MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti defense correspondent Viktor Litovkin)
A regular NATO summit will take place in Riga, the capital of Latvia, on November 28-29. NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meetings, which have recently been held on a regular basis, will not be held this time.
Military delegations from Ukraine and Georgia, and even from Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, the countries that have applied for NATO membership, will not attend the summit. Moreover, contrary to earlier statements, the latter three countries will not even be invited to join the alliance. In order to understand why this summit is so different, let’s first analyze Russia-NATO relations.
Relations between the two sides are not cloudless, although judging by the recent meeting between NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, everything seems to be going quite well. Putin even remarked, “Our cooperation is developing successfully… We are conducting a high-level political dialogue on a regular basis.”
Indeed, Russian and NATO leaders meet at least once a year, and sometimes even more often. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov takes part in all NATO summits, and often makes speeches to his European and American colleagues. NATO has a permanent military liaison mission and an information office in Moscow. In May, the latter held the two-week-long “NATO-Russia Rally 2006: What Binds Us Together.” Participants in the rally toured nine Russian cities from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, explaining NATO’s positions on different global problems, and taking part in debates with young people. The NATO Information Office conducts interesting events every month.
Moscow and Brussels are also developing military contacts. In addition to the Partnership for Peace program, Russia takes part in NATO’s Active Endeavor operation in the Mediterranean.
They have a joint program for the rescue of submarines in distress, which carried out the rescue of the AS-28 mini-submarine crew last year. Several days ago, Russian and NATO experts took part in command-post exercises to simulate defending against a missile attack in Europe. They were conducted at a defense ministry institute, where top security clearance was a must until very recently. There are more examples of Russia-NATO cooperation, but it still does not amount to a true partnership with due consideration for the vital interests of both sides.
Relations between the two are a marriage of convenience, where husband and wife live together, often socialize with others as a couple, and show every sign of respect for each other. At the same time, they sleep in different rooms, and have separate household and personal expenses. Each side is primarily pursuing its own interests, and although the couple is formally married, they cannot be called a real family. Needless to say, every metaphor has its drawbacks.
Let’s take a closer look at Russia-NATO contacts. Despite promises to Russia during the first and second stages of expansion, NATO is bringing its infrastructure increasingly closer to Russia’s borders. Under the pretext of countering international terrorism, it is upgrading local military airfields and highways, building ammunition depots and radars directed at major Russian cities, and re-equipping the armies of its new members with Western hardware. NATO is supporting velvet revolutions in CIS countries, and brainwashing their new elites into propagating its own ideas.
Still worse, NATO stores American tactical weapons at its bases in Europe. According to different estimates, there are from 150 to 400 B61 free-fall aerial bombs. It would be ridiculous to assume that they are there to fight terrorists. Why are they deployed in Europe? I addressed this question to Guy B. Roberts, NATO's Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Weapons of Mass Destruction Policy. This is what he said:
“NATO’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny any detailed numbers of nuclear weapons. Therefore I cannot comment on the numbers you cite. However, since the end of the cold war NATO has reduced their arsenal of nuclear weapons by more then 90% and we are in a continual process of examining our nuclear posture to ensure we maintain the lowest possible number of such weapons consistent with our joint security and nuclear deterrence posture. The stationing of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe constitutes a special form of burden-sharing fully endorsed by the Allies, enhances the consultation process, and supports the special transatlantic link between all NATO members.”
This lack of certainty is typical of NATO’s attitude toward Russia’s concerns. One of these is the potential forward deployment of interceptor missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic – ostensibly to counter missiles from “rogue states,” such as Iran and North Korea. None of them has missiles capable of reaching the U.S., and even if they acquire them, these missiles will not fly over Europe. Hence, American interceptor missiles will be targeted at Russian strategic missiles. Experts take that as a fact.
But what does all this have to do with talk about a “strategic partnership” that Moscow hears in Washington and Brussels? True, NATO top brass say that the plans for stationing interceptor missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic are a matter of bilateral relations between the U.S. and these countries, and have nothing to do with NATO. But does solidarity between the allies exist at all? Where is the borderline between allied relations and responsibility for strategic and provocative actions by a NATO member? The Pentagon’s actions affect all aspects of relations between Moscow and Brussels, as well as the NATO-Russia Council partnership. Is Brussels not worried about this?
Military-technical cooperation (MTC) is another urgent problem in Russia’s relations with NATO. The alliance does not want to see Russian military hardware in its markets, not even air defense and ABM equipment, which could protect Europe against potential terrorist strikes from the air. NATO officials cite different technical parameters, a strange argument considering that the air defenses of Greece, a NATO member, are wholly based on Russian equipment – S-300PMU, Tor-M1, Osa-10, and Igla-S… It appears that different parameters do not matter in one case but become an insurmountable obstacle in another. This is clearly an attempt to prevent competition with American air defense and ABM systems. The Washington-backed Raytheon Company is pressing its Patriot PAC-3, which is inferior to the S-300PMU in many respects, on NATO countries.
Last but not least, Russia is very sensitive to Brussels’ promise to accept Ukraine and Georgia. On the one hand, Moscow can do nothing to prevent them from joining NATO. On the other hand, as Sergei Ivanov said recently, if this happens, we will have to revise our relations with NATO, and take additional measures to protect our national interests. I think that Russia could withdraw from the treaty on medium- and short-range missiles and deploy its tactical Iskander-M missiles on NATO’s borders. But NATO’s interests will be prejudiced even more if we ban flights over our territory made by its aircraft delivering supplies to the troops in Afghanistan, or if NATO has to withdraw its bases from the Central Asian countries that are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Washington has already lost its base in Uzbekistan after criticizing its government for suppressing the riots in Andijan.
It is difficult to say what Vladimir Putin discussed with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at their recent meeting in the Kremlin. But shortly after it, Brussels declared that admitting new members is not a NATO priority, and that it will be suspended until 2008. This means that NATO is listening to some of Moscow’s concerns. If this attitude prevails, there is a hope that NATO-Russia relations will develop into a true partnership, although in a sense they will still remain a marriage of convenience.-0-