New NATO head seeks “true partnership” with Russia

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The new head of NATO called for a true strategic partnership with Russia to tackle global security problems ranging from Afghanistan and sea piracy to the spread of nuclear weapons.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the call in his first meeting with Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, since taking over as secretary-general of the Western military alliance on August 1, Reuters reports.
NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said Rasmussen had stressed to Rogozin that boosting the alliance’s ties with Russia would be one of the priorities of his four-year tenure as NATO head.
“We have differences on some issues, but we cannot allow them to overshadow the strategic cooperation,” she said.
“The secretary-general would like to see develop a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia.”
NATO and Russia resumed formal cooperation on broad security threats in June, after ties were frozen as a result of Russia’s military intervention last August in Georgia, a country that has been promised eventual NATO membership.
Yesterday, Rasmussen and Rogozin discussed proposals for Russian help in NATO’s battle against Islamist militants in Afghanistan as well as sharing information in drawing up a new long-term vision for NATO, expected next year, Romero said.
They also discussed expanding cooperation in countering piracy off the coast of Somalia, in anti-drugs efforts and in preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Romero said.
She described the meeting as “friendly” and “very positive” and said Rogozin had proposed that Rasmussen meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
NATO hopes closer ties with Russia will lead, among other things, to an agreement with Moscow to allow for the transit of weaponry to Afghanistan. NATO now relies on a route via Pakistan that has been under persistent attack.
However, some NATO allies have insisted that closer ties with Russia should not come at the expense of eventual NATO membership for former Soviet republics Georgia and Ukraine, the promise of which has greatly angered Moscow.