Center for Strategic Decision Research


Russia and NATO at 20: Should the New Arrangement Be Rushed?

Dr. Dmitri Rogozin
Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee,
Russian State Duma

The nature of the Russia-NATO relationship will have a decisive influence on both European and global security in the coming decades. Today we have another chance to positively transform this relationship, as well as an opportunity, the first in many years, to fashion real mechanisms for joint decision making on issues of common interest. Currently Russia and NATO are engaged in intensive consultations to create such mechanisms for use with the so-called NATO at 20. 

It is definitely in Russia's interests to use this historic opportunity to build a new foundation for a strong security relationship with the West, one that would allow us in the short term to basically cease allocating our limited resources to deter what amounts to a "virtual threat" from NATO. This noble goal, however, cannot be realized only through unilateral concessions from Russia. It can also not be reached by rushing the negotiating process to meet artificial political timelines. 


I must say that we cannot help being concerned about our Western partners' intention to conclude the consultations on NATO at 20 by the May 14, 2002, meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Iceland. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson keeps saying that the new cooperation structure should be in place by the November 2002 NATO Summit in Prague. 

Perhaps this situation reflects the Alliance's hopes to neutralize Russia's negative reaction to the big-bang enlargement of NATO planned for the summit in Prague. Our Western partners openly assert that the rapid creation of a new NATO-Russia Council is envisioned as "preventive compensation" to Moscow for its rhetorical and diplomatic reticence in the face of the inevitable enlargement. One also hears statements that after the Prague Summit and the enlargement decision, Russia's relations with the Alliance will deteriorate significantly, and reaching agreement on the new council will be impossible. The positive political momentum will be lost. 

This logic is seriously flawed. Under no circumstances will Russia be able to approve the upcoming NATO enlargement. Public reaction in Russia will inevitably be negative. Enlargement of NATO is against Russia's interests. 

This, however, does not mean that negotiations on the new NATO-Russia Council will not be able to continue after the Prague Summit. But we do need to ponder one question: What is more likely to cause serious damage to the prospects of forming a workable mechanism for cooperation between Russia and NATO-Alliance enlargement before such a mechanism is created, or a rushed plan to institute it that gives birth to immature and ineffective structures? 

We have already had a negative experience with rushed decisions in this area. In 1997 everyone was in a hurry to conclude the Founding Act and to set up the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) to dampen the negative effect of the first wave of NATO enlargement. As a result, we created a very imperfect structure without adding much mutual trust (although many of the Funding Act provisions were quite successful in minimizing the negative military consequences of enlargement). 

Rushing will result in poorly functioning cooperation structures that will undermine rather than strengthen mutual trust; Russia-NATO relations are too important for this. Building NATO at 20 and enlarging the Alliance should be handled separately and over time; the new NATO Council should not be presented by our Western colleagues as "a carrot for Mr. V. V. Putin." Doing so would only fuel the paranoia in Russia that a secret cabal is selling out the country's interests. Creating the new NATO-Russia Council after the Prague Summit and after the enlargement decision would indicate that both sides retain an important commonality of interests. It would also eliminate a serious and destructive element of political expediency from the new deal. 


Even more important to the smooth functioning of NATO at 20 is the issue of where the new cooperation should be pursued. How well we determine the new council's area of responsibility will be crucial to the future of NATO-Russia relations. 

Here we need to avoid the mistakes made at the time the Permanent Joint Council was established. Its agenda was overloaded. The diversity of issues to be discussed at the forum had an adverse effect. Serious disagreements on many issues created a destructive atmosphere that blocked consensus even on those issues in which both sides had relatively close interests. In addition, Russia and NATO had divergent priorities for the agenda for their dialogue in PJC. For example, NATO wanted to discuss the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, whereas Russia was interested in getting access to NATO's arms market. 

NATO-Russia joint decision making efforts should start with a limited number of "pilot projects." These projects should focus on one or two areas of cooperation "at 20" to which both sides have very similar approaches, perhaps fighting international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As a practical matter, it makes sense to begin with deepening intelligence cooperation and working to arrive at joint intelligence estimates of the most likely threats in these two areas. Establishing a jointly operated and shared intelligence database on international terrorist groups could be a major step forward in Russia-NATO cooperation. Obviously, both sides would need to deal with the issue of gathering intelligence against each other, as well as work out the procedures for sharing classified information. Otherwise, the new cooperation would drown in spy scandals. 

