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What to Expect From the NATO Summit in Lisbon

NATO MeetingNATO leaders will convene in Lisbon on November 19 and 20 for a summit meeting, to discuss the alliance's new strategic concept, nuclear policy, missile defense, terrorism, cyber warfare and Afghanistan. They will also welcome Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev at the meeting of the Russia-NATO Council on the sidelines of the summit. Will president Medvedev's presence facilitate a breakthrough in Russia's relations with NATO? What kind of a breakthrough can one realistically hope for? What impact would NATO's new Security Concept have on relations with Russia?

The summit's agenda and president Medvedev's attendance ensure that the meeting in Lisbon will predominantly focus on Russia's role in the European security architecture and the future of Russia's relations with NATO.

These relations seem to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts after a near complete freeze following Russia's war with Georgia in August 2008. Russia and NATO are slated to sign an agreement that would allow the transit of NATO military and armored vehicles through Russian territory. Russia's participation in NATO's plans for theater missile defense also appears to be on the agenda, while NATO's strategic concept is likely to omit Russia from the list of potential threats to the alliance. There has also been significant progress on Russia-NATO cooperation in counter narcotics and combating maritime piracy.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has become a vocal supporter of closer institutional ties between Russia and NATO, while Medvedev's Institute for Contemporary Development issued a report that described several options for the Russia-NATO relationship, including one that called for Russia formally joining the alliance (something that Rasmussen has rushed to dismiss as unrealistic).

Moscow insists that the continent's existing security institutions, including NATO, are no longer adequate for the security needs of today. In 2008 president Medvedev proposed a new European Security Treaty (EST) that sought to recast those institutions by calling for "respect for members' territorial integrity, conflict prevention and the inadmissibility of the use of force."Germany and France, emboldened by Barack Obama's "reset" with Russia, have also undertaken independent initiatives to advance foreign policy and security discussions with Moscow. President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested at a meeting with Russian officials in Deauville, France, that Russia and the European Union establish an economic space with "common security concepts." German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that Russia and the EU establish a security policy committee to coordinate efforts to address mutual security concerns, such as reaching a political settlement to the conflict in Transdnestr.

Will president Medvedev's presence at the Lisbon summit help bring about a breakthrough in Russia's relations with NATO? What kind of a breakthrough can one realistically hope for? Is it going to be missile defense? Or Afghanistan? Will NATO shed its reluctance to discuss Medvedev's new European Security Treaty? What impact will NATO's new Security Concept have on relations with Russia? Will the summit produce anything that Medvedev could spin as a political victory at home? How will the summit treat NATO's relations with former Soviet states without jeopardizing its newly blooming relations with Russia?

Ulrich Weisser, Vice Admiral (retired), Chief of Policy and Planning in the German Ministry of Defense from 1992 to 1998:

World history is about to open a window of opportunity for Russia, Europe and America to organize common security with an overarching new approach. In regions that are of vital importance for us, Europe, the United States and Russia have common interests ­ since we all are challenged by the same problems. New challenges require a different response than in the past. NATO, the United States and Russia must look at their current policies. In the near future we must address a fundamental question: does NATO want Russia inside or outside the Euro-Atlantic Security frame work? The same question, of course, must be asked and answered by the Russians. Any strategy aiming at isolating Russia will not pay off. On the contrary, it would soon harm Western interests. Nobody can isolate Russia, a great power with enormous economic resources, without paying a high price.

If the alliance intends to be the one and only primary forum for addressing all crises ­ because it is the only forum where North America, Europe and Russia sit at the same table ­ then it must reorganize its strategic thinking and concept. It seems necessary to manage NATO-Russia relations at the NATO-Russia Council differently than in the past, to invite Moscow with all due dignity not for mutual fault findings, but for a permanent open dialogue of the relevant issues of our time, and for taking joint decisions about them. And this dialogue must result in common projects. The alliance now has to establish the required institutional framework for that to happen. In the future, the alliance should see itself as a strategic framework for the three centers of power: North America, Europe and Russia. Two constants should determine this process: firstly, America and Russia are and remain European powers; and secondly, peace and stability in and for Europe are only possible with Russia, and not against Russia.

