‘You have the longest maritime tradition in NATO’

We not only have elections, we also have the Olympic Games in Athens this year. What can NATO do for the security of the Olympic Games? Well, that’s a question for Greece to answer and I would just wait until the Greek authorities decide what their requirements are. Greece is a member of NATO, and would be free to bring any requests, but it’s really up to the Greeks to decide this question. I think we should let the Greeks decide when they want to bring this to us. If Greece makes an official request after the elections, will you have enough time to do it? I don’t want to get ahead of the situation. NATO is an alliance of countries; countries form the council and it’s the countries that run NATO, so any member of NATO has the opportunity to bring a question like this to us. Greece has not yet done so, and I think we should let the Greek authorities consider what they want to recommend and when is the best time. We are thought to be very close to a solution of the Cyprus issue, and there is a certain role for the EU. Is there a role for NATO role in Cyprus? Cyprus has not been discussed as a formal agenda item at any of our NATO meetings for quite some time, and so I think we need to wait for the process led by the UN secretary-general to play out, and at this point I wouldn’t want to speculate. We’ll just have to see what happens. You speak about the greater Middle East area. Isn’t Cyprus part of the greater Middle East area? Well, Cyprus is part of Europe. What we refer to as the greater Middle East is North Africa, the Levant, the Gulf states, Iraq and even Afghanistan. You’ve seen statements by President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Colin Powell about the need for reform and change, and in the NATO context, we have the Mediterranean Dialogue with seven countries, Israel and six Arab states. Partnership What the US has suggested is that we transform that NATO Dialogue into partnership with these seven countries and some other countries, because we believe that NATO has the capacity to reach out and to be a partner to many of these countries, in terms of helping them to reform their armed forces, to participate in some of our exercises, possibly even to participate in some of our operations, as some Arab countries have in the Balkans as well as Afghanistan. So that’s the NATO emphasis in the broader Middle East. You know Greece perhaps better than anyone in this building… With the exception of the Greek ambassador of course; he knows Greece far better than I do. We’re very pleased with the new Greek ambassador; he’s an excellent diplomat, he’s very experienced, and we’re very happy to be working with him. Sealift This week Greece didn’t sign a paper on the alliance’s strategic sea transport. Are you happy with this development? One of the biggest weaknesses we have in NATO is the fact that we have a broad capabilities gap. In order to address that, we decided a year-and-a-half ago in Prague that we would concentrate on a small number of priority military capabilities to strengthen us. One of them was the sealift consortium and Norway and Denmark have been taking the lead, and leading the sealift consortia, and we hope that all those NATO countries that are maritime countries would cooperate in that effort. But of course there will be an opportunity to do that in the future. So I wouldn’t say that this is the end of the story. I think we have an opportunity to continue this effort in the future. Greece is one of the great maritime countries, with the longest maritime tradition in NATO, and certainly Greece has quite substantial capabilities in that area. What was the reason for this? You’d have to ask the Greek authorities. We want to see the sealift consortium succeed. We’d like to see some definite decisions made to give a greater sealift capacity because one of the big problems, which we will overcome and we must overcome, is the fact that for all future NATO missions of any size we are not going to be here in Europe. Because our job of focusing inside Europe is finished. To protect Europe now, and North America, we need to go outside, to places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. And to get our soldiers over these great distances we need sealift for supplies and airlift, and that’s for the true, critical deficiencies.