Pushing lofty and exotic cooperative projects that sound great on paper could also undermine the effectiveness of any new cooperation. Unfortunately, this applies to the Russian proposal for cooperation on European theater missile defense. This proposal is not particularly realistic for the simple reason that the money is not there. Both sides have much more urgent defense priorities, such as high-precision weapons. Pushing the proposal now would only fuel unrealistic expectations and prevent both sides from focusing on more realistic tasks. 


In negotiating the new NATO-Russia Council, there are a number of important issues to consider : 

  • We must determine the legal obligation in carrying out jointly made decisions, including renouncing the right to take other actions that might run counter to those decisions. This is not about Russia having a veto in the Alliance. It is about joint political responsibility and consistency in carrying out joint decisions. In this context, we need to pay particular attention to the "withdrawal procedure," which allows an issue to be withdrawn from the council's agenda if consensus cannot be reached. This procedure should not be applied too broadly, thus opening the door to unilateral NATO action not coordinated with Russia. 
  • Issues that fall within the agreed scope of the "NATO at 20" agenda should be brought up for joint consideration automatically. If it is agreed that international terrorism is a "NATO at 20" issue, then all decisions in this area should be made in the NATO-Russia Council without prior deliberations within the NAC. 
  • We should ponder quite seriously not positioning the new council as a forum in which Russia deals with NATO as an alliance. We already have such a body-the Permanent Joint Council. It would make more sense to view the council as a structure through which Russia deals with NATO countries individually as sovereign nations. Setting the council up in this way would serve as an additional guarantee against NATO ganging up on Russia. 
  • As NATO proceeds with its plans for enlargement, we must think about the consequences for "NATO at 20" (and perhaps "NATO at 26 or 28"). Will enlargement undermine the operational effectiveness of the new council? How large will the council be? Do all NATO members really need to be part of it? How different will it be from the ? It is one thing to consider Prime Minister Blair's original proposal, which called for inviting Russia to sit in on specific NAC meetings, at which all NATO states need to be present. But why would the new council have to be convened at 20 or 26? Why not at 10 or 5? Why can't we think "outside the box"? 
  • If the "Russia to the Alliance" approach wins out, we must think long term and look at the big picture. For example, it would be desirable to continue the "NATO at 20" evolution by further integrating Russia into the Alliance's political structures (Tony Blair initially proposed giving Russia a seat on NATO's political committee). Such an approach would begin work toward a long-term goal of cooperation that one day might take the form of an "alliance with the Alliance." It is important to set the stage for this direction in the founding documents for "NATO at 20". 
  • The Founding Act should not be renounced. It contains a set of useful provisions that ensure long-term predictability for NATO's military infrastructure in new member-states (non-deployment of nuclear weapons, for example). It is crucial that these provisions continue to cover new NATO states. 
  • As NATO moves to accept new members, we need to expedite their entry into Force #4 of the adapted CFE Treaty. NATO needs to understand how critically important it is to Russia that the Baltic States join the treaty under conditions that ensure low force levels in the subregion for years to come. Joining under these conditions will significantly alleviate Russia's concerns with Baltic membership in NATO. 


Improved cooperation between Russia and NATO cannot be possible without the allocation of sufficient financial resources for joint projects. It is a shame that Russia cannot participate fully in the Partnership for Peace military cooperation projects because the Russian Ministry of Defense lacks funding to send forces to participate in joint exercises. New cooperation structures also need to be formed with the active participation of Russia's and NATO's parliaments. Keeping the lawmakers informed will broaden the political base for the new initiative, and our parliaments could do much to move Russia-NATO cooperation forward. 

As part of our cooperation with the North Atlantic Assembly, we could also create a joint working group that would reconsider and lift Cold War legislation that continues to hamper productive cooperation. For example, it is more than high time to reconsider the useless ban on NATO procurement of Russian weapons systems. Our partner, Greece, has clearly shown how buying Russian air defense systems strengthens the Alliance's military capabilities and creates important synergisms for effective defense cooperation with Russia.


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