Russia-NATO: What to say to those who do not trust each other
Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a big press conference on the results of the Alliance in 2015. There was made a statement about a possible meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. "The time has come," said Stoltenberg. But for what?
NATO and half years after Wales
Of course, Ukraine, because of which there was a misunderstanding between the Alliance and Russia, hastened to get concerned of the statement of the Secretary-General. The resumption of cooperation involves some concessions. But how far the Alliance is ready to go for the resumption of relations? All of these answers Stoltenberg gave in his speech, and later Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev told in his interview with The Associated Press that he is thinking about the outstretched arm of the North Atlantic.
First, let us look at how has the policy of the Alliance changed since the Wales summit took place in September 2014, when it was decided to create a very rapid reaction forces (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, VJTF). They were placed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. NATO does not hide the fact that it has increased its presence in Eastern Europe after Russia's adventures in Crimea.
Spanish rapidly deployable corps of NATO ground operations is responsible for sea direction, Naval forces of the United Kingdom is responsible for sea, Italian joint command of the air force is for air, special operations in the Special Operations Office of the U.S. and Europe, JFC Brunssum is responsible for logistics, while Poland directs the division of anti-chemical, biological and nuclear threats. The total number of people in the group is 40 thousand, and 5 thousand of ultra-high availability.
"I was really impressed when I saw them in action on the first exercises in Poland," boasted Stoltenberg. And during the next Warsaw Summit Alliance intends to discuss how to strengthen the group in the future. The Alliance has no intensions to reduce the costs on the defense.
That is not all. This year, NATO will build another new base of missile defense in the Polish village of Redzinkovo, mobile battery with medium-range missiles the SM-3 (missile complex missile designed to destroy air targets, including ballistic missiles and warheads on trans-atmospheric altitudes) will be placed here in 2018. In Romania the missile defense base to be launched in the current year, armed with 24 launchers SM-3 missiles in the three cell battery.
And this is not the limit. Stoltenberg pledged to strengthen the training, to create a further eight groups and small headquarters in the eastern part of the Alliance. They will be engaged in the planning, preparation and reinforcement of operations if necessary. And they also develop intelligence and the structure of the cyber-security to deal with hybrid war.
Air group is also strengthened. The U.S. send to Europe more and more fighters. In mid-September the United States has directed four F-22 fighter and a strategic military transport aircraft C-17 Globemaster III to Germany, as well as the staff of 60 people, 12 F-16 fighters were withdrawn from Turkey in December. Six Canadian CF-18s and from 220 to 250 military personnel appeared in Romania. The aircraft regularly controls the Baltic Sea.
Russian planes continue to bother NATO forces there. According to Stoltenberg, they began to approach the air space of the Allies 70% more, and the air force rose more than 400 times to intercept Russian planes. Once the Turkish Air Force shot down Russian bomber. The Alliance has supported Turkey as a member of the Union.
Russia: NATO is threatening and lying
Russian President Putinhas signed the Strategy of National Security and NATO is not listed as one of the threats. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev complains that NATO "promised not to expand to the East", but the alliance has 28 members.
“What kind of confidence can we talk about? You see that NATO promises, but it does not fulfill any promises concerning our country, it does not reckon with our national interests. Minimizing the cooperation between Russia and NATO on the initiative of Brussels creates greater distrust and growth of tension,” said Patrushev.
And then he said that Russia is ready to cooperate, does not want a confrontation, but only "taking into account the legitimate interests of Russia and the alliance of respect for international law."
In recent years, while the declarative discourse "raising Russia from its knees" is trendy, the theme of "betrayal" of NATO and the "legitimate right to defend the national interests" in the policy of the Russian government is very popular. Putin and the law enforcers often say about it. There is no trust between NATO and Russia.
Let's talk about the lost paratroopers
So what can discuss the two sides, which so frankly do not trust each other? To answer this question we must refer to the full text of the press conference, Stoltenberg: "The fall of the Russian aircraft violating the airspace of Turkey illustrates the importance of strengthening the mechanisms to reduce the risks and increase transparency and predictability of actions related to military activities. And this is the reason why we strongly seek to strengthen existing mechanisms for both sides, and analyze whether it is possible to develop something new".
Then Stoltenberg talked about the Vienna Document, which for the last time was adjusted in 2011, and now NATO is in talks with the OSCE on its improvement.
Vienna Document is an international treaty of the OSCE member states, which aims to increase transparency in the region. Its provisions require annual exchange of information of the signatory countries of the forces, which are located in the territories of the Member States, reports of a military nature to mitigate the risks, a demonstration of new types of weapons, visits, inspections and so on.
And then the Secretary General said that "just yesterday" the NATO Council met with OSCE to discuss the issue, to discuss the creation of mechanisms for greater transparency and predictability " for example, on the basis of the Vienna Document".
"Together with our Russian colleagues we have raised the issue of strengthening such mechanisms, and this is an issue that we will continue to discuss in the framework of the OSCE and directly with Russia," said Stolteberg.
Stoltenberg said about the plans to revise the document last November in his interview with the Financial Times. He noted that the countries are obliged to inform OSCE member states about the exercises planned for the year, if those involving more than 9 thousand people. But even then, Stoltenberg said that Russia has increasingly began to carry out "unannounced" doctrine, because it found a loophole in the document. NATO has offered to introduce a norm on automatic invitation of foreign observers to any doctrine that involves groups of more than 13 thousand people, who will also be allowed to inspect the facilities and equipment of the armed forces involved in the exercise.
What will Russia ask in return?
What are the prospects for future negotiations, and will Russia support proposals of Stoltenberg? Expert on Russia's policy in the Middle East, a member of the European Foundation for Democracy and the employee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Anna Borshevskaya recalls that Russia continues to view NATO as a threat, and it is reflected in the new doctrine. "The Kremlin has consistently responded with condemnation of what it sees as an encroachment of NATO to Russia's so-called privileged sphere of influence," she said.
Borshevskaya indicates that NATO has voiced its intentions, while Russia has not. However, Russia’s aims might not be new ones. "If Russia does not agree to the proposal of Stoltenberg, he may request concessions in return, such as reduction of NATO in Eastern Europe," she suggests. However, the expert has no illusions about the possibilities of Russia to make a compromise. "I also suspect that if Russia agrees, it will look for loopholes to avoid compliance with this agreement," she concludes.
Edward Lucas, editor in chief of The Economist weekly and vice-president of the Center for European Policy Analysts suggest that Russia would be forced to accept the offer of Stoltenberg. "Russia will not like it, but what could it do instead? Just go away?"
Based on this, it seems that the "thaw" in relations between Russia and NATO is linked largely to the fact that the Alliance has bothered to intercept Russian planes. Moreover, it is high time to discuss and prevent the emergence of "lost marines" on the shores of the Baltic Sea. The experts believe that most likely, Russia will ask something in return and will accept the proposal, hoping to find some loophole.