International military contacts for the Russian Federation are carried out by several force ministries, the largest of them being the Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry proper organizes and carries out the majority of the military contacts between Russia and foreign countries. The military contacts of the other force structures (Federal Border Guards Service, Federal Security Service, Foreign Intelligence Service and so on) have a specific character and, as a rule, are closed to the press and public.
According to official sources, the activity of the Defense Ministry in the sphere of international military and military-technical cooperation is built on the understanding of the changes happening in the modern world. Its corner stone is the provision of Russia’s security and the protection of its national interests through the establishment of friendly partnership relations with neighboring countries, leading world powers and their armed forces, formation of a broad network of the international-legal mechanisms for the reduction of the level of military potential of countries, able to represent a threat to Russian interests.
The Defense Ministry is currently party to more than 50 international agreements and treaties in the sphere of armament control. Military-technical cooperation with 70 foreign countries is being planned and carried out, with 49 of them it is on a permanent basis. 248 treaties and agreements have been signed and are being observed with the CIS countries. Some 4,000 Russian military specialists and 60 military observers are on service trips to 39 countries and 10 UN missions. In 58 higher educational institutions of the Defense Ministry more than 2,000 foreign military specialists from 17 countries are studying on the contract basis. According to the degree and character of the contracts the international military cooperation between Russia and foreign countries can be divided into three groups:
1. Close ally contacts: contacts between Russia and the majority of CIS countries.
2. Traditional friendly contacts: contacts with the countries, which have the common geopolitical, strategic and other interests with Russia after collapse of the Soviet Union. This is the largest group of countries, situated on practically every continents. In Europe these are Finland, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Yugoslavia; in the South-East Asia: China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia; in the South Asia: India, Sri-Lanka; in the South-West and West Asia: Iran, Iraq, Syria, South Yemen; in Africa: Egypt, Algeria, Libya, South Africa, Morocco, Somalia, Mozambique; in South America: Chile, Brazil and some other Latin American countries striving for independence from the USA; in North America: Cuba and Mexico.
3. Contacts with the countries and groups of countries (military blocs), which may threaten Russian national interests under certain circumstances. These are, first of all, the majority of NATO countries, former Warsaw pact allies: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, as well as the Baltic countries, and Japan.
We will briefly describe the character of the military contacts of Russia in each of these five groups.
THE FIRST GROUP. Military cooperation of Russia within the CIS frames is the most dynamic and effective and, we will say this frankly, not very expensive yet. Russia considers the CIS as the most important zone of its national interests. These interests are realized in the following directions:
– by organizing and maintaining Russian military bases and sites in CIS countries. The most important of them are located in Georgia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine and Moldavia;
– by integrating the CIS countries anti-aircraft forces under the Russian aegis (practically all CIS countries participate in it);
– by attracting the CIS countries to participate in the joint peacekeeping operations (Tajikistan, Abkhazia, Moldavia);
– by fulfilling the joint cultural, educational and other programs.
A special direction for the realization of Russian interests is the participation of the Russian citizens and other persons of Slavic origin in the development of the CIS countries armies. According to the official information of the Defense Ministry, in accordance with Russian legislation and bilateral international treaties between Russia and Kazakhstan (it is being currently ratified), Tajikistan and Turkmenia, Russian citizens who are officers, who had served in the military units and institutions of the former Soviet Armed Forces, deployed in these countries, and which were included into their armed forces, preserve their legal status as servicemen, stipulated by the Russian legislation, until December 31 of 1999, if they have concluded contracts about their military service with the defense ministries of these countries. These officers are not servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces, and they are not registered by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Besides, the agreement between Russia and Turkmenia about the military service of the citizens of the Russian Federation in Turkmen Armed Forces and their status stipulates that the officers of the Russian Armed Forces (who concluded contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry), may serve in the Turkmen Armed Forces until December 31 of 1999.
