New NATO Head is manager on restricting Russia’s influence

As NATO will be developing and modernizing, Russia’s sphere of influence will be reducing even near the borders of Russia.
George Robertson resigned from his NATO Secretary General position on the peak of his activity. What kind of issues will his successor Jaap de Hoop Scheffer be required to deal with? Director of Minsk Institute for European integration Yuri Shevtsov discusses this with the NewsInfo online newspaper. According to Shevtsov, Russia will lose the means of influencing Ukraine and Belarus during Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s term in office.

NewsInfo: Do you think the new NATO Secretary General will commit serious breakthrough or he will be a “technical manager” with no political functions?

Yuri Shevtsov: - I think the latter is true. The new NATO Secretary General is not required to commit “heroic deeds” as his predecessor George Robertson was supposed to do by expanding NATO to the East, conducting NATO reform increasing the importance of the European countries and which allowed to prevent establishing separate from NATO defense system of the European Union. George Robertson provided military and technical modernizing of the NATO countries Armies to match the new types of weapons and the new military doctrine.  For the first time in NATO history, Robertson arranged penetrating the block outside the North Atlantic area, into Central Asia and Afganistan. Under Robertson, NATO withstood its inner crisis during the war in Iraq. In addition, Robertson destroyed the Treaties-remnants of the Cold War: Anti-Missile Treaty has been terminated, the Treaty on Ordinary Military Forces in Europe is actually not observed,  the military capacity of Russia versus NATO has been destroyed because of the Russian Army degrading. New NATO Secretary General is not required to make any key decisions. The NATO mechanism inertia is too heavy to be deviated from the direction it was pushed to and its tempo.

NewsInfo: According to you, NATO has already achieved all its main purposes under Robertson. What is the task of the new NATO Secretary General under such circustances?

Yuri Shevtsov: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is required to complete the NATO’s reform. Europe should fit into the new NATO structure as the important auxiliary force and correspond with the new military and political role of the USA. Probably, the scheme of interaction USA-NATO tested in Yugoslavia and Afganistan, is required to become a rule: the USA along with the group of its closest allies are conducting the war, then the rest of NATO members are coming to the submitted country or region and working on establishing peace in that area. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is also required to provide new successful stage of the NATO countries military modernization.  According to it, the military structure of the European countries – NATO members should supplement the modernized US military, not just replicate it. Maybe Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will be required to maintain the political unity within the NATO during new military operations of the USA in different regions of the world.  The task of providing such unity may take much efforts as France after completing its military forces structural reconstruction, can increase its military activity in the regions where this country was traditionally involved in. Probably, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will be required to improve the military and political cooperation between NATO and a number of states: Ukraine in the first place, Egypt, the countries of Central Asia. Probably, NATO is required to become the basis for reconstruction of entire regions, such as Middle East, Caucasus area, maybe Central Asia and the area of Belarus-Ukraine-Moldova. 

NewsInfo: In 2003 the contradiction between the “Atlantic” and “continental” parts of NATO, the USA and the European countries supporting Germany and France, became aggravated. In this connection,  would you characterize the new NATO Secretary General as the “representative of Washington” or “representative of Brussels”. 

Yuri Shevtsov: I would not overestimate these contradictions. In my opinion, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is a “representative” of new reformed and extended NATO. 

NewsInfo: Do you believe that the new NATO Secretary General is more preferable for Russia than George Robertson or not?

Yuri Shevtsov: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is just an official. He is not in charge of making the key NATO strategic decisions. He is like a manager who oversees implementing the decisions of the NATO countries – “shareholders of the military and political corporation”.

NewsInfo: What is Russia for this “corporation”? Competitor? Partner? Potential enemy?

Yuri Shevtsov: Russia is not a member of NATO. The Russian-NATO relations remind the relations of strategic partnership, and sometimes – military and political partnership. Despite all its arguments with NATO, Russia provided success to the NATO operations in Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Afganistan. Russia cooperates with NATO in Central Asia. There are signs of future cooperation in Caucasus area. Russia stopped opposing NATO in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. In fact, Russia has lost the military capacity to oppose NATO and is not opposing it. On the other hand, NATO does not consider Russia as its enemy. President Putin has told several times about the theoretical possibility for Russia to join NATO. All this proves that implementing the new tasks of NATO by its new Secretary General will hardly touch the key interests of Russia. 

NewsInfo: Despite its cooperation with NATO, some interests of Russia differ from those of NATO.

Yuri Shevtsov: They do. We should realize that the military and political union between Russia and Belarus may collapse during the new NATO Secretary General term, as this union contradicts the interests of NATO in Eastern Europe. The Russia’s sphere of influence will be reduced greatly if the process of joining Ukraine to NATO starts after the Ukraine-NATO Summit scheduled for this summer. However, this will be the last loss for Russia. One should realize that Russia and NATO pursue the same values. While such balance of interests continues, Russia and NATO will encounter no serious conflicts as they are not possible within one entity. Possible “petty” conflicts can be resolved by diplomatic means. One should remember that reducing the influence of Russia is the consequence of the process started long ago. Today we experience just a routine stage of this process. 

Vladimir Golyshev

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova