26 May 2009

NATO Spokesman James Appathurai: We believe a strong NATO-Russia relationship is essential

Participants in the NATO anniversary summit due in France and Germany on Friday and Saturday, will discuss relations with Russia at the first working dinner in Baden-Baden, NATO Spokesman James Appathurai said in an interview with Interfax on Wednesday

"Russia I think will be a main topic of discussion at the dinner and more on Friday night and more specifically relations between Russia and NATO," Appathurai


"Russians should have no doubt that both sessions will conclude that we believe a strong NATO-Russia relationship is essential" to the Euro-Atlantic area, he said.

Asked whether the summit would be looking at the further possibility of Georgia and the Ukraine joining the alliance, Appathurai said, "It could come up. But it is not very likely to be the main topic."

"All allies agree that the Bucharest decision remains valid, all allies agree than neither Georgia nor Ukraine have met the standards for NATO membership, and we will continue to help them make their necessary reforms," he said.

"There is neither controversy nor urgency within NATO with regard to this," he added.

Appathurai said that on the whole the summit will discuss the future of NATO, "NATO‘s place in the world, its relations with its partners, including Russia, and what NATO should and should not do as an alliance in the 21st century."

"And in all of those things I suppose there might be some in Russia who would be interested in the outcome," he said.

A ministerial meeting of the Russia-NATO Council could be held in May, NATO spokesman announced.

A plan was being considered for organizing a special meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at the ambassadorial level, Appathurai said. This will happen after the NATO‘s anniversary summit, followed, perhaps, a few weeks later by the Council‘s ministerial meeting, Appathurai said.

But the calendars need to be looked at, he said.

Asked how the Alliance views Russian NATO Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin‘s proposal to call a special meeting on the events in South Ossetia in August 2008, Appathurai said he was convinced all NATO allies see the Russia-NATO Council as a venue for discussing all issues, including those on which agreement has not been reached.

Any member-state of the Council has the right to raise any question, he said. How and when such questions should be raised depends on the members of the Russia-NATO Council, Appathurai said.

NATO does not rule out that a need could arise in the future to hold negotiations on the possibility of Russia allowing the transit of military-purpose supplies intended for Afghanistan across its territory, NATO spokesman also said.

The Alliance is now focused on talks with countries that serve as transit routes for non-military cargo en route to Afghanistan, Appthurai said.

The most important thing for NATO at the moment is to make sure that all stages of this transit have been agreed upon, the spokesman said. The Alliance expects to finish negotiations with all states involved in this transit successfully, he said.

NATO also needs to document agreements on air transit, Appathurai said. The Alliance tackles all issues facing it step-by-step, he said.

Spokesman James Appathurai underlined that NATO was not going to become a global policeman, or a substitute for the UN, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

"We do not have the mandate for that, we do not have the money for that, we do not have the forces for that," Appathurai said.

"It is very clear. No global policeman, no mini UN. The center of gravity of this alliance will remain the Euro-Atlantic community," he said.

But when the need arises to strengthen stability in other regions, NATO of course will be ready to consider requests and provide such aid, he said. By agreement with the UN, NATO is present in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and rendered aid to Somalia and Pakistan, he said.

NATO "sees the UN as the preeminent global international body," Appathurai said.

"And almost everything we do has been sanctioned by the UN," he said.

But there are certain exceptions from this rule, for instance, "the naval operation now in the Mediterranean, operation Active Endeavor, to which Russia provided support," he said. It is regulated by Article 5 of the NATO charter on collective defense operations, he added

Appathurai also mentioned the events in Yugoslavia in 1999. "As we know, the Security Council was split over Kosovo in 1999, when NATO conducted their air campaign. In the end, NATO made its own decision for itself," he said.

Asked how far NATO‘s enlargement could go and whether Japan, India and Australia could join the Alliance, Appathurai said, "I frankly do not think there really is any lack of clarity on how far NATO can go."

"The Washington Treaty is very clear and it says that NATO can take in European democracies. If there is to be any change to that it would require a change to the Washington treaty," he said.

Asked whether NATO could one day admit Russia, Appathurai said, "We have not heard, I think, any serious overtures by Russia, really, to join the Alliance."

Appathurai also said that it was uncertain whether this week‘s jubilee NATO summit will consider who will be NATO‘s next secretary general, when incumbent Jaap de Hoop Scheffer‘s term of office expires on July 31.

Normally, neither an incumbent secretary general nor NATO‘s International Secretariat are involved in choosing the next secretary general, Appathurai said.

Hinting that the election of a secretary general is a rather closed-door process, the spokesman compared it to the election of a pope.

Media reports have said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay are all potential candidates for the post.