03:42 GMT +322 July 2018
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    U.S. President Donald Trump meets with French President Emmanuel Macron during the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018

    In Search of Lost Time: How France May Facilitate Russia-NATO Rapprochement

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    It's time to reassess NATO-Russia relations, French military analyst General Dominique Trinquand told Sputnik, suggesting that the new French government may facilitate a rapprochement between Moscow and the bloc due to its good working relations with Russian President Putin and his American counterpart Donald Trump.

    Paris may become an interconnecting link between Russia and NATO, General Dominique Trinquand, the former head of France's military mission to the UN and NATO, opined in an interview with Sputnik.

    "France is playing a special role as President [Emmanuel] Macron has become close to both [Donald] Trump and [Vladimir] Putin; [Paris] has adopted a very Gaullist position towards Russia and the United States," Trinquand told Sputnik France. "The transatlantic partnership is very important for France, but rapprochement with Russia is very important too. Therefore, France is taking on a special role and can help redeem opportunities which were lost in the past 25 years."

    Commenting on the ongoing NATO summit in Brussels that kicked off on July 11, Gen. Trinquand underscored that the Atlantic alliance needs to focus on its partnership with Russia instead of confrontation, adding that the development of bilateral cooperation could become "something genuinely new."

    He has drawn attention to the fact that the NATO summit will be followed by a bilateral meeting between Russian President Putin and his American counterpart Trump. It is yet another signal that the relationship with Russia should be reconsidered, according to the general.

    Additionally, Gen. Trinquand emphasized the bloc's significance, insisting that "NATO is an extremely important structure for the former Warsaw Pact countries; the countries of Eastern Europe, which joined NATO before joining the EU."

    NATO and the Russian Federation established working relations in 1991 following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and collapse of the USSR in 1991. In 1994 Moscow joined the alliance's Partnership for Peace program. In 2002 the Russia-NATO Council was created to tackle burning security issues and carry out joint projects.

    However, cracks began to appear after former Warsaw Pact countries Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic joined the Atlantic alliance in 1999, the year NATO launched a deadly aerial bombing campaign against Serbia and neighboring Montenegro. In the subsequent years the military bloc absorbed Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia, moving directly towards Russia's borders.

    The potential accession of former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Georgia, to the alliance prompted a heated debate and opposition from Moscow.

    On June 5, 2017 a small Balkan country, Montenegro, joined the military bloc despite nation-wide anti-NATO protests, which reflected painful memories of the 1999 air campaign.

    Speaking at Munich Security Conference in February 2007, President Putin raised the issue of the rapid expansion of NATO.

    "I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe," Putin said in 2007, "On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust… And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them."

    However, it didn't prevent Russia from lending NATO a helping hand in 2009 and providing the bloc with permission to transport cargo over Russian territory within the framework of the alliance's operation in Afghanistan.

    In June 2011, Russia and NATO fighter jets took part in counterterror drills "Vigilant Skies 2011," part of the NATO-Russia Council Cooperative Airspace Initiative (NRC CAI).

    However, in April 2014 the bloc unilaterally suspended relations with Moscow over the political crisis in Ukraine and Crimea's reunification with Russia. All practical cooperation between NATO and Russia was halted. The meetings of the NATO-Russia Council were resumed in 2016.

    The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    NATO expansion, Munich Security Conference, Cold War, NATO, Warsaw Pact, Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump, USSR, United States, Russia, Montenegro, France
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