8 Jun 2011

NATO Military Committee Chairman Giampaolo di Paola: We hope that Russia will trust us the way we trust Russia

NATO Military Committee Chairman Adm. Giampaolo di Paola has given an interview to Interfax ahead of a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) at the level of defense ministers in which he in particular spoke about the importance of good climate for the resolution of the missile defense issue.

While the idea of linking NATO‘s missile defense system with Russia‘s is natural, these should be two independent systems, di Paola told Interfax in his office in Brussels.
"I find it quite natural that NATO says: we are building a system to protect our territory from ballistic missile threats emanating not from Russia. And we stated it clearly to Russia. Absolutely clearly! And we offered to Russia to work together. And if Russia has its own system, then it will be most natural to tie these both systems together so as together to protect our own territory," he said.
Asked whether NATO sees the joint NATO-Russian European missile-defense system as two different systems linked in some way, Di Paola said: "Yes, two systems. NATO will develop its own, and we spoke about it. As well as that, there is the Russian system. And these two systems will be linked."
"NATO is an alliance, and in this capacity it is responsible for protecting its members and its territory," he said.
"I think the same is happening on Russia‘s side. If you ask the Russian military and political leaders, they too believe that there is a duty to defend Russia, homeland," the NATO Military Committee chairman said.
"It is clear, it is simple, and it seems to me that it is clear to Moscow as well," said Di Paola, commenting on the idea of linking two missile-defense systems.
"How, in what way and what will be the linking elements - these are all the topics for discussion between NATO and Russia, but particularly between Russia and the United States of America which plays a fundamental role in this system. I hope that this discussion will lead to something positive," the admiral said.
NATO believes in the possibility of building such a missile defense system, he said. "We do want to cooperate with Russia. We do want to build a system which can strengthen our and Russia‘s security, with everyone bearing their share of responsibility," the NATO Military Committee chairman said.
The alliance does not regard Russia as "a threat for itself, including in terms of missile proliferation," he said. "And we hope that Russia will trust us the way we trust Russia," Di Paola said.
Today Russia and NATO are implementing military projects that would have been impossible two years ago, di Paola said.
"And if you look at what we did over the past year, it was very positive. Let‘s say, in 2008, the situation was completely different," di Paola said.
Progress in military cooperation between the parties "is a question of creating an atmosphere of trust," he said. "If trust grows, so will the complexity of military exercises," he said, when asked about transition from joint computer-simulated to field exercises.
"First of all, one should be patient, secondly, confidence building should continue, thirdly, there has to be transparency, reciprocity and common interest," the admiral said.
"The exercises are not at all computer-simulated but very concrete ones," for example, the Bold Monarch 2011 exercise off the Spanish coast, during which Russian and NATO submarines and vessels practiced skills to assist the crew of a distressed vessel, he said. Di Paola watched the exercise together with the chief of the Russian Army General Staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov.
"It seems to me that it is a very positive example. And I think that over time it will become possible to hold other, non computer-simulated exercises, including theater missile defense drills," the NATO Military Committee chief said.
"I think there will be no obstacles on the part of NATO. There is a need to create an appropriate political climate of reciprocity," the admiral said.
The military should help the work carried out at political institutions but politicians have the final say on the creation of the European missile-defense system, he continued.
"This means that we can help establish mutual trust, but ultimately, politics must play its role," di Paola said.
He praised a series of military consultations on missile defense held in Brussels over the past few months.
"I think the military consultations between NATO and Russia were held in a good climate. It is clear that cooperation between the military plays an important role in strengthening the atmosphere of trust. But it is also clear that the missile defense dimension has a pronounced political nature," the admiral said.
Di Paola expressed hope that the meeting between the NATO and Russian defense ministers will become yet another step forward in cooperation.
"Any meetings can have a positive result, if there is a will from leaders on both sides to work together and move forward," Di Paola said in an interview with Interfax ahead of a NATO-Russia Council meeting at the level of defense ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.
The path towards success on a complicated and politically sensitive dossier such as the European missile-defense system consists in starting well-intentioned and clear talks aimed at ultimately reaching a positive result, he said.
"Tomorrow, or after tomorrow or the following day - this is not a scale of gauging a success for such complicated topics. So I hope that the meeting of the NATO and Russian defense ministers will become yet another step forward, yet another example of a positive atmosphere, as it was in Lisbon and in Berlin," the NATO Military Committee chairman said.
Speaking about the situation in Libya, he said that NATO clearly announced that its operation in Libya on the basis of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 will last no longer than it is necessary and there will be no ground operation.
The alliance has already stated that there were will be no NATO soldiers on the Libyan ground, he said in an interview with Interfax ahead of a NATO-Russia Council meeting at the level of defense ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.
"And our words are still valid. I do not understand why each time the media ask whether there will be NATO boots on the Libyan ground. There won‘t be," he said.
The operation will last "until the Gaddafi regime stops posing a threat to its people. If this happens tomorrow - even better. Or after tomorrow. But that does not depend on us only," the chairman of the NATO Military Committee said.
As to a possibility of a military operation in North Africa or in the Middle East without the relevant resolution of the UN Security Council, di Paola said that there is no sense in discussing such a possibility.
"The question is not whether it is possible or not; it is not NATO who decides what should happen in Syria or Yemen; it was not NATO who decided to hold the operation in Libya - there was a UN resolution which asked NATO to make this step," he said.
"Every country, including, probably, Russia as well, and every international or regional organization complies with UN Security Council resolutions, which is what we did. We are fulfilling the UN resolution. There is no other similar resolution, except Libya," the NATO Military Committee chairman said.