NATO Secretary General: I hope Ukraine will sign Association Agreement, if not at Vilnius summit, then later
An exclusive Interfax-Ukraine interview with Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Question: What is the agenda of the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting, and can we expect the formation of a NATO-Ukraine commission?
Answer: The ministerial meeting will focus on the NATO summit next year. So this ministerial should be seen as a preparation for the NATO summit. We will discuss the agenda of the summit, we will discuss our partnership, and we will discuss Afghanistan.
For practical logistical reasons we will not have a NATO-Ukraine commission meeting at this time, because it's too close to the OSCE foreign ministers meeting, so we will probably have a meeting at a later stage.
Question: Is there any possibility that Ukrainian issues will be on the agenda due to the current developments in the country?
Answer: It won't be on the NATO agenda as such – we'll continue our practical cooperation with Ukraine. Actually Ukraine is a very active partner of NATO: Ukraine contributes to all NATO lead operations. The latest example is the participation in our counter-piracy operation along the coast of Somalia. Ukraine has provided a frigate, and soon after it arrived they actually intercepted some pirates. So Ukraine is very active. Ukraine also recently participated in NATO's Steadfast Jazz exercise in Poland, and Ukraine contributes to the NATO response force. We have excellent practical cooperation with Ukraine, and I expect that cooperation to continue.
Question: You've already mentioned the Steadfast Jazz exercises. You were an observer there. What is your assessment of how the Ukrainian soldiers performed during these exercises?
Answer: It's my impression that the Ukrainian units did very well. The whole purpose of this exercise was to improve our ability to work and operate together. That's why I very much appreciate the Ukrainian contribution to that exercise.
Question: As for the response forces of NATO, the next exercise will take place in 2015 in the south of Europe. Do you also expect the participation of partners in these exercises?
Answer: Absolutely. Partners will be invited to participate, and of course we will also welcome a Ukrainian contribution to that exercise.
Question: Afghanistan after 2014: we're talking about NATO's Resolute Support operation. What's your vision of the possible participation of partners in this?
Answer: Partners will be invited to contribute to the training mission. It's called Resolute Support and it's a mission with the aim of training, advising, and assisting the Afghan security forces after 2014. By the end of 2014 we will complete our ISAF combat mission and we will establish a new mission, a very different mission, a non-combat mission. We'd also welcome contributions from partners, including Ukraine.
Question: Coming back to Ukraine: What's your opinion about the current situation?
Answer: Are you referring to the Association Agreement between Ukraine and EU? First of all, let me stress that we have a principle that each individual country has an inherent right to decide freely about its alliances and [about joining] organizations, and based on that, we of course fully respect Ukrainian decisions as to how Ukraine will develop its relationship with NATO, as well as with the EU. However, I would regret it if it's not possible to sign the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, because I do believe that the future of Ukraine lies within the Euro-Atlantic space of NATO and the EU.
Question: If Ukraine signs the Association Agreement it could change the map of the European continent in terms of security. If we're seeing Russia putting pressure on Ukraine to keep it close, don't you think this also might push Russia to review its position on cooperation with NATO?
Answer: First of all, let me stress, that we all – the NATO countries, the EU countries, Russia, as well as the countries of Eastern Neighborhood, including Ukraine – have signed a document, according to which each individual country has the right to decide to which alliance or organization it wants to belong, or if it prefers to stay outside of any alliance or any organization. If anyone puts pressure on Ukraine in order to prevent Ukraine from deciding freely on Ukraine's affiliation, its alliances, then this will be in contradiction with the principles to which we all subscribed many years ago, in 1999, when an OSCE document was signed under which each individual country has the right to decide for itself. We're sticking to that principle, and we do hope that all of the other countries that signed that document do the same.
Of course, we respect Ukrainians' right to decide for yourselves, and we can take note of the recent decision in Kyiv. However, I also want to say that I will have deep regrets if it's not possible to sign the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. And I hope that if [the signing] is not possible this week at the Vilnius summit, then it could be possible at a later stage. From a strategic point of view, I do believe that it will be mutually beneficial if Ukraine signs such an agreement. And at the end of the day, it will also be beneficial for Russia. This is not what we call a zero sum game. On the contrary - this is a win-win situation, from which Russia, Ukraine the EU and NATO will all gain.
Question: A few days ago, the leadership of Russia announced that they would start to build an anti-missile system together with Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Does this put an end to the difficult negotiations between NATO and Russia over anti-missile systems?
Answer: That was Russia's own decision. We've invited Russia to cooperate. Let me stress that our decision to build a NATO anti-missile defense system still stands. We're very much determined to protect and defend our population against any threat, including missile threats. That's why we're going to develop our missile defense system, and it will provide full coverage by 2018. That decision will not be changed: We've invited Russia to cooperate because we do believe it's in our common interests in defending our populations against potential missile threats.
Question: Coming back to Ukraine. The last time the North Atlantic Council (NAC) visited Ukraine was in 2008. Last year there were plans to hold a council meeting in Kyiv, but these were put off because of the Tymoshenko issue. Will we see the NAC finally come to Ukraine? And also a question for you in this regard – the last time you visited Ukraine was in 2011. Do you plan to visit Ukraine yourself?
Answer: No. 2014 will be extremely busy, focusing on the summit in September. But dialog is taking place at all levels, in many forms. One possibility is to have meetings here at NATO headquarters. I've had several NATO-Ukraine Commission meetings here. I've had several meetings with [Ukrainian] President [Viktor] Yanukovych. We're continuing the dialog, including at the highest level.
Question: Can we expect the upcoming summit to be a summit on enlargement?
Answer: We've not taken any decisions concerning the final agenda yet. NATO's door certainly remains open, but each individual country that aspires to be a member of NATO must fulfill certain criteria to get an invitation, and it's premature to make any assessments in that respect.