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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: LORD ROBERTSON, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL FEBRUARY 23rd, 2003
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DAVID FROST: Nato has been struggling to find a role for itself in the current crisis, with some of its members, the French, the Germans and the Belgians in particular, opposed to the more hawkish stance of America and Britain. Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, has warned that even if some Nato members wouldn't support military action, he was confident the others would. Nato Secretary-General, Lord Robertson, has just returned from Washington where he had talks with Colin Powell and George Bush. He joins me now from his home up north there, across the border. George, good morning.
GEORGE ROBERTSON: Good morning David.
DAVID FROST: The first question, to what extent have the recent rows over Turkey and so on damaged - you used the damaged once - damaged Nato?
GEORGE ROBERTSON: Well I think the image and the reputation of Nato has been damaged to some extent but that has been mitigated by the fact that last Sunday we got a solution to the problem. Eighteen nations in Nato decided that they would go ahead with the planning for helping to defend Turkey against a threat that exists at the present moment. So although it took us a little time to get there, at the end of the day we got an agreement, the defences will be put in place. So I don't think it will be lasting damage. People will see a success because that is what it was.
DAVID FROST: And are you going to, though - I know you're leaving at the end of the year - but are you and your successors going to have to reinvent Nato now? Someone said here that threats to security are non-military in nature now - corruption and organised crime, insecure borders, illegal immigration, ethnic and religious conflict, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism - that the old sort of Cold War pattern isn't there any more. Does that mean you've got to reinvent Nato as soon as possible?
GEORGE ROBERTSON: Well we have reinvented Nato. The old Cold War problems have gone and the old Cold War Nato has gone. This is an organisation now with new members - seven new countries coming in, some from the Warsaw Pact, some of them even part of the Soviet Union. We've got new links with Russia, where Russia sits as an equal partner round the table in the Nato-Russia Council. We have new links with the European Union, we're looking forward to handing over one of our big conflict management operations in the Balkans to the EU probably within the next few months. We've links with the Mediterranean countries as well. And we've reformed ourselves internally. We, we have got a role in terrorism and I would like to think we'd see a world where there was no necessity for a military aspect in dealing with terrorism but the reality is that when all else fails you've got to have a military option and that's what Nato will provide.
DAVID FROST: What will Nato provide if the war goes ahead - and I guess you got the feeling in Washington it was approaching a finality - but if the war goes ahead, I mean Nato won't really have a role, will it, in this upcoming war?
GEORGE ROBERTSON: Well Nato is at the present moment only concerned with the defence of Turkey and Turkey is an ally and it's got a border with Iraq and it knows a little bit about Iraq from, from the past. But what Nato does depends on what the 19 members of Nato collectively agree to do. But I'd just like to take issue with what you first of all said, David. I was in the Oval Office last week and I was in the state department with Colin Powell and I met Donald Rumsfeld. There is no desire, there is no inevitability about war, seen in the American administration. Everybody wants Saddam to disarm, they want him to conform to resolution 1441 and people there, as much as anybody marching in the streets, wants to see an avoidance of military action. But the person who will decide whether there's going to be military action will be President Saddam Hussein and the decision whether or not he's going to comply with the will of the international community.
DAVID FROST: And do you think, summing up the recent mini crisis or crisis, do you think that the United States - you were there last week - is as committed to Nato as it was before this row erupted? Are they as committed now?
GEORGE ROBERTSON: Well President Bush and the senior members of the administration are absolutely committed. They were relieved that we resolved the crisis, they are pleased that we managed to go ahead with the defence of Turkey but generally in the United States I think confidence has been dented. And part of my job and of the other leaders in Europe is to emphasise to the Americans that Nato is still relevant to them, that if a decision is taken at Nato it binds in 19 countries in our permanent coalition, that Nato is still the most successful defence alliance that the planet has known. So although we've had some damage, and in perception terms, you know, I think we haven't done ourselves a lot of good, the reality is we succeeded, the Awacs planes will be flying to Turkey next week, and that is a success and nothing succeeds like success.
DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed George for joining us this morning. Our huge thanks to Lord Robertson there.
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