The NATO-Russian Founding Act

By Mendelsohn, Jack | Arms Control Today, May 1997 | Go to article overview

The NATO-Russian Founding Act


Mendelsohn, Jack, Arms Control Today


On May 27 in Paris, Russian President Boris Yeltsin joined President Bill Clinton and the leaders of the 15 other NATO member states in signing the "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation." (See p. 21.) In December 1996, NATO foreign ministers agreed to seek an agreement with the Russian Federation on arrangements to deepen and widen the scope of NATO-Russian relations, primarily to offset the largely negative impact on those relations caused by NATO's decision to enlarge. Negotiations between NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov during the first part of 1997 led to the Founding Act which, despite its intention "to overcome the vestiges of past confrontation and competition and to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation" (in the words of Solana), is viewed by many in Russia and NATO with decided ambivalence.

As its preamble notes, the Act "defines the goals and mechanism of consultation, cooperation, joint decision-making and joint action that will constitute the core of the mutual relations between NATO and Russia." The Act establishes a NATO-Russian Permanent Joint Council which is to begin functioning by the end of September. The Act also contains NATO's qualified pledge not to deploy nuclear weapons or station troops in the new member states and refines the basic "scope and parameters" for an adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

The first section of the Act elaborates the basic principles for establishing common and comprehensive security in Europe. These principles include strengthening the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), responding to new risks and challenges "such as aggressive nationalism, proliferation . .., terrorism, [and] persistent abuse of human rights...," and basing NATO-Russian relations on a shared commitment to democracy, political pluralism, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and the development of free market economies. NATO and Russia also pledge to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other or other states, to respect the independence and territorial integrity of all states and the inviolability of borders, to foster mutual transparency, to settle disputes by peaceful means and to support, "on a case-by-case basis" [Emphasis added], peacekeeping operations carried out under the UN Security Council.

In the second section, which contains the only concrete action in the Act, NATO and Russia establish the NATO-Russian Permanent Joint Council. The Council is intended as "a mechanism for consultations, coordination and, . . . where appropriate, for joint decisions and joint action with respect to security issues of common concern." The Council is to meet "at various levels and in different forms"-specifically in two meetings a year at both the foreign and defence minister level, two meetings a year of chiefs of staff, and monthly meetings at the ambassadorial and military level. However, neither the Council nor anything in the Act will "provide NATO or Russia, in any way, with a right of veto over the actions of the other [Emphasis added] nor do they infringe upon or restrict the rights of NATO or Russia to independent decision-making and action."

Section III lays out the areas for NATO-Russian consultation and cooperation. These include the obvious: "security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area;" as well as conflict prevention; joint operations including peacekeeping; defence conversion; combatting terrorism; preventing proliferation; nuclear safety issues; and arms control. Of more specific interest among the areas listed for potential consultation, cooperation and increased transparency are theater missile defence, exchanges of "information in relation to air defence and related aspects of airspace management/control," and "reciprocal exchanges . . . on nuclear weapons issues, including doctrines and strategy of NATO and Russia.

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