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Jubilees of vain hopes

04/06/07- MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Safonov) –

In late May, it was 10 years since the signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and Russia. The Rome Declaration,which established the Russia-NATO Council, has its fifth anniversary atabout the same time.

Both dates are a good opportunity to analyze the uphill road traversed by
the parties and to think about prospects of cooperation. Skeptics maintain
that an attempt at partnership has failed. Are they right or does it have a
future?

Let’s not rush to conclusions, although there are few grounds for optimism.
Speaking at the NATO-Russia summit in Oslo this winter, the then Russian
Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov bluntly accused
Brussels of cheating. “During NATO’s initial expansion we were strongly
reassured that there will be no NATO military infrastructure on the new
members’ territory. We have been simply cheated,” he said. “We do not see
why NATO military facilities should approach Russia’s borders. Are we
threatening anyone?” he queried.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed the same idea when he criticized
NATO allies at a news conference after his talks with the Greek president:
“When our American partners walked out of the ABM Treaty, we told them right
away that we would respond in order to preserve the world’s strategic
balance. We warned them that our answer would be asymmetrical,” he said.
This is how Putin explained the latest missile test launches (MIRVed RS-24
strategic missile) from the Topol-M’s mobile platform and the R-500 cruise
missile from tactical Iskander’s mobile platform.

Talking about NATO’s failure to comply with the Treaty on Conventional
Forces in Europe (CFE), Putin said: “We are not the initiators of the new
round in the arms race. A new facility in Bulgaria, another in Romania,
deployment of a new missile in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic –
what are we supposed to do? We cannot monitor these treaties and abide by
them single-handedly,” Putin said. “We have said: either you ratify the CFE
Treaty and comply with it, or we will withdraw from it. Obviously, some do
not like our position. The president reassured the world that there was “no
need to be alarmed by Russia’s actions; they are not aggressive but merely a
response to rather tough and unjustified actions taken by our partners.”

NATO officials immediately replied they were worried not about Russia’s
missile tests but about its rhetoric, which portrayed the bad United States
and the bad Poland as a threat to Russia’s security.

The Russian leaders proceed from hard facts. In the founding act the NATO
countries pledged themselves not to deploy any substantial military
contingents and create military infrastructures on the Russian borders, but
the Pentagon is stationing new facilities in Bulgaria and Romania and is
getting ready to send 5,000 men to each.

When Moscow charges Brussels with violating the Paris agreements, it replies
that these are bilateral relations of two sovereign NATO members – the
United States and Romania or the United States and Bulgaria, and that the
alliance has nothing to do with them. But this position is strange – NATO is
relieving itself of responsibility for its members’ violations of their
commitments.

Likewise, NATO members, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, have not joined the
CFE Treaty. The United States is deploying its ABM elements in Poland and
the Czech Republic. When it suits its interests, NATO acts according to the
one-for-all-and-all-for-one principle (as it was the case with Estonia,
which has made a scandalous decision to transfer the graves of the Soviet
soldiers who had fought against the Nazis). But this principle is forgotten
when it does not come in handy, as was the case with Bulgaria and Romania,
Poland and the Czech Republic. Moreover, high-ranking officials like NATO
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer insist that these unilateral actions
by Washington enhance the security of not only the United States and Europe,
but also Russia.

Obviously, Russia-NATO and Russia-U.S. relations are in a serious crisis,
although the situation is not yet as bad as it was in 1999 when NATO started
bombing Serbian territory. Moscow stopped all relations with Brussels and
told its representatives to leave the Russian capital within 48 hours.

The NATO Information Office and the NATO Military Liaison Mission work near
the Kremlin. The Russian State Duma has recently ratified an agreement on
temporary access of NATO troops to Russian territory for joint exercises.
Russian ships are taking part in NATO’s program code-named Active Endeavor
in the Mediterranean. Recently, Northern Fleet ships left Severomorsk to
participate in NATO maneuvers in the Atlantic. NATO members are funding
training for reserve officers in Moscow and other big Russian cities. The
Russian Emergencies Ministry is working with its NATO counterparts on
preventing man-made and natural disasters. This list is not complete.

But at the same time, the Russian Foreign Ministry has already initiated the
convocation of an extraordinary conference on the CFE Treaty scheduled for
June 12-15 in Vienna. Russia is going to suspend its participation in the
treaty. It will not receive foreign military inspections or tell its
partners about the movement of its troops in its European part until NATO
countries ratify the treaty and carry it out just as Russia has done.

Today, Moscow and Brussels should listen to each other’s concerns and
consider them in decision-making as stipulated by the founding act and the
Rome Declaration. If they do not do this, they can forget about these
anniversaries as the jubilees of vain hopes, but this will not be in the
interests of either party.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not
necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.-0-