NATO must convince the Russian people that the military alliance is not their enemy, the organisation's new chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday, saying he did not want disagreements to poison ties.
In a press conference on his first day as secretary general, the former Danish prime minister said he wanted to oversee the development of a "true sstrategic partnership" during his four-year term at the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation after a period of turbulence.
"I believe that during my term, we should develop a true strategic partnership. We should enhance practical cooperation in areas where we share security interests," he added, citing counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, piracy, and nuclear non-proliferation.
He said he regarded it as "a very important challenge to convince the Russian people and the Russian political leadership that NATO is really not an enemy of Russia, that NATO is not directed against Russia."
Ties between Moscow and the alliance were badly damaged by a brief war between Russia and Georgia in August last year although the two sides agreed in June to resume political and military cooperation.
Rasmussen said that the war in Georgia had had "a very negative impact" and that "real differences" remained over the issue.
"Now, I'm not a dreamer, there will be fundamental issues on which we will disagree. We have to insist, for example, that Russia fully complies with its international obligations, including respecting the territorial integrity and political freedom of its neighbours," he said.
"But we cannot let our areas of dispute poison the whole relationship," he added.