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Ratify the New Start Treaty By Anders Fogh Rasmussen, 6 December 2010

NATO’s Lisbon summit meeting last month made historic strides to increase the security of all NATO allies. We reinforced our commitment to collective defense. We renewed NATO’s strategy and vision. We also revitalized our relationship with Russia. There is another step that would contribute directly to increased security in Europe: ratification of the New Start treaty.

As a former member of the Danish Parliament, I know better than to tell U.S. senators what to do. But I do want to highlight the importance of the treaty from a NATO perspective.
At Lisbon, the United States and its 27 NATO allies adopted a new “Strategic Concept” to serve as NATO’s road map for the next decade. We pledged to make NATO more effective in carrying out its missions; more efficient in the way it uses its resources, and more engaged with the wider world to tackle global challenges such as terrorism, proliferation and cyber warfare. And we will develop a territorial missile defense capability as part of our core task: to defend one another against attack.

This system aims to protect NATO’s European populations and territory against the increasing threat of ballistic missile attack. NATO allies welcomed the so-called U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense in Europe as a valuable national contribution. Missile defense will become a reality, supported by all allies. That in itself is a major step forward.

But at Lisbon, we went even further. Together with President Dmitri Medvedev, we also launched a fundamentally new phase in NATO-Russia relations, with a shared understanding of common security challenges, and agreements to cooperate on Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism and piracy, and missile defense.

In the past, Russia was reluctant to consider reductions in its nuclear arsenal while the United States and its allies sought to build missile defenses. The Lisbon summit made clear that allied missile defense is not directed against Russia, and that cooperation on missile defense can go together with an agreed reduction in stockpiles of American and Russian strategic weapons, without any implicit or explicit constraints on the NATO system.

Our summit was a strong demonstration of improved NATO-Russia relations that will have a direct, positive impact on the safety and security of all our nations. That does not mean we have compromised on our fundamental values: There are still issues where NATO and Russia do not see eye to eye, and we will stick to our principles. But we have also agreed to strengthen our practical cooperation in the security interests of both Russia and NATO.

Some may argue that better relations with Russia imply less security for some of our allies, but that is zero-sum thinking. I believe the contrary is true: Greater trust between NATO and Russia means a stronger sense of security for all members of NATO.

The New Start treaty that is now before the U.S. Senate would also contribute to improved security in Europe. But don’t take my word for it — take the word of the allied leaders, from old and new members alike, who in Lisbon expressed their unanimous support for ratification of the treaty.

The New Start treaty would also pave the way for arms control and disarmament initiatives in other areas that are vital to Euro-Atlantic security. Most important would be transparency and reductions of short-range, tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, which allies have called for in our new “Strategic Concept.” This is a key concern for allies — not only those closest to Russia’s borders — in light of the great disparity between the levels of Russian tactical nuclear weapons and those of NATO. But we cannot address this disparity until the New Start treaty is ratified. Which is another reason why ratification would set the stage for further improvements in European security.

NATO and Russia have come a long way. At Lisbon, we agreed to focus on what we can achieve together rather than on what divides us. Our cooperation on missile defense, in fighting piracy and terrorism, and in supporting Afghanistan shows what we stand to gain. Ratifying the New Start treaty would create opportunities for even greater cooperation in the future and enhance European security.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the secretary general of NATO.

This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

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