Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Russian Ambassador Rogozin on NATO-Russia Relationship

Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin published a piece on relations with the Alliance in the Moscow Times today. He makes some good points, and proposes once again the Russian idea of a pan-European security treaty.

The crisis in Georgia last August tested Europe's security system, and the system failed to fulfill its core task of ensuring common security for the continent as a whole. As a result, Europe must re-examine its current security arrangements, analyze what happened, and take this analysis into account in reforming those arrangements.

When the NATO-Russia council (NRC) was created in 2002, it was devised as a mechanism for dialogue, cooperation, and joint decision-making on issues of mutual interest, including non-proliferation and arms control, the fight against terrorism, civil emergency planning, and military-to-military cooperation. The NRC also was supposed to act as a forum for "holding prompt consultations" in crisis situations and to prevent such crises by "early identification of emerging problems." Unfortunately, the Georgian crisis demonstrated that Russia's dialogue with NATO was less substantial than it should have been. Yet NATO-Russia cooperation is of the utmost importance to global security. We need NATO and NATO needs us in order to face common threats and challenges. .. Indeed, Russia's foremost foreign-policy goal is a real, strategic partnership with the West in which we work together to solve the multitude of modern security problems. (My emphasis)

Europe needs an integrated, solid, and indivisible system of comprehensive security. We are not calling for abolishing everything and starting from scratch. On the contrary, we must build on existing institutions. In short, we need to retain the hardware, but update the software. Russia's initiative for a pan-European security treaty should be the new operating system.

All of this is very conciliatory sounding. There are some sections of the piece that are less so. Russian fears about US and NATO enlargement around its borders are clearly stated:

Russia has tried for years to get away from Cold War thinking and to persuade our partners to drop their stereotypes. After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Russia quickly extended a helping hand to the Americans. But the West did not appreciate this gesture. Military bases have been impetuously established along Russia's perimeter. The United States plans to establish part of its global missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. The Warsaw Pact ceased to exist 20 years ago, but NATO still proceeds eastward, adding new member states for reasons other than enhancing security and democracy.

And when he offers NATO a choice between Russian support in the international struggle against terrorist groups, and NATO support for Georgia, there are few in the Alliance who would agree with him:

A real, working NATO-Russia relationship could provide the Alliance with solutions to problems that it cannot tackle on its own. It would also give new impetus to the European security system. This is what we want to see in the future – and it is a future that is not possible without Russia. To see why, simply compare the importance of combating international terrorism with the value of nurturing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's personal ambitions; things soon fall into place.

All in all, for an Ambassador whose appointment was widely seen as a Russian hard line snub to NATO, this represents an unclenching of the fist, or a pushing of the reset button - or whatever current metaphor one wants to use. NATO and Russia need to work together in mutual respect to create true security in Europe. It seems the signs on this score are more positive than they have been for some time.

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