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   September 23
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Analysis & Opinion
10.09.10 Another Attempt To Get Russia Into NATO?
Introduced by Vladimir Frolov

Contributors: Vladimir Belaeff, Ethan Burger, Ira Straus, Alexandre Strokanov, Vitaly Strokanov, Srdja Trifkovic

A new report from a think tank that claims close ties to President Dmitry Medvedev calls for “positive scenarios” in Russia’s relations with NATO, ranging from loose cooperation to full Russian membership of the North Atlantic Alliance. It comes just days after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed skepticism about the U.S.-Russian “reset.” Why call for Russia’s entry into NATO when no one either in NATO or in Russia wants this to happen, or at least thinks it desirable? Hasn’t the topic been dead for 50 years?

Moscow’s Institute for Contemporary Development (or INSOR in Russian), which claims that it works for President Medvedev, will release the main points of its new report “Prospects for Russia’s Relations with NATO” at the Yaroslavl Political Forum next week, a day before President Medvedev speaks at the same event.

INSOR’s report offers three “positive scenarios” for Russia’s relations with NATO: Russia joins NATO as a full member (“institutional integration”), Russia signs a security treaty with NATO (“an alliance with the alliance”), and Russia and NATO set up a Coordinating (or Steering) Committee that would seek to coordinate actions by existing international institutions like NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the EU on global security matters, perhaps under the UN auspices.

As a first substantive step in boosting cooperation between Russia and NATO, the report suggests revamping the existing Russia-NATO Council (RNC) by increasing the number of working groups within the RNC, bringing in more outside experts and by focusing on the two really big and important issues for Russia and NATO to work together on – Afghanistan and European missile defense.

The report also calls for broadening the functions of the Russian mission to NATO and increasing the number of Russian diplomats within different NATO structures.

As the first tangible step that signals a paradigm shift in relations between Russia and NATO, the authors suggest that the two sides begin joint planning for operations along the Afghan-Tajikistan border and joint training for peacekeeping operations in the area (the report mentions specifically the inability of the international community to intervene to curb ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan earlier this year, despite the presence of major Russian and U.S. military bases in the region).

INSOR’s Director Igor Yurgens will present the findings of the report at a joint discussion with former NATO Secretary General George Robertson at the Yaroslavl Political Forum on September 9. President Medvedev will speak at the Forum on September 10. INSOR claims that parts of its NATO-Russia Report will appear in Medvedev’s annual State of the Nation Address in November.

Yurgens acknowledges that the real objective of the report is to probe president Medvedev’s willingness to move toward even more cooperative relations with the West. Thus, the report and its presentation will serve as a political provocation that is intended to broaden the rift between Medvedev and the more hard-line Putin on the central issue of Russia’s foreign policy – how to engage the West?

All of this comes just days after Putin expressed his skepticism of the “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations and specifically singled out the issue of missile defense in Europe as an area where Russia continues to be misled and deceived by the United States.

What is the point of raising the issue of Russia’s relations with NATO at this particular moment? Why call for Russia’s entry into NATO when no one either in NATO or in Russia wants this to happen or at least thinks it desirable? Hasn’t the topic been dead for 50 years?

Could it be that Medvedev himself ordered a report calling for a much closer relations with NATO, or is it merely a provocation by Yurgens in the desire to remain relevant? If Medvedev really wanted such a change in the relationship with NATO, why would he need to approach it in such a murky fashion?

Which of the three options for Russia’s relations with NATO outlined in the report is more realistic and has a prospect for a serious diplomatic discussion? How would INSOR’s proposals square with Medvedev’s own initiative for a new security architecture in Europe? Will Medvedev seek to have Russia join NATO? Would NATO be open to the idea? Or would “an alliance with the alliance” be a more realistic proposition?

Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, former Foreign Affairs Editor of Chronicles Magazine, former Director, Rockford Institute Center for International Affairs, Rockford, IL:

Russia will never join NATO as a full member. Institutional integration is possible either if Russia ceases to exist as an autonomous actor capable of articulating its national interests, which mercifully will not happen (although the threat was real under former President Boris Yeltsin), or if NATO ceases to be an inherently anti-Russian institution, in which case it would lose its key underlying raison d’etre.

