RUSSIA-NATO RELATIONS REMAIN DIFFICULT


28.11.06
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
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