Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Agenda before NATO and Russia

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Agenda before NATO and Russia

Article excerpt

The tragic events of 11 September 2001 unexpectedly brought greatly improved Russia-U.S. and, by extension, Russia-NATO relations. Within weeks of the attacks, a U.S.-led multinational counterterrorist coalition emerged with Russia as a prominent player. The coalition quickly enmeshed Moscow and the allied governments in intelligence and military cooperation whose breadth and depth far exceeded all previous efforts conducted under the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) auspices.

Before the terrorist attacks, the question before NATO and Russia was how to initiate a process of rapprochement with Russia. Despite a number of joint initiatives and consultative bodies, the relations could better be described as a stand-off, not a partnership. The PJC, launched by NATO and Russia in 1997 to provide a platform for improved relations, instead came to symbolize the gulf still dividing the two sides through its inability to facilitate progress on any significant divisive point. But after Moscow sided with Washington and its allies over the military response to the 11 September attacks, the question suddenly turned to finding ways of steering the newfound political will in Russia and NATO into a productive relationship. The success of the counterterrorist coalition inevitably spawned efforts to find a new arrangement and new issues for the NATO-Russia cooperation. By summer 2002, outlines of a new institutional framework emerged: The two sides agreed to create a new NATO-Russia Council that would involve Moscow in NATO deliberations from their very inception rather than after the alliance had worked out a consensus decision. In the bureaucratic sense at least, Russia-NATO relations since 11 September have been an unqualified success. The framework for a potentially fruitful cooperation is in place.

Yet the success must be put in context. Russia-NATO rapprochement coincided with an apparent decline of NATO as a priority in U.S. foreign policy and military planning. Combat and peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan are conducted under the U.S. flag, despite the fact that a majority of the allies are in fact NATO members. (The Kabul peacekeeping mission in particular is almost entirely a NATO affair.) The gap between Washington and its allies in both military capabilities and--perhaps even more important--threat perception and preferred response to those threats is widening, as I will discuss in more detail below. One possible explanation for the relative enthusiasm with which the Bush administration has embraced both NATO-Russia rapprochement and NATO enlargement is that Washington no longer views the alliance as primarily a fighting vehicle but rather as a political and security organization. A more political NATO would find it easier to incorporate Russia. But without the military foundation, NATO may find it difficult to maintain allied interest in continued cooperation. Its role as a united front for the Western allies on military and security issues would fade. In short, NATO-Russia cooperation would become much more seamless but also less relevant to relations between Moscow and the West, which would come to be dominated by direct diplomatic links with Washington, London, Berlin, Paris, and so forth.

In the near-term, the emphasis must be on improving the relations between NATO and Russia. Even if the alliance dynamic is not meant to be the main vehicle for either Russia's integration in the West or Washington's dealings with Moscow, at the least NATO-Russia relations should not stand in the way of the other processes. Hence, a new look at the cooperation between the two is required, as well as a new agenda and a new format. The format issues have largely been hammered out. At a meeting in Rome in May 2002, President Vladimir Putin and NATO heads of state signed an agreement creating a new NATO-Russia council. (1) In this article I propose a new agenda that will maximize chances for an improvement of NATO-Russia relations, and that will, at the same time, use the comparative advantages that NATO possesses in terms of its expertise. …

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