NATO-Russia Ministers discuss closer cooperation
NATO foreign ministers together with their Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, marked 10 years of increased bilateral cooperation under the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) at talks on 19 April.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who chaired Thursday’s meeting, said the NRC has been an effective tool to improve relations and establish cooperation in various fields where the Alliance and Russia share common interests.
The NRC was established in 2002, five years after the Alliance and Russia signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which marked the end of the strategic confrontation between the two former adversaries.
“Ten years ago we created the NATO-Russia Council to give that cooperation a stronger framework and a stronger future,” said the Secretary General. “Cooperation between NATO and Russia makes sense and it really works. It delivers more security for NATO and more security for Russia. And by increasing our security, it also builds up trust.”
He added that despite some disagreements the NRC has been a valued instrument and has made great strides in bolstering cooperation.
NATO and Russia are cooperating on a wide range of practical issues including counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, counter-narcotics, developing early detection technology on explosive devices and training Afghan Air Force technicians.
The 29 NRC foreign ministers agreed that the stability of Afghanistan remains a vital concern. The ministers welcomed that an NRC-initiated programme has been able to train 2,000 counter-narcotics personnel from Afghanistan and its neighbours, and that Afghan helicopter technicians are being trained and spare parts are being provided to back the Afghan Air Force.
The ministers discussed the two-way transit arrangements for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. They said it was an important contribution to the ISAF mission, the Secretary General said.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen announced that NATO has invited Russia to send a representative to the extended Afghanistan meeting at NATO’s Chicago Summit -because Russia clearly has an interest in regional security. “And in the interest of transparency and trust, we discussed the summit agenda with Minister Lavrov today. We discussed our continued engagement with Afghanistan, the capabilities package that we expect to approve in Chicago, as well as missile defence”, he said.
Ministers also raised differences on key issues, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. They reiterated that they valued the NRC as a forum for political dialogue on all issues including those where NRC member states disagree.
“I look forward to more cooperation. More security. And more trust. Because those are vital pillars of the strategic relationship we agreed to develop”, the Secretary General said.
The NRC meeting discussed missile defence cooperation. The Secretary General said that NATO was determined to push for closer cooperation on the issue.
“While dialogue is not always easy, we continue exploring the options,” said Mr. Fogh Rasmussen. “We are determined to continue in that direction.”
He pointed to the recent joint theatre missile defence exercise in Germany which was held last month.
The Secretary General said that as a way to further build confidence and trust, the ministers agreed to conduct talks and plan activities related to defence reform, nuclear doctrines and strategies and force development and posture. They also discussed improving transparency, including on military exercises.