Alwaght- The tensions and rivalry between Russia and NATO are constantly escalating. Meanwhile, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko last week in an interview with state media announced that Russia ceased all cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, signaling that the crisis between the two powers has now elevated to new heights.
On Monday, Grushko told the RIA Novosti news agency that NATO has abandoned a positive agenda in its relations with Russia and that there was no clue the Western military alliance has any plan to review this attitude.
How is the history of RUSSIA-NATO cooperation? And what could be imagined for the future of the two parties’ relations?
RUSSIA-NATO cooperation and relationship
When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the most important security reason that stood as a basis for the NATO foundation was lost. The Western military organization reviewed its goal to the expansion of global democracy, security, and welfare, an approach that attracted post-Soviet Russia. In 1990, NATO secretary-general was invited to Moscow for the first time. He emphasized the end of hostility between the two blocs and called for cooperation between two to address global crises. The Russian-NATO ties have always been influenced by triangular US-Russia-NATO relations. In the immediate years after the Soviet breakup, during which pro-Western leaders rose in Russia, the triangle’s coordination was in its climactic point. Andrei Kozyrev, first foreign minister of post-Soviet Russia, called the NATO members the “natural allies of Russia” and the US placed an official bid for Russia to join the NATO.
In 1991, Russia became a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), an organization comprised of the NATO members and representing the highest body of NATO decision making. The cooperation continued and because there were still grounds for cooperation, Russia in 1994 joined the NATO Partnership for Peace Program. The program initiated joint plans, military exercises, and military technology cooperation.
During this period, Moscow decided that it held common interests in regions of overlapping presence with NATO that helped cut two sides’ costs. In 1997, Moscow signed Dayton agreement with the West and deployed forces as peacekeepers under NATO leadership to Bosnia. This path deepened their relationship. The two established Joint Permanent Council.
But their warm ties began to move towards coldness in 1999 when Kosovo war broke out. Russia was opposed to NATO military intervention. The organization’s air campaign provoked Moscow to suspend cooperation with the West. Still, the Russian role in the peace negotiations after the Kosovo war was crucial and helped improve frayed relations with NATO.
When Vladimir Putin assumed power in Russia, he tried to cultivate new development in the relations with NATO. His efforts led to Rome agreement in 2002. But it was not long before the challenges ahead of friendly relations showed themselves. Following the Russian attack against Georgia, a Western ally, in 2008, NATO-Moscow ties moved to chill. But the weight of the triangle in the global equations and attempts of the then US President Barack Obama re-improved their relations. Then followed the Treaty of Lisbon in 2010 that stood as a prelude to a joint missile defense system.
As long as the post-Soviet Russia’s foreign policy was not well-organized, differences with the NATO were trivial. And Moscow was not taken so seriously by the West. But after 2010, Putin decided to rebuild the Russian power.
Since then, Russia began to show sensitivity to the Western movement towards its backyard and spheres of influence. The NATO eastward creeping, which has been started since 1994, began to rise as a deep challenge between the two. Since then, the game was a win-lose game for Russia. If NATO managed to spread its arms close to Russia’s borders, then it meant Russia suffered a decline in its power.
The Western-orchestrated color revolutions in the former Soviet republics and the NATO bid to include in its body Georgia and Ukraine were read inside Russia a threat to the national borders. Since George W. Bush, the US had introduced changes to its missile system. The changes prompted deploy of missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic in 2008, the year the two poles saw their relationship in the lowest point. By dispatching the systems, Washington eyed to curb Moscow entrenchment in Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and Central Africa. Up to 2004, seven Russian neighbors joined the NATO alliance.
Kremlin in a national security document published in 2015 brazenly pointed to the NATO infrastructural development towards the Russian borders as a big challenge. The Ukraine crisis and annexation of the Crimea Peninsula was the peak of the NATO-Russia confrontation. The conflict of views over Syria crisis also added fuel to the fire.
Moscow-NATO ties outlook
In such areas as Afghanistan, terrorism, nuclear arms control, and cooperation to end Eastern Europe crises Russia and NATO cooperated. Under President Obama, the “New Start” missile treaty was signed and an Obama-EU green light allowed Russia to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO). These developments improved the bilateral relationship.
But now it appears to be the period of tensions escalation and rivalry. In addition to the tension-causing issues like NATO expansion eastward, the areas of cooperation are changed to areas of geopolitical competition. Afghanistan war, US support for terrorism to deal blow to Russia and China, and the simmering arms race— heated by US pullout of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)— are areas of a Russia-West face-off.
These factors push the bilateral relations to their lowest level since the Cold War. Russia reads NATO moves like massive military spending, recent war games in the Black Sea, and moving eastward as part of a strategy to limit Moscow to its borders.
In a recent comment, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said NATO’s efforts to build deterrence against Moscow were excessive. In such an atmosphere, the chances of cooperation are very small and confrontation very big. Russia pushes for Shanghai Cooperation Organization boost in the face of NATO. So, the future bears further tensions and encounters between two power poles, at least until a showdown to the INF.