by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the press point following the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Foreign Ministers session
This is a significant year for NATO-Russia relations. Fifteen years ago, we signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act: marking the first step towards our strategic cooperation.
Ten years ago, we created the NATO-Russia Council to give that cooperation a stronger framework, and a stronger future.
Since then, there have been ups and downs. In some areas, we have made great progress. In others, we have moved slowly. But overall, we have moved forward. Fifteen years ago, not many people would have expected NATO and Russia to combat terrorism together – but we are.
Fifteen years ago, not many would have expected us to fight against piracy - but we are.
And fifteen years ago, not many people would have expected us to be helping make Afghanistan more secure and stable together – but we are.
We expect to expand soon the transit options offered by Russia for the NATO-led missions in Afghanistan. This will allow us to send supplies to Afghanistan, and from Afghanistan, using the Russian rail network and air transport. We appreciate very highly Russia’s contribution, which is based on our shared interest, and contributes to our shared security.
We also discussed the Chicago summit. As you know, I have agreed with President-elect Putin that it would be difficult to hold a NATO-Russia Council Summit in Chicago, but we will meet bilaterally as soon as possible.
NATO has also invited Russia to participate in the extended Afghanistan meeting in Chicago 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.
We also discussed those areas where we continue to have disagreements of principle. Georgia is one such issue where NATO maintains its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
How to move forward on our missile defence ccoperation is another issue where we have not found agreement yet. But that is precisely the value of the NATO-Russia council we set up a decade ago. We can discuss what we agree and what we don’t. All issues at all times.
And while dialogue is not always easy, we continue exploring the options. For example, last month the NATO-Russia Council ran a virtual theatre missile defence exercise in Germany. This is a step in the right direction. And we are determined to continue in that direction.
Because what has become clear in the last 15 years is that 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.
I look forward to more cooperation. More security. And more trust. Because those are vital pillars of the strategic relationship we agreed to develop.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): We only have time for two, so please stick to one question each. Moscow Times.
Q: Nikolaus von Twickel from the Moscow Times. Mr. Secretary General, on Chicago, could you maybe just give us another explanation on why there won't be a Summit with then President Putin. I just want to remind you that in 2004 and 2007 I think Putin twice appeared at a NATO Summit without prior expectation. He showed up unexpectedly. What are the chances that he might show up in Chicago?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Well, as I told you, and that is really the explanation. What I told you is that I have talked with President-elect Putin, and we agreed that due to a very busy domestic political calendar in Russia, just a few weeks after his inauguration as a new president of Russia, it's not possible and not practical also to have a NATO-Russia Summit meeting in Chicago.
But, in the same vein, we discussed and agreed that we will continue our dialogue, meet bilaterally as soon as possible, and today we have had a NATO-Russia Council meeting at Foreign Ministers' level, so that demonstrates that there is nothing dramatic in the fact that we are not going to have a Summit meeting in Chicago.
Our relationship with Russia is not dependent on one single meeting. It's a long-term partnership.
OANA LUNGESCU: Kommersant.
Q: Thank you. Elena Chernenko, Kommersant. Recently, officials from NATO countries indicated that they would be willing to put down on paper that the missile defence system of NATO is not a threat to Russia; not as legal binding guarantees as Russia asked for, but rather as a political declaration. What would be the importance of such a declaration, and most importantly, how would it guarantee that, for instance, no elements of the NATO missile defence system would be place in the Baltic Sea, like things that Russia really worries about?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, I would like to stress that our missile defence system is not designed to threaten Russia or undermine the strategic position of Russia. Not in any way. So technically our system is not designed to threaten Russia. And our experts have told Russian experts that. That's the first thing.
Secondly, politically we are ready to reiterate what we said already 15 years ago in the founding act, and now we are celebrating the 15th anniversary of that very same founding act. In that founding act Russia and NATO clearly stated that we will not use force against each other. We do not consider each other adversaries. And I think it makes sense to reiterate that very clear statement. And we're prepared to do that.
But my final remark is that the very best assurance Russia could get would actually be to engage in direct cooperation with us on missile defence. We have suggested to establish one or two joint centres that could create a framework for cooperation, for exchange of data, for the elaboration of joint threat analysis, for preparation of joint exercises. And through that cooperation Russia could, with her own eyes, see that our system is not directed against Russia.
I want to make that very clear. We do not consider Russia a threat to NATO countries, to NATO territory, to NATO populations. And Russia should not consider NATO a threat towards Russia.
We have a clear mutual interest in developing a true strategic partnership. We decided that when we met in Lisbon and it's my clear ambition to implement that declaration.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. The Secretary General will be back after the ISAF meeting. Thank you.