Russia and NATO: The new relations

The session of the NATO foreign ministers is opening in Brussels today. The central subject for the discussion is the relations between Russia and NATO.

NATO’s senior officials are doing their best to stress that the alliance is aspiring to set up absolutely new relations with Russia after the events of September 11. The British premier gave a start to this process last month. He offered to establish a new organization, the Council of Russia – NATO, in which the Russian side and 19 countries of the alliance would be represented on equal terms.

As one of the top NATO officials said, the secretary-general of the alliance would treat Russia under the new conditions the same way he does the USA or Luxembourg, for instance. An official added that Russia and NATO exchanged a lot of information concerning the struggle with terrorism, and it would be inconceivable to imagine something like that could happening in the past.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, who has recently visited Moscow, was trying to sound out Russia’s position in light of the new initiatives on the part of the alliance. Russia listened to the secretary with attention and assured that it is ready for further cooperation with the alliance but is not going to join it.

It is not good for Russia to join NATO for many reasons. First of all, membership in this organization will considerably cut the space for political manoeuvres, which is not acceptable for Russia. Russia can receive a lot of concessions from NATO if it remains beyond its framework. Secondly, even if we imagine that Russia joins the alliance, the country is hardly to get a voting right equal to the one that the USA or Great Britain have. This would be totally humiliating for such a country as Russia. Equal rights with Luxembourg, but who listens to Luxembourg? It is Washington and London that make all the decisions; the rest vote for what they decide.

Thirdly, they still remember in Russia the outcome of the previous cooperation between Russia and NATO. The alliance simply did not care about Russia’s opinion and authorized the bombing of Yugoslavia.

It was a good lesson to learn. The Kremlin will not make one and the same mistake twice. Russia will try to use this favourable situation the best it can. NATO is currently in need of Russia’s help and the Kremlin knows it.

Germany, Italy, and Canada put forward their own suggestions pertaining to the development of cooperation with Moscow. The fields in which Russia will act on equal terms with NATO members are not numerous at this stage, and they do not raise much dispute. They include the peacemaking operation in the Balkans, the struggle with terrorism, and the liquidation of the weapons of mass destruction.

However, not all NATO members are enthusiastic towards the perspectives of close cooperation with Moscow. France, Holland, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have a rather cool attitude to these plans, and they are even concerned about this issue. As one of the NATO officials stated, the former communist countries joined NATO to get away from Russia, and NATO is now willing to move closer to Moscow. Most likely, there is only one variant that can be good for Russia: when it has a right to veto during decision-making processes on equal terms with all other members.

Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

AP photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, gestures while speaking to NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson during a meeting in Moscow