Ten years have passed since the signing of the Rome Declaration on NATO-Russian Relations at the air-base at Pratica di Mare, establishing the NATO-Russian Council, intended to launch a new era of cooperation between Moscow and the Atlantic Alliance.
Less than a year earlier, the 9/11 attacks had generated solidarity against a deadly and elusive enemy. At Pratica di Mare President Putin and the NATO Heads of State and Government were able to recognise the urgency of leaving behind the timeworn approaches of the past. A strong idea arose of bringing of unity of intent and action to the response by the Atlantic Alliance and the Russian Federation to the new, complex challenges to international security.
I believe that, precisely at a moment like the present one in which not always convergent ideas are emerging, it is essential to review what it was that led to the signing of the Rome Declaration and the goals it set back then. In particular, we know that our positions differ on the missile defence system. Our respective assessments are well known and the international conference in Moscow in early May was a highly opportune and useful platform for technical encounter. In turn, the recent Chicago summit reiterated that the project is not aimed against Russia, nor has it the ability to threaten its strategic deterrence. The important thing is to maintain a strong common commitment to pursuing and strengthening dialogue on the matter. It is precisely the NATO-Russia Council that offers us a table around which to debate even controversial matters on an equal footing, using the wealth of collaboration and confidence acquired over this decade.
It is our conviction that the challenges continue to be common ones, and such must be the responses to them; that we have a rich capital of mutual understanding that must not be wasted and that the mechanisms for interaction created between NATO and Russia remain fully useful and justified. In short, there is an acquis that it is in our interests to preserve and cultivate.
Indeed, the NATO-Russia Council has been working hard since 2002 and achieved highly significant results. In order to counter terrorism, it has set up common drills, intensified information exchanges and boosted scientific cooperation; Russian ships have participated in Mediterranean patrol operations and the two nations collaborate on counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. This collaboration has been and continues to be essential to the stabilisation of Afghanistan, beginning with the transit of materials and supplies to and from that country, but I would also like to mention the training of anti-drug personnel, and recently the trust fund co-financed by the Federation on the Russian-built helicopters supplied to Kabul. Other initiatives have laid the groundwork for concrete collaboration in areas of direct interest for the citizens of the 29 member countries: industrial cooperation, emergency response, crisis management, non-proliferation and prevention of weapons trafficking.
All things considered, the first ten years of the Rome Declaration can be summed up as largely positive in terms of results achieved and solid foundations laid, from which to depart in resolving open issues. The reasons that led us to invoke this historic and courageous project are all valid and topical. The globalisation of terrorism, organised crime, drug-trafficking and new security challenges such as international piracy necessitate now more than ever effective responses and the full involvement of both parties. We must think about the world to come.
As confirmed at the Foreign/Defence ministerial meeting held in Moscow in April, Italy is conviced in its pledge to support the goal of creating a strategic partnership with Moscow set at the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon in 2010; besides, it would be difficult to imagine the strong defence industry cooperation development between Russia and various European countries, among which Italy features prominently, if it had not been for the new atmosphere we were able to create at Pratica di Mare.
Among the new scenarios there is not only space, but also the need for an ambitious partnership between Russia and NATO. The 29 member countries that create it will be going out to meet a new future with greater serenity and effectiveness if we face it together. Italy will do its part with great determination and I am convinced that the Russian Federation is ready to do likewise. It is in all our interests to give new impetus to the “spirit of Pratica di Mare”.