Saturday 26 May 2007 - SUMMARY of the meeting of the Political Committee, Hall A, Tecnopolo, Funchal, Madeira rev 1
Ivan Safranchuk, Director, Moscow Office, World Security Institute
I. GENERAL DEBATE
1.Following the adoption of the agenda for the meeting and the minutes of the 2006 Quebec City Annual Session, Chairman Markus Meckel (DE) remarked that he appreciated the comments of the Secretary General of NATO on the Assembly's 2006 Policy Recommendations. In his introductory remarks to the Committee's General Debate he raised the topics missile defence, a potential new role for the European Union in Transatlantic Security, Afghanistan, as well as the recent Estonian-Russian problems.
2.With regard to missile defence, Mr Meckel said it is important how the debate will be conducted and that it is also necessary to discuss it within NATO and the NATO-Russia Council. Yuliy Kvitsinskiy (RU) said he did not understand the rationale for deploying missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic if the US planned to protect itself against missiles from Iran. Alexander Fomenko (RU) suggested that Turkey would be a better place for the planned interceptors. Lubov Sliska (RU) said that the concept "rogue states" is convenient to hide an actual arms race. NATO Allies call Russia a friend but the 'Berlin Wall' has moved to Russia's western border and added that Russians are worried about weapons stationed at their border. Tom Tancredo (US) and Karl Lamers (DE) pointed out that the planned system is defensive in nature and consists of only 10 interceptors which will not target Russia. Noting Russia's co-operation with Iran in a number of areas, Bruce George (UK) remarked that Russia may not be concerned about Tehran's nuclear and missile programmes, but NATO allies are.
3.As to the current Estonian-Russian row, Mr Kvitsinsky criticized Estonia for having conducted an "uncooperative policy" towards Russia and said that the Russian response is merely a result of Estonia's provocation. Ms Sliska said that the Estonians should have consulted Russia before moving the memorial site. Sven Mikser (EE) explained the background of the removal of Soviet WWII memorial that caused the current Estonian-Russian row and provided examples of Russian pressure on his country. He also called for an international response to the cyber attacks against Estonia.
4.Mr Fomenko, Ms Sliska, Mr Kvitsinskiy also criticised NATO's "open door" policy. Mr Fomenko said that NATO is not a "club of philanthropic dreamers" and that he rejected the "fairytale" that NATO expansion is about expanding democracy. Mr Kvitsinsky stated that NATO is an offensive alliance and criticised Georgia's wish to join.
5.Bruce George, Paul Keetch (UK), and Helge Adam Møller (DK), found the tone of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials "offensive" and "disconcerting". Mr Møller called upon Russia to "stop the Soviet rhetoric and join NATO member countries in addressing the key security challenges, because we need you there". Senator Gustavo Selva (IT) expressed hope that NATO and Russia will develop a closer relationship while Congressman Ben Chandler (US) said he believes that Russia is a friend of the US and NATO member countries.
6.As to NATO enlargement, Mr George said he could not see why NATO relations with Georgia would threaten Russia. Noting that NATO member states have never attacked each other, Vaira Paegle (LV) stressed that enlargement is about expanding security. She also pointed to the increasing political dimension of NATO. A Russian speaker insinuated that Russia should be asked before a country applies for NATO membership, Mr Meckel replied that every state has the right to commit alliances. Leonard Demi (AL) informed about Albanian progress towards NATO membership and said that Tirana implements comprehensive military, political and social reforms to meet the criteria of the Membership Action Plan (MAP). Recognising that organised crime has negatively affected Albania's image in the past, the Albanian government is pursuing a "zero tolerance" policy and has dismantled 141 criminal organisations and arrested 1170 individuals, including drug and human traffickers, he said.
7.Several speakers alluded to NATO's changing role. Mr Keetch admitted problems in Afghanistan, but also reminded members that NATO member countries have to be prepared to suffer losses if they engage in a military mission like Afghanistan. Harry van Bommel (NL) noted that NATO is no longer a purely defensive organisation but that it is engaged 'out-of-area' like in Afghanistan and suggested an open debate about NATO's mission. The latter was supported by Rainer Stinner (DE). Derek Conway (UK) raised the issue of individual countries' willingness to participate in NATO missions and expressed concern over a lack of understanding of NATO in member countries' political class which could lead to decreasing support for the Alliance.
