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Article by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, "In the Same Boat," Itogi, November 15, 2010


15-11-2010

What does Russia stand to gain from a partnership with NATO

There is much talk today about a rapidly changing world and the ongoing transformation of the core of the postwar system of international relations. The world has become less predictable and more dangerous: we all, regardless of the country in which we live, feel vulnerable. Acute regional conflicts linger on, as does the danger of international terrorism, drug trafficking, WMD proliferation, climate change, natural and technological disasters and other challenges that do not respect borders. Counteracting them is possible only through collective efforts of all nations.

Raison d’etre

Yet over the past couple of years, the climate has warmed in international life. There is a positive change in the atmosphere of relations between Russia and the US, and the Russian-American Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms has been signed. The principles of equality, parity, and equal and indivisible security, embodied in it, provide the basis for effective collaboration in the most diverse fields. Our strategic partnership with the European Union grows deeper, agreement has been reached on the formation of a modernization alliance between Russia and the EU, close bilateral cooperation is developing with many partners of Russia across the world. The groundwork has jointly been laid for a breakthrough into the future in Russian-Polish relations. Settled is the chronic problem of delimitation in the Barents Sea between Russia and Norway, which has once again confirmed the inevitability of solving any problems in the Arctic on the basis of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. An important contribution to the construction of modern international relations on the principles of equality and polycentricity is made by the states in the CIS space, where the integration processes are deepening.

Positive changes have also touched Russia's relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Initially, this structure was created as a military-political bloc to counter the “Soviet threat.” In the first NATO Secretary General Lord Ismay’s figurative expression, the alliance’s goal was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Under today’s conditions NATO, even by the admission of a number of western politicians, has lost the classical meaning of its existence, raison d’кtre, is actively searching for its place in the new European security architecture, and selecting the spheres of application of its hard power, military staff and logistical capacity amassed over the decades.

But the big possibilities of the alliance are also a great temptation to try to tackle complicated international problems outside the global security network that presupposes equal cooperation with other regional organizations and individual players. Such attempts were made; their results are for all to see. But now in the world, including among the member states of NATO, there is a growing awareness of the fact that there is no alternative to collective decision-making, and that it is necessary to take into account the security interests of other partners, including Russia, and to respect the principles of international law, the competence and authority of the UN and its Security Council.

This approach opens the way for joint equal work, and corresponds to the philosophy of Russian foreign policy. Foreign policy, as is known, is just an extension of domestic policy. Its mission is to create favorable external conditions for ensuring the security and prosperity of our citizens: for comprehensive modernization of the country, the diversification of the economy and its transition to an innovative model of development. Russia is interested in investments, the newest technologies and innovative ideas, stable and open world markets. We are ready for fair competition in trade and investment areas, but strongly against the competition of politico-military potentials and different kinds of power balances. We do not need confrontation and won’t let ourselves be drawn into any confrontational arrangements.

Word and Deed

Today there would be no problems if those declarations made at the end of last century both in the OSCE and at the founding of the Russia-NATO Council, about the indivisibility of the security of the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area, were translated into concrete actions. President Dmitry Medvedev has suggested that these declarations be given a legally binding character by signing a European Security Treaty. The fact that NATO is still not ready for this raises questions about the sincerity of the assurances given to us in the past. And yet the conviction grows that it is in our common interest to finally ascertain, and most important, embody in practice the definitive overcoming of the Cold War logic. This will make it possible to move at last to a strategic partnership for joint action on common problems, action that is dictated by life and brooks no delay.

On November 20, Lisbon will host a summit of the Russia-NATO Council. It will bring together leaders of 29 countries to discuss cardinal issues of European security and the prospects for our relationship. This meeting must, in our conviction, demonstrate a common resolve to bring our relations to a qualitatively new level, and work out responsible, forward-thinking decisions conducive to stronger mutual trust as a solid foundation for effective collaboration and the coordination of efforts.

We are convinced that the bloc approach in the modern world is an anachronism that hinders realization of the opportunities for joint strengthening of our common and indivisible security. It regenerates the political and behavioral stereotypes of the past, diverting resources from urgent needs. The huge, albeit still largely “dormant,” potential for international solidarity extends far beyond the existing military alliances. This was shown by the reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when not only the members of NATO, but also Russia and other non-NATO countries, offered a supportive shoulder to America in distress. We least thought about whether we were bound by allied obligations with the US then.

Multiplication of Strengths

The Russia-NATO Council was established in May 2002. This is a unique mechanism for regular political consultations, where our interlocutors according to the founding documents of the RNC are 28 states in their national capacity, rather than a bloc voicing a pre-agreed position. The RNC gives the opportunity on an equal and consensus basis to work out and make decisions, prepare and implement joint actions. During its existence the Council has accumulated valuable experience of political dialogue and practical collaboration with NATO on a wide range of security issues.

RNC as the engine of Russian-NATO cooperation was designed and assembled quite recently in historical terms. Naturally, it needs finishing and adjusting. Its work is by no means all smooth running yet – somewhere it tended to gain quite good momentum, but somewhere malfunctioned. And in August 2008, it even almost stalled – was stifled by the very same bloc approach that demanded a manifestation of solidarity with the “Euro-Atlantic” leadership of Georgia. Our proposal to urgently convene an emergency meeting of the RNC in the midst of the crisis was rejected. There is reason to believe that correct conclusions have been drawn from this failure. In December 2009, the foreign ministers of the RNC member countries took several important decisions on how to troubleshoot defects in the mechanism of our interaction and how to upgrade it.

I will give a few illustrative examples of when joint work with the alliance brings tangible results.

