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November 26, 2001
Russia and NATO to Be Equal Partners in The Group of "20"
The Alliance is concerned with Moscow's role in a new format
By Yuri Alexeyev

It is not accidental that NATO's Secretary General George Robertson decided to start his visit to Russia from Volgograd. The North Atlantic Alliance has not forgotten Russia's role in the struggle against fascism that was defeated as a result of active interaction between Russia and other members of the anti-Hitler coalition- the United States, Britain and France. NATO understands that Russia's role in a new coalition set up to combat against a new evil like international terrorism is also important. Therefore, the Alliance has agreed to elevate the level of cooperation with Russia.

Today, the civilized world has collided with new threats and challenges which no country or bloc can simply withstand alone. In the face of these new threats, the West has finally realized that its interests really coincide with Russian interests. The NATO secretary general emphasized at each meeting with Russian officials and journalists that the convergence of interests was not just declarative and had some objective grounds.

Mr. Robertson shared the opinion of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov that the Russia-NATO Joint Permanent Council had turned into a place for idle talk which leads nowhere. Everybody has become convinced of that, he added. Other mechanisms, new in form and in essence, are to be developed under these new conditions to effectively cope with problems like terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as well as to find quick answers to other challenges whose nature is yet to be predicted and assessed. Officials in Moscow and the European capitals understand the need to create new mechanisms but the hard "Cold War" legacy is clearly preventing the West from believing that the Russian side does not have any intention to use the work within these mechanisms to produce a negative impact on NATO's internal processes.

It looks as if the question of what should be expected from Russia in case the "19+1" format will be transformed into the "20" format is NATO's chief concern today. George Robertson acknowledged that President Vladimir Putin had given an answer to this question. The Russian President's assurances that Russia has no intention to infiltrate in NATO and use its right of veto as a fully-fledged partner, apparently, calmed down George Robertson who promised to notify his colleagues in the North Atlantic bloc. No one can say for sure whether other NATO officials will have the same impression as their leader. It is obvious that not all NATO members favor the idea of Russia's participation in passing decisions on vital contemporary issues.

Therefore, NATO is being extremely cautious in choosing areas for cooperation within the group of "20". Of course, no one is opposed to the idea of involving Russia into a joint struggle against terrorism. NATO needs that just as it needs Russia's presence in passing serious decisions on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Moscow has strong ties with Pyongyang and Baghdad. It's relations with Teheran are not bad either. Joint search and humanitarian operations are also good areas for cooperation. However, these are the only areas of possible interaction mentioned by NATO officials, evidently, for fear of something.

In fact, they have nothing to fear about in principle. President Putin has already said that Russia does not seek and will not queue up for NATO membership. Nor will it try to join NATO from the back entrance. We have different military structures, different weapons and combat charters. There is no need for Russia to adjust them to NATO standards. That would only incur unnecessary expenses. As for spheres of joint interaction, they can be much wider than they are today, George Robertson said. The North Atlantic headquarters will come to realize that as it fully gets rid of "Cold War" thinking.

A news conference given by George Robertson in Moscow on Friday, November 23, proved that the Alliance has not fully overcome the "Cold War" stereotypes. Asked about NATO's position on Chechnya, Robertson admitted that after the September 11th attacks in the United States NATO had started showing more understanding for the federal authorities actions in Chechnya. However, he reiterated the long-held NATO tenet, of which he must have been tired himself, about human rights abuse in Chechnya and expressed his discontent over the federal troops' actions in the republic. One may think that Russia is less concerned how to save civilians from the horrible consequences of the war than American politicians and the military. It is not at all simple to do that in real life. The recent U.S actions in Afghanistan are another convincing evidence of that.

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