II. CONSIDERATION OF THE DRAFT GENERAL REPORT ON AFGHANISTAN AND NATO'S ONGOING TRANSFORMATION [044 PC 07 E] PRESENTED BY RAYNELL ANDREYCHUK (CANADA)
8.Following the introductory remarks by Senator Raynell Andreychuk (CA), Mr Stephane Kolanowski informed that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had sent a memorandum to NATO on the rules that states that are contributing to ISAF should respect with regard to the treatment of prisoners. Most speakers agreed that military operations alone are not sufficient to stabilise Afghanistan and that civilian casualties should be avoided as much as possible. Mr Stinner referred to the co-operation between the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and asked whether it has been effective. Dennis MacShane (UK) drew attention to the need to counteract the poppy production. In this context he suggested to address the demand side and that targeting the middle men can help to tackle the drug problem in Afghanistan. Moreover, diplomatic relations with Iran, which is also suffering from Afghan drug production, can be helpful, he said. Elettra Deiana (IT) commented that she does not agree with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Schaeffer's remark that "civilian engagement must not be an alibi for military disengagement". Referring to reports that the taliban are using civilians as "human shields" she called for a serious analysis conducted by NATO on the affects of the military operations on civilians. Kyriakos Mitsotakis (GR) bemoaned the lack of progress in Afghanistan and emphasised the need to tackle prevailing corruption in the Afghan police and judiciary system. The channels to distribute and absorb foreign aid are "dysfunctional" and must be fixed, he added. He also called on NATO members to commit more resources to Afghanistan. Ms Paegle who also asked which organisation could co-ordinate efforts in Afghanistan made a similar point.
9.Senator Mohammedmian Soomro (PK) noted that progress in Afghanistan has been made, but that many problems remain. To promote development in the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan he suggested to set up special investment zones and to conceive a practical strategy. Commenting that President Hamid Karzai lacks sufficient support Mr Fomenko saw a need for a local "strong man" for Afghanistan. Mr van Bommel asked whether negotiations with the taliban could be an option to secure and stabilise Afghanistan. Andreas Loverdos (GR) compared NATO's involvement in Kosovo to operations in Afghanistan and called for more co-operation with Pakistan as well as for additional economic and financial support for Afghanistan. Senator Francesco Martone (IT) said that there are limits to the Italian presence in Afghanistan and called for a diplomatic solution for the conflict. The international community should be more receptive to the needs of the Afghan people and rethink its approach towards transitional justice, he added. He also cautioned against NATO engaging in reconstruction other than delivering "quick impact" projects. Jos -van Gennip (NL) agreed with the points made in paragraph 31 of the report and asked the Rapporteur for concrete proposals how burden sharing among the Allies can be improved. Referring to a proposal by a member of the current Italian government, Senator Selva (IT) asked the Rapporteur whether or not a peace conference, that might include taliban representatives, would be useful to solve Afghanistan's problems".
10.In response to the comments made, Ms Andreychuk agreed that more co-operation is necessary, not only between the military, but also between NATO and the UN, as well between NATO and the EU and the NGOs. That said, she noted that it is difficult to link security and developmental aid. The General Rapporteur underlined the need to improve our knowledge about Afghanistan, including the historic, ethnic, social, religious economic and neighbourly complexities. Communication and interaction with the Afghan government and parliament should be deepened, she said. The Afghan people need measurable progress, but they might measure it differently than we do. With regard to the drug problem she said that this needed to be addressed globally.
III. CONSIDERATION OF THE DRAFT REPORT OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON NATO PARTNERSHIPS ON PAKISTAN: A CRUCIAL PLAYER FOR STABILITY IN THE REGION [045 PC 07 E] BY BART VAN WINSEN (THE NETHERLANDS), RAPPORTEUR
11.After Bart van Winsen's introduction of the Sub-Committee report, Mr MacShane said that the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan created a base for terrorism and Islamist ideology. A re-evaluation of the historical and ideological causes of terrorism could be helpful to counteract terrorist groups, he suggested. He added that Kashmir's potential as a mobilising force of concern and anger for many Muslims is underestimated and that it needs to be addressed. Senator Soomro said that Pakistan has paid a heavy price in the fight against terrorist groups. He underlined his country's "unwavering commitment" to the fight against terrorist groups and the need for close international co-operation. The Chairman of the Pakistani Senate also welcomed closer Pakistani-India relations. There is not gap between the government and the people of Pakistan, he said, adding that a democratic process is taking place and institutions are getting stronger. However, Pakistan needs more help and co-operation from the international community to prevent "talibanisation" of the country. Norica Nicolai (RO) recognised Pakistan's crucial role for the stability of the region and for NATO operations and asked if Islamabad's inclusion in the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI) could increase public awareness in Pakistan about NATO. Maritt Nybakk (NO) asked if Pakistan is able to control the border region with Afghanistan. Mr Kvitsinskiy saw the only solution for a secure and stable Afghanistan in negotiations. In his reponse, Mr van Winsen welcomed the remarks by his colleagues and underlined again the strategic importance of Pakistan. In this context, he said he hoped that tensions between India and Pakistan will decrease.
