POST-SOVIET REPUBLICS AS NATO’S OBJECT

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The alliance expands contacts with Russia and other member nations of the CIS. It’s hard to say who are NATO’s favorites but it’s obvious that NATO’s relations with Russia are the most active and principal because Russia’s position determines NATO’s ability to strengthen its presence in CIS republics. For instance, NATO’s operation in Afghanistan would be more expensive and less efficient if Russia did not let the alliance transport its troops via its territory and the territory of its allies. Moscow did not protest against the creation of the US airbases in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Russia’s position determines the destiny of the presence of NATO’s forces in the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. Russia withdraws troops from Georgia. At the same time, Russia made Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili officially state that NATO’s military objects will not be deployed in the republic.

Meanwhile, relations between Russia and NATO are ambiguous and cautious. On the one hand, cooperation expands; the parties conduct joint exercises. On the other hand, relations remain cold. Russia does not encourage NATO’s expansion to the CIS and does not share the alliance’s approaches to events in the post-Soviet republics.

The results of the scheduled meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels are a graphic example.

As is known, Sergei Ivanov stated that Russia does not support NATO’s intention to organize an international investigation of the crisis in Uzbekistan. The alliance considers the tragedy in Andijan as genocide of the Uzbek people. Russia thinks that this was an anti-terrorist operation.

Ivanov announced statistical reports, “The results of the investigation showed that there are around 50 foreigners among persons killed and arrested in Andijan. The majority of them are citizens of Asian countries, including some CIS republics.”

An official representative of the Pentagon said that Uzbekistan restricted flights of US warplanes from the Khanabad airbase. Night flights of heavy transport planes, which transport cargo to Afghanistan, are banned. This decision was made after Washington criticized Uzbekistan. Military experts do not rule out that Tashkent will make the US leave Khanabad if the US does not relax its pressure. In addition, experts say that the impending Russian-Uzbek joint exercise is a very important event.

At the same time, relations between Russia and NATO cannot be called a confrontation. Contacts between the alliance and Russia become more active. The circle of issues, which Russia and NATO discuss, is impressive. At the Russia-NATO summit in Brussels, the parties discussed problems of military reforms, operational compatibility of troops, anti-missile defense and anti-terrorist effort. Russia signed the agreement on the status of NATO’s troops participating in the Partnership for Peace program, on Russian territory. Russia and the US conducted the Torgau 2005 exercise. Russia and NATO seek to establish compatibility of troops. In all, over 200 military contacts will take place within the framework of the 2005 plan of cooperation. Russia will participate in the Active Endeavor exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. In the meantime, Sergei Ivanov hints that such exercises in the Black Sea are inadvisable. He stated in Brussels, “We do not see any sense in expanding the warrant to the Black Sea.” According to him, “this sector is controlled by Blackseafor, which can cope with problems in this region”. In addition, Ivanov said that “Russia conducts joint exercises with Turkey, which duplicate the functions of Active Endeavor”.

The issue regarding Active Endeavor’s expansion to the Black Sea was raised by Vice Admiral Ferdinando Sanfelice di Montefort, commander of NATO’s joint naval force in the South-European sector, in Moscow. This coincided with the beginning of the Russia-NATO summit. The vice admiral said that some CIS nations support this idea. He refused to elaborate but it’s easy to guess that this is Ukraine. The most interesting thing is that Russia cannot stop these plans. In addition, it’s not ruled out that international troops will monitor the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict because Active Endeavor is aimed at retaining stability and peace in the regions. The dispute between Ukraine and Russia over the sea border makes it possible to consider the Sea of Azov as international waters, which NATO’s warships can enter.

In other words, Russia’s and NATO’s goals do not coincide. First and foremost, this concerns the post-Soviet republics. Russia is displeased that Moldavia seeks to invite NATO’s observers to the Trans-Dniester territory, Azerbaijan thinks that the alliance will help it ensure security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, and Ukraine seeks to join NATO. Russia does not like NATO’s intention to expand to the Black Sea and the US’ plans to come to the Caspian Sea. The question is why should Moscow maintain such active relations with NATO if such partnership in the CIS is useless?

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