‘‘We are in Afghanistan to protect our populations against terrorism and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists,’‘ Anders Fogh Rasmussen:
The world’s most powerful military alliance has been re-examining its future strategy.
Led by a panel of experts, including former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a newly unveiled draft report aims to layout NATO’s role in the second decade of the 21st century.
A recommitment to the key principle of collective-self defence is urged, as is the need to look beyond member states borders with terrorism, piracy and cyber attacks seen as the main threats to security.
The report also insists NATO must not fail in its current battle with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, while at the same time improving ties and cooperation with Moscow.
Euronews spoke with NATO chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Euronews: ‘‘Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, welcome to Euronews. What is this new strategic concept of NATO?’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: ‘‘The point in the new report from the global experts is that the core functioning of NATO will remain the same in the future as it was in the past, namely: territorial defence of our populations and member states.’‘
Euronews: ‘‘And military alliance…’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: ‘‘A military defence alliance, but it’s also an interesting aspect of the new report that the group of experts stresses the need for partnerships with major players on the international scene, in order to accomplish our military mission we need strong partnerships with international organisation, but also with key countries.’‘
Euronews: ‘‘Operating on a global stage, at least?’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen:’‘Yeah, operating sometimes out of area in order to protect our populations.’‘
Euronews: ‘‘Like in Afghanistan?’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen:’‘We are in Afghanistan to protect our populations against terrorism and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists.’‘
Euronews:’‘Is the relationship with Russia an important issue of the strategic concept?’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen:’‘Russia is an important partner geographically as well as politically. My vision is to develop a true strategic partnership with Russia. We do know that we have disagreements with Russia in a number of areas for instance concerning Georgia, we must insist on full respect for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.’‘
Euronews: ‘‘Don’t you think that this is a shortcoming for a stable relationship with Russia? Because Russia will never accept Georgia and Ukraine to become members of NATO.’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen:’‘Yeah but, we do not accept the notion of a special sphere of influence and this is exactly also the reason why I suggested a two track approach: on the one hand we have to accept that in certain areas we will have our disagreements with Russia and we must have a firm stance on core principles, but on the other hand, and that’s the other track, we have to develop a practical cooperation in areas where we share interests with Russia, for instance as regards Afghanistan, counter terrorism, counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counter piracy and I would add to this also missile defence.’‘
Euronews:’‘Isn’t NATO suffering because of the lack of a real enthusiasm by some of its members?’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen:’‘I don’t think that NATO lacks from, or suffers from a lack of support and backing, on the contrary we have seen allies and partners pledge additional troops to our operations in Afghanistan, it is really a strong demonstration of commitment and solidarity.’‘
Euronews:“It’s a very tough job to win over the public opinion of countries that are participating….’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen:’‘It is, but at the end of the day…’‘
Euronews: ‘‘and as a consequence the governments.’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: ‘‘Yeah, but at the end of the day a government and countries stay committed and in addition to that we see partners and countries outside NATO queuing up in the line for future membership of NATO.’‘
Euronews: ‘‘The older members of NATO are the less interested in investing in your operations abroad. Maybe the new members want to show their good will, but this is not the case for other older members. Don’t you think that this is a major problem for NATO?’‘
Anders Fogh Rasmussen:’‘Actually I think the alliance is a strong demonstration of solidarity and shared burdens. One matter of concern of course is the gap across the Atlantic between North America and Europe when it comes to defence investment and from a long term perspective, this is of course a question in which we have to invest some interests. A strong partnership between the EU and NATO is a very important point in the report from the group. And it’s also one of my political priorities. After the adoption of the new Lisbon Treaty I envisage further development of defence cooperation and security policy dimensions of the EU and we need stronger cooperation, a better cooperation, a stronger partnership between NATO and the EU.’‘