Anders Fogh Rasmussen, new secretary general of NATO, said on August 3, that differences persisting with Russia including on Georgia, “should not overshadow the basic common security interests” the alliance had with Russia.
Speaking at his first press conference in the capacity of NATO Secretary General, Rasmussen said that NATO should develop “a true strategic partnership with Russia,” including on Afghanistan, counterterrorism and non-proliferation.
He, however, also added: “I am not a dreamer. It is obvious that there will be fundamental issues on which we disagree.”
“We have to insist for example that Russia fully complies with its international obligations, including respecting territorial integrity and political freedom of its neighbors,” Rasmussen said in his opening remarks at the news conference.
“But we can not let those areas of disagreement poison the whole relationship,” he added.
And during the Q&A session, the new Secretary General said: “We have a lot of security interests in common. This is the reason why my position is that we [these] differences, we have to realize, should not overshadow the basic common security interests; and then my pragmatic approach would be to further develop practical cooperation in the areas where we share security interest.”
Asked if Ukraine and Georgia were still regarded as “realistic candidates” for membership, Rasmussen responded by reiterating the NATO Bucharest summit decision that the two countries would one day become the members providing that they fulfill necessary criteria.
“They do not fulfill the necessary criteria at this stage, so here and now it’s a hypothetical question,” he said and added that last December NATO decided to embarked on practical cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine to help them reform their armed forces.
“I stick to that decision, I think that’s a right approach to pursue this pragmatic approach,” he added.
He said that he was “fully committed to the principle of NATO’s open door.”
“NATO enlargement has already demonstrated its power to spread stability and to promote reforms; I expect that will continue during my tenure,” Rasmussen said.