The Daily Telegraph carried an interesting analysis piece on April 24, concerning NATO-Russia relations. It is written by Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, an interesting website and journal.
Lukyanov makes the point that, since the 1990s, NATO's cohesion and thus influence has been declining. He adds that grandiose dreams of a global structure linking NATO with security structures across the Pacific are unlikely to happen, not least because NATO members can't agree on what their Alliance is for. He concludes that Russia should cooperate with NATO, for example, in creating supply routes to Afghanistan, because it is in the Russian interest to do so.
There is much in the article that is persuasive, especially when he talks about the confusion or profusion of new roles that Alliance is being asked to take on:
But can one organisation effectively embrace the roles of global emergency team, the FBI, a rapid response task force and a peacekeeping headquarters while still remaining a closed club within a rigid ideological framework?
This is especially true since NATO has been so weakened since 1999. The Kosovo War first showed how the political interference in military missions at the lowest tactical level reduces Alliance inefficiency (something SACEUR General Craddock has railed against); the Bush administration chose to go into Afghanistan with a 'coalition of the willing', despite an invocation of the Article V mutual defence guarantee, precisely because the Americans did not want to hampered by NATO bureaucracy; the subsequent ISAF mission has shown the political divisions inside the Alliance, and its inability to act together decisively when not under threat itself; and finally, the wide enlargement this decade has divided Europe in two, the old members who value stability and the new members, who look to NATO as a bulwark against Russia, even if it means the recreation of the Cold War in some form.
As Lukyanov writes, these divisions mean that NATO is not the all-encompassing global threat that some in Russia perceive, but neither is it about to fade away. Positive engagement on both sides will be the most beneficial course in the long run.