14 Nov 2010

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder: We are looking for a reset in the NATO-Russia relationship

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon in which he speaks about the upcoming summit and other pressing issues, such conventional armed forces in Europe, Iran and Russia’s assistance to NATO in Afghanistan.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, do you share the view that the upcoming NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon will be a turning point for Russia-NATO relations?

Answer: We will have to see when we get there, but certainly of all the signed points, will be a possibility of this being a real turning point. What we are looking for is a reset in the NATO-Russia relationship, just the same way we had a reset in the U.S.-Russian relationship. Things have improved significantly over the past years, but what we really need now is use the summit agenda for the days, and weeks, and months ahead in order to find areas of practical cooperation in which Russia and the NATO countries together deal with the challenges of the 21st century. That’s what we hope to accomplish and that’s what we hope President Medvedev and 28 other leaders will be able to agree on.

Q.: Russia has repeatedly expressed concern over new NATO’s Strategic Concept among other things questioning its conformity to the UN Charter. Are there any guarantees that the new concept does not conceal any unpleasant surprises for the Russian delegations in Lisbon?

A.: Yes, I think so. I mean the Treaty of Washington, the North Atlantic Treaty, that formed NATO states in the preamble and in the first article that this is an alliance that is completely formed with supportive of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. So nothing in the Strategic Concept, nothing in any strategic concept that NATO has ever put together or will put together will in any way deviate from the core principles and purposes of the UN Charter, and that will be reaffirmed. So, that, as far as we are concerned, is not an issue. This is the document that looks forward to the future, to a NATO that is capable of providing defense to its friends and members against new threats, as well as looking forward to how security can be enhanced around the world by working together with other partners. It will be clear in that concept that Russia is a country that NATO wants to have a strong strategic partnership with, and we are looking forward to developing. That is what the Strategic Concept looks forward to, and that is the way we are going to talk about these issues. I do not see anything in the concept that should come as a surprise to Russia or anybody else, when it is announced.

Q.: Do you believe it would be useful if NATO and Russia signed a legally binding agreement not to deploy major combat forces near Russian borders?

A.: Well, we think that the existing treaty that governs relations amongst all states in Europe – and the four principles and commitments for all states in Europe to move upon we think that is the structure of what we need to move forward. We do not look for treaties; we do not think we need new institutions. What we do need is to uphold all the principles of the treaties and agreements that we have and use the institutions we have to take this organization, which is a peaceful organism – but it does not reach its full potential – and make it an organization that deals with the common concerns that Russia and all NATO countries have in order to address them coherently, practically and together. And that is I think what we hope to achieve, which is much better practical cooperation than trying to figure out if there is another new treaty to be signed.

Q.: Russia and NATO are trying to identify common threats. How much progress has been made in this work and when will it be over? Yesterday, Russian envoy to NATO Ambassador Rogozin said that it had been impossible to come to an agreement on missile threats. May be it is Iran? What kind of problem we have on this issue?

A.: First on the joint threat. We have been working now for many months on putting together what we call a joint review of 21st-century security, and it is almost complete. We are looking at such issues as Afghanistan, piracy, terrorism, natural and manmade disasters, nuclear proliferation, and the proliferation of ballistic missiles. And on virtually all of that we have reached a common assessment. It is quite clear that on ballistic missiles we do have views that are different within all the NRC countries and between the United States and Russia. We are continuing to work, we have another week, on how we are going to resolve those issues in a way that allow us to move forward. Even if we have different views. It is okay to have different views. We do not have to agree on everything.

Q.: Anyway on Iran. We still have different views on missile threat from Iran?

A.: It is more about the methodologies we used to assess what the threats and challenges are. And we are working this through. We still have several days to work these things through. We are committed, I think most of our allies are committed, and I know Russia is committed, to sitting together and trying to figure out a way to come to common assessment of what the threat is and to look at, even when there are differences, why there are differences. And we are committed to working on these issues and we are looking forward to working with all our partners, all our 28 partners, both those in NATO and Russia, to come up with a solution by the time we get to Lisbon.

Q.: NATO is inviting Russia to join its missile defense project. Could you clarify how the U.S. plans for a global missile defense is related to NATO’s project?

A.: Let me make a distinction between what the U.S. is trying to do with Russia and what NATO is doing with Russia. In the NATO-Russia context, what we are looking for is to cooperate on ballistic missile defense and against threats to Europe. We work together to counter those threats by joining the capabilities of NATO and Russia. We had demonstrated cooperation and exercise what NATO and Russia did in the first half of the decade from 2002 to 2008, the ability to put our systems together in a way that provides for a far more effective and cost-effective defense, and that ability and data that we get from our cooperation suggest that we can expand that kind of cooperation to territorial missile defense.

Q.: Is NATO open to equal cooperation with Russia on the missile defense project? For example, would NATO be willing to join forces with Russia in trying to identify missile threats before, not during, the practical implementation of the missile defense project?

