense budgets going down rather than going up, and that's the case in the majority of allies, though not in the United States and not in France and the UK, but in many others it is the case. We have to adapt, we have to transform, and we are currently doing that.
BLOCK: Mr. Secretary-General, thanks for coming in.
Sec.-Gen. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you very much. Pleasure.
BLOCK: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is secretary-general of NATO. He spoke with us in our studios here in Washington.
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