''NATO and Russia: why cooperation counts''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago

  • 11 May. 2011
  • |
  • Last updated: 12 May. 2011 17:46

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Mr. O’Muircheartaigh,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,

 It’s great to be back in Chicago!  In fact, it’s great to be back in the same room here at Chicago University where I gave a speech last year.

I know that Chicago is one of several US cities which claim to be the home to the largest number of Danish Americans.  Let me tell you that I certainly always feel very welcome here.  And I want to thank the Harris School and the International House for having me today.

 I have come to America to highlight the enduring value of NATO.  To thank the United States for its continuing support and leadership in the Alliance.  And to stress that solidarity within the Alliance is a two-way street: that Europeans and Canadians stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their American Allies.

More than 60 years after its creation, NATO remains the vital link between the United States and Europe.  To protect and promote the core values of American and European civilisation – freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Our relations with Russia also play an important role in that equation.  Now some of you may ask why?  I know that Russia is still seen in some circles as our former Cold War foe.  But it has been a longstanding, strategic objective of NATO to help create a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.  We have made great progress, but we are not there yet.  And I maintain that Russia plays a key role if we want to achieve it.

 I want to discuss three issues with you.  First – Why NATO and Russia need to work together.  Second – How we are already working together.  And third – How to move our partnership with Russia forward.

 So first, what brings us together?  When the Cold War ended, we may have had false expectations about each other.  Some in the West thought that Russia would align its interests with ours.  And many in Russia thought that, since the Warsaw Pact had dissolved, NATO should too.
Both these expectations proved to be plain wrong.  They hampered the relationship between NATO and Russia for a long time.  They even brought it close to a complete standstill.

Ironically, at the same time, the case for broader, more solid NATO-Russia cooperation became more and more compelling.  Because the threats to the security of our nations increased all the time - both in number and in complexity.

Terrorism, fragile states, piracy, the proliferation of nuclear weapons -- these are all global threats that affect all our nations.  There is no way for any single nation, not even the world’s most powerful nation, either to escape these threats, or to tackle them on its own.

The best way to meet them is through the broadest possible international cooperation.  NATO and Russia have a vital stake in that cooperation – and a major responsibility for driving it forward.

Finally, let’s not forget one more, obvious reason for us to cooperate.  Russia and the United States hold more than 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear arsenal.  This means that both countries have a special responsibility to work together on nuclear issues.  And NATO has a stake in that too.

Clearly, we have an obligation to cooperate.  So my second point is how we work together.

In Lisbon last November, we agreed with President Medvedev to develop a true, strategic NATO-Russia partnership.  This decision was grounded in a sober assessment of the new security environment.  But it was also accompanied by a strong determination to translate solemn words into action.  And we have seen concrete action in a number of areas these last few months.

For example in the fight against terrorism.  Russia had the most recent experience with terrorism when a suicide bomber blew himself up at one of Moscow’s busiest airports last January.  But this is a continuing, common challenge that concerns all our nations.

NATO and Russia decided just last month to step up our cooperation.  Preventing terrorism; combating terrorist activities; and managing the consequences of terrorist acts. 

NATO and Russia are also cooperating more closely on Afghanistan.  Despite its own, difficult history with the country, Russia has realised that it has a strong interest in a more stable Afghanistan.  We have cooperated for some time on counter-narcotics training in Afghanistan and Central Asia, to stop heroin from flooding into our countries.  Russia has also allowed transit of equipment through its territory in support of our Afghanistan mission.

Just recently we agreed to start providing training, spare parts and tool kits for Russian-made Afghan helicopters.  This will help the Afghans to provide security for their own country.  And that, in turn, will benefit the security of our nations.    

These are significant achievements.  My third point – How do we move forward?

We must acknowledge that we don’t always see eye to eye.  NATO and Russia still have disagreements of principle on issues such as Georgia.  We insist on full respect for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  And we call on Russia to live up to her international obligations in that respect.  We must not shy away from discussing these disagreements.  But neither must we allow them to paralyse our partnership.

The NATO-Russia partnership must be rooted in realism and concrete cooperation – but it also needs a clear vision.

President Obama’s leadership in resetting the US-Russia bilateral relationship has brought us much closer towards that vision.

A real milestone was the entry into force earlier this year of the New START Treaty.  It will lead to a drastic reduction in the number of US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons.  This has given a strong push to our relations with Russia. 
I believe we have another, great opportunity to advance our relationship with Russia through missile defence.  Today, over 30 countries have or are developing ballistic missile capabilities.  And several of these capabilities potentially pose a direct threat to our countries.

This is why NATO has decided to build a defence system against those missiles.  And we have invited Russia to cooperate with us.

What we have in mind is cooperation between two independent missile defence systems.  If we achieve this, it will be a tangible demonstration that NATO and Russia can build security together, rather than against each other. 

The same vision must guide us on other important issues.  This includes negotiations on conventional forces in Europe, and on further reductions of nuclear weapons.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Those of us who remember the Cold War want a different future for our children and grandchildren.  A future where the mistrust and suspicion between NATO and Russia is consigned to the history books.  A future where we engage in frank dialogue, even if we sometimes disagree.  And a future where we cooperate effectively to meet our common challenges to fulfil the vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

I am convinced that this vision is well within our grasp.  And with the support of you and your great nation, we can make it a reality.

Thank you.