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Moving Into Uncharted Waters

Moving Into Uncharted Waters

Statement by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson at the Joint Point de Presse with Ministers Ivanov and Kavan following the NATO-Russian Meeting. Reykjavik, Iceland, May 14, 2002. Source: NATO.

Real pleasure for me, the Secretary General of NATO – together with Igor Ivanov and Jan Kavan – to face the media, following the meeting of NATO and Russia’s Foreign Ministers. We have a good story to tell.

I am happy to announce today that the Ministers have agreed on the principles, rules of procedure and work programme for a ground-breaking new body: the NATO-Russia Council. This package is now ready for adoption by Presidents and Prime Ministers at the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome on May 28.

The project has required much hard work and I therefore extend our deepest thanks to the NATO and Russian negotiating teams led by Ambassador Altenburg and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gusarov.

Why is today’s decision important? Quite simply, because the creation of the NATO-Russia Council "at 20", with Russia sitting alongside the NATO Allies as an equal partner, demonstrates our resolve to work together more closely than ever before and gives us a structure where we can do so in genuine partnership.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this recognition that NATO and Russia must stand side by side in defence of our common values and interests in the face of the challenges of a new century. For a decade, we have been assembling a jigsaw of cooperation, breaking down years of hostility and mistrust. At Rome, we will complete that jigsaw, demonstrating the will and putting in place the mechanisms needed to build a cooperative, lasting and inclusive peace throughout Europe.

We expect to work together on a wide range of issues in the following areas: the fight against terrorism, crisis management, non-proliferation, arms control and confidence-building measures, theatre missile defence, search and rescue at sea, military-to-military cooperation and defence reform, civil emergencies, as well as new threats and challenges. And this is just an initial list.

In all these areas, we want to put the stress on the search for common approaches, common solutions and, where appropriate, joint actions. How then will the NATO-Russia Council differ from our existing arrangements? The most striking contrast is the political will, on both sides, needed to work together as equal partners "at 20". But there is also a fundamental structural difference in the substantially improved opportunities for joint decision-making.

This was to some extent theoretically possible under the Permanent Joint Council. But in practice the body was essentially consultative, a forum for prescripted exchanges of views. NATO nations were required to co-ordinate all their positions before meeting the Russian representatives.

By working "at 20", the NATO-Russia Council has every chance to become an effective practical forum for building consensus towards joint decisions "from the ground up", with the benefit of Russian expertise and political perspectives. This is a mode of working that even a few months ago would have been impossible to imagine between NATO and Russia.

At the same time, nothing in this new project will violate the autonomy of the Alliance or of the Russian Federation. The respective collective obligations and commitments that bind the twenty members of the NRC, including those that bind NATO members to each other, will remain fully in force. In other words, we will preserve our values and strengths while building the new bilateral relationship.

A final point to anticipate your questions: will the NRC work?

The honest answer is that this will depend on the political will of the participants. We are moving into uncharted waters.

But I am very sure about one thing: NATO wants to do serious business with Russia. And Russia, I think, is of the same view.

Everyone involved in this initiative is fully committed to its success. Our work today and in Rome later this month has dramatically increased the opportunities for achieving this success. And we are all determined to seize them.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).