Opening statement

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the joint press point with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov after the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Sochi, Russian Federation

  • 04 Jul. 2011
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  • Last updated: 05 Jul. 2011 15:32

Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergei Lavrov.

Sochi is an important place. In just over three years’ time, the eyes of the world will fall on this beautiful city as you host the twenty-second Winter Olympic Games. Let me wish you every success.

And today’s meeting is also important. We are all here to discuss how to build a true and solid strategic partnership.

Of course, the Olympic Games are a competition – some will win, others will lose. Our meeting is about cooperation – by working together, both NATO and Russia can win. We are in this together. It is not a zero-sum game, and it is not an arms race. But a race for a better future, where we can all share the golden prize of security.

Let me make this clear. NATO is not a competitor, but a partner that Russia can trust. In an uncertain world, NATO provides security, stability and safety – not just for our Allies, but for our neighbours.

Our mission in Libya is clear proof.

This operation is necessary. Without NATO's action, countless more people would have been killed, as Qadhafi threatened and continues to threaten.

This operation has a strong legal base. Our mandate is the historic resolution of the United Security Council - and we are fully complying with that mandate. We conduct our operations with utmost care, we do not target individuals, and we have no intention to put troops on the ground.

We support all regional and international efforts to find a political solution which takes into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Libya.

In this, we are fully in agreement with Russia. Earlier today I discussed this issue with President Medvedev and President Zuma. I believe it was a very useful occasion to exchange our views.

And just now we have had a very valuable exchange with President Medvedev.

That exchange was frank. It was friendly. And it was fruitful – in the true spirit of the Lisbon summit which President Medvedev attended last year.

We have made real progress since Lisbon. Real progress in tackling the threat of terrorism. The recent joint exercise involving our fighter jets shows that together we could prevent another attack like 9/11 taking place in the airspace of  Europe and Russia. And our successful cooperation on detecting explosives will allow us to counter suicide bombings such as the one that struck Domodedovo airport.

We are also making real progress in our cooperation on Afghanistan.  Our expanded transit agreement is working well. Afghan helicopter technicians will soon be trained due to the NATO-Russia Council Helicopter Trust Fund. And cooperation on counter-narcotics is delivering concrete results.

So we have already begun to build our partnership. Now I would like us to take it to the next level. And I believe that we can do so if we can agree to cooperate on missile defence.

NATO faces a missile threat. So do large parts of Russia. So cooperation between us makes sense politically. It makes sense practically. And it makes sense militarily. Missile defence cooperation is a real security response to real security challenges.

We have taken a decision to build an Allied system. That is a reality. And that will not change. But we want to build security with Russia, not against Russia. We want Russia to feel sure that NATO is not a threat – because we are not. That too, is a reality.

That is why we invited Russia to consider ways of linking our two separate systems together. We want to see two systems that would exchange information to make the defence of NATO territory and of Russia territory more effective. Because this would make us both safer. And it would prove that the best way to more security is through more cooperation.

Because cooperation is not just the right choice: it is the only choice that makes sense. The only way for all of us to win. We have the opportunity to build a true partnership based on cooperation.  Let us seize it.