Speakers and participants recognised that, despite important achievements, co-operation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War has suffered through missed opportunities, misunderstandings and misperceptions, in particular on NATO enlargement. Tensions culminated with the war in Georgia in August 2008. Enlargement continues to be seen by Moscow not only as a threat to Russian security but also the means by which Russia is excluded from an effective role in European security, despite the mechanisms established by the NATO - Russia relationship. Concerns were also expressed that the NATO-Russia Council, which replaced the Permanent Joint Council in 2002, has not fully achieved its objective of providing a genuine forum for political dialogue “at 27”. Too often, it was suggested, it has been used as a dispensable framework to punish the other party in the event of a serious disagreement.
Looking to the future, the seminar participants called for a more imaginative and refocused co-operation between Russia and the West, moving away from a static approach, focusing on principles and negative commitments. Instead, NATO and Russia should work on developing more dynamic co-operation, focusing on substance and practical steps. Potential areas for enhanced practical co-operation include: arms control and missile defence, the fight against terrorism, conflict resolution and joint crisis response, Afghanistan, and energy. Significant in their own right, they could also create the basis of confidence needed in order to tackle the more intransigent issues.
Speakers remained sceptical, however, about the prospects for an agreement on the proposals made by Russian President Medvedev for a new security architecture in Europe. They suggested that the proposal’s supposed short term goal of bringing NATO enlargement and the United States ’ missile defence plans to a halt, may have been temporarily achieved. However, they generally considered that the long term goal of promoting a reorganisation of the security architecture in Europe – from what Moscow considers as a NATO-centric order towards a co-operative bipolarity, which, in Moscow’s view, would recognise Russia’s full place and role in Europe’s security -, is largely unrealistic. Nevertheless, participants agreed that there may be a value in initiating a dialogue between Russia and the West on these issues as a way of rebuilding trust after the recent period of tensions.
Available presentations can be found under: http://www.nato-pa.int/Default.asp?SHORTCUT=1721