NATO-Russia Council – Already a Success Story?

Posted in NATO , Russia | 29-Oct-03 | Author: Dieter Farwick

The NATO-Russia Council – “NATO at 20” – followed the former Permanent Joint Council “NATO – 19 plus 1” – 18 months ago, based upon the NATO- Rome declaration of May 2002, which was initiated by Bush, Putin, Blair and Berlusconi.

Now, an independent working group – supported by Carnegie Corporation (New York) and the Foundation of East-West Bridges (Moscow) – has met in Brussels to analyse the achievements of the NATO-Russia Council. This group of diplomats, scientists and retired generals from the USA, Russia and Europe is neither an appendage of the Council nor a competitor to its 7 standing working groups.

This Working Group on NATO-Russia Relations – co-chaired by Ambassador Robert Hunter, Senior Advisor at the RAND Corporation (Washington) and Sergey Rogov, Director of the Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies – ISKRAN (Moscow) – is seeking to define feasible and pragmatic proposals for common NATO-Russia activities, drawing benefits from the freedom to think and act outside of government.

A meeting with high-ranking NATO officials provided a chance to get in-depth, ongoing information and to discuss progress and shortfalls in NATO-Russia relations.
In sum, the work of the NATO-Russia Council has made remarkable progress.
Instead of mainly exchanging official statements – which, with the old Permanent Joint Council, on the NATO side had been co-ordinated beforehand – the new Council offers a forum for frank and open discussions and decision-making – e.g. to build up a NATO-Russia peacekeeping brigade by the end of 2004.

To be sure – Russia has no right to veto “NATO only” issues.

A highlight of the RAND-ISKRAN meeting in Brussels was a discussion period with some Ambassadors to NATO and members of the NATO-Russia Council from the USA, Norway, The Netherlands and Russia, hosted by the US Ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns. This meeting offered cautious optimistic views for future work of the NATO-Russia Council, though the process is not yet irreversible.

In internal sessions, the RAND-ISKRAN working group discussed a wide range of potential co-operation – i.e. defence industries, Missile Defence, destruction of weapons of mass destruction, mil-mil events, defence reform. The working group spent several hours discussing the explosive situation in the Greater Middle East – including Central Asia, Caucasus, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India and Israel/Palestine.

A lot of answers were left open, but there was one common view: There is no alternative to success and no choice for Europe and Russia but to side with the USA in stabilising the entire region – in spite of all the problems between them.

There is plenty of room to enhance NATO-Russia co-operation - without pushing the issue
of Russian membership of NATO. It was also agreed that NATO-Russia co-operation should have a higher quality of that of a “coalition of the willing”.

Based upon the inputs gained during the meeting, the RAND-ISKRAN Working Group on NATO-Russia Relations will develop concrete proposals and present them to the NATO-Russia Council next year.

The conclusion: The glass with the label “NRC” is half full. A lot has been achieved; a lot is still to be done. The “axis” Washington- Brussels (NATO)- Moscow has the potential to be the backbone to export more stability into a region in which there is no lack of hot spots.

But the Alliance and Russia cannot sit on their hands and wait to discover whether the present US-led coalition will succeed or not.. The ticking time bomb has to be defused or the explosion will send shock waves around the world. An intensified co-operation and integration will strengthen this “Axis of Good” to the mutual interests of all participants.
Thus, NATO and the NATO-Russia Council will be strong partners of the UN in crisis prevention and crisis management.