by the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Ambassador Kolinda Grabar at the Winter Academy, Abramtsevo (Moscow)

  • 13 Feb. 2012
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  • Mis à jour le: 22 Feb. 2012 08:59

Dr. Parkhalina,
Dear Winter Academy participants and guests,

Let me first express my delight at being here today with you to participate in the first day of the Winter Academy. For 14 years, the Winter Academy has been a staple event of our information programme in Russia. And I would like to thank Tatyana Parkhalina and her team from the Centre for European Security in preparing this programme both intellectually and logistically. Also, I would like to thank the NATO Information Office and Robert Pszczel for facilitating this event.

I think it is symbolic that the Winter Academy takes place, for the third year running, in Abramtsevo. Abramtsevo is a place where in the 19th century Russian Slavophile intellectuals used to discuss Russia’s place in the world emphasising her differences rather than similarities with the West. This week instead you will be discussing with experts and practitioners from both Russia and the West how to find common ground and overcome differences in NATO-Russia relations.

Therefore, I am gratified to see present a number of both Allied ambassadors as well as Russian representatives without whom this event would not be as interesting as it promises to be.

Each year in NATO-Russia cooperation is special but this year is even more special. 2012 is a jubilee year. 15 years ago we signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act and 10 years ago we created the NATO-Russia Council. This is long enough to look back and see where we are.

The title of this session ends with a question mark: NATO-Russia Council – 10 years on: from cooperation to real partnership? Each question deserves at least an attempt to provide an answer. I will try to do so at the very beginning without keeping you in suspense. My belief is that we are, for sure, on the road to real and comprehensive partnership but ( unfortunately) have not yet fully reached our final destination.

For a true partnership to emerge it is important that both sides know and understand their partner. Therefore, before offering my thoughts on NATO- Russia relations let me say a few words about NATO of today and its current priorities.

The vision for NATO’s future was laid out last year in the new Strategic Concept. In short, one can say that NATO remains faithful to its core principles (collective defence as enshrined in Article 5), values (defending security and democracy of its member countries) and procedures (consensus decision-making) taking into account the constantly changing international security environment.

I am pleased to see that so much space in the Winter academy agenda is devoted to new security challenges such as cyber and missile threats and piracy, to name but a few. All these new challenges are impossible to fight on your own. That is why the new Security Concept puts so much stress on cooperative security through partnerships. NATO Partners’ contributions are both politically and militarily very important in our operations. Five non-NATO partners joined us in the operation “Unified Protector” in Libya, 7 partners have their soldiers deployed alongside NATO troops in KFOR, 22 in Afghanistan.

Operational engagements remain in focus for NATO. Every day NATO and partner troops risk their lives in many theatres around the world including in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is without any doubt the most demanding operation NATO and its partners have ever undertaken. For our troops to be able to perform well in Afghanistan and in other places, today and in the future, much work needs to be done in advance.

This is all the more difficult in the situation of falling defence budgets when we have no choice other than do more and better with less. With this goal in mind, we are working on ways to do more in terms of multinational projects, sharing resources and ultimately specialization. This is the essence of what we in NATO call Smart Defence.

We NATO Members and Partners need to work more together. Therefore, our Secretary General only recently announced a so-called Connected Forces Initiative. The ambition is to jointly enhance our unique capacity to work together, in particular in the area of training and education, increased exercises and better use of technology.

All these issues will be on the agenda of our upcoming summit in Chicago together with such crucial topics such as our future role in Afghanistan and missile defence.

As the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, my task is to communicate our priorities, views and policies to the outside world. Public diplomacy is NATO’s soft power whereby we inform and engage our audiences to build credibility for the Alliance, but whereby we also listen to our audiences.

We do not see public diplomacy as propaganda. Our guiding principles are accuracy, trustworthiness, transparency and responsiveness of our publics.

Global security challenges often remain intangible except in their ultimate manifestations such as the collapsed New York Twin Towers or captured vessels by pirates off the Horn of Africa. Otherwise t hey are difficult to explain and demystify – from terrorism to cyber security Equally challenging is to maintain support for our operations, in particular in Afghanistan. But that is exactly what we are trying to do by working with the press, engaging the young generation, stimulating a debate with opinion makers, in particular parliamentarians, NGOs and think tanks. We do so using both traditional methods and modern technology reaching out to the “global village” via the internet, social media and the NATO TV channel.

It sounds almost like an understatement to say that explaining common achievements in NATO-Russia cooperation in Russia (but not only there) is difficult. The road we have travelled together in the last fifteen years was definitely not boring, sometimes it was even bumpy. Still, the simple truth is that whenever we joined forces or agreed on a common project to face up to a shared challenge we have made a difference. Take for example our cooperation on Afghanistan where we have for years been jointly training Afghans, Central Asians and Pakistanis how to fight drug trafficking. Russia allows NATO to transit non-lethal material for ISAF. NATO and Russia also set up a trust fund to provide spare parts and maintenance and to train Afghan technicians to service Russian-made transport helicopters. Or consider our projects in the area of fighting terrorism such as STANDEX and Cooperative Airspace Initiative. I am not sure that everyone in this room is aware of NATO-Russia cooperation in areas such as search and rescue at sea, logistics and even theatre missile defence.

All this is very much helped by the strong habit of political consultations at various levels – ambassadors, experts, military and civilians, ministers and occasionally heads of state and government.

Does it mean that we see eye to eye on every single issue? Not really, or perhaps not straight away.

On a number of issues we have very different views. We see the Russian suspension of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) as a step back. We are of the opinion that Russia has not fulfilled the post-conflict commitments it undertook concerning Georgia. We of course had very different opinions on NATO’s operation “Unified Protector” .

All of these issues are one of principle but the fact that we have important disagreements on one set of issues should not automatically prevent us from working together in other areas where our interests coincide. One should be heartened by the fact that we have learned to manage our differences over the years.

Even in areas where we have serious differences we have, in view of the experience of the last 10 years, the right to feel optimistic that ultimately we will find a satisfactory solution.

Take for example missile defence. The NATO offer is to link and coordinate NATO and Russian anti-missile systems including through two joint centres. Russia, for its part, would prefer one system with division of responsibilities and legally binding guarantees concerning the non-offensive nature of the NATO anti-missile system. Unfortunately, we have not made satisfactory progress since the Lisbon summit in finding a mutually acceptable solution but all sides are creatively looking into various possibilities. That cooperation on missile defence is possible is supported by the fact for years we have been cooperating on theatre missile defence and we will hold an important NATO-Russia computer assisted exercise on TMD in Germany in March.

But the challenge in achieving the Lisbon goal of true strategic partnership consists not only in finding a formula acceptable to both sides. The challenge is also to fight temptation to resort to unhelpful rhetoric which can thwart the effort to understand each other’s anxieties.

For my part, I can pledge that PDD will continue to strive to make its contribution to this task. The NATO Information Office will work with partners throughout Russia to provide more information about NATO and together with the Russian authorities to explain the achievements of NATO-Russia cooperation. We will keep on maintaining our invitations to discussions, providing opportunities to meet with NATO officials and Allied diplomats, organising visits to NATO civilian and military headquarters.

Our doors and minds are always open to more engagement with all Russians interested in security policy in general and NATO-Russia relations in particular. In the jubilee year, I am sure that we can also count on support f rom the Russian side, including our colleagues in the Russian government structures, parliament and NGO community.

Dear Winter Academy participants, thank you for your attention.