NATO – friend or foe?

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NATO summit was held in Riga at the end of November. At the summit General Secretary of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer directly spoke about a need for intensified dialog with Kyiv and Tbilisi to help these countries conduct all necessary reforms and to consider their acceptance in NATO already in 2008. Richard Lugar, chair of the foreign affairs committee of the Senate from the Republican Party, called on NATO to respond to the “energy” blow of Russia and Iran.

Lugar explained, “Use of energy as a weapon is not a theoretical threat of the future. This is already happening. Cutoff of energy supplies to Ukraine by Russia demonstrated a temptation to use energy for achievement of political goals.” According to Lugar, NATO is obliged to decide which steps it is prepared to take if Poland, Germany, Hungary or Latvia are subject to the same threat as Ukraine. The American senator adds, “We should apply to the energy sector the “fifth chapter” of NATO articles of association that says that attack at one NATO member is considered an attack at the entire military bloc.”

Thus we see that NATO is prepared to broaden the areas of its activities. How did Russia react to this?

Russia is not against broadening the area of its relations with NATO. What is the most interesting, it does not see problems in the fact that some NATO representatives speak from anti-Russian positions. Such conclusions can be drawn from the speech of Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov at the forum of national mass media of CIS and Baltic countries in Moscow between December 1 and 4. Opening the forum Ivanov said that “Russia advocates the closest constructive cooperation in the format of Russia-NATO. We are also interested in strong bilateral contacts in the field of security with any legitimate state in the world.”

Along with this, Ivanov emphasizes that Moscow advocates development of a mechanism for interaction of NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (ODKB) for the purpose of division of the areas of their responsibility for reaction to crisis situations in various regions of the world. He stated, “Development of a mechanism for interaction between NATO and ODKB with follow-up clear division of the spheres of responsibility could be a further logical step on the path to strengthening international security. In the future this approach will enable us to have sufficiently reliable and efficient leverage for influence on crisis situations in various regions of the world.” According to Ivanov, there are all preconditions for this. He adds, “It is only necessary to forget about double standards and to build our cooperation relying on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in relations.”

Statements of this kind are released for the first time. In any case, we think that the time for them is chosen correctly. The NATO summit ended in Riga recently. Russia was not invited to the summit but participants of the summit discussed problems of security including security in the CIS important for Moscow. The USSR broke up 15 years ago. Collecting representatives of mass media from the former Soviet republics of which Baltic republics were already NATO members, Russian leaders evidently wanted to convey their new views and approaches to them. Of course, ODKB spreads its influence not over entire world but only over some regions of post-Soviet space. If ODKB is compared to NATO, ODKB is a young organization and, we need to say this frankly, it does not have due authority in NATO. Thus, the words of Ivanov mean that Moscow is prepared to give some spheres of influence to NATO not all over the world but in some regions of the former USSR or regions close to them. Ivanov stresses, that “In a contemporary world there is a comprehensive globalization of threats and challenges. Sometimes it is impossible to divide these threats into national, regional and international.” That is why, according to him, “We can counteract them only if we get united.”

Ivanov emphasizes, “Transnational threats require establishment of transnational mechanisms of counteraction.”

Ivanov also touched on the problems raised at the NATO summit by Lugar regarding a possibility of “energy blackmailing” of Western countries by Russia. Ivanov said, “I consider connection of the energy policy of Russia with any pressure and moreover threats to be unimportant and non-objective. Senator Lugar is a representative of a legislative and not an executive power body. We have not heard such conversations on the executive level. In the framework of Russia-NATO council where we work actively and discuss the topics posing mutual interest the energy security is not discussed and has never been discussed.”

Ivanov adds that “energy policy has its specific and contracts and the system of supplies should be understandable and transparent at least for 20-30 years ahead.”

Ivanov also says, “We are conducting active dialog with the European Union taking into account mutual interests of supplier and buyer.”

Thus, Moscow obviously does not notice confrontation notes in relations with NATO and offers new rules of the game in post-Soviet space to NATO although NATO has its own interests there. The proposal to divide the spheres of influence of ODKB and NATO and settlement of security strengthening issues in cooperation is a big concession to NATO. What will we receive in exchange? So far, the question remains without an answer.

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