2 Nov 2010

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: New NATO’s Strategic Concept will reaffirm alliance’s commitment to UN Charter

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has given an interview to Interfax ahead of his meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev due on November 3.

Question: Mr. Rasmussen, when you entered the office of NATO secretary general you named a reset in relations with Russia among your objectives. Did you succeed and what role do you assign to the upcoming Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon in this respect? Do all NATO member-countries now share your willingness to fundamentally improve relations with Russia?

Answer: I did name and make improving our relations one of my top priorities. Good relations between NATO nations and Russia make for better security for us all. We can stop wasting resources on worrying about each other and start putting those resources into cooperation to make ourselves safer against the real threats we face: terrorism, instability and drugs from Afghanistan, ballistic missiles, piracy, etc.
All NATO Allies share my view. Which is why I believe the [NATO-Russia Council] NRC Summit in Lisbon can mark a true fresh start in our relations.

Q.: Russia did not respond at once to your offer to hold a Russia-NATO top-level meeting along with the NATO summit. Apprehensions about possible "surprises" in the new strategic concept of the alliance were one of the reasons. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the key issue for Russia will be how the concept is going to describe the NATO attitude to international law, to the UN Charter, primarily to provisions related to the possible use of force. So, should Russia expect "surprises," including a provision on the possibility of using force by the alliance without the authorization of the United Nations? And when will NATO make the new concept known to Russia?

A.: First, let me remind you that work on this update of NATO‘s Strategic Concept has been conducted in the most transparent way ever. We have talked about the Concept discussions in the NATO-Russia Council; the group of experts who worked on the first draft even held consultations in Moscow, the only partner country to which they all traveled.
When it is agreed in Lisbon, the Strategic Concept will be made public. For now, as we are negotiating, you will understand that we can‘t do that in public. But I can assure you that the Strategic Concept will reaffirm NATO‘s commitment to the UN Charter. There will be no ambiguity on that.

Q.: You have said that the decision on Russia‘s involvement in the development of the European missile defense system would be the most important result of the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon. In its turn the Russian side has said it would want to hear from NATO what role it is assigned in the European missile defense system. In this context could you explain how exactly NATO sees Russia‘s involvement in the project? How does NATO headquarters see the future of European missile defense? As part of the global missile defense developed by the United States?

A.: This is a complicated issue. But I think the basics are rather straightforward.
First, there is a threat: more than 30 countries have or are developing ballistic missiles, some of which can already hit NATO territory and probably Russia. Second, there is a proven technology to defend against missiles launched against our cities, linking the U.S. system to existing European systems through NATO. Third, we can, and I think will, agree within NATO to build missile defense to protect not just our troops, but also our territory and populations. But - and here‘s the fourth point - cooperation between Russia and NATO would mean a more capable defense. It would also send a powerful political signal that we are, for the first time ever, cooperating to defend ourselves together.

Q.: Russia has invited NATO to sign a legally binding agreement on mutual military restraint. The draft document submitted by Russia suggests defining the notion of "significant combat forces" of NATO that can be deployed in the territories of the new member-nations of the alliance. Are you ready to discuss these proposals with Russia?

A.: In 1997 NATO made clear it had no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of the new member states. The Alliance also stated that it would carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. We have kept our word to the fullest.
We share Russia‘s desire for transparency when it comes to the numbers and movement of conventional forces in Europe. That‘s why the NATO Allies have signed up to rejuvenate the Conventional Forces in Europe regime. Russia has also engaged in the talks now underway in Vienna, and I hope this will soon lead to an agreed framework of principles to guide future negotiations.

Q.: Does NATO count on the expansion of military transit to Afghanistan via Russia? Is NATO planning to finance deliveries of Russian helicopters to Afghanistan and does this imply sending Russian military instructors to train Afghan pilots?

A.: We are grateful for the Russian contribution to the process of stabilizing Afghanistan. It stems from the well understood commonality of interests. Our goals are, after all, the same: never again to allow Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists and to help the Afghan government to provide for its own security, including by fighting the poppy trade.
To meet these goals we have been training together with Russia counter narcotics experts from Afghanistan and neighboring countries. Allies have used the railway transit arrangements offered by Russia to move supplies to [International Security Assistance Force] ISAF via Russian territory, and we are grateful for that.
Because of the success of these projects we are currently discussing ways to broaden both the current transit agreement (to include for example the return of goods from Afghanistan) as well as counter-narcotics training.
On top of this I proposed last year - during my first visit to Moscow - that Russia considers providing helicopters to Afghan forces and that we develop a package of maintenance training and spare parts assistance to go with it. I am glad to say that talks are taking place to define such a package and how we could finance that. I am optimistic that agreement will be reached, but it is too early to speak about the details of the training offer.

Q.: Tbilisi expects that the Lisbon summit will confirm the NATO intention to admit Georgia to its ranks. Are these hopes justified?

A.: During the 2008 summit in Bucharest Allies decided to offer a clear perspective of membership to Georgia. This decision remains in force. Membership depends however on each candidate‘s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and to the extent to which it meets the required standards.