There’s a threat of NATO turning into a global police state
The Voice of Russia is talking to Alexander Grushko, Russia's deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. I would like to start with an important aspect of the country's foreign affairs - its relationship with NATO. This aspect interests me because many people do not understand whether or not NATO is Russia’s enemy. We don't quite fight against them, but we are not friends either.
I believe that if we talk about the whole range of issues covered by the Russia – NATO relations, one cannot apply any “enemy-friend” definition here. Both Russia and NATO realize that two such major agents in the sphere of global security – the largest state in Eurasia and the leading military political organization (one must admit it is so) – must preserve a normal relationship and cooperate in the sphere of common interests in today's world when not only the relationships between countries become global, but also the challenges they face. This is one thing. And the other thing is that the era of confrontation is over. There are no more armies that face each other armed with thousands of warheads and loads of military equipment. Let me remind those who maybe already forgot that many of the NATO's communiqués back in the 1980s started with the evaluation of the probability of a military conflict with the Warsaw Pact countries. Of course, there were no such plans, but nevertheless, it showed that we looked at each other mostly through the gun-sights. After the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed the relationship began to evolve and has developed tremendously over time. But at the same time, one must not idealize anything, because NATO is a large military organization that has not gotten rid of all the elements tied to its initial purpose, which we all remember. We must be vigilant in these issues and watch NATO’s evolution closely. That is why I would say that there are two aspects today that are of special importance – on the one hand we need to find common ground with NATO and cooperate on the issues where such cooperation would add value. But along with that we need to clean off the layers of the “Cold War” of the past, build up predictability, our military cooperation, eliminate the concerns about the military activity of the NATO countries and move towards the modernized partnership as it was agreed upon during the Lisbon summit that took place in November 2010. And this is the approach that we have been consistently applying. It shows in all spheres of our cooperation, as they were defined in the Lisbon document.
Alexander Victorovich, do we have any political contacts with the NATO that are not military?
There is the Russia-NATO Council that was set up for political dialogue. And within this political dialogue all issues related to the strengthening of the Euro-Atlantic security are discussed.
I specifically wanted to ask about the content of that dialogue and about the agenda.
The agenda of such political contacts is naturally focused on the issues of security. If we talk about the current stage of the NATO-Russia relations, we dedicate most of our attention to common threats and challenges. These common threats and challenges were set in the Lisbon Summit’s document, which was called “The Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges”. The document states that the situation in Afghanistan, problems related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy and the need to protect infrastructure are all of special interest to NATO and Russia. Missile defense is one of the most promising areas of cooperation. At the same time, in the framework of the political dialogue any problems can be discussed if raised by another country. We have also raised questions about the proliferation of NATO, about the fulfillment of certain NATO programs and the increasing proximity of NATO infrastructure to Russian borders. All this is subject to a close analysis and a dialogue with our partners.
Alexander Victorovich, you have mentioned twice that Russia is worried by certain NATO activity. What exactly do you mean?
We primarily view NATO activity given the commitments that NATO took upon itself in the NATO-Russia Founding Act. The meaning of those commitments was that NATO had committed to not positioning its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders and refused to deploy substantial military forces long term on the territory of its new member states. Unfortunately, we see that there are military forces being deployed in the Baltic region. In particular, on the territory of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia new military objects have appeared and NATO aircraft are patrolling the territory. And we cannot ignore that fact in our military planning. Our position was that instead of spreading some NATO standards on those territories, which prescribe offering those states adequate protection, we could instead sit down together and agree on how we can use some common instruments in order to guarantee the necessary level of security and stability in that region. Unfortunately, the dialogue on that subject has not yielded any results yet. In particular, we continue to wait for some reaction from NATO to our proposal that those commitments that I just talked about were put in precise military and political terms. We made our proposals and hope that in the end they will be accepted.
