Russian Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin will meet with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on December 18.

Russia and NATO restore relations. Russian Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin will meet with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on December 18 for the first time after the crisis in the Caucasus. Informal meeting of the Russian-NATO Council at the ambassadorial level will take place in January, 2009.

Gradual restoration of relations with Moscow was announced after the conference of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on December 2-3. The Allied powers decided on a “considerate and gradual approach” and authorized NATO Secretary General to resume political interaction with Russia.

Rogozin’s meeting with Scheffer and meeting of the Russian-NATO Council will be informal which means that no decisions will be made there. These meetings are supposed to precede contacts at a higher level. Nothing is said at this point about negotiations between NATO leaders on the one hand and the Russian foreign minister or president on the other. Off the record, however, diplomats point out that negotiations like that are necessary for complete restoration of the relations.

Asked about what was to be discussed at the informal meetings, a source from NATO HQ replied, “We have to discuss how we will cooperate in the future.” The source mentioned importance of cooperation in the matters of Afghanistan and international terrorism (as a matter of fact, cooperation in these particular spheres continues without interruptions). He did not rule out the possibility that the matter of the Caucasus, sensitive as it was, would be discussed as well. According to the source, the Alliance wanted no information on the meeting between Scheffer and Rogozin released in advance but the Russians did leak it for some reason.

Commenting on the forthcoming contacts, Rogozin suggested that it was not fully-fledged restoration of relations yet but “preliminary shots” or ranging fire. “As for Scheffer, I’d like to find out what foreign ministers instructed him to accomplish and how we are supposed to accomplish it together,” Rogozin said. “We will also consider what meetings should take place next year and at what levels.”

Rogozin emphasized that a confrontation with the Alliance was the last thing Russia wanted and added that “all threatening philippics notwithstanding, NATO put forth no demands or conditions for restoration of relations.” According to the diplomat, “it has finally dawned on NATO that putting forth any demands is pointless.”

It appears that the Georgian and Ukrainian issue will remain a major irritant. NATO denied these countries the Membership Action Plan (MAP) but retained determination to facilitate rapprochement with Georgia and Ukraine.

Rogozin for one expects no MAPs for either country in the foreseeable future. “Saakashvili’s regime means scandals and conflicts, and NATO knows better than offer membership to scandals and conflicts,” he said. “NATO is rational. Whatever they may be telling general public, they understand everything.”

As for Ukraine, Rogozin said that political crisis there was worsening and that the population was dead set against joining the Alliance. This disposition impaired Kiev’s rapprochement with NATO, Rogozin said.