NATO's new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a policy speech
entitled "A unique Alliance with a clear course" at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund in Brussels on Tuesday this week in which he said that only a strong Alliance can negotiate better ties with Russia.
Stoltenberg said his experience as Norway's prime minister was that robust defence capabilities and a solid transatlantic bond were fundamental requirements for constructive relations with Russia. In his first policy speech since taking office on 1 October, Stoltenberg said there was no contradiction between wanting to keep NATO strong and continuing efforts to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "NATO is here to stay. Russia is here to stay. So we're going to have some kind of relationship," he said. "(The question is) what kind?"
Norway's status as a member of NATO, Stoltenberg said, meant his small nation has been able to deal confidently with the Kremlin on a whole range of issues, from military matters and fisheries to energy, the environment and maritime border disputes. "I believe there is a lesson here for us now," the former two-time Norwegian prime minister said. "That only a strong NATO can build a truly constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia." "But to get there, Russia would need to want it, and to take clear steps to make it possible," he added.
Stoltenberg also said that Russia remained in violation of international law in Ukraine, echoing the comments last week of NATO's military commander, who said that Russia still has troops in eastern Ukraine
despite a partial withdrawal. "We've seen a pretty good withdrawal of the Russian forces from inside Ukraine but, make no mistake, there remain Russian forces inside eastern Ukraine," US Air Force General Philip Breedlove told reporters at NATO's military headquarters near Mons in Belgium. "But the force that remains and shows no indications of leaving is still a very, very capable force," he said. (Note: the presence of Russian airborne troops in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is discussed in this new Open Briefing report Strategic Order of Battle: Russian Airborne Forces
The NATO Secretary released a statement
on Monday congratulating the people of Ukraine "for exercising their right to vote in largely peaceful parliamentary elections", which appear to have confirmed
the country’s pro-European orientation. A recent poll
by the Gorshenin Institute suggests that over half of Ukrainians want their country to join NATO.
During a Q&A session after his speech in Brussels, Stoltenberg also said he has been in contact with the United Nations to see if there is any "specific" role NATO could play in helping combat the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. He noted that some of the alliance's 28 nations, including the United States and Britain, have already sent military forces to West Africa but said it was "too early" to say whether NATO itself should take part.