Our leaders have stated many times the “principle of indivisibility of security”, which has become a commonly used phrase now. Is NATO in agreement with us in at least declaring this principle?
The principle of the indivisibility of security is written in all the documents, in particular, in NATO documents and the documents of the NATO – Russia Council. It means that the security of each state is the security of all, and no state can build up its security at the expense of others. Unfortunately, in real life we see that these principles are not always observed. I already mentioned the example related to the commitment to hold back the deployment of military forces, but I can extrapolate that situation to other spheres. The point of the Russian proposals regarding the European security treaty is to create the same level of security for all the states of the Euro-Atlantic region, regardless of whether they are members of a military-political pact or not. And we hope that in the end we will be able to fulfill that plan. And then the Euro-Atlantic region will truly turn into a region of stability and peace and the military instruments, including those organizations that were set up back in the era of confrontation, will play a lesser role in determining the key criteria of such a new security order.
Please tell us, where does the OSCE belong in the current landscape of the European security?
The OSCE was set up as the organization for security and cooperation in Europe. Unfortunately, in the last few years we observe that the member states have less need for the OSCE instruments. In the 1980s and even early 1990s OSCE was at the heart of European and Euro-Atlantic politics. It was under the OSCE that the fundamental instruments appeared that strengthened the military security, such as the Treaty on Open Skies, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, as well as a number of documents that were a breakthrough in taking down the consequences of the Cold War and the confrontation. (I believe we are talking about six to eight documents). Today we see that the military functions of the OSCE have died out. The dialogue goes on, but it continues on formally, and our partners do not show any significant initiative. Unfortunately, we see a complete stagnation in the area of conventional weapons as well. That is why the OSCE is gradually turning into some sort of a human rights and democracy organization, which naturally weakens it. First of all, because more efficient organizations already exist in this sphere, in particular, the European Council, which unlike the OSCE has an ability to create legal mechanisms. And secondly, we never agreed that the organization for security and cooperation in Europe would deal with neither security nor cooperation. That is why the OSCE is going through such difficult times. Nevertheless, we continue to invest in that organization in hopes that its weight on the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian landscape could be increased. In particular, one of the most promising directions of that organization’s development is the utilization of the joint security platform –I mean the document that was signed at the 1999 summit in Istanbul, which allowed the organization to become a platform for a dialogue between other organizations that act in the Euro-Atlantic domain. The OSCE’s strength is that it unites 56 states of the Eurasian region. Those states are members of numerous other organizations. On the OSCE platform one can think about how cooperation can be built in a wider context, how to bring to the table NATO, the CSTO, the European Union, and perhaps the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the European Council in order to move ahead in strengthening the security mechanisms without replicating each other. But most importantly, we need to do it in harmony and in accordance with our common goal.
Alexander Victorovich, why is NATO ignoring the CSTO in a demonstrative way?
That's a good question that we keep asking. We talked about a political dialogue. In our contacts with our partners we constantly raise the question about the appropriateness and the necessity of establishing a systematic dialogue between NATO and the CSTO. There are no obstacles to that other than ideology. NATO does not want to acknowledge other organizations as its equals. Although for us it is obvious that if we talk about Afghanistan, uniting the efforts of NATO and the CSTO would yield a positive result because the CSTO plays an important role in the external perimeter of Afghanistan, in particular, in shielding against the threats related to drug trafficking. Every year we conduct a very successful operation called “Channel” where many NATO countries act as observers. This is only one of the examples where NATO and the CSTO could cooperate. But unfortunately, the situation is still the same, although recently Alexander Vershbow, the Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, announced that NATO is not opposed to cooperating with the CSTO in some directions. We shall see. In any event, we will work towards establishing systematic ties. We are coming from the position that without such ties it would be very difficult to establish cooperation even in the area of common interests.
Please tell us, the so-called cooperation on Afghanistan; is it the cooperation between Russia and the NATO or Russia's cooperation with separate NATO countries?
That cooperation is with separate NATO countries, as well as with NATO itself. I would not differentiate between them, because in the end we all perform the same task. But the important thing is not that we cooperate, but that we do it with the same political plan in mind. Such cooperation is in full accord with the UN Security Council resolution, which requires all states to cooperate with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. And that is what Russia does. As far as the specific projects of cooperation on Afghanistan, they are very direct and effective. First thing that Russia does it offers transit opportunities. As you know, we have signed agreements with a number of NATO states regarding the transit of military equipment and weapons. We also have an agreement with NATO about the transit of the so called non-lethal commercial cargo which is massively being shipped for the ISAF needs in Afghanistan, and has also been lately shipped out of there in connection with the upcoming withdrawal of the ISAF. Very recently, on June 25 this year the Russian Government passed a new regulation, which introduced a new term of combined transit. And now this transit of non-lethal cargo can be fulfilled by several types of transportation – by ground or air transport. As you know, Ulyanovsk was set as the transit point.
A nationwide discussion revealed that every detail was important for Russia-NATO relations and that every issue on the agenda of the Russia-NATO Council was political by definition. Naturally, there will be no military presence in the transit and this will make yet another contribution to the overall efforts to secure stabilization in Afghanistan. The second security building project envisages training of personnel for the anti-drug services of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asian countries on the basis of the Russian Interior Ministry. The training programs will be provided by the Russian Interior Ministry’s Institute of Professional Development in Domodedovo, and the Northwest Institute for Advanced Studies of the Federal Drug Control Service in St.Petersburg. There are also plans to train canine experts in Rostov-on-Don. More than 2,000 people have received training under the project, which is a sizeable contribution to the anti-drug efforts. As we follow the implementation of the project, I can say that the officers who completed training in Domodedovo quickly receive promotion in Afghanistan and are skillful at combating this common evil. The third project, launched not long ago, provides for the creation of a Russia-NATO Trust Fund for the maintenance of Mil Mi 17, Mil Mi 35 helicopters which are currently in service with the Afghan army. At present, Afghan ground support personnel is completing training at the Russian base in what comes as glaring proof that Russia and NATO are capable of joining forces on Afghanistan. We are prepared to foster this cooperation provided it rests on the UN Security Council resolution. We have come to an important turning point as the above-mentioned ISAF contingents are due to leave the country in 2014. We believe that since these contingents have been acting in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution, they should report about their work to the UN Security Council. ISAF and NATO’s further presence in Afghanistan should become the subject of a separate discussion in the Security Council. Since Russia-NATO cooperation on Afghanistan hinges on the corresponding resolutions of the UN Security Council, there can be no legal vacuum. At the same time, Russia is concerned about what the international military presence will be like after 2014 and is worried in connection with reports that NATO is creating bases which could accommodate thousands of servicemen. Given that this measure goes beyond what is necessary to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, we’ll continue discussions to this effect with NATO. There should be no military presence in Afghanistan beyond the required limit. Apparently, there should be instructors to train personnel for Afghan security forces and the Afghan army. Naturally, the instructors should be provided with security but these security forces should be limited in number and should serve Afghanistan’s domestic needs. Any other options would become a serious irritant for Russia-NATO relations.
You’ve been talking about NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan. What about foreign military presence in Central Asia?
Every state pursues its own interests while building relations with its partners concerning military ties. The Collective Security Treaty Organization requires its members to abstain from deploying forces without a plain-spoken consent of other states. Whatever the case, we assume that all promises to the effect that military presence in the region will serve the purpose of normalizing the situation in Afghanistan, will be kept. Central Asia is a sensitive region whose spheres of interest are not confined to Russia-NATO, or Russia-US. There are other players as well. Russia believes that it’s up to the Central Asian states to assume responsibility for maintaining stability and security in the region. The situation in Afghanistan is regulated by the UN Security Council resolution. And this resolution should remain valid in the future.
Now, a delicate issue. The European component of the American missile defense shield and Russia-NATO contacts concerning the development of Theatre Missile Defense. At what stage are these contacts now? We hear reports about these contacts several times a year. How are they going?
This question is both easy and difficult. The participants in the Lisbon meeting agreed that Russia and NATO would cooperate on missile defense. NATO countries and Russia admitted that there was a danger of missile risks developing into missile threats, and that the Russia-NATO Council could play a role in fending off these threats. Russia proposed creating a Sectoral Missile Defense system. Such a system would protect the entire Euro-Atlantic region against missile risks. But our partners believe that there should be two systems, linked by a sort of interface. They insist, however, that as for NATO’s system, it’s NATO countries, first of all, the US, that should determine the configuration of this system. No other country should have the right to determine the parameters of the system. That’s the rub.
Russia proceeds from the opposite point of view. Since we are supposed to cooperate, we must understand in what areas we are partners. Are we cooperating on developing a system that would avert threats generated from the outside (that come from beyond the boundaries of the Euro-Atlantic region), or are we involved in something different? If such a system undermines strategic stability and is capable of intercepting Russian missiles, partnership in building it makes no sense.
…That’s why we think that any substantial negotiations on the configuration of the system should start with the presentation of guarantees that it is not aimed against Russian deterrent systems that are part of the strategic equation, because nuclear balance guarantees peace and stability for decades. These guarantees should be expressed not in the form of verbal assurances, but in the form of military-political criteria, such as the locations of the deployment of interceptors, electronic warfare, the speed of interceptor warheads and the number of such warheads. We are ready for such work, but once again, the US and NATO need to be ready to provide us with the legal guarantees. For now, neither NATO, nor the US are doing that, although in May one step in that direction was made in Chicago, where it was declared that the system that NATO is currently working on will not undermine the strategic balance and is not meant for intercepting Russian means of delivery. However, the issue is far from being resolved. We are ready to continue dialogue, because without a clear understanding of the “final product” starting substantive negotiations on one or two points would make no sense and we could end up in a situation similar to the one NATO countries created several years ago when we started to cooperate with the alliance on the project of missile defense. The cooperation was undergoing successful development until George W. Bush’s administration came up with the program of creating the third position area. Once again, either we do something together, or our partners work on their project without us, but in that case we will follow the development of the NATO system closely, how it will integrate into the global system that the US is creating and at every stage we will take the military-technical measures that we deem necessary for the protection of Russia’s security interests. The Russian position was outlined by President Medvedev on November 23 of last year and is absolutely clear to all our partners.
Some of our political scientists and military analysts have started to insist that the current system and the whole psychology of nuclear deterrence and everything connected to it should be abandoned all together. They say it’s time to let go of the Cold War mentality, then regardless of the situation with missile defense, there will be peace and friendship. What’s your opinion on that?
Grushko: Unfortunately you cannot change the reality or mentality with a wave of a magic wand. I think that steps should be made in the direction of arms reduction. And that concerns not only nuclear weapons. I should say that the West made a huge mistake when it stopped controlling conventional arms in Europe. The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty signed in 1990 on the implementation of which Russia later declared a moratorium, does not coincide with modern reality. The adaptation agreement signed in 1999 that back then actually had a chance of encouraging some movement in that direction was not ratified by the NATO countries. The lack of clear agreements in the sphere of arms control creates uncertainties in terms of military planning. In any country, responsible military planning needs to take into account the potential of the country’s neighbors, and you can’t ignore that. Otto von Bismarck once said that “It's more important to assess a country's military potential than its intentions”. I think that both are important and I agree with the political scientists that the goal is to move in the direction of a safer world, a world without nuclear weapons or a minimal amount of such weapons. But that movement needs to be carried out harmoniously, with a full understanding of the final goal and all the stages of working towards that goal. Russia is ready for that. And the signing of the Russia-US START Treaