What does Russia expect from NATO?

On Monday, the conference “Russia-NATO: Role of the Military in the International Fight against Terrorism” was opened in Rome. Defence ministers of Russia and NATO will continue to make bridges and to discuss legal aspects of anti-terrorist operations. One of the main subjects, according to the experts, is most likely to be official and non-official consultations on forming new relations between Russia and NATO and the “council of the 20,” as well as the question of the alliance’s expansion.

As for the formal agenda devoted to the role of armed forces in the fight against terrorism, it is more important for NATO countries than for Russia: a direct analogy with Chechnya is hardly appropriate here., all the more since Moscow expressed its position long ago and it does not want to return to this subject. For NATO, this question is topical. For example, it is not clear whether the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War applies to the Taliban or not. If they are regarded as prisoners of war, they should be kept in better conditions. Though, if they are considered to be prisoners of war, the Taliban’s regime should be automatically recognized as well. The US does not want to do this, which is strange, because several years ago, the US administration practically recognized the Taliban regime. The oil-pipe line made US senators and congressmen overlook many things. Italian Defence Minister Antonio Martino appealed to the conference’s participants with the opening address. He stressed the important role of joint efforts of Russia and NATO in the new format of the twenty. Martino proposed to turn from “exclusive defence systems to a general defence system.” In this connexion, the minister noticed the important role of Russia as a superpower in global cooperation in the sphere of the fight against international terrorism.

These moves towards Russia are annoying the Russian supreme leadership. The reason is simple: Russia is being praised, while it is still not permitted to the table. This is why, as Sergei Ivanov stressed, he expects practical results from the conference, connected with cooperation of all military structures in the counteraction to international terrorism. Many observers paid attention to the fact that, at the beginning of the anti-terrorist campaign, Russia and the US had united opinion on the issue of the anti-terrorism fight; however, now, the two counties see things differently. The US withdrawal from ABM treaty, threats towards Iraq, and the recent speech by the US president in which he precisely pointed at future targets of the US military machine, - after these events, all illusions vanish if there were any left. Last weekend, at the conference on defence questions in Munich, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov hinted that Russia considered Saudi Arabia to be a country supporting terrorism. Ivanov stressed that probably not everybody in the West likes the fact that Russia keeps economical relations with countries that are regarded by the West as supporters of terrorism. The Russian defence minister stated that Moscow does not like the fact that Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf countries belong to the West’s allies, while these countries, Ivanov announced, financially support terrorist organizations.

“We, however, carry out negotiations with such states trying to persuade them to stop activities of that kind,” – Sergei Ivanov declared.

Therefore, Russia is more interested in political part of the discussion: first of all, the possibility to widen the anti-terrorist operation, at what this widening should be aimed and with which means it should be carried out: with military, the police, special forces or with a staff of advisers.

In addition, the Rome conference is an important step towards creating a new mechanism of cooperation between NATO and Russia. New suggestions on this cooperation should be prepared for the Russia-NATO council in Reikyavik in May of this year. If some standards decided by NATO, Russia will be expected to meet these standards, which can entail new troubles in the relations.

Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Vera Solovieva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/04/36554.html

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