|RUSSIA-NATO RELATIONS REMAIN DIFFICULT
MOSCOW. (Andrei Kokoshin for RIA Novosti)
One of the reasons behind Russia’s difficult relations with NATO is the
latter’s expansion to the east. We believe that NATO’s decision to
invite former Warsaw Treaty and Baltic countries to join it is
unjustified. Moreover, this decision contradicted the repeated assurances
given by the Western leaders to their Soviet counterparts in the late
1980s, and in 1991.
The overwhelming majority of the Russian political class has a markedly
negative attitude to this event. There should be no doubt on this score
either in the West or post-Soviet countries. The same applies to the
efforts to draw Ukraine and Georgia into the NATO orbit, and has been
reflected in statements by the State Duma.
We have more than enough political, economic, and socio-cultural reasons
to be negative about admission of these countries to NATO. Our
military-strategic concerns are also growing.
It seems that the Russian position, expressed in no uncertain terms, is
beginning to find understanding among some Western politicians,
particularly, in the countries of old Europe.
However, the West, and particularly, Washington, has not yet come to
realize that NATO’s eastward expansion is counterproductive and even
dangerous for the common interests of international security.
Moreover, today we have to face the reality that certain actions by the
United States and its allies are creating new threats to strategic
stability and international security. This applies to the intention to
deploy U.S. ABM components on Polish territory. If this plan is carried
out, Russia and its allies will have to take additional measures to
enhance our strategic stability and national security. Our measures will
be asymmetrical but adequate. Cooperation in the framework of the
Russia-NATO Council will be called into question as well. Does Europe
stand to gain from this?
The efforts of Washington and Brussels to draw Georgia into NATO do not
help enhance stability in Europe. They are encouraging the belligerent
attitudes of those politicians who came to power in Tbilisi after a coup
d’etat in the wake of the Rose Revolution. I have seen for myself the
extremely dangerous West-incited attempts of official Tbilisi to escalate
tensions in the zones of its conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
This was particularly obvious during the Sarabuk incident in August 2004,
when our column was subjected to intensive fire by Georgian special units,
which illegally penetrated the territory of South Ossetia. OSCE
independent observers confirmed that the units were Georgian.
Georgian leaders continue rejecting the proposals of South Ossetian
President Eduard Kokoity and his Abkhazian counterpart Sergei Bagapsh to
sign agreements on the non-use of force. If NATO really wants to admit the
unpredictable Georgia, why doesn’t it compel Tbilisi to abide by UN
Security Council Resolution #1716 of October 13, 2006, which has extended
the mandate of UN observers in Georgia, and ruled out Georgian military
presence in the Kodori Gorge?
In many respects, Tbilisi should be “grateful” for the situation in
its relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia to those Western and
Georgian politicians that are urging Georgia to join NATO. This policy is
a destabilizing factor on post-Soviet territory.
Russia and its friends, allies, and partners in the CIS, CSTO (Collective
Security Treaty Organization), and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation
Organization) are interested in cooperation with NATO, which is still an
influential organization. But we will never forego our own interests and
those of our friends, neighbors, and compatriots who live abroad and
vitally need stability and security on post-Soviet territory.
We have common interests with NATO in countering political extremism and
terrorism, and in ensuring non-proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. We can cooperate in our policy towards Afghanistan and Iraq,
where the situation is becoming more and more dangerous.
Considering the increasing role of the CSTO and the SCO, which includes
the biggest part of the world’s population, we could do without
cooperation with NATO. But we believe that joint efforts to resolve common
problems are a more rational option.
In the SCO framework, we largely share the views of China, India,
Pakistan, Iran, our Central Asian friends, and Kazakhstan on what is
happening in Afghanistan and what should be done there. Meanwhile, NATO
continues trying to weaken Russia’s positions on post-Soviet territory
instead of joining the political and diplomatic efforts of the SCO and the
CSTO in order to resolve the problems in the region. It is still possible
to avoid defeat in Afghanistan, but this goal requires action.
Some prominent experts in Russia and the West justifiably explain NATO’s
line towards attracting new members by its desire to get additional
contingents for operations in the most dangerous regions. Recently, NATO
has sent an almost 1,000-strong Polish contingent to Afghanistan.
Apparently, the countries of old Europe and Canada are reluctant to risk
the lives of their citizens in such operations.
In this context, Georgian battalions trained by US military instructors,
although not very numerous, as well as military contingents from other
countries that are so eager to become fully-fledged members of the
alliance may become a valuable acquisition for Washington and Brussels.
They will not have to make difficult decisions on sending Americans,
Frenchmen, Germans, Brits, and Italians to Afghanistan. As a NATO
high-ranking official told me recently, the U.S. and its allies, which are
suffering defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, have to count every regiment.
Andrei Kokoshin is Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the CIS and
Compatriots Abroad, and former Secretary of the Russian Security Council