About the Author: Ambassador Ivo Daalder is the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.
The fabled Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York -- tucked in among towering skyscrapers in this truly international city -- served as a symbolic setting for the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) foreign ministerial meeting. On September 22, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined foreign ministers from the other 27 NATO member states and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for an intense two hours of discussion about the future of NATO-Russia relations.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as chair of the meeting, opened proceedings by saying, “We have gathered here to reconfirm our commitment to strengthening NATO-Russia cooperation and to working together towards a true NATO-Russia strategic partnership.” Secretary Clinton then spoke about some of the major themes of the meeting, including a focus on areas where we can better cooperate with Russia, where we have common interests, and where we can take concrete actions that will make people feel safer and more secure, both in Europe and throughout the world. Secretary Clinton specifically identified four such common areas for action: missile defense, military transparency, counter-narcotics, and a modernized conventional arms control regime.
The meeting in New York was convened ahead of the NATO Summit to be held in November in Lisbon, Portugal. Secretary-General Rasmussen reiterated his invitation for a NRC Summit to coincide with the November meeting, which would afford an excellent opportunity for NATO Allies and Russia to agree on a substantive agenda, including consideration of the four action areas identified by Secretary Clinton as well as other critical issues. Our overarching goal in all these meetings is to move the NATO-Russia Council in a new, more cooperative direction. During the New York gathering, it was clear there was solid support for building a stronger partnership and for using the NRC to foster pragmatic cooperation.
While all those speaking at the meeting strongly supported efforts to intensify cooperation, no one shied away from talking about areas where we also disagree -- including on Georgia. But that only goes to show that the NRC can be -- and is -- a forum where we engage both on issues of mutual interest and on issues where we diverge.
In the end, what the United States is seeking is that all our partners in the NRC see the Council as a place where we can do business. It must become a place where we can find common solutions to common challenges, where we can hold dialogues about those issues where we disagree, and a place where we can ultimately work together to resolve vital issues of common concern.