“The relations between Russia and NATO are of direct relevance to the security of our own country. We are a reliable partner and we are going to do all we can to get away from the stereotypes of the Cold War,” insisted the Head of the Duma Delegation, Lubov Sliska. She sought to reassure the other parliamentarians by pointing out that she shared with them the concept of the indivisibility of security in Europe. In her view, it is important to see the NATO-Russia Council as a tool for frank and open dialogue on the major security concerns, such as Afghanistan or the Balkans. “The way we see things is not always the same, but we are ready to strengthen political partnership and dialogue, as we face common threats such as the drugs trade, for example,” said Ms Sliska, expressing the view that NATO and Russia needed to move gradually towards “a mutual interaction.”
However, Russia remains very critical of NATO’s present trends. “The transformation of the Alliance is clearly headed towards the use of its military potential,” complained the Head of the Russian Federation ’s Delegation to the Council, Victor Ozerov, openly criticizing the fact that NATO was involving itself in energy security, environmental security and cyber security. As he put it: “Does NATO see itself as the world’s policeman in the security field?” On the enlargement of the Alliance to Ukraine and Georgia, Mr Ozerov suggested that cooperation should take a form other than military expansion. In his view, promoting democratic reforms is possible without any need for those countries to join NATO. “What we are seeing here is a process that does nothing but poison our relations,” was his conclusion. Reacting vigorously to those ideas, the Head of the British Delegation, Bruce George, stated: “You can’t give us lessons on what NATO should be.” In this same area, he spoke out against the presence in Abkhazia of a peacekeeping force comprising 3,000 Russian soldiers, as well as the shooting down at the end of April of a Georgian drone, overflying Abkhazia, by a Russian MiG 29. Around 75% of Georgians are in favour of joining NATO, which means that the candidacy process is going to continue and is going to end ultimately in Georgia ’s membership, he said firmly. “Why shouldn’t we have a policy on energy security, environmental security and cyber security?” Mr George went on. On this point, Ms Sliska immediately replied: “The Russian energy resources belong to Russia and to no-one else. So we will locate our pipelines wherever we want. It would be much more appropriate to talk about these issues at the United Nations Security Council.”
With a view to calming the debate down, the Head of the Latvian Delegation, Vaira Paegle, expressed the view that whether or not it will be possible to develop future NATO-Russia relations will depend on the ability of NATO to take account of the concerns of Russia. That country, also, will have to take account of the interests of NATO, such as energy security, because those are legitimate problems, she stressed. Ms Paegle’s conclusion is clear: “in all the problem areas we are dealing with, we are not being sufficiently constructive. We have to find common and legitimate interests”.
In a speech to the NATO PA Political Committee Professor John Russell of the University of Bradford put forward his point of view on the evolution of relations between NATO and Russia, pointing to the “danger” of going too fast, to no good end, in the process of Georgia’s and Ukraine‘s becoming members of NATO, since that could cause a harsh reaction by Moscow towards Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Ukraine. However, the British academic did urge NATO to give Russia a clear and unambiguous signal that it will have no veto on the democratic aspirations of these peoples and of these States.
In its relations with the new Russian Head of State, Dmitri Medvedev, the West“will need similar clarity and lack of ambiguity in differentiating NATO resolve in defending agreed principles from policies perceived as being directed simply at weakening Russia . Only then can the NATO-Russian relationship become one of cooperation and engagement, rather than confrontation “