by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the NATO-Russia Council (NRC)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve just chaired my first NATO-Russia Council at Ministerial level. And I must say that if they all deliver solid results like this one has, we are off to a good start.
Our aim, as we prepared this meeting in Brussels these past weeks, was to agree on the foundations we need to make a fresh start in relations between NATO nations and Russia. And as a result of some very active negotiations, we’ve achieved a solid result.
First, we’ve agreed to launch a Joint Review of 21st Century threats and challenges. The aim is to agree on the real threats all 29 NRC nations face today – a list which, I am quite confident, will not include each other. That, alone, would be a major step forward.
Second, we’ve agreed on a work plan for 2010, including restarting our military to military cooperation, stepping up our cooperation on Afghanistan, and increasing our cooperation to fight terrorism. The bomb on the express train last week in Russia, which killed 26 innocent people, is an example of a real threat we all face together, and against which we must work together.
Third, we agreed a way forward to make the NATO-Russia Council more efficient. Now, I’m not usually one to mention improvements to bureaucracy as news, but I do believe that the NRC is an essential part of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, and making it work better actually matters.
Overall, these three agreements form a solid package, and offer a practical way forward for the NRC. For that alone, I’d consider this meeting a success.
But we also had a good discussion of important political issues, including President Medvedev’s proposals on a new European Security Treaty, presented by Minister Lavrov The other NRC Minister made it clear that they are open to discuss it – but that the OSCE remains the primary forum for that discussion, which I know took place just a few days ago at the OSCE Ministerial earlier this week.
Of course, there was not a meeting of minds on all issues. For example Georgia, or NATO’s Open Door. That is to be expected. But today’s meeting should make it clear that we will not, and cannot, let those disagreements overshadow our cooperation in other areas.
This meeting was only a first step. But it was a real step, towards a better, more productive NATO-Russia relationship – and, I hope towards eventually a true strategic partnership, where we focus much less on each other, and focus instead on what we can do together.
James Appathurai, NATO Spokesman: Questions?
Q: -- Baumann from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Sir, I understand that in the document signed today, there is a mention…it’s putting back the discussion of missile defense on the agenda. Could you tell us what that is about, please?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Secretary-General, NATO): We have agreed on a text concerning missile defense; a text in which we welcome the new U.S. approach, among other things, because it will be developed within a NATO framework. We also look forward to exploring the possibilities of…strengthening the cooperation with Russia concerning missile defense. And this text is prepared with a view to possibly taken…taking decisions at the upcoming NATO Summit, which will take place in November, next year.
Q: Sertac Aktan, IHA News Agency. I would like to ask a question about Georgia. You said that you don’t want disagreements to overshadow your cooperation with Russia; for future, that’s for sure, but still, has there been any new talks and any new discussions about the situation in Georgia? Thank you very much.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen : Yesterday, we had a meeting in the NATO-Georgia Commission, a meeting in which the Georgian foreign minister gave us a presentation of the situation in Georgia, also the security situation. And we had an opportunity to exchange views on that yesterday.
Q: Monsieur le Secretaire-Général, Pierre Benazet de Radio-France. Une question en français pour une réponse en français, si vous le voulez bien. Vous avez exprimé votre satisfaction à l’issue de ces deux jours de réunions… Satisfaction sur cette première réunion avec la Russie, et satisfaction aussi sur le niveau de contribution pour l’Afghanistan. Êtes-vous entièrement satisfait, ou est-ce que vous n’êtes pas un peu déçu par le fait que certains pays n’aient pas encore annoncé d’engagement formel aujourd’hui?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen : Je suis satisfait. Nous avons obtenu un consensus parmi les alliés et les partenaires sur la stratégie pour l’opération en Afghanistan, et il y a des bonnes nouvelles concernant le nombre des troupes en Afghanistan. Au moins 25 alliés et partenaires ont annoncé des contributions additionnelles et j’envisage que les alliés et les partenaires de FIAS vont augmenter le nombre des troupes avec au moins 37,000 desquelles 30,000 des États-Unis, et environ 7,000 des autres alliés et partenaires. C’est vraiment un grand succès.
Q: Dmytro Shkurko, National News Agency of Ukraine. Secretary-General, could you elaborate a little bit in details about the NATO position on new Russian proposals on the new security architecture in Europe? So, what kind of strong and weak points you see in that new proposals? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen : Well, we have just received the document. So we have to look closer into it; we have to study it before we can present any position on that.
The reason why we say that we are prepared to discuss it but we think the main…the primary forum for such discussion should be OSCE, is that the proposal calls all countries in Europe and not all of them are members of NATO. So we think that the discussion should take place in a forum that counts all the countries affected by this document.
But my answer is that we have just received it; we have to study it in further details before I can present any precision on that.
James Appathurai, NATO Spokesman: Next question is here and then there.
Q: Marion Von Haaren, German Television. General-Secretary, can you tell us what is the contribution of the Russias in the solution of the Afghanistan problem? Did you speak about it today?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen : Yeah, about Russia/Afghanistan—yes, we had an exchange of views on that from the Russian side. It is strongly indicated that Russia would like a further engagement in our operation in Afghanistan. On the NATO side, allies have also clearly expressed an interest in a stronger Russian engagement. And, not least, concrete Russian initiatives.
Having said that, I would also express my appreciation of the contributions Russia have…has already made, among them the transit facilities for ISAF.
But I think our cooperation concerning Afghanistan has not yet reached its full potential. So I foresee that we will explore the possibilities to further the Russian engagement in the coming weeks and months.
James Appathurai, NATO Spokesman: Jim.
Q: Jim Neuger from Bloomberg. Back to the Russian proposals for a new security architecture—a number of allies suspect that this Russian proposal is basically a ploy for Russia to gain some sort of de facto veto over any further NATO expansion. Do you share that suspicion?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen : As I said before, I have not had an opportunity to study the document in details. So I will let further comments on that await this detailed study. But I would like to take this opportunity to stress that there can be no doubt whatsoever that NATO will remain our framework for Euro-Atlantic security.
Q: Raimund Löw with Austrian Radio and Television. The French foreign minister today said that France doesn’t see any reason to reinforce its military potential in Afghanistan. The German foreign minister said as long as there is not a clear strategy, Germany is not going to discuss more soldiers. So I wonder, don’t we see here rather different positions within NATO in that question? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen : No, on the contrary. It has been quite encouraging to listen to the debate today. We…This morning, we had a meeting among, now, forty-four ISAF members, as the Republic of Korea has now joined ISAF. So, we are now forty-four. And all allies and partners welcomed President Obama’s speech. They all supported the approach, which has been presented by General McChrystal. So we have really a solid foundation.
And quite a number of allies and partners were in a position to make clear announcements already at this meeting. Others indicated that they would probably make announcements in the coming weeks and months. Some of them pointed to the international conference, which will take place on the 28th of January, as a very important event for them, in their considerations as to how they will continue their engagement in Afghanistan.
So, and for me, the timetable is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the clear commitment we have witnessed today. So I foresee more announcements of true contributions in the coming weeks and months.
James Appathurai, NATO Spokesman: I think that’s it. Thank you very much.