#13 - JRL 7189
Russia Wary, Europe Posturing Over NATO's Future
14 May 2003
Article by Aleksey Kornilov:
The problem of terrorism was again central on the agenda of the just-completed session of the NATO-Russia Council in Moscow.
Four explosions rumbled last night in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Three explosions resounded near living complexes in which basically foreigners live; another one was close to a joint American-Saudi construction company. According to preliminary information, several dozen persons were killed as a result of the explosions in Riyadh, including 10 Americans. The cause of the explosions was four vehicles packed with TNT.
All this took place several hours before the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Saudi Arabia. Now, unfortunately, the problem of international terrorism has become the leitmotiv for all more or less significant meetings.
The mutual war against international terrorism was the main topic of the first offsite session of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), which took place yesterday in Moscow with the participation of NATO Secretary General George Robertson and our ministers Igor Ivanov and Sergey Ivanov. Incidentally, the secretary general expressed solidarity with the Russian people in connection with an analogous terrorist act committed just before in Chechnya. On the eve of the visit, according to the developed tradition, Robertson stated that in principle the possibility of Russia's joining the North Atlantic Alliance was not excluded, but he believes that the issue is not now on the agenda. Robertson noted that "any person who was a witness to the dramatic changes in the sphere of security of the Euro-Atlantic region over approximately the last 15 years is convinced that reality has outpaced the boldest predictions." According to Robertson, the Moscow session makes it possible to assess the progress achieved by the NRC over the first year of its functioning.
Both Western and Russian officials say that joint action in solving a number of specific problems -- terrorism, regional conflicts, organized crime, and narcotics trafficking -- meets the interests of all NRC participants. And opposing these threats creates a real foundation for Russian-NATO cooperation.
It is difficult to argue against all this, however, the factual state of relations between Russia and NATO even after the creation of the NRC says the reverse. Today military structures created in the times of the Cold War are not only being preserved, but expanded under the slogan of the mutual struggle against terrorism. Robertson believes that only a paranoid could perceive NATO's expansion to the east as a threat to Russia. Nevertheless, not just anything is expanding, but a military bloc capable of waging a wide-scale war.
Perhaps, at the given moment there is no threat to Russia. But tomorrow? Indeed, the aspiration of the leading world powers to accomplish their military-strategic goals through peacekeeping and the war against terrorism is becoming ever more distinct. The events in Iraq graphically demonstrated this.
The North Atlantic Alliance, in occupying strategic boundaries in Europe and the Central Asian region, is becoming increasingly active in the post-Soviet space.
International military maneuvers with the participation of NATO subunits just recently took place in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. It is clear that these were all organized in places of possible interethnic conflict and niduses of instability.
Among the plans of NATO and the European Union is the settlement of the conflict in the Dniester region. It is well known that almost 60 percent of the industrial enterprises of the former Moldavian SSR are located on the left bank of the Dniester River; their basic partners are Russian, and peacekeeping forces are represented here. However, many countries of Europe are now attracted to economic cooperation with the Dniester region, and statements are increasingly heard that the Tiraspol regime is holding on only with the bayonets of Russian peacekeepers.
Georgia has signed an agreement on cooperation with the United States in the defense sphere, which foresees the stationing of American soldiers near Russian borders, and Eduard Shevardnadze long ago spoke about the preference of a settlement of conflicts using NATO forces in the Caucasus based on the Kosovo scenario.
Meanwhile, the NATO bloc itself is transforming without restraint. The new European members of the alliance are plainly drawn not to the European Union, but to the United States in political issues. It is this that has forced the leaders of France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxemburg to come out with an initiative on mutual defense, for the same Iraqi events have shown that the current American leadership is ready to sacrifice all historically developed alliances for its security.
In a conversation with Tribuna's correspondent, Russia's former deputy minister of foreign affairs, a regional TPP [Chamber of Commerce and Industry] representative in the Benelux and France, Ivan Ivanov, noted that the "'initiative of the four' is more an indicator of the aspiration of Europeans for 'originality.' Undoubtedly, the alliance will evolve toward the strengthening of the political and economic component of its work; even now NATO is increasingly 'tied' to resolving technogenic and natural disasters. And objectively Russia has increasingly more points of contact with the bloc."
Washington believes that the "four" may increasingly weaken trans-Atlantic relations with their actions or even completely topple the NATO bloc. In striving for their goals, the Americans are now gambling on more flexible, temporary unions. France and Germany along with their partners Belgium and Luxemburg came out with the joint initiative to eliminate a vacuum in problems of mutual European security, which will arise if NATO falls. The "band of four", as the British press calls them, wanted to make it known to America that if the Americans continue to blackmail Europeans with the possibility of eliminating American bases in Europe, then another way out of the situation will be found. Rationally thinking European politicians recognize that most likely strategists in Washington are interested in the collapse of the alliance, and they are preparing for a possible crisis in advance. In this situation the countries of the so-called "new" Europe could play the role of an intermediary between the "old" Europe and the U.S. and attempt to save the alliance, as much as the situation allows.
What place should the NATO-Russia Council with its unclear goals occupy in such a collapse? It is possible that the bloc's European component is trying to use this organization as compensation for the haughty behavior of the United States. The Americans most likely see the Council as means to placate a Moscow worried by the bloc's further expansion. And what does Russia get from this cooperation? Perhaps the chief of General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, Gen-Army Anatoliy Kvashnin, will answer this question. While the ministers and permanent representatives were meeting in Moscow, he was consulting with his NATO colleagues in Brussels. As expected, the central topic of the session of chiefs of general and main staffs was ensuring European security, including the situation in the Balkans, from which Russia has decided to withdraw its peacekeepers before 1 August. Whether there is no money for keeping them there or whether our partners in the council have finally forced us out of the region.