On the agenda were the topics to be discussed at the NATO summit in Wales in September:
– NATO in Afghanistan: Rasmussen hopes that NATO will be able to deal with a new President;
– Open door policy: Montenegro, Georgia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina are candidates but they do not yet fulfil all the conditions;
– Ukraine: the crisis will continue and it goes far beyond the Crimea. Putin seems to be trying to reinstall the Russian influence in the states of the former Soviet Union. Rasmussen asked for tough sanctions and isolation of Russia.
NATO’s response is focused on 3 points:
– Strengthening the common defence. More NATO presence in this part of Europe, updating existing defence plans and elaboration of new ones; reassuring the Baltic States about Art. 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…)
– Cooperating with Ukraine: restrengthening our partnership with Ukraine, including military to military cooperation, access to NATO exercises for the Ukrainian army.
– Suspending cooperation with Russia. « We are not discussing military options. » The practical cooperation with Russia is stopped, diplomatic contacts are maintained. Rasmussen hopes for strong international pressure. The decision about the future of Ukraine can only be taken by the Ukrainian people.
I asked whether isolating Russia was really the right thing to do and if this didn’t mean going back to the Cold War. Mr Rasmussen answered that he did not say the isolation of Russia was an aim, but that Russia was isolating itself. Only 11 countries in the UN supported the Russian position regarding the annexation of the Crimea.
At the end of the Soviet era, NATO enlargement was not discussed, because it was not yet on the NATO-agenda at that time. Russia doesn’t respect the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997.
My second question dealt with the recent evolution of the political situation in the NATO member state Turkey. The preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty claims that « The Parties to this Treaty …. are determined to safeguard the freedom … founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. » I wanted to know how Mr Rasmussen evaluated the current events in Turkey with Erdogan blocking social media and not respecting the independence of justice.
Mr Rasmussen mentioned that NATO did not want meddling in internal state affairs, but that they took it for granted that the principals of democracy were respected by NATO members. He underlined that the Turkish President (Abdullah Gul) made a firm statement in favour of democracy, including the free use of social media.