Nato’s top diplomat has called for an “open-minded and unprecedented dialogue” with Russia to reduce security tensions in Europe and confront common threats.

As he prepares for an effort to engage Moscow on European security, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who took over as secretary-general a month ago, said he wanted to begin an “open and frank conversation [with the Kremlin] that creates a new atmosphere”.

In an interview, the former Danish prime minister also said climate change could lead to conflict as countries battled for scarce resources, including those in the Arctic.

He admitted that differences remained between the western alliance and Russia on issues including the aftermath of last year’s conflict in Georgia and Nato’s possible enlargement to the republic and Ukraine.

But Mr Fogh Rasmussen had a “vision” of a “true strategic partnership” in which both sides collaborated on Afghanistan, terrorism and piracy.

“Russia should realise that Nato is here and that Nato is a framework for our transatlantic relationship,” he said. “But we should also take into account that Russia has legitimate security concerns.”

Mr Fogh Rasmussen said he would ask senior officials to visit Moscow to hear the Kremlin’s views on how Nato should develop strategically in the long term: “We should engage Russia and listen to Russian positions.”

He was prepared to discuss the proposal from Dmitry Medvedev, Russian president, for a new security architecture in Europe. “I have an open mind as regards the Medvedev proposal. If such a dialogue could create more confidence and take into account legitimate Russian security concerns, it could be very fruitful.”

Climate change, he said, would have an impact on security in several ways. “It could lead to battles over scarce resources, notably a lack of drinking water and a lack of food, leading to armed conflicts.

“We will see an increase in climate refugees, and that will destabilise the situation in regions that are already unstable,” he said.

There would also be security implications for the Arctic. “In a few years’ time, polar sea routes will be open to navigation. We will see new access to energy resources and it will increase competition in this part of the world,” he added. “That might lead to conflict.”

Get alerts on USSR when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article