IV. PRESENTATION ON RUSSIAN DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS AND RUSSIA'S APPROACH TO FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY BY DR. IVAN SAFRANCHUK, DIRECTOR, MOSCOW OFFICE, WORLD SECURITY INSTITUTE
12.Ivan Safranchuk argued that Western hopes that Russia would become a democratic power which would have friendly relations with the West have not materialised. Russians, the business community in particular, had realised they were not welcome in the West. As a consequence they became more and more supportive of Russian authorities and increasingly critical towards the West. Hopes that the Russian opposition would become a pro-Western force have also been dashed. They want to prove that they are "more patriotic than Putin", partly to dispel accusations of being 'Western puppets', Safranchuk suggested. He added that the Putin government may well be "the most pro-Western force in Russia". It would be incorrect to say that Russia is not a democratic state. But, according to Safranchuk, Russia's democracy puts much less emphasis on accountability than on citizens' freedom to organise their private lives. Russia's political culture does not really embrace the idea of government accountability and very little is done to keep the government accountable by the parliament. If one wants the personal career to go forward, it is better not to be critically active in politics. A separation between 'private life' and 'state' has thus taken place.
13.Turning to Russian foreign policy, the speaker argued that at the end of the Cold War, Russia lacked financial resources and the political will to continue competition with the West, both of which it has now in abundance. But President Vladimir Putin's speech at the Security Conference in Munich this year asked for an equal voice in international affairs and was not a declaration of another Cold War as it was widely interpreted in Western media. Moscow's self-confidence in international affairs contrasts with a widespread Russian perception that it is not treated with the respect it deserves, the Russian academic concluded his introductory remarks.
14.Bruce George warned against becoming "paranoid" over Russia and said that Moscow wants to get out as much as possible from the West. The EU supported Russia's bid to join the WTO, but now Russia's policy towards, for example, Poland and Georgia, would not allow it to be a member. The British member said that the more we are dependent on Russian energy, the more vulnerable we are. Referring to restrictions on political freedom, the work of NGOs, recent assassinations, he also noted that Russia's human rights record is not good. He called upon Russia to develop a working relationship without threats and intimidations. Rasa Jukneviciene (LT) noted that Russia is becoming more aggressive towards its neighbours and moving away from democratic values. Mr MacShane cautioned against a discussion "the West against Russia" and stressed the need to develop a good partnership.
15.Mr Fomenko suggested that Russia's neighbours should recognise Moscow's historical contribution to the liberation from fascism. Mr Meckel replied that the Soviet-Union's co-operation with the West led to the liberation from Nazism, but it should not be forgotten that this was followed another dictatorship in East Europe. Mr Tancredo reminded Committee members that Russia and the Allies are facing a common threat posed by radical Islamist groups and should co-operate to meet this challenge. Pawel Zalewski (PL) regretted that Russian Foreign Policy is again thinking in terms of "spheres of influence" as in the Cold War era. Stressing that Latvia is an independent country, Ms Paegle underlined that respect for Russia depends on Russia's respect for others. Ms Sliska said that there is a big demand for Russian energy and that Russia does not impose its energy on anyone. Russia is on its way to democracy and should be seen as a partner and not as an adversary. Ana Maria R.M Gomes (EP) called the attacks against Estonia, Poland and others "unacceptable" and said that more could be done to voice concern over human rights violations in Russia.
16.From Moscow's perspective, close Ukrainian and Georgian membership in NATO would be against its interest, Safranchuk said. Russia's involvement in domestic affairs in both countries is merely a result of the West's and the EU's unwillingness to "make a deal". Compared to a US-led NATO, Russia favours a more active role of the EU. As to US plans for building missile defence infrastructure in Poland and the Czech Republic Russia fears that the limited system could later be expanded. In this context, he referred to the US administration's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Russia does not want a nuclear armed Iran, but also assumes that there is a hidden agenda in the US position, Safranchuk concluded the discussion.
17.Stressing that he was speaking as a private citizen, Mr Whyte briefly revisited the developments in Serbia and Kosovo after 1999. As to the present situation, he said that time is running out for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and that the lack of clarity on a final status and the political instability in the region hampers foreign direct investments. Referring to the report by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, he suggested that further negotiations are not useful, as the parties are too far apart. It is impossible to put Kosovo under Serbian rule and a continued international administration is unsustainable. The Athisaari report therefore proposes a limited independence under international supervision, including special provisions for minorities.
