| MUNICH, Germany
MUNICH, Germany NATO should develop closer ties with China, India, Pakistan and Russia and become the forum for consultation on global security, the alliance's head said on Sunday, but a senior Russian politician reacted with skepticism.
The four countries all had interests in stability in Afghanistan and could do more to help develop and assist the country, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
"What would be the harm if countries such as China, India, Pakistan and others were to develop closer ties with NATO? I think, in fact, there would only be a benefit, in terms of trust, confidence and cooperation," he said.
NATO should become the global forum with other nations on a host of security issues extending from terrorism, cyber attacks, nuclear proliferation, piracy, climate change and competition for natural resources as well as Afghanistan, he said.
"NATO can be the place where views, concerns and best practices on security are shared by NATO's global partners. And where ... we might work out how to tackle global challenges together," he told a conference in Munich ahead of discussion of a new NATO Strategic Concept due to be approved in November.
Rasmussen said NATO was already working with Pakistan, and other countries stood to gain from a stable Afghanistan. "India has a stake in Afghan stability. China too. And both could help further develop and rebuild Afghanistan. The same goes for Russia," he said.
A senior Russian politician reacted skeptically to the proposals, saying NATO first had to think globally, and complained that Russia had not been involved in the process.
"I believe the problem of NATO today is that NATO develops in reverse order -- it tries to act globally more and more but continues to think locally," said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian Duma's International Affairs Committee.
"As soon as NATO starts to reach beyond its borders this is no longer just an internal matter for NATO," said Kosachev, who was also speaking the annual Munich Security Conference.
Moscow still views NATO, its Cold War adversary, with deep suspicion. Ties were severely strained by the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia and by U.S.-backed plans to invite more former Soviet states to join the alliance.
Kosachev accused the alliance of provoking the Georgia-Russia conflict by promising Tbilisi eventual membership and of failing to tackle the drugs problem in Afghanistan. He urged NATO to show it was serious by having proper discussions with Russia about Moscow's security concerns and proposals.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of a group of experts drawing up the Strategic Concept, and Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay backed Rasmussen's vision of NATO as the preeminent forum for global security discussion.
"I think we are talking about how we can have some coordinating mechanism for all the various organizations that exist in the world," Albright said, adding that the question was "which organization can make the biggest difference."
"While I am a great admirer of the United Nations, I know what it can and cannot do," she said, noting that it was NATO cooperation that halted the killing in Kosovo in the 1990s.
Rasmussen said he did not see the Western military alliance, which groups 26 European nations, Canada and the United States, becoming a competitor to the United Nations.
"We are talking here about a group of nations consulting, formally or informally, on security. Nothing more.
"In fact, I think it would actually benefit the UN. NATO is operating almost without exception in support of U.N. resolutions. Allies are all strong and active UN members," he said.
(Editing by Dave Graham and Dominic Evans)