A new beginning for NATO and Russia

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Fulfilling the full potential of a NATO-Russia relationship is vital for the security of all, writes Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of NATO.

The following contribution is authored by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO.

"When I gave my first public speech as secretary-general of NATO just over a year ago, I focused on the NATO-Russia relationship, because I believe it is crucial for global, not just European, security. At that time, I thought the relationship to be in urgent need of repair, and that NATO and Russia should make a 'new beginning.' So I made several specific proposals for laying the foundations of a far more productive future relationship. A year on, how do we measure up?

We have, first of all, reinforced our practical cooperation in a range of areas.

  • Fighting terrorism. Because terrorism is a transnational scourge, we can defeat it only if we work together. NATO countries and Russia have agreed on a joint assessment of terrorist threats, and are already making considerable progress on a number of concrete projects. We are working together, for example, to counter the threat of attacks on mass transport and other public gathering places. Under a joint programme called STANDEX (Stand-Off Explosives Detection), we have brought together leading research institutes and laboratories in NATO countries and Russia to integrate various technologies into a single system for detecting explosives and identifying potential attackers.
  • Preventing proliferation. The proliferation of nuclear capabilities and ballistic missiles is a major concern for the international community as a whole, and a grave and growing threat to the NATO countries and the Russian Federation. Experts from NATO and Russia have met several times to discuss how their countries can best address this threat together, and a Working Group on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation is now taking this cooperation forward.
  • Stabilising Afghanistan. Russia's interest in a stable Afghanistan is as strong as that of the NATO allies. In the spring of 2010, the first cargo containers reached the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) via Russian territory, opening an important additional line of communication. The NATO-Russia project to provide counter-narcotics training to personnel from Afghanistan and Central Asia has produced more than 1,300 graduates, many of whom have already used their new skills to intercept some of the largest heroin shipments in the region. And, following suggestions that I made in Moscow last December, Russia's leaders are considering additional contributions of helicopters and training to the Afghan National Army.

Beyond increasing our practical collaboration, we have rejuvenated the NATO-Russia Council, and have broadened and deepened our dialogue over the past year. We have held open, frank, and constructive discussions on a broad range of Russian and allied security concerns, and on proposals to address them. While these discussions have not led us to see eye-to-eye on all issues, they have certainly helped to build a greater degree of mutual trust and confidence, which will certainly benefit our future cooperation."

To read the op-ed in full, please click here.                                                                               

(Published in partnership with Project Syndicate.)

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