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NATO chief talks to euronews on 9/11 anniversary


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NATO chief talks to euronews on 9/11 anniversary

On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke to euronews at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

Rasmussen shared his thoughts on the final stages of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, launched shortly after 9/11. He also commented on the contentious issue of the missile defence system and tensions in the Caucasus.

Andrei Beketov, Euronews:
Secretary General, thank you for welcoming us at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. It’s the anniversary of the attacks on the United States when nearly 3,000 people died. Since then, an even bigger number of coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan trying to prevent similar attacks. Now, Afghan soldiers are killing Americans who train them. And of course the toll on Afghan people is immense. Was all this blood worth it?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General:
Every one single killing or soldier falling is one too many, obviously. Having said that we should also recall what was the purpose of the establishment of an international military operation in Afghanistan. The purpose was, and it remains, to prevent that country from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists who could use it as a launching pad for attacks against our societies. And in that respect our operation has been a great success. We have not seen terrorists routed in Afghanistan launch attacks against our countries since we started our operation in Afghanistan.

Euronews:
Hasn’t NATO repeated the Soviet Union’s mistakes by underestimating the local population’s resistance to its presence? And isn’t NATO heading for a similar undignified retreat?

Rasmussen:
No, on the contrary. We have actually learned the lessons. And one clear difference is that we have built up a very strong Afghan security force which will take over.

Euronews:
But there is a lot of mistrust. Bagram prison was handed over to Afghan authorities but Americans will still control part of it and some of the inmates.

Rasmussen:
The transfer of detainees to Afghan responsibility is part of the overall transition of security responsibility to the Afghans. But obviously we also have to strike the right balance between Afghan sovereignty and security for the Afghan security forces and our troops.

Euronews:
After 2014 will the NATO troops return to their barracks to defend their countries or do you still have unfinished business elsewhere?

Rasmussen:
It’s for each individual coalition partner to decide whether they will engage in other international missions, for instance United Nations mandated missions, elsewhere.

Euronews:
But you are not considering Syria or…?

Rasmussen:
No. We have no intention to intervene militarily in Syria and we have no plans to intervene militarily elsewhere.

Euronews:
President Putin has suggested that if Barack Obama is re-elected there could be a compromise over NATO’s missile defence system in Europe. If Mitt Romney is elected he could turn the system against Russia. Do you think the future of the system depends on who wins the American election?

Rasmussen:
Not at all. We have made clear to the Russians that the NATO missile defence system is not designed to attack Russia or undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence. And obviously we have no intention whatsoever to attack Russia. Actually Russia and NATO signed a joint document in 1997 called “The founding act”. In that document Russia and NATO clearly state that we will not use force against each other. We stick to that commitment. I hope and I would also expect that Russia also sticks to that commitment.

Euronews:
But Russia expects some harder guarantees, some binding guarantees. Why don’t you give it to them?

Rasmussen:
Because the best guarantee Russia could get whatsoever would be to engage constructively in a cooperation on missile defence. We have even suggested to establish some joint centres so that they could see with their own eyes that our system is not directed against Russia.

Euronews:
Your have just urged Russia to be more transparent over its military exercises later this month. What is your concern? Are you worried that these exercices will take place near Georgia, almost coinciding with elections there?

Rasmussen:
We are not opposed to exercises but we request transparency as a confidence building measure: what is the purpose of the exercise, where does it take place, how is this exercise conducted?

Euronews:
What information is missing? Why is it not fully transparent?

Rasmussen:
We have not received any formal information from Russia, which we strongly regret.

Euronews:
But you seem very keen to see Georgia joining NATO. Obviously it’s going to anger Russians even more. How far is NATO ready to move into what Moscow considers its sphere on interest?

Rasmussen:
We stick to a very fundamental principle to which all nations in the Euro-Atlantic area signed up in 1999 in an OSCE charter. That fundamental principle is that each individual nation has a right to decide its alliance affiliation itself. I hope Russia also sticks to that. So it’s for Georgia to decide. And Georgia has declared that it is a Georgian aspiration. And in 2008 NATO decided at a summit in Bucharest that Georgia will become a member of NATO, of course provided that Georgia fullfills the necessary criteria.

Euronews:
The last question is on Armenia, a country which you have just visited. You may have seen anti-NATO protests. Don’t you feel any responsibility for what happened to this Armenian soldier killed at the NATO course in Budapest?

Rasmussen:
This is a very unfortunate case. But let me stress that I was not faced with anti-NATO demonstrations. I was faced with young protestors who demonstrated against the Azerbaijani decision to pardon the military officer Safarov. That terrible crime shouldn’t be glorified. And I am deeply concerned that the Azerbaijani decision to pardon this army officer damages trust and it certainly doesn’t contribute to peace, to cooperation and reconciliation in the region.

Euronews:
Mr Rasmussen, thank you very much for speaking to Euronews.

Rasmussen:
You are welcome.

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