Ukrainian crisis, Jihadism world's biggest security challenges: NATO

Jihadi terrorism and Russia`s aggression against the Ukraine are the two major challenges in international relations at the present time, NATO`s outgoing Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said.

IANS| Last Updated: Sep 27, 2014, 13:11 PM IST

Brussels: Jihadi terrorism and Russia`s aggression against the Ukraine are the two major challenges in international relations at the present time, NATO`s outgoing Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said.

Those two issues and other current threats represent challenges "on a scale that has not been known for two decades," and "must be addressed and dealt with," the secretary general told Spanish news agency Efe in an interview Friday.

"The security environment is more unpredictable than ever. Crisis and instability extend from east to south," said Rasmussen, whose term officially ends Oct 1 when Jens Stoltenberg of Norway takes over as head of NATO.

Rasmussen, 61, who took office in 2009, pointed to Russia attacking the Ukraine, the growing threat of terrorism in Syria and Iraq, the heightened sectarianism in the Middle East, and the instability in North Africa.

NATO`s political head, who served as prime minister of Denmark from 2001 to 2009, said he was "very proud to have served this unique alliance". 

"In these turbulent times, NATO is the guardian against instability," he said.

In his analysis of the challenges facing NATO in the next five years, the Danish Conservative politician cited the bad state of relations with Russia, which in March "annexed" the Ukrainian Crimea, challenging the international balance of power.

He stressed that NATO`s relationship with Russia could not go on as if nothing happened, and added that "Russia has failed to comply with the fundamental principles of cooperation of the NATO-Russia (Council) and international law".

Relations between Moscow and Brussels have been supervised since 1991 by the NATO-Russia Council, which has been inactive since April, when the allies agreed to suspend practical cooperation with Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, although diplomatic dialogue remains open.

Built "over 20 years" since the end of the Cold War, that relationship was broken after "Russia began its illegal aggression against Ukraine", Rasmussen said,

This, he added, has negatively affected practical cooperation projects in Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and piracy, much to NATO`s regret.

The secretary-general also rejected the Russian criticism of the role of the agency in the Ukrainian crisis and said "all measures taken by NATO have been defensive, to strengthen the collective defence of the allies, and in line with international commitments".

"Russia blames others for its own actions. Russia has significantly increased tensions in the region by destabilising Ukraine," he said, while noting that "this crisis is the work of Moscow and is fueled by Moscow". 

"That`s a truly destructive role," he said

Rasmussen noted that Moscow "has provided heavy weapons to the separatists and sent its troops and military equipment to Ukraine, violating its international commitments".

Concerning the threat of jihadi terrorism by the Islamic State (IS) militia in Iraq and Syria, Rasmussen observed that "this terrorist group is a serious threat to the Iraqis, the Syrians, the region and to our nations".

"I think the international community has a responsibility to stop the advance of the IS," he concluded, and reiterated his support for the US-led military operations ordered by President Barack Obama in Iraq and Syria, which several dozen countries have already joined.

The Iraqi government has requested assistance from the allied countries individually, "but there has been no request to NATO", he noted.

At the NATO summit in the British city of Newport, Wales, in early September, the Allies said they were determined to "play a coordinating role in security assistance" and would give immediate consideration to any request by Iraq to assist its defence capabilities.