18.The international community must now address a number of concerns, Whyte said, including the question if Kosovo should be disarmed. But this will be difficult to achieve and Kosovo should be part of a security solution, the speaker submitted. The level of crime would suggest empowering the Kosovo government, adding that eight years of international protectorate has not solved this problem. The real question is the region's membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions, but the speaker considered this prospect been weakened in context of the EU's constitutional crisis. He concluded his remarks by saying that difficult decisions have to be taken now, but the worst option would be not deciding anything.
19.Recognising that Kosovo is a defining issue for NATO and Europe, Michael Moore (UK) said he supported an early UN resolution. In his view, the EU offers the best perspectives for the future of Kosovo and the Balkans. Mr Stinner called UNMIK's performance as "completely unsatisfactory" and criticised the lack of serious reconciliation programmes in Kosovo and in Bosnia. He added that it was a mistake that NATO offered participation in the Partnership for Peace programme to Serbia as the latter saw this as encouragement to continue its sluggish co-operation with the international community. The German member warned that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, without a UN Resolution, could split Europe. Dusan Prorokovic (RS) elaborated the position of Serbia and underlined that Belgrade is proposing an autonomous area with many powers for Kosovo and an international guarantees for minorities to reassure Kosovars. The Serbian proposal would allow Kosovo to have independent access to international financial institutions, he said. Referring to the bad economic conditions in Kosovo he said that these are due to corruption. Mr Naim Maloku (Assembly of Kosovo) welcomed the Ahtisaari proposal and informed that the Kosovo Assembly has also accepted it. He called upon the international community to decide on a final status soon. Kosovo's institutions are ready to take on more responsibility, under the supervision of the EU, after the departure of UNMIK.
20.Mr Demi said that an independent Kosovo will not create a precedent, and said that the current undefined status is a source of tensions and discourages foreign investment. Ursula Mogg (DE) also endorsed the Ahtisaari plan, but expressed concern whether a multiethnic Kosovo can be preserved and whether integration into the EU will be possible in the future. Ms Gomes asked how Russia can be persuaded to agree to a solution for Kosovo that is based on the Athisaari plan. Supporting for the Athisaari plan was also voiced by Besim Dogani (MK) who suggested that speeding up of the EU's integration process would stabilize the region. Responding to the comments, Mr Whyte agreed that a clearer EU perspective for the Balkans is needed. He also agreed that it would be a "horror scenario" for the EU and for the people in the region if there would not be a UN Security Council Resolution on Kosovo. The Ahtisaari plan concedes even more minority rights then would be required by international law. Concluding the discussion he said that every Balkan country should one day join NATO and that Kosovo should be able to take over control for its own security, but a new form of international engagement would remain.
VI. CONSIDERATION OF THE DRAFT REPORT OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS ON FIVE YEARS INTO THE "˜WAR ON TERRORISM": IMPACT AND IMPLICATIONS FOR THE TRANSATLANTIC ALLIANCE [046 PC 07 E] BY RUPRECHT POLENZ (GERMANY) PRESENTED BY MR ASSEN AGOV (BULGARIA)
21.Following the introductory remarks by Mr Agov, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed (PK) suggested to replace the term "war on terror" as many Muslims feel that this "war" actually directed against Islam. Terrorism has no religion and it should not be linked with the great religion of Islam that has 1.5 billion followers. There should be laws against Islamophobia in Europe similar to anti-Semitism laws. Arguing that there is a "need to review the current infatuation with military might" he suggested to create a NATO PA Study Group to devise non-military means to combat international terrorism. Ms Nybakk argued that the lack of integration of Muslims in Europe leads to "a generation of angry young Muslims". Winfried Nachtwei (DE) said that the fight against terrorist groups has led to some successes, but in general we are suffering major drawbacks and the whole fight against terrorism might actually fail. Bad strategies have led to the recruitment of new terrorists and perspectives for "the angry young men" are still missing, he added. Antonio Cabras (IT) said that the ISAF and KFOR missions can actually create more problems than they solve. Referring to paragraphs 16 and 18 of the report, he suggested to use the exact language from the Riga Summit declaration concerning NATO's rationale for the ISAF and KFOR missions. Ms Gomes warned that we are undermining our own values in our fight against terrorism. In this context, she said that extraordinary renditions are self-defeating. Mr Agov responded that the wording "war on terror" would be changed and agreed that Islam and terrorism should not be equated. Bulgaria, for example, has Muslims but no terrorism.
VII. FUTURE ACTIVITIES