A.: The United States is developing a missile defense capability, because we see a threat, and we will continue to do that. NATO will make a decision in this case on how it is going to respond to that threat, and we will continue to do that. And in both cases, the U.S. and NATO have and will make it very clear that we want to cooperate with Russia on that. We believe that there is a threat that needs to be countered and we are going to develop missile defenses for it. We would like to cooperate with Russia, but we cannot make cooperation with Russia a condition for us to develop missile defense when we see a threat. And we have a responsibility to defend our territory and population against the threat. And we will continue to do that. And we strongly believe that that threat is equally significant for Russia, and that we are better off when we can work together on countering that threat, which is both a more effective defense and a more cost effective means. Russia is developing ballistic missile defense capabilities, and we want to cooperate with Russia in having more effective and more cost-effective cooperation on this issue.

Q.: How can control over conventional armed forces in Europe be resumed?

A.: We, at very intensive negotiations and talks with all our partners and parties to the CFE Treaty, are meeting to see how we can overcome the issues that have frankly been a problem for many, many years. We are in negotiations, and we are working very hard together with Russia and NATO partners and non-NATO partners who are members of the CFE Treaty to see if we can find a way to modernize the conventional forces treaty. We think it is important that we succeed. We believe strongly in the importance of having a conventional arms control regime in Europe that supports the interests and ability of all countries to enhance their security.

Q.: Do you believe that progress can be achieved on the CFE Treaty despite the fact that Russia has military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia which NATO members view as part of Georgia?

A.: In order to have real negotiations, we will have to redress all the issues that divide us and issues that Russia would like to see developed in the CFE Treaty. And there are issues that we would like to see developed in this regime and issues that other countries want to address. That is why we should agree on the principles and a basis for further negations, and then resume our deliberations to see if we can come to a conclusion that strengthens the regime. And that is exactly what we are doing right now.

Q.: It is already known that one of the main issues of Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon will be the issue of more intensive NATO transit to Afghanistan through the Russian territory. Can you clarify what are the alliance’s specific needs in this respect? Some media reported that one of the issues under discussion is a proposal for NATO armored vehicles to be transported to Afghanistan through the Russia territory? Can you confirm this?

A.: I think the details are still being negotiated. We expect that we will reach agreement on them. Basically, there are two things: the kind of equipment we can ship and, equally important, that we can reverse shipment so that we can take equipment from Afghanistan and ship it back. And the details of those are still in negotiations, but I expect that we will sign a new agreement on the transit and what kinds of things will be allowed.

Q.: Has it been possible to achieve any clarity on supplies of Russian helicopters for the Afghan Army?

Q.: The NATO secretary general has asked Russia to provide helicopters to the Afghans, and we are still looking to see whether it is possible. What we will be looking at down the line is, in Lisbon, to hopefully set up a trust fund in order to help train and maintain helicopters.

Q.: What side will finance this trust fund? Will it be the U.S., NATO or Russia?

A.: It will be funded voluntarily by all members of the NRC, and it will be opened too to all 29 members. And everyone will make a decision as to what they would contribute, whether it will be in-kind, trainers, or spare parts.

Q.: And how many helicopters will be supplied under this agreement?

A.: This is the issue for Russia to decide. The U.S. is buying helicopters from Russia. But this is a different issue; this is the U.S. issue. It has nothing to do with what is happening. The Secretary General requested assistance, and Russia will have to decide whether it will provide any helicopters.

Q.: There have also been reports that Russia is willing to provide several helicopters free of charge, is it true?

A.: Again, this is for Russia to decide. If Russia wants to provide helicopters for the Afghan army, I am sure the Afghan army will be most grateful. But again it is for Russia to decide, not NATO.

Q.: So, Russia provided no information about this agreement?

A.: No.

Q.: Drug trafficking from Afghanistan is a very sensitive issue for Russia. Why does NATO refuse to destroy poppy plantations in Afghanistan?

A.: Because this is our policy and belief. For one, NATO is not in the business of dealing with opium. That’s not its task. Its task is to provide a secure and safe environment in support of the Afghan government. We also believe that eradication is not the best way to deal with the problem. The best way to deal the problem is to provide alternative crops to farmers so they will grow wheat rather than poppy. That is what we are doing, and it is actually quite successful. We are taking large parts of Afghanistan that used to grow poppy and now growing useful agricultural products. And people think that is the right way to go ahead with it.

Q.: How can you comment on data that after international forces entered Afghanistan opium production in Afghanistan has grown much?

A.: The reason for opium production going up is that the Taliban is actively encouraging the growth of opium and is using narcotics as a means to support the insurgency. So, the issue why NATO is there is that there is an insurgency there. And we are trying to adjust that by being present. If NATO was not in Afghanistan, the insurgency would be able to take over the entire country.

Q.: Russia has announced that it will never send any personnel to Afghanistan. Do you see this as a justifiable stance or do you still expect Russia to send for example instructors or other military specialists to Afghanistan?

A.: Russia has decided that it does not want to send personnel to Afghanistan, and that is its right. That is a decision that Russia needs to make for itself. But in many ways in which different countries contribute to the effort in Afghanistan, and indeed Russia is contributing significantly: training counternarcotics inspectors, as well as transport distribution networks for the U.S. and NATO. All of that is directly in support of the efforts provided to Afghanistan to help Afghanistan to achieve its own security. And that is Russia’s contribution; it is a welcome contribution, and its is an important contribution.