Updated: 02-Jun-2006 NATO Speeches


24 June 2005


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be back in Moscow, and to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished audience. I am firmly convinced that frank and open dialogue between NATO and the Russian people is critical to our efforts to ensure the long-term security of the entire Euro-Atlantic region. And I am hopeful that our discussion today will contribute to this effort.

Just a few months ago, President Putin, in a speech to the Russian Security Council, summed up the NATO-Russia relationship by pointing out that, “in just a very short time, we have taken a gigantic step” away from past confrontation and stereotypes. And he judged that NATO-Russia relations had “become a real factor in ensuring international stability,” underlining that this cooperation had made it possible for us to “deal a serious blow to international terrorism”.

President Putin’s evaluation is right on the mark.

The strategic environment in the Euro-Atlantic area has changed dramatically over the past several years, and the NATO-Russia relationship has changed with it. We have left old Cold War threat perceptions behind us, because our real threats are clear: terrorism, which can strike anywhere at any time, ruthlessly and murderously; the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and materials, which can turn a local tragedy into a global catastrophe; and the multitude of challenges posed by failed states and regional conflicts – violence inspired by ethnic and religious hatred, trafficking in arms, in human beings, in narcotics. These are the challenges of the twenty-first century, and no single state or military Alliance, no matter how powerful, can face them alone.

This was the spirit in which our heads of state and government took the courageous step three years ago to create the NATO-Russia Council. Their goal was a bold one: to achieve a qualitatively new relationship between NATO and the Russian Federation, aimed at “achieving a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security” But they believed that the time had come for such a bold step.

For the past three years, the NATO-Russia Council has made significant progress toward making this vision a reality. We have intensified our cooperation in preventing, combating and managing the consequences of terrorism, as evidenced by the far-reaching NATO-Russia Action Plan on Terrorism approved by our Foreign Ministers last December. Russia has offered practical support to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, and more recently, a contribution to our anti-terrorist naval patrols in the Mediterranean Sea.

Cooperation among our military forces progresses very well. We are pursuing, for example, an ambitious programme of cooperation with the 15 th Motorised Rifle Brigade in Samara, and a NATO-sponsored programme to re-train released Russian military personnel to make their transition to the private sector easier. We also have just completed a NATO-organised course for senior Russian officers at the General Staff Academy here in Moscow, aimed at enhancing their ability to function effectively in multinational operations.

Efforts to enhance the levels of interoperability among our soldiers, our theatre missile defence systems, our civil emergency response teams, have made steady progress, making us more able with each passing day to translate words into concrete joint actions. Just two months ago, in Vilnius, Foreign Minister Lavrov signed the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, laying an important legal foundation for even more ambitious forms of practical cooperation.

Beyond being a mechanism for technical cooperation, however, the NATO‑Russia Council also serves as an effective forum for political dialogue between Russia and the member states of NATO. Our consultations on the Balkans have resulted in a joint initiative to promote improved border controls in the region. Our discussions of Afghanistan have led us to explore a new NRC initiative to combat illegal trafficking in narcotics through training of relevant Afghan and Central Asian personnel.

We have exchanged views on Iraq, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and other sensitive subjects where we have not always agreed, but where we have shared information and political perspectives in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect. One recent example is last December’s political crisis in Ukraine, where differences between the Russian government and the West over the unfolding political crisis in Ukraine threatened, in the view of many, to undermine the relationship we have built, over so many years, between NATO and Russia. Yet it was in the NATO-Russia Council where we managed to bridge our differences, and agree upon a joint call for free, fair Presidential elections whose results would reflect the will of the Ukrainian people.

With this solid record of accomplishment behind us, it should be an easy task indeed to stand before you as NATO Secretary General and Chairman of the NATO-Russia Council, and make the case for intensified cooperation against the threats of today and tomorrow.

Yet this is only half of the picture. For the bold, forward-looking agenda I have just described, as important as it is, is only part of the NATO-Russia relationship. Just as important as looking toward the challenges of the future is a frank treatment of the legacy of an often difficult past. If we are to build a true partnership, it must be based on trust. Trust between genuine partners, working to develop common solutions to shared challenges. Trust in a shared vision of a common future.

NATO and Russia have made considerable progress toward building a genuine, sustainable partnership over the past four years. Yet public perceptions in Russia, including in much of the political elite, do not seem to reflect this reality. Too many still seem to cling to the past. The last time I was in Moscow, for example, I gave a live interview on Ekho Moskvy radio. During a telephone poll taken while I was on the air, seventy-one per cent of listeners agreed with the statement “NATO is an aggressive military bloc”. Well, not the NATO I am in charge of.