A fundamental new security relationship is a diffuse notion, involving social attitudes and broad public impressions, as well as official policies, formal agreements, military deployment patterns and operational practices. The history of the European Union shows that it will develop step by step over time ­ and only if the objectives reflect mutual interests. The process has to be determined by reassurance and integration. The Euro-Atlantic community needs not only America, but also Russia for many reasons: for energy security, disarmament and arms control, to prevent proliferation, to solve the problems in Africa, in Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East conflicts, to contain the potential for crisis and conflict in Central Asia, and to facilitate opinion-making and decision-making in international organizations.

The stakes are high when trying to find a way to enhance stability in a region that is characterized by the most dangerous potential for crisis and conflict, and at the same time harbors the biggest energy reserves on earth. Central Asia is characterized by all the ingredients for crisis and conflict: almost unlimited energy reserves, a vast potential for inter-ethnic and religious disputes, Islamic fundamentalists and also conflicting interests of the engaging world powers. Whoever is playing with that powder keg has already lost ­ making Georgia into a NATO member would be one such temptation. It is true that every country in Europe has the free right to choose the alliance of its will ­ but not at the expense of security of the alliance as a whole and of the neighboring countries. NATO has no vital interest in Georgia that has to be defended militarily. In this context it becomes obvious that NATO should not open its doors to countries that do not contribute to common security and regional stability, but would rather become a burden.

The best way to overcome outdated structures of confrontational thinking may be to embark on as many concrete proposals as possible, for an ever intensifying cooperation between East and West ­ be it in the field of arms control or common air defense. The chances for a joint missile defense system have never been better. In the field of arms control both sides should embark on a forceful initiative dealing with the withdrawal of short range nuclear weapons, and also with the urgent replacement of the suspended conventional arms control regime in Europe. One precondition for wide-ranging agreement on a possible deal concerning short range nuclear weapons in Europe has to be fulfilled by NATO in the new strategic concept. The alliance would be well-advised to pursue a double track policy: redefining nuclear deterrence and the needed capabilities, and developing a concept for nuclear arms control that reflects the current political objectives and strategic realities.

This kind of approach ­ the combination of common projects and the change of strategy ­ may also be the way to overcome long-lasting prejudices about NATO. We know that Russia's domestic attitude toward NATO will not change unless the Russian leadership can present convincing arguments for an entirely new approach to common security in the Euro-Atlantic region, which also serves vital Russian interests.

Russia and Germany should feel responsible to establish themselves as driving forces to structure and enrich a dialogue on the key questions concerning the entire European security system. Germany and Russia share common vital interests and the destiny for common values ­ a free, secure, safe and prosperous life in the common European home and sustainable peaceful development driven by the aspiration to a solid partnership of all participants in the Euro-Atlantic region. This would indeed secure peace and stability.

Alexandre Strokanov, Professor of History, Director of Institute of Russian Language, History and Culture, Lyndon State College, Lyndonville, VT:

On one hand, it is true that there is no alternative to cooperation with NATO for Russia. It is simply so because in the globalizing world, any self-imposed isolationism is counterproductive. NATO, fortunately or unfortunately, is a reality, and Russia needs to develop its relations with the military bloc whose infrastructure is located in several neighboring countries. At the same time, Russia needs to develop successful relations in all other directions, be it China, India, the Islamic world or Latin America.

On the other hand, Russia should learn from the experiences of the last 20 years on how to make such relations really mutually beneficial, rather than playing according to rules set by other players, when all the benefits are collected by the others while Russia is often left empty-handed.

Another important aspect here is the fact that such relations with a partner (in this case, with NATO) should not be viewed by Russia's remaining allies as betrayal. Russia is a member of a military organization (CSTO), together with several other post-Soviet states (which was an important diplomatic victory for Moscow in the previous decade) and it should act in accordance with their collective interests rather than for short-term Russian goals or the political preferences of the current Russian president. Another important aspect here is Russian participation in organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and responsibilities associated with membership there should not be ignored, nor should partnership with several other countries. In other words, may Russia be a friend and a partner of NATO? Yes, of course, but on condition that such friendship and partnership does not go against Russia's own national interest, the interests of its allies and its other important and valuable partners.

Considering all of the above, should we expect a breakthrough at the Lisbon summit? It depends on our definition of "breakthrough." Obviously it is not going to be anything even close to Russian membership in NATO. Joint efforts in building missile defense? It could be a good idea, if NATO can clearly explain against whom this missile defense is for and what role Russia has to play in it. Actually, it is more realistic to talk about cooperation between NATO missile defense systems and similar Russian systems, which actually could be developed in partnership with the CSTO and maybe even some other countries.

