BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday that members of the U.S.-led alliance must stand shoulder to shoulder to confront simultaneous security threats from Russia and the Islamic State extremist organization.
In his Brussels farewell speech as NATO's top civilian official, Rasmussen said the alliance finds itself on the front line of a geopolitical division between "tolerance and fanaticism," and "democracy and totalitarianism."
"We must stand strong as a force for freedom," said Rasmussen. He said NATO and its member nations must face the fact that the new security challenges it is now confronting could last for years.
Rasmussen's five-year term as NATO secretary general ends Sept. 30. He spoke at a Brussels gathering of the Carnegie Europe think tank.
Rasmussen said NATO must be ready to use military force, and to muster the political will when needed. In a question-and-answer session that followed his speech, he said he favored the use of armed force against the Islamic State organization, which he said threatens not only governments in the Arab world, but also Western societies through the export of terrorism.
He said NATO as such is not considering involvement in such operations. He denounced the mass killings that the Islamic State militants have carried out in territory that it has seized as "close to genocide."
Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, said that under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has "trampled all the rules and commitments" that kept the peace in Europe since the end of the Cold War, and conducted illegal military actions against Ukraine.
He said he believes the NATO summit in Wales this month demonstrated to Russia that the alliance is determined to defend its members.
The lesson of history, Rasmussen said, it that "appeasement does not lead to peace. It just incites tyrants."