Russia should not sign any security treaty with NATO, because what is contained in the UN Charter and in Russia’s various bilateral treaties with the U.S. and other NATO members is sufficient. The treaty would be either superfluous, or frivolous, or most likely both. It would unnecessarily grant the alliance a lease of life by enabling NATO-for-ever enthusiasts to pretend that it is more than it is or should be.

No additional coordinating or steering committees, working groups, expanded missions, or joint projects are necessary or useful. If there is to be a “paradigm shift” in Russia’s relations with NATO, it should be initiated from Washington and Brussels, with the announcement that the membership for Ukraine and Georgia is permanently “ad acta.”

A necessary and successful alliance during the Cold War, NATO is obsolete and harmful today. It no longer provides collective security of limited geographic scope (Europe) against a potentially predatory power (the Soviet Union). It has morphed into a vehicle for the attainment of misguided American objectives on a global scale. Russia’s pandering would merely cement and perpetuate its new, U.S.-invented "mission" as a self-appointed promoter of democracy, protector of human rights, guardian against instability, etc. The result was Bill Clinton's air war against the Serbs, which marked a decisive shift in NATO's mutation into a supranational security force based on the doctrine of "humanitarian intervention." The trusty keeper of the gate of 1949 had morphed into a roaming vigilante five decades later.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been trying to articulate its goals and define its policies in terms of "traditional" national interests. The old Soviet dual-track policy of having "normal" relations with America, on the one hand, while seeking to subvert it, on the other, gave way to na?ve attempts by Yeltsin and his Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to forge a "partnership" with the United States.

By contrast, the early 1990s witnessed the beginning of America's attempt to assert its status as the only "hyperpower." The justification for the project was as ideological, and the implications were as revolutionary, as anything concocted by Grigory Zinoviev or Lev Trotsky in their heyday. America adopted its own dual-track approach. When Gorbachev's agreement was needed for German reunification, President George Bush Senior gave a firm promise that NATO wound not move eastward. Within years, however, instead of declaring victory and disbanding the alliance, the Clinton administration redesigned it as a mechanism for open-ended out-of-area interventions, at a time when every rationale for its existence had disappeared. Following the war against Serbia, NATO's area of operations became unlimited, its "mandate" entirely self-generated. Washington accepted that NATO faced "no imminent threat of attack," yet asserted that a larger NATO would be "better able to prevent conflict from arising in the first place," which is dangerous nonsense.

The threat to Europe's security does not come from Russia or from a fresh bout of instability in the Balkans. The real threat to Europe's security and to its survival comes from Islam, from the deluge of inassimilable Third World immigrants, and from collapsing birth rates. All three are due to moral decrepitude and cultural degeneracy, not to any shortage of soldiers and weaponry. NATO’s structures can do nothing to alleviate these problems, because they are cultural, moral and spiritual.

At the same time, NATO forces America to assume at least nominal responsibility for open-ended maintenance of a host of disputed frontiers that were drawn, often arbitrarily, by communist dictators, long-dead Versailles diplomats, and assorted local tyrants, and which bear little relation to ethnicity, geography, or history. NATO makes eventual adjustments – which are inevitable – more hazardous by pretending to underwrite an indefinite status quo in the region.

Today’s NATO represents the global extension of the Leonid Brezhnev Doctrine – which, to its credit, applied only to the "socialist community," as opposed to the unlimited, potentially world-wide scope of the Clinton-Bush Doctrine. The "socialist community" stopped on the Elbe, but this “new NATO” stops nowhere. It is the agent of revolutionary dynamism with global ambitions, in the name of ideological norms of “democracy, human rights and open markets.”

That neurotic dynamism can and should be resisted by the emerging coalition of weaker powers – including Russia and China – acting on behalf of the essentially "conservative" principles of state sovereignty, national interest, and reaffirmation of the right to their own spheres of geopolitical dominance. The doctrine of global interventionism is bound to produce an effective counter-coalition.

