At the start of a three-day visit to Australia, the Secretary General said on Wednesday (13 June) that despite being geographically far away from NATO nations, Australia shared many common values with NATO allies, making it a natural partner. “We may be oceans apart, but we are partners in security,” said the Secretary General. “The common challenges we face only serve to bring us closer together.”
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said that Australia and NATO face increasingly complex and unpredictable security challenges.The Secretary General pointed to terrorism, cyber attacks and piracy as examples of the global security challenges that both NATO and Australia face. “Geography and distance no longer protect us. No country or continent can be insulated against global challenges – or deal with them on their own,” he said. “So NATO-Australian cooperation is not as strange as it might appear at first sight. In fact, it makes perfect sense. Because we are like-minded and we are single minded when it comes to security.” Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said Australia and NATO share the same commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights “and we share the courage to stand up for those values.” He pointed to Australia’s strong commitment to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, where Australia is among the top ten troop contributing nations. The Secretary General said a main reason for his visit to Canberra and Sydney was to convey NATO’s gratitude and thanks for Australia’s vital contribution to the mission. Australia currently has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan.
He said NATO looked forward to working more closely with Australia not only through their cooperation in Afghanistan, but also in other areas like developing military capabilities. This would include training, education and joint exercises. “I see particular scope for closer cooperation between our special forces and I am convinced that our cooperation should also encompass maritime security and cyber security,” said the Secretary General. “This is how we can learn from each other, share best practices, develop common standards, and reinforce each other's efforts to all our benefits.”
Closer cooperation is expected to be the focus of talks between the Secretary General with Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and Stephen Smith, Australia’s Minister of Defence during his visit to the country.
The Secretary General will also lay a wreath at Australia’s War Memorial to pay tribute to Australia’s armed forces and meet with university students to discuss security issues during his trip.