The so-called "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation" was unveiled in mid-May in Moscow with much fanfare and declarations that the way now was clear for including several former Soviet-occupied states in Central Europe into the Atlantic alliance. Unfortunately, if we are not careful, this "Founding Act" could become the final act for NATO.
Consider some of the particulars of this agreement:
* As Richard Perle noted recently, the agreement reads like a Soviet document. This is, as the Communists loved to say, "no accident, comrade." After all, the principal author for the Russian side was an unreconstructed apparatchik and longtime KGB operative from the old Soviet Union -- Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov.
* Primakov's fine hand is evident in the mutation of NATO contemplated by this document -- from a freestanding military alliance of democratic states to a "Euro-Atlantic" community with which Russia becomes an "equal partner" in political as well as security matters. The tone is set with the pledge by the two parties to pursue "to the maximum extent possible, where appropriate ... joint decisions and joint action with respect to security issues of common concern."
Moscow will be in a good position to try to enforce this commitment as it always will cochair the new "Permanent Joint Council" created by this accord. The United States, by contrast, only will serve as a cochair on a rotating basis, taking turns with the other 15-plus NATO member states. Since NATO operates by consensus, chances are good that this arrangement will make alliance decision-making more ponderous and problematic than ever.
* In addition, the "Founding Act" explicitly and repeatedly affirms the primacy of multilateral organizations in which Moscow enjoys a de jure or de facto veto, notably the U.N. Security Council and the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. For instance, it declares that "any actions undertaken by the Russian Federation or NATO, together or separately, must be consistent with the U.N. charter and the OSCE's governing principles." While Russia was not much concerned with such principles in its war with Chechnya, it is predictable it will find grounds in this language to oppose or otherwise constrain NATO's planning and freedom of action.
* Concerns on this score further are exacerbated by the myriad institutional arrangements promised by the "Founding Act" agreement. In …