The neoliberal-neoconservative duopoly still refuses to grasp this fact. Russia should do absolutely nothing to postpone its coming to terms with reality.

Alexander Strokanov, Professor of History, Director of Institute of Russian Language, History and Culture, Lyndon State College, Lyndonville, Vermont, and Vitaly Strokanov, retired colonel, senior lecturer, Izhevsk State Technical University, Chaikovsky, Russia:

Of course, Russia will not join NATO as a full member, simply because it is NATO that does not want it to happen. It will not be beneficial for Russia either, nor is it good for Medvedev’s rating among older generations of Russian people, as is already the case with his suggestion to rename the “militsia” into the “politsia.”

Let’s briefly analyze records of NATO’s actions since the end of the Cold War. The shameful bombing of Yugoslavia and the creation of a precedent for forceful dismemberment of a sovereign country, the expansion toward Russia in violation of previously made promises, the failure to act as a military bloc in Iraq, and the failing mission in Afghanistan, at the end of which conditions in that country will be many times worse than they were before the invasion, and radical Islamism will be spreading to former Soviet Central Asian republics. These are all deeds of NATO and the consequences of American leadership in it, from Clinton to Barack Obama. Why would anybody in Russia wish to join this military bloc - a bloc which many of its participants still consider to be first of all anti-Russian? This feeling is important “glue” that still holds the alliance together, it attracted several new members into it not long ago, and is attracting today such countries as Georgia. Certainly, Russia could join it to eliminate that “holding glue,” but this is exactly why some countries of NATO will never support this motion.

Another unrealistic idea is about “an alliance with the alliance.” The main question here is the “alliance with the alliance” against whom, or what? Will NATO, for example, be seriously interested in an alliance with Russia against the spread of drugs from Afghanistan? Unlikely, otherwise why did it do almost nothing in this regard in the last nine years? On the contrary, NATO’s occupation of the country led to a gigantic increase in the production of opium. Maybe some “hot heads” think NATO could be useful for Russia in case of tensions with China. Obviously, it is not even serious to talk about such things.

The idea of the Coordinating Committee and intensification of contacts with NATO is pretty much what the Russian government is already doing today. However, we think the Kremlin should approach this work differently. Instead of senseless debates on membership, alliance, and coordinating committees with armies of bureaucrats in it, NATO-Russia cooperation should be implemented through practical, concrete, mutually beneficial and primarily technological projects.

One of the areas of cooperation with NATO countries could be the development of new types of defensive weapons. It is well known that military standards in NATO and Russia are different. However, that needn’t be an obstacle to development of new high-tech and advanced weaponry that the alliance and Russia may or may not sell to third countries. Russia has examples of successful military cooperation with India and Israel. Why shouldn’t it do the same with weapon-making corporations from France, Germany, Italy and some other NATO countries? The Russian government is absolutely right when it calls for a tender of a helicopter carrier, which as a precondition requires cooperation of Western and Russian companies, rather than the simple cash purchase of the “Mistral” from France. Technological cooperation could be genuinely mutually beneficial, and for many reasons, including those listed above, it may be easier to implement than political cooperation. However, it will also require political will and readiness from both the West and Russia. Indeed, such technological cooperation and mutual dependence on it could finally melt the ice of the Cold War and allow more political cooperation when people on either side are ready for it.

Another potential related project would be not European, but Northern (European, Russian and American) missile defense. If the so far hypothetical threat to Europe comes from only such countries as North Korea and Iran, those missiles most likely will fly over or close to Russia, and logically NATO and Russia could build one system to prevent such attacks for all of the Northern Hemisphere.

Finally, there is cooperation in responding to natural disasters of continental magnitude, or protection of nuclear power stations from terrorists and natural cataclysms. The importance of nuclear power and danger of natural disasters will only increase in the foreseeable future.

Only such concrete, mutually beneficial projects that work for the modernization of Russia and re-invention of NATO should be considered by the Russian government as the ways to improve relations with the alliance. That is, of course, if NATO really wants it, and is not just mimicking good neighborly attitudes toward Russia. Good words must be proved by real and concrete deeds. Are NATO and Russia ready for it today, or we will have to wait even longer?

