Stoltenberg welcomes contacts between NATO-allied countries and Russia
NATO is working for a more constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an exclusive interview with TASS ahead of the alliance summit due on May 25.
"NATO is working for a more constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia and that’s also the reason why we are continuing our dialogue with Russia," he said.
"It’s not easy, but that’s exactly why it is important, because we are addressing so many difficult issues like Ukraine, military activities, the need for more transparency, predictability," Stoltenberg added.
According to him, "these issues are important because we have to solve these issues to be able to defuse tensions and to get to a better relationship."
"I also welcome that there is contact on a bilateral level between NATO-allied countries and Russia. We have seen different meetings, foreign ministers, some of them also met with president Putin," the NATO secretary general pointed out.
"I know as a Norwegian politician, that it’s possible to have a pragmatic work relationship with Russia," he went on to say. "Norway developed that with Russia over decades. Even during the cold war we had good working relationships with Russia on many issues: on border issues, on visa-free travel for the people living in the border regions, on energy, on fishery," Stoltenberg added.
"Even on military matters we had and still have cooperation between Norway and Russia. So it is possible, we have seen it before and therefore we will continue to strive for it," he said. When speaking of the Russia-NATO Council meetings held in 2016, he noted that "there has been a good and frank atmosphere in the meeting."
"We have discussed Ukraine, but also discussed our military posture, briefed on exercises, and I think, that’s at least one step in the right direction," he added. "Our message is that we have a dual-track approach: we need unity, we need deterrence, defense and alliance, but at the same time we are pursuing dialogue because Russia is our neighbor, Russia is there to stay. Russia is a neighbor which we would like to develop a better relationship with," Stoltenberg concluded.