Interview With NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer

Interview With NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer
March 3rd, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Interview With NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer

Interview With NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer
March 2, 2008
Late Edition (CNN), 11:00 AM
WOLF BLITZER: U.S. and NATO forces are taking on an increasingly bold Taliban in Afghanistan. And the Pentagon is concerned some NATO allies aren't pulling their weight in the fight.
I spoke about that and a lot more with the NATO Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, this week, in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Secretary-General, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to Washington.
BLITZER: These are difficult times for NATO right now, especially in Afghanistan. There are lots of suggestions that the situation is going from bad to worse, in part because of disunity among the NATO allies.
How bad is the situation?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: The situation is looking quite good. I'm cautiously optimistic. I've just come back from Afghanistan last week.
I think that we've seen the NATO forces increase considerably. We do see millions of children in school. We see the literacy rate going up. We see health care going up. Over 80 percent of Afghans have access to health care.
In 2001, do not forget, Afghanistan was in the Middle Ages. If you look between '01 and '08, there is a lot of progress, although the challenges, of course, are formidable.
BLITZER: Let's talk about NATO, because the criticism of NATO is that some of the NATO allies simply don't want to do what the other NATO allies are doing. And listen to the secretary of defense, Robert Gates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I worry a great deal about the alliance evolving into a two-tiered alliance in which you have some allies willing to fight and die in order to protect people's security and others who are not. And I think that it puts a cloud over the future of the alliance if this is to endure and perhaps even get worse. (END VIDEO CLIP)
That sounds like a pretty dire assessment.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: If you realize, with me, that all 26 NATO allies are in Afghanistan, all 26 of them, together with a lot of...
BLITZER: Some are willing to fight and die and others aren't?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: That's in the south, where the going is tough, from time to time. It gets tough from time to time. There are something like eight or nine NATO allies there, active.
I am not afraid of a two-tier alliance. As the NATO secretary- general, it is crystal clear that I would like to see as few and little limitations on the use of the force as possible. I would like to see more allies, all over Afghanistan, including in the south.
But I have to be a realist as well. And being realistic, I have to accept that parliaments in certain nations limit the use of the force in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Because if you have countries, NATO allies, like the United States, Britain, Canada who are willing to go in there and fight, and other NATO allies -- and Nicholas Burns and top State Department officials cited Spain, Italy, France, Germany -- who are not willing to go in there and take those risks, that seems to put a pretty serious split among the NATO allies.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No, I don't think that's the correct analysis. All those nations you mentioned -- and we'll not start a blame game, and I will not start the blame game -- are in Afghanistan with considerable number of forces. We have seen a big increase over the past eight months to a year. The total force is now nearing 50,000.
So I think NATO as an alliance is doing relatively well. We still need more forces.
BLITZER: Here's what else the defense secretary, Robert Gates, said in the Los Angeles Times. He said, last month, "I am worried we are deploying military advisers that are not properly trained, and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations."
Does he have a fair point?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I think all allies -- I repeat, I think all allies are doing an excellent job. Where Secretary Gates has a point is that when we send our training teams into Afghanistan, we need, I think, a more common benchmark on the way we train those mentoring and liaison teams going into Afghanistan.
But do not forget that many are there already. And that's Danes and Dutch and Estonians and Romanians. Brits, Canadians and Americans are doing an excellent job, but, as the NATO secretary-general, I say we can always do better. And, on the training benchmarks for these liaison teams, these training teams, I should say, the secretary has a point.
BLITZER: The Atlantic Council of the United States, a private group, a think tank, issued a report entitled, "Saving Afghanistan," in January. It was chaired by retired U.S. general James Jones, a former supreme NATO allied commander. Here is one of the bottom line points they made.
"Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan. Unless this reality is understood and action is taken promptly, the future of Afghanistan is bleak. If NATO cannot provide new forces to fight in the south, its credibility will be dealt a powerful blow, throwing into doubt its future cohesion and, hence, viability."
That's a very different picture than the one you're painting.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No, it's not. And if it is, I don't share that analysis. It's as simple as that. And I just came back. We are making a lot of progress.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: The international community should, I think, better know the meaning of the word "patience." I say again, 2001 in the Middle Ages, 2008, tremendous progress. NATO has come in with more forces. Almost 9,000 over the past seven, eight months.
You'll see at the summit in Bucharest we're going to have in the beginning of April without any doubt even more of the forces coming in.
BLITZER: Let me change subjects briefly because we don't have a lot of time, and talk about Vladimir Putin. The Russian president is now about to give up the presidency. At the Democratic presidential debate the other day, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were asked about his successor, and I want you to listen to what both of these candidates had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): This is a clever but transparent way for Putin to hold on to power, and it raises serious issues about how we're going to deal with Russia going forward.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I think Senator Clinton speaks accurately about him. He is somebody who was handpicked by Putin. Putin has been very clear that he will continue to have the strongest hand in Russia in terms of running the government. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: They were both speaking about Dmitri Medvedev, who's expected to be the next president of Russia, and they were very pessimistic about what is happening in Russia right now under Putin.
You've got to deal with this situation on a day-to-day basis. What do you say when you hear those kinds of gloomy assessments from these two Democratic presidential candidates?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: What I see is -- and I hope this is realized in Moscow as well -- that in the NATO-Russia relationship, and that is the relationship I'm dealing with, there is the word "engagement." NATO needs Russia, and Russia needs NATO, so we have to engage with the Russians, although we have our major differences. On missile defense. On the future of Kosovo. On the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.
We have many forms of practical cooperation. The Russians realize that decisions, for instance, about NATO enlargements, which will be on the calendar of the Bucharest summit in a few weeks. Are taken by the 26 NATO allies only, and that no other nation has a veto, or as the French say, droit de regard, can influence the decisionmaking process in this regard.
But I hope that whoever will become president, whoever will become prime minister, NATO and Russia will continue to engage. Despite our differences, we have to engage, but that does not mean that we talk about lines in the sand or red lines or vetoes. And I must also say that that's from time to time, I hear a lot of unhelpful rhetoric coming from Moscow, which I think is not conducive to the word "engagement," which I (inaudible).
BLITZER: Secretary-General, thanks very much for joining us.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you so much. Pleasure. (END VIDEOTAPE)

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