Ira Straus, U.S. Coordinator, Committee on Russia in NATO, Washington, DC:

The "Russian membership in NATO" goal is the ultimate goal of any of the other "positive scenarios." It is unlikely to be pursued as an immediate goal, because it is obvious that there are still too many people who would veto it. However, there seems to be some increase in the West in the number of people who have come (finally!) to the conclusion that this is a logical and necessary goal for NATO.

While Putin may choose to take an anti-NATO tack and part from Medvedev on this, one should not presuppose such an outcome. In 2001 and 2002 Putin all but openly called for Russian membership in NATO. Instead of doing it in pure simplicity, as had Yeltsin and many others – with the result of suffering huge political damage when the West failed to respond favorably – Putin used a more subtle and very precise language: a logically contingent statement of willingness for agreement if the other side is willing, rather than an unqualified plea for entry that would merely leave him vulnerable. He said, specifically, that Russia was willing to go as far in its relationship with NATO as NATO itself would be willing; that to the extent that Russia was included in NATO’s decision-making, it would no longer need to be against NATO expansion elsewhere; but if Russia was not welcome in NATO, then of course Russia would be against this military alliance moving up to its own borders.

A pro-integration posture for Medvedev would presumably use the same kind of precise language.

Among the "other scenarios" mentioned, the distinctions between them shouldn't be overdone. They are mostly trending in the same direction. They are generally sensible, constructive, and mutually compatible.

In the search for areas for active geopolitical dialogue and cooperation – and around which to build common planning and action structures, which would be a precursor to membership – a lot more could be added, beyond Afghanistan and missile defense. There is the CIS, much of which lies between Russia and Afghanistan, and most of the rest lies between Russia and NATO.

There are specific opportunities for cooperation in Kyrgyzstan, where there has been some good cooperation in a quiet way; probably this is the main reason the country has been spared total disaster in recent months. There could be a lot more – more of it, and more visible and self-sustaining. One could mention the suggestion of former President Askar Akayev for a joint Russia-NATO base in the country, underlining cooperation and ensuring its development, instead of the two separate bases, whose presence has encouraged in the past a competition for influence.

Then there is Belarus, where Russia has turned against President Alexander Lukashenko, putting it in the same place where the West has been. One would think it would not be beyond the capabilities of our leaders to figure out how to join hands against Lukashenko, and, in the likely event that he would thereafter be gone sometime soon, play a joint stabilizing influence on the future of Belarus rather than revert to competing influences from the east and west ends of Belarus.

And in Ukraine, President Victor Yanukovich promised to be a bridge between Russia and the West. It is an opportunity, but he isn't delivering. Culturally, there is the absurd stand-off between former President Victor Yuhchenko’s people, who say the Holodomor was a deliberate holocaust (it was) and a national genocide (it wasn't), and the Yanukovich people, who, in a spirit of Soviet patriotism (perhaps in deference to their Communist Party coalition partners), say it wasn't a holocaust. Most Russians and Westerners alike agree that it was a deliberate holocaust of the peasants, caused by the communist struggle for collectivization and for destruction of the independently propertied "petty bourgeois" peasantry as a class. It wouldn't take too much skill to get together on this and make it impossible for our local would-be tails to swing us dogs against each other. Instead we should support the cultural center in Ukraine that takes the commonsense view against the holocaust of the peasant, eschewing both Soviet apologetics and Russia-bashing.

The NATO membership hurdle will still have to be faced directly: terms and forms jointly worked out for it, such that it would be in the interest of both parties. The longer we wait to discuss this among ourselves and between Russia and NATO, the longer we are likely to wait to get anywhere. The sooner we start discussing it seriously, the sooner we have a chance for the ultimate goal to take shape in a relevant timeframe.

Ethan S. Burger, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, Faculty of Law, Innovation Campus, University of Wollongong, Australia:

Granted, NATO’s principal military mission is in a state of evolution, and many countries view Chinese foreign economic and military policies with a degree of concern – let’s not overlook the fact that NATO is a mutual defense pact among countries that generally share common values.

