Three questions to: Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO
HOW DO YOU CHARACTERISE THE CURRENT RELATIONS BETWEEN NATO AND RUSSIA? IS THERE A REAL RISK OF MILITARY ESCALATION?
For over two decades, NATO worked hard to build a partnership with Russia. We created the NATO-Russia Council, giving Russia more access than any other partner country at NATO. And we managed to cooperate on many issues, including counter-terrorism and Afghanistan.
It is clear today, however, that NATO and Russia have deep disagreements. The worsening of relations is a direct result of Russia’s destabilising actions in Ukraine and its illegitime annexation of Crimea. Improving those relations will require a clear change in Russia's actions; one which demonstrates Russia’s compliance with its international obligations and responsibilities.
NATO will continue to pursue a dual-track approach to Russia. This means strengthening our defence and deterrence, while remaining open to dialogue. That approach – defence and dialogue – is designed not to provoke conflict but to prevent it.
I do not see any imminent threat against any Ally, but we must work towards a relationship with Russia that is more predictable. The downing of a Russian plane over Turkey and the unsafe behaviour by Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea show how important it is to improve transparency and predictability, and so reduce the risk of incidents.
WHAT ARE SHARED INTERESTS BETWEEN NATO AND RUSSIA AND WHAT SHOULD POLITICAL DIALOGUE FOCUS ON IN THE SHORT- AND MEDIUM-TERM?
Russia can play a constructive role in world affairs. We have seen this with initiatives like the nuclear deal with Iran, and the agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Our aim remains a more constructive relationship with Russia. But as long as Russia continues to violate international law, the prospects for partnership are slim.
ARE ACTIONS OF NATO CONTRIBUTING TO A COLD WAR ATMOSPHERE AND IN WHICH WAY WILL THE WARSAW SUMMIT SHAPE THE FUTURE RELATIONS BETWEEN NATO AND RUSSIA?
The Cold War is history and we want it to stay that way. But Russia has illegally annexed Crimea and is continuing its aggression in Eastern Ukraine.
These actions challenge the very foundation of European security, undermining respect for national sovereignty and the use of peaceful means to settle disputes – principles laid down in the Helsinki Final Act and many post-Cold War agreements that Moscow itself helped to write.
Russia has also built up its military forces significantly – from the Barents Sea to the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean.
NATO does not seek confrontation. We are a defensive Alliance. In response to Russia’s actions, we have significantly strengthened the collective defence of our Alliance. We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force. We have established eight new small headquarters to help coordinate training, prepositioning of equipment and, if needed, rapid reinforcement. We have sped up our decision-making, and we are improving our ability to resist hybrid or cyber-attacks. At the Summit, we will take decisions to build on all this – and to enhance our forward presence in the eastern part of our Alliance.
Crucially, the steps we have taken are defensive, proportionate and in line with our international commitments, including the NATO-Russia Founding Act.