13:13 GMT +319 October 2019
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    'Change Possible': NATO Takes a Step Towards Defrosting Relations With Moscow

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    The first high-level military contact between senior Russian and NATO defense officials since the bilateral relationship went into a deepfreeze in April 2014 indicates that the North Atlantic Alliance appears to have heard what Moscow has been calling for, political analyst Dmitry Danilov told Radio Sputnik.

    "NATO has not said that the bilateral cooperation has been unfrozen, but the block has made a step in the right direction. I will emphasize that it is not NATO's initiative. This is something that Russia and Russian diplomats have long called for. This step shows that positive changes are possible," the expert said.

    NATO cut off its relations with Russia after the foreign-sponsored coup in Ukraine led to a civil war and Crimea's democratic reunification with Russia. The bloc has blamed Moscow for what has happened in the neighboring country. Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such claims as groundless, making every effort to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

    On March 3, General Petr Pavel, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, called Army General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, with the conversation focusing on security issues, potential restoration of military cooperation, measures aimed at incident prevention, as well participation of NATO representatives in international activities held by the Russian Defense Ministry. This wss the first high-level military contact between Russian and NATO military officials since April 2014.

    Danilov, head of the Center for Security Issues at the Russian Academy of Sciences, warned against viewing the recent conversation between Gerasimov and Pavel as a "superthaw" in relations between Russia and NATO. However, this step points to the fact that both sides need to open additional channels of interaction on issues of mutual interest, starting with measures aimed at lowering risks.

    "Such issues could be discussed at the political level only with military officials present and they were unable to participate [in these discussions]. This channel appears to have been unblocked now. It is all about showing intent at the moment, but this is also important. The next G7 summit will take place in May, with the new US administration taking part in the event. It is unclear how things will pan out," the analyst said. "One thing is clear: even joint initiatives with regard to lowering risks require practical cooperation between Russia and NATO. If so, then bilateral cooperation should be unfrozen."

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    Tags:
    Ukrainian crisis, bilateral relations, NATO, Petr Pavel, Valery Gerasimov, Russia
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