Russia and NATO have common interests - NATO military chief

NATO Military Committee Chairman Giampaolo Di Paola says the alliance views Moscow as a strong strategic partner and not a threat or an enemy. The admiral spoke to RT about the mutual benefits of such cooperation.

Giampaolo Di Paola

RT: Joining me today is Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, who is the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee. And as you may know, NATO was established as an alliance between countries to defend against outside threats. The admiral is with me today to talk about the possibilities of a fusion between Russia and NATO, as well as the direction NATO is taking. So, thank you for joining us, admiral.

Giampaolo Di Paola: It's a pleasure, really a pleasure.

RT: First question, let's get right down to it. Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called on Russia to join the new anti-ballistic missile defense project. Now, in your opinion, what could make this an attractive option for Russia?

GDP: Well, I believe first of all that Russia and the alliance have a common interest to protect themselves from new emerging threats. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery, including ballistic missiles, is one of these threats. So there is, I believe, in general terms, an interest on both sides to protect themselves from this.

I also believe that the new, let's say, US approach – the so-called face approach --
to missile defense is also potentially attractive because it's focused on spiral development. So looking at the threats as they emerge – which has always been, I think, one classical strong position of the Russian side – we have to take care of the threat as it emerges. So, this progressive approach, as the threat emerges the system develops, this seems to me attractive to Russia.

But we have to be clear here: there is an opportunity, a possibility, but still there is a lot of work to do. Also the alliance itself has not yet decided if it's going to bargain on this. You don't cooperate on such a sensitive issue if you don't have trust. So, that thought, I think, should be attractive to both sides. But we need to develop this, we are not there yet, we are not there yet. We need strategic patience.

RT: Now, NATO's secretary general has mentioned that there's an increasing threat of missiles attacking Europe. Can you specify any of these threats? Is there any one in particular that is singled out at this moment that we are worried about?

GDP: It's clear, we know that there is, generally speaking – both looking from Russia and also the European side – for the alliance it's clearly from the south that there is an emerging threat. And there is a certain country to the south and we know what we're talking here in particular which can be a matter of concern. So, I think protection of the people of the alliance, but also of the Russian people, from a potential threat it is important.

RT: You mentioned unity. There has been cooperation now in 2010 between NATO and Russia. Do you think that this cooperation is stronger than what's been in the past?

GDP: I think it has a potential to become stronger, because we've gone through a period of difficulties and when you manage, if you manage to go through the period of difficulty, then if you restart you have a new determination to do it. So I think normally when you go through difficulty and then you emerge out of difficulty, then there is much more solid base for moving forward.

RT: Now, Russia's permanent representative at NATO has said that there's been a certain lack of unity among the alliance members and that this was sensed in the Russia-NATO council on the subject of partnership with Russia. Do you think that there is anyone actually trying to undermine this partnership between the alliance and Moscow, or is anyone trying to get in the way of this newfound friendship?

GDP: No, first of all Dmitry Rogozin is a dear friend of mine, so I can speak very frankly, because with a friend you speak frankly. He is, sometime he likes to give a touch of color to his statements, so sometimes he's colorful. No, I don’t think so. It is true, in the NATO-Russia council we are 29, and there are differences and there are therefore different sensitivities, but in all true honesty, none of the 29 – I hope none of the 29, and certainly none of the 28 – are putting up obstacles. In a common geopolitical sense, we have to try to work together to have solid relations. This is good for us, this is good for Russia and I hope we'll be able to see concrete progress in the near future.

RT: Now, in the past a bone of contention, if you wish, between Russia and NATO is NATO's expansion toward the east. And recently Ukraine has dropped its intentions to try and become a member of NATO. Do you think becoming a member of NATO is becoming less attractive, or do you think… what do you see on this front in the future?

GDP: If you allow me, I would like to tell you because I don’t think it's the right way to put it – NATO is not an expansionist organization. NATO is an organization of free nations willing to share together certain values, first and foremost the value of free democracy. They want to protect their value and they stick together across the two sides of the Atlantic.

The Atlantic charter which was written in 1949 clearly said that any European member who shares this value and freely chooses to be part of this alliance and can contribute to the value of the alliance is welcome. So it has nothing to do with expansion to the east, to the north, to the south, to the west. We are an organization in which any nation willing to abide by these values is welcome. And when I say any European nation, I mean, any – large, big, small or minimum, any, even very large.

RT: Even very large – do you think, do you ever see Russia as being a member of NATO at some point in time?

GDP: I would respond to your question with the question: Would you? I would put no limitation on my horizon, because the planet, as Thomas Friedman said, is flat, and when it's flat, there's no horizon curve.

And as things change, who knows what the future will bring. Thank you very much.