Another obvious option is limited cooperation on NATO's failing campaign in Afghanistan and establishment of transport corridors for the alliance's eventual withdrawal of its forces. Other routes are less safe and may even be nonexistent in the future. Russia, and again, other members of the CSTO, certainly will cooperate on such issues, but not without compensation. The role of the CSTO in Afghan security issues must increase now since the war-torn country could become a major concern for the organization in the future. But this should be discussed by CSTO members and not in Lisbon.

At the present moment Russia will continue to encourage NATO forces to begin a much more serious fight against the flow of narcotics from the country occupied by them. Even if, according to some media reports, it is going to hurt the wallets of some members of the current Afghan leadership. However, whether NATO will really act on this issue remains unclear, and it is unlikely that the Lisbon summit will make a breakthrough here.The most predictable results of the Lisbon summit can be some kind of political declaration about the end of the post-Cold War period and a promise of a bright future in Russia-NATO relations, which may remain only a declaration that will be forgotten very soon, but may actually lead to the beginning of real and mutually beneficial cooperation in military research, joint technological projects and the modernization of weaponry, for example.

It is unlikely that this declaration can seriously influence Russian domestic politics since the majority of the Russian public does not really care about NATO, still views it in more negative terms, and changing such attitudes will require much more time and effort. It will take real actions to prove that NATO is capable of making itself into a defense organization which pursues peace. At this point, the overwhelming majority of the Russian people, as polls show, simply don't buy this idea.

Edward Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow and World Russia Forum in Washington, DC:

NATO summits are usually pretty routine and boring affairs. However, the expectations for the upcoming gathering in Lisbon are very high, as it has already been dubbed "one of the most crucial" in the military alliance's 61-year history.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact there was a talk of NATO's dissolution since its mission was accomplished. However, it was naïve to expect that such a powerful organization would go away so easily. Instead of closing the shop NATO started to expand by absorbing former Soviet colonies while looking for other things to do to justify its existence and enormous budget. In the absence of a real job it was useful to present Russia as a threat, which was eagerly supported by Eastern European and the Baltic states, Georgia, orange Ukraine, and definitely the American neo-cons.

Enter September 11, Al-Qaida, Taliban, Afghanistan and almost everyone else now agrees that there is a role for NATO after all. But what about Russia? Is it still the enemy, a strategic partner, or an ally? It depends, of course, who you are talking to. If you listen to people who matter, like Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy, Berlusconi, or NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, for that matter, Russia is no longer seen as an enemy but as a strategic partner for cooperation on European missile defense, Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, disaster response, and counter-piracy. Now even Poland, not long ago one of the most outspoken Russian adversaries, has a new leadership which is offering a welcoming turnaround from the old school of thinking. A senior Polish officials, Undersecretary of State Jacek Nadjer, on the eve of the summit said that Russia could be a very good partner for cooperation with the alliance, assisting with the assessment of common threats, not least global terrorism, and cooperating with NATO's efforts in Afghanistan.

What we see now is a situation reminiscent of World War II, only somehow in reverse. At that time Russia did most of the fighting against Nazi Germany, waiting for years for the Allies to open the second front. Now America and NATO carry the largest burden in Afghanistan and need Russia's help to a much greater extent than the present modest level of cooperation. Here, Russia's interests and NATO's are closer than in any other area. For Russia, there is a two-pronged threat from that area: the flow of money and weapons for the Islamist underground in this country of 20 million Muslims; and, perhaps more perilous still, the flow of drugs to its disastrously swelling numbers of drug addicts, already in their millions. Clearly, these two are also the ever-present threats to the European community and, more distantly, to the United States.

To say that NATO troops are "bogged down" in Afghanistan is no literary hyperbole but a statement of abject, obvious truth revealed not just by the scandalous WikiLeaks but by humdrum everyday reports from that part of the world. You just cannot bomb out a religious ideology and a whole people that have lived with that ideology as far back as memory goes. On the other hand, retreating and ceding ground to the Taliban is not an acceptable option either. The only practical strategy regarding Afghanistan should therefore be containment of the Taliban and aiding Afghanistan's central authority, what there is of it, in rebuilding the land as an actual geopolitical entity, not an assemblage of tribal and clan-based structures run by warlords getting fatter and more irresponsible with drug traffic earnings.