As reported by representatives of the Defense Ministry, the social protection of these officers and members of their families is regulated by the multilateral and bilateral inter-state agreements, which suggest preserving their benefits and privileges, set for Russian Armed Forces servicemen and members of their families. Provision for the servicemen and members of their families with all kinds of allowances is carried out by the country, where they serve, the cover being not less than in the Russian Armed Forces for the corresponding servicemen’s categories. The problems of these officers are similar to the problems of the Russian Armed Forces officers and are connected with the material provision.
THE SECOND GROUP. On account of the military cooperation with the countries of this group Russia receives the major part of income from the armament and combat equipment exports (supplies of submarines, aircraft, tanks and organization of their joint manufacture). In this sphere the military contracts, concluded with India, China, Iran, Finland, Greece and Cyprus, are especially important. Cooperation with the countries of the second group may become a real military-strategic counterbalance to the eastward expansion of NATO.
THE THIRD GROUP. After the collapse of the USSR the geopolitical situation in the European theater of combat operations was changed. According to Western estimations, the stabilizing action is carried out on account of the NATO presence and activity. Russia evidently understands the importance of this opinion, and is trying to establish military cooperation with NATO. Namely, it is developing the mechanism of cooperation within the multinational force frames in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other peacekeeping programs and military exercises. Russia is also considering suggestions which include: the solutions to ecological problems; the problems concerning security and nuclear armament non-distribution; armament control and its further reduction in Europe; the prevention and resolution of crisis situations; the struggle against terrorism and illegal drugs trafficking and so on. NATO’s strategic concept project is currently being developed, which defines the possible threats of conflicts and wars in Europe. It is difficult to say which role will be given to Russia in this document.
Meanwhile, as pointed out, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the joint NATO forces in Europe, General Wesley Clark, on a 2-day official working visit to Moscow, during his briefing at the Defense Ministry on April 22, said that this document is just being considered, but the alliance does not view any country as at its enemy. It was also said that NATO and Russia now have the same concerns: regional and ethnic conflicts, the spread of mass destruction weapons, organized crime, unregulated migration and so on. That is why, according to Clark, all these aspects will be included in the NATO strategic concept which is currently being developed.
General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin, who was present during the briefing, again expressed his negative attitude towards the possibility of the NATO eastward expansion. Meanwhile, in his interview to the journalists Clark did not exclude the possibility of the Baltic Republic joining the alliance, having said that the door to the alliance is open for all countries. Kvashnin responded to this, saying that any NATO transformation should be done in the context of the basic Russia-NATO act, signed in Paris at the end of May 1997. And this is why the Baltic’s problems should not be solved without taking into account Russia’s interests. Thus, it is evident that there are many more contradictions in relations between Russia and NATO, than the understanding. The military-political contacts between Russia and NATO have an illusory beneficial character for Russia. Having signed the basic act in Paris, Russia has driven itself into the corner. Closing its eyes to the NATO eastward expansion, it discussed the European security problems with the alliance. Russia is concerned about the active character of the NATO military exercises organized together with the CIS countries and possible inclusion of these countries into the list of its potential members. On top of this Russia is planning a multinational military exercises within the Partnership for Peace program. Meanwhile the CIS countries are de-facto becoming the zone of vital interests of the USA and other Western countries. So far Russia has been losing its positions here.
Meanwhile, NATO itself is not yet unanimous. Some anti-American attitude is growing here. This is demonstrated by the results of the military contacts of Russia, for example, with Italy, France and Greece. Recently the meeting of acting Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his Italian counterpart Beniamino Andreatt was organized. During their dialog it was pointed out that the Italian party shares the Kremlin’s point of view that the NATO eastward expansion should not be carried out against Russia, but should be carried out on the basis of the basic act Russia-NATO. Italy supports France, saying that command of the NATO Southern flank in Naples should be handed over by the Americans to the Europeans. Italy agreed with Russia about the attitude towards the resolution of the recent Iraqi crisis. The Greek Defense Minister expressed the same views at the Russian Defense Ministry in early April.
Thus, in NATO the number of countries which share Russia’s concern about the security problems in the Eurasian continent is growing.