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NATO will decide for itself who its members will be - Rasmussen

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Friday, August 14
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared yesterday that NATO’s door is open for Georgia and Ukraine and emphasised that no non-NATO member country can veto any country’s application to join the alliance.

“NATO’s open door policy will continue. I believe that every sovereign nation has the right to decide its own future,” the new Secretary General stated in his online video blog while taking questions. “Let me also make clear that nobody outside NATO can veto the accession of any country. The allies may invite any European country to join NATO if the applicant country can further the principles on which NATO is built,” he added, highlighting that such states should be ready for NATO membership and be able to contribute to the security of Europe and North America. “They [NATO candidate countries] must be able to safeguard freedom, democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law,” he said.

The NATO Secretary General again outlined that NATO enlargement does not represent a threat to any other country but is a guarantee of peace. “NATO enlargement is not directed against anyone. On the contrary, NATO members have decided to live in peace with all peoples and Governments. Previous enlargements have spread stability and promoted reforms in new member states and thereby contributed to creating a united, free and prosperous Europe,” Rasmussen stated.

This is not the first time that Rasmussen has explained that NATO enlargement is not a threat to any country, and especially Russia, which is strongly opposed to Georgia and Ukraine joining the Alliance. “I consider it a very important challenge to convince the Russian people and leadership that NATO is really not an enemy,” he said on August 3, on his first day at NATO Headquarters as the new Secretary General, while clearly stating that he fully supports new members joining the alliance. “I am fully committed to the principle of NATO’s Open Door. Membership is not a right – countries must be ready. But NATO enlargement has already demonstrated its power to spread stability and promote reform. I expect this will continue during my tenure,” Rasmussen said.

Prior to the online question and answer session Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin had said on Tuesday after his meeting with Rasmussen that the new Secretary General had reaffirmed his commitment to ending the “dark chapter” in the history of relations with Russia. “Mr. Rasmussen thoroughly studied the Russia-NATO dossier, which is yet further confirmation of his earlier pledge to end the dark chapter in our relations and promote extensive cooperation between NATO and Russia,” Rogozin said after a meeting with the Secretary General, Ria Novosti reported.

Rogozin said they had discussed the entire agenda for cooperation within the Russia-NATO Council at their meeting, held at the NATO headquarters. He added that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had invited Rasmussen to meet him in New York in September. “I have handed Mr. Rasmussen the invitation,” he said, adding that this meeting would focus on preparations for the NATO chief's visit to Moscow, which was likely to take place before the end of the year.

Relations between Moscow and NATO were frozen after Russia’s war with Georgia last August, when NATO and the West strongly condemned Russia’s excessive use of force against Georgia and its recognition of the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Newly appointed Secretary General Rasmussen, a former Danish Prime Minister, named several top priorities when he took office on August 1 and one of these was cooperation with Moscow.

Georgian political analysts have called Rasmussen’s latest statement a “cold shower.” “This recent statement by the new Secretary General of NATO is, let’s say, a cold shower for Russia’s political elite. Moscow has overestimated its strength. Just a few days ago Rogozin was saying with pride that since the August war discussion about further NATO enlargement in the East had stopped. Now it is clearly stated by the NATO Secretary General that any country can join the alliance and only members of the alliance and not non-members, can veto NATO’s decision,” political analyst Soso Tsintsadze has said.

Fellow analyst Gia Nodia has said that this statement again proves that NATO does not acknowledge so-called ‘spheres of influence’ and reminds the world that whether new members will be accepted into the alliance is up to member countries alone.