On the basis of the RNC Action Plan to combat terrorism, we share information and exchange practical experience in preventing and responding to terrorist attacks in places of mass gathering. We are engaged in developing remote explosive detection systems capable of detecting a “shahid’s belt,” and we are conducting joint exercises. Our Black Sea Fleet is taking part in NATO’s antiterrorist Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea. We are also cooperating in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. The establishment of a joint system for the exchange of radar data on the air situation along Russia's western border with NATO countries in order to prevent seizures of aircraft by terrorists is near completion.

We are helping each other during floods, fires, man-made disasters. Military-technical ties are being developed with the NATO countries. The application of advanced foreign experience enables us to raise the effectiveness of the Russian system of cataloging products and to start working to bring samples of Russian-built exported equipment into conformance with international standards. Stable cooperation in the area of submarine-crew search and rescue at sea has been established. We remember the selfless camaraderie assistance provided to us by British sailors in the rescue of the Russian bathyscaphe in the Far East.

Russia is engaged in active and multifaceted cooperation with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operating in Afghanistan under a UN mandate. We provide transit opportunities, and this is very much appreciated by our partners, especially when other routes have become more costly and risky. One of the priority issues for Russia in our relations with NATO is the need for a more resolute struggle against drug production in Afghanistan, which has reached the level of a threat to international peace and security. Training antinarcotics specialists for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Central Asian countries at the Russian MVD training center in Domodedovo is one of the largest projects undertaken by us, which not only works rhythmically, but is also expanding.

Our military universities train officers for the Afghan army. Russian companies, including helicopter firms, are working in Afghanistan. On all these fronts, we stand ready to step up cooperation with NATO, because we believe that we are making common cause. Russia is keen to ensure that after the withdrawal of ISAF from Afghanistan, that country is not a source of destabilization in the region.

An important new thrust area for the RNC is preparing a Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges and Threats. Approval of this review will lay the groundwork for further action to jointly respond to common challenges.

With the shield

Quite naturally, there are a number of international problems on which we do not see eye to eye with the alliance. On some issues there are fundamental differences, and somewhere the hindrance is just a misunderstanding of the situation and the interests of each other, largely due to the lack of clear and accurate information. But we aren’t obsessed by it, and do not put our differences in front of those topics where we have overlapping interests.

A lot of work is ahead. Take, for example, the proposal by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to create a joint anti-missile shield for Europe with the participation of Russia. We welcome the very desire to tackle the problem collectively, especially since we have our own views on this subject, including the well-known initiative to create an anti-missile “pool” of the nations concerned. So we are ready to seriously explore the idea of Rasmussen. We want to understand how NATO envisions the architecture of and the prospects for developing a hypothetical missile defense system, by whom and how it can be controlled and what means are planned to be activated.

In any case the talk about Russia's participation in the European missile defense system can proceed only on the basis of equal cooperation at all stages. We must have assurances that under no circumstances will strategic stability be upset and that there will be no actions that may adversely affect the legitimate interests of each other.

Building confidence and predictability is needed in other areas too. In particular, consistent effort is required to resolve the problems that gridlocked the regime of control over conventional forces in Europe, to forge dialogue on military doctrines as well as greater exchange of experience in reforming the armed forces and to return to a systemic discussion about military restraint. In the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act the alliance assumed a commitment not to deploy “substantial combat forces” in the territory of its new members. This term has not yet been specified. In December 2009, we suggested our interpretation to the RNC members. We are waiting for a substantive response.

We often hear that arms control came from the past and drags us back into the past. But the Cold War legacy cannot be overcome merely by statements about the new character of relations. We need practical steps, including in the most sensitive area of defense planning, that support partnership intentions.

The North Atlantic Alliance is finalizing its new Strategic Concept. We’re not indifferent to what kind of document this will be. The chief thing perhaps is that NATO must clearly determine its attitude to Russia. Up until now, NATO’s position was characterized by ambivalence. On the one hand, they asserted that Russia was a partner, and on the other they sort of hinted that Russia might be a problem in the security field. I think the maturity of our relationship speaks in favor of fully clarifying this issue.

A second point is related to the positioning of NATO in the global security system. We believe that under all circumstances the alliance must be guided by the UN Charter, especially in regard to the possible use of force in international relations. I will note in this connection that both the Founding Act and the Rome Declaration concerning the establishment of the RNC expressly provide that cooperation between Russia and NATO shall be done only in the framework of international law and in the domain of peacekeeping by decision of the UN Security Council.

The line on non-stop enlargement of NATO “in spite of everything” hardly corresponds to present-day realities. Today’s need is not a rearrangement of fences, but effort to successively remove the obstacles to cooperation with all and to provide equal security guarantees for all states regardless of their political and military status.

The basic principles of Russian foreign policy are pragmatism, openness, multi-vector diplomacy and the non-confrontational advancement of national interests. Our concerns with some aspects of NATO activities are honestly identified in our doctrinal documents. Such transparency is necessary for mutual trust, based on which one could build a common future. In this case, we do not consider NATO as a threat to our security.

Objective reality creates the conditions for partnership between Russia and NATO. It should not cause concern for anybody. Either for those who fear that Moscow would wield a “veto” over the alliance’s decisions, or for those who think that Russia will start cooperating with NATO against someone. Russia is disposed to build an equal partnership strictly on an international legal basis and in a way that avoids even the slightest suspicion that this is done at the expense of the legitimate interests of other countries. We presume that the alliance is guided by the same approach. If Russia and NATO together devise the right implementation algorithm for the tasks before us, this will benefit all who are interested in strengthening security and stability in Europe, across the space from Vancouver to Vladivostok and around the world.