In terms of military integration, Russia joining in the European ABM system appears to be of the greatest significance. Naturally, the process will not be easy, and a great deal of small, nitty-gritty detail will have to be ironed out to satisfy the defensive reflexes of the military on both sides. But the political objective should be clear and, most importantly, the political will to achieve it should be there ­ equally on both sides.

This would open the door to erasing the current division of the continent into Old Europe, New Europe, and Russia, a division in which Old European powers like Germany, France, and Italy are driven more and more by economic and security considerations toward a growing partnership with Russia, while former Soviet dependencies and former parts of the Soviet Union persist in picturing Russia as a "neo-imperialist" threat ­ a palpably nonsensical stance which only serves to buttress the outdated, Cold War mentality.

Russia's political, economic, and to a certain extent military integration with Europe would make European security stronger than NATO's eastward expansion has ever done.

This would be a unique opportunity for both the NATO countries and Russia to build up a brotherhood-in-arms, the strongest tie there is, and to bury the remains of the Cold War era attitudes for good.

Vladimir Belaeff, Global Society Institute, Inc., San Francisco, CA:

Expectations for the NATO summit in Lisbon should not be set very high. The very fact that president Medvedev has been invited to attend is in itself a welcome and major change for NATO's relationship with Russia. Actually, given the current global economic crisis and the still unresolved problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, NATO is probably not in much of a position to undertake profound innovation in its overall arrangements. Overly ambitious declarations of goals may be seen as unrealistic ­ either intentionally (which is bad) or inadvertently (even worse).

The basic NATO arrangements were formulated over 60 years ago and have experienced relatively little foundational change (post-Cold War territorial expansion and mission creep are not genuine structural changes). NATO remains in dire need of reformulating its foundational doctrines, and so far has not achieved the reorganization that the new world order demands. Meanwhile, the example of the fate of the Warsaw Pact remains in sight as a possible consequence of such ossification.

Maybe the Lisbon summit will add to the impetus, however feeble, toward genuine reform of the founding doctrines of the Atlantic alliance.

The recent meetings in Deauville and the later bilateral agreement in London are not necessarily linked to the affairs of NATO, or to the American "reset." The global economic crisis does have non-economic components, which are generally ignored in the news frenzy about financial markets and current account balances. One such component is the long-term impact of the crisis on the security configuration of the continent. In addition, Russia has been proposing the discussion of reformed security architecture for Europe ­ the recent meetings are more likely related to these themes, than being the consequence of the supposed "reset" in U.S.-Russian relations.

In fact, a review of U.S. interactions with Russia since the Prague summit this year supports an opinion that the "reset" so far is producing more photo opportunities and media events than tangible results.

There is an important aspect of NATO's relations with Russia that remains mostly overlooked in Western analysis: it is the very low prestige of NATO (and of the United States) as partners-in-dialogue for the majority of Russians. Other than a small community of pro-American Russians (some academics and some adepts of Russia's "wild 1990s") the majority of Russians sees NATO and the United States as hostile to Russia. This perception is the consequence of shortsighted and reckless policies and pronouncements emanating from Brussels and from Washington during the past 20 years. It will take many years to improve these negative images in Russian public opinion. Lisbon 2010 may be a start.

It is not likely that Medvedev needs to "spin" his participation in the Lisbon NATO summit to enhance his already high standing in Russian public opinion. Such a consideration may be more accurately projected to other, non-Russian participants in this meeting.

The suggestion that Russia may formally join NATO is seen as a bizarre relic from Boris Yeltsin-era Russian diplomacy, which had a distinct Utopian tinge. This is even stranger for a society that suffered untold tragic losses for decades when it pursued Utopian objectives. If president Medvedev is a financial sponsor of the institute that originated such obsolete and naive concepts, then he ought to examine whether his money is well spent.

Russia's presence at the NATO Lisbon summit is a good next step in the relationship. This step continues a process of normalization that has begun only recently. Whatever may be the declarations resulting from this meeting, one should not realistically consider them a "breakthrough," but significant positive steps in a lengthy engagement for relationship change. Expectations should remain low.

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