Last spring, when the three Baltic states joined NATO, the Alliance began conducting routine peacetime airspace patrols – as is done in every other NATO member state, including those who are surrounded by other Allies. As is done in Russia itself. The Russian media, however, reacted as if this were a provocative step explicitly aimed at threatening Russia. Hardly a word was written about the fact that NATO and Russia had launched an ambitious programme designed to integrate their civil and military air pictures, thereby enhancing our ability to work together in combating terrorist threats to aviation.

Another example is the CFE Treaty. NATO Allies have worked constructively for years with Russia, Georgia and Moldova to resolve amicably questions of compliance with this Treaty. Our aim is to secure the entry into force of the Treaty’s adaptation agreement – an agreement that Russia continues to regard as essential for her national security, and which Georgia and Moldova, as well as NATO Allies and Russia, will have to ratify. We have been quick to welcome positive developments in this area, such as the joint statement last month by Foreign Ministers Lavrov and Zurabichvili. And we have even offered financial assistance to the implementation process. Yet we are often accused of meddling in “bilateral” affairs.

In broader terms, we have too often found ourselves drawing distinct conclusions from the same set of objective facts, whether in Yugoslavia in 1999, Georgia in 2003, Ukraine last year, or Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan this year. We have to understand together that long-term stability can only be assured through effective, democratic governance. Regimes that seek to suppress the legitimate aspirations of their own people tend only to exacerbate the problems posed by corruption and extremism – problems that will inevitably spill across international borders.

But we have made important progress in bridging certain analytical divides over the past three years, even if more needs to be done. We will probably have to focus even more in the months and years to come on public outreach efforts, to finally do away with clichés from the past.

I do not mean to minimise Russia’s own national experience over the past fifteen years. The Russian people have shown extraordinary resilience through a period of turbulence in their own country and their immediate neighbourhood that many have compared to the infamous “time of troubles” in the seventeenth century.

It is understandable, therefore, that in many ways Russia looks to further change beyond her borders – and above all, in her immediate neighbourhood – with a certain amount of scepticism and sometimes anxiety. But change, though often difficult, comes with extraordinary opportunities. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe who have undergone unprecedented democratic transformations over the past decade and a half in pursuit of their integration into the Euro-Atlantic community know this. The people of Georgia and Ukraine have come to realise it as well.

The NATO-Russia partnership must keep pace with this change, if we are to realise the full scope of the historic decision we took in 2002 to achieve a “new quality” in our relations. We must also develop a higher degree of consensus in the NATO-Russia dialogue on the nature of long-term stability and the need for positive change. This, in turn, must be based upon mutual confidence that the perspectives we bring to the table are designed to enrich a common response. That we do not seek to underscore what divides us, or score points against each other in an outdated zero-sum competition.

The democratic changes of the past several years, changes that are continuing in places from Afghanistan to the Balkans, have ultimately made Russia more secure. When pressed, we have shown an extraordinary ability to finally bridge our differences – for example, with regard to last year’s Ukrainian political crisis. But how much better off would we be if we could avoid such differences entirely, by engaging in a more open strategic dialogue before such crises emerge?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

NATO is Russia’s partner in security, and this partnership can go as far as the Russian government, and ultimately the Russian people, are prepared to take it. If you doubt this, consider the fact that NATO is currently conducting five ongoing missions – to maintain peace and stability in Kosovo and Afghanistan, to build the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, to promote defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to help defend, deter and protect against terrorism through maritime operations in the Mediterranean. All five of these missions enjoy the active support of the Russian Federation, whether through votes in the UN Security Council or through the actual contribution of military forces or logistical support. Our interests coincide more than ever before. And I am sure that NATO’s support to the African Union in Darfur will also meet with active Russian approval.

But in broader, strategic terms, NATO’s overall objective to expand security and stability, based upon shared democratic values, throughout the Euro-Atlantic region and beyond, is difficult without robust cooperation with Russia. Effective responses to Russia’s real national security threats are equally impossible without cooperation with NATO Allies, using mechanisms like the NATO-Russia Council. The future is in your hands, and the hands of your political leadership. Only by taking full advantage of the possibilities we have at our disposal for real political dialogue and practical cooperation can we leave behind the suspicions of the past in favour of a common future – and move from the “time of troubles” to a “time of hope.”

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