December 17, 2009 / 10:59 AM / 10 years ago

NATO chief opposes Russia's security pact proposal

MOSCOW (Reuters) - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday he saw no need for a new security treaty proposed by Russia, rebuffing the Kremlin’s call for new defense arrangements in Europe.

U.S. military vehicles of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) travel on a road in Siavashan village near Herat December 14, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

After talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders, Rasmussen urged greater cooperation between NATO and Russia in Afghanistan, but showed no enthusiasm for Moscow’s treaty proposal.

“I don’t see a need for new treaties or new legally binding documents because we do have a framework already,” he told a news briefing in Moscow.

“We have already a lot of documents, so my point of departure is: ‘I don’t see a need for new treaties.’ But let me reiterate, we are of course prepared to discuss the ideas in the right forum,” said Rasmussen.

He said the 56-member state Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was such a forum.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev published a draft post-cold war security pact on November 29. He said it would replace NATO and other institutions and would restrict the ability of any country to use force unilaterally.

In Moscow on his first visit since taking office on August 1, the NATO chief repeatedly said recent rows should not prevent Russia and the military alliance from confronting a common security threat from Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Rasmussen conceded he had not received any firm offer of support from Moscow in response to his requests for Russia to provide Kabul with helicopters and training support, saying he had never expected to get a firm response this week.

DEEP SUSPICION

Moscow still views NATO, its Cold War adversary, with deep suspicion. Ties have been severely strained by last year’s war between Russia and Georgia and by U.S.-backed plans to invite more former Soviet states to join the alliance.

But Rasmussen, during a speech to students and diplomats in Moscow, urged both sides to stop viewing each other as threats.

“Let me make a very clear statement as Secretary General of NATO: NATO will never attack Russia. Never. And we don’t think Russia will attack us. We have stopped worrying about this and Russia should stop worrying about us as well.”

Rasmussen is trying to secure more support for the fight against the Taliban after U.S. President Barack Obama pledged 30,000 more troops.

“I believe that Afghanistan must be a centerpiece of our partnership in 2010,” he said in his speech.

“We need to look at what more we can do together to train the Afghans to secure their own country; to provide them the equipment they need to fight; to stem the flow of drugs into our schools and back-alleys; and to support the UN-mandated, NATO-led mission.”

Rasmussen said that by 2020, a common anti-missile shield could cover Russia and NATO countries. His optimism about future ties contrasts with years of conflict over previous U.S. plans to install missile interceptors in European countries.

“By 2020, cooperation between NATO and Russia on missile defense will have advanced to the point where we are able to link our systems to create a genuine missile shield in the Euro-Atlantic area. Which will not only protect us all against proliferation, but bind us together politically as well.”

Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Charles Dick

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