NATO and Russia building trust through defence cooperation
For the first time in three years, the 29 NATO-Russia Council (NRC) Defence Ministers met in Brussels today to discuss a broad range of defence issues.
NRC Defence Ministers had the first opportunity to take stock of the work on missile defence since the historic Lisbon summit in November 2010. This Summit set in motion a reinvigorated NATO-Russia cooperation in the area of theatre missile defence, as well as dialogue and discussion on possible ways to cooperate on territorial missile defence. While they agreed that NATO and Russia are coming closer to reaching agreement on the key principles which should govern this cooperation, more work will need to be done over the next few months.
Secondly, Ministers discussed NATO’s main operations: Afghanistan and Libya. NATO and Russia share an interest in a stable Afghanistan. One excellent example of cooperation is the transit arrangement for Afghanistan, which is being used by Allies and other ISAF contributors. Counter-narcotics training conducted in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council is another success story. And the Helicopter Trust Fund is a timely initiative which can greatly benefit Afghan security forces. Ministers also discussed the progress of NATO’s mission to protect the people of Libya. As part of the international community, NATO and Russia share a clear goal: to ensure the people of Libya can shape their own future in freedom.
Thirdly, the growing NATO-Russia defence cooperation agenda was welcomed as a sign of increasing trust and shared interests. Tangible projects to counter terrorism are the exchange of classified information; developing technology able to detect explosive devices; and ways to improve protection of critical infrastructure. NATO and Russian fighter jets are holding their first ever joint exercise over Poland and the Black Sea. This Cooperative Airspace Initiative (CAI) aims to prevent attacks such as 9/11 by sharing information and coordinating interceptions of renegade aircraft. And a Russian submarine joined for the first time a NATO submarine rescue exercise. NRC Ministers concluded that military cooperation is making steady progress.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stressed that “transparency, confidence building and mutual reassurance will guide our work in the NATO-Russia Council in the months and years ahead”.