“Happy talk” and certain common interests aside, the present Russian leadership and a large segment of the Russian population do not share these values. While it is possible for NATO to engage Russia, NATO would be foolish to embrace Russia. If it were to do so, it would lead to the organization’s demise.

While Russia does not presently pose a military threat to the NATO member states in the same fashion the Soviet Union did, it still presents a threat to their collective economic and security interests in numerous spheres. Many people rightfully wonder why Russia seems willing to harbor computer hackers targeting Western institutions and is apparently indifferent to the existence of numerous ties between organized crime groups and certain Russian government officials.

Russia does not respect the sovereignty of some of its neighbors, pursues an aggressive foreign economic policy to the detriment of certain key NATO members, and does not respect many of its OSCE and Council of Europe obligations (both domestic and toward other states). Consequently, it is inconceivable to me that the NATO states would accept Russia as a member in the near future, if ever. It would be tantamount to letting the wolf into the hen house.

Vladimir Belaeff, Global Society Institute, Inc., San Francisco, CA:

The observation that the referenced INSOR report may be a “provocation” aimed at Medvedev seems to contradict the claim by INSOR that it “works for president Medvedev.” Why would one attempt to provoke one’s own employer?
It is remarkable how much of the products of Russian political think tanks display a unilateral mode – time and time again, proposals and concepts for Russia’s international relations are expressed with blithe disregard for the motives, doctrines and policies of Russia’s putative counterparts in this or that fantastic scheme.

This attitude reminds one of Gogol’s delectable and syrupy Manilov, a character in Dead Souls.

It may be that the West is effectively inscrutable to these Russian “analysts.” It seems that the INSOR concept for NATO relations is a replay of some Yeltsin-era paradigms – which were not very realistic or productive for anyone.

It is very easy to invent international policies when one does not need to recognize the ideas and doctrines of the other side in the equation. One might add that in the West there is arguably a similar disregard for Russia’s own needs, challenges and security concerns. These attitudes may be harmless per se, but they cannot become serious bases for international policy. Historically, such unilateralism has caused major wars.

Like Manilov’s proposed bridge over a pond (from nowhere to nowhere) with farm girls selling seeds on the bridge (to whom?), a proposal for Russia-NATO integration does not seem to realistically and completely address the basic questions of need and purpose, not to mention the more advanced topics of feasibility and form.

Why would Russia want or need to integrate with NATO? Why would NATO want or need to integrate with Russia? In general, what need sui generis does NATO recognize for integration with anyone? Yes, there are partial, temporary and limited operational motives for collaboration – but this is accomplished without costly, binding and inconvenient integration. What does INSOR know about NATO to imply that a more profound relationship with Russia is of genuine interest to Brussels? And if there is no such interest in Brussels – what is the point of proposing this Manilov bridge?

Whatever may be the proposals for theater-level ad hoc collaboration between Russia and NATO (read: the United States) in the Afghanistan-Tajikistan region, such collaboration would not be a “paradigm shift.” Paradigms are much more profound, structural platforms of political behavior. Consider the following: was the Apollo-Soyuz space collaboration between the Soviet Union and the United States a “paradigm shift” during the Cold War? Or the various nuclear weapons reduction treaties? No, they were not. The Cold War confrontation remained even in the face of detente – and has survived in reduced form to present times.

Several paradigmatic shifts are indeed necessary – on both sides.

Russia in this aspect is more advanced, albeit its shift has not been well guided, hence its obvious frustrations and disappointments in dealings with NATO and the United States. An adjustment is occurring in this aspect. Moreover, a much more profound and challenging paradigmatic shift needs to occur for some NATO allies: from a Cold War mindset, which still defines their behavior, to a genuine acceptance of the profound changes in Russia since 1991.

In addition, some Russian think tanks need to study, understand and develop proposals that integrate the realities of Russia’s foreign counterparts – something that is not easy to do, because of profound gaps in genuine understanding, knowledge, doctrines, habits of thought and methodologies; gaps which are traceable to a Soviet world-view, even if this is included tacitly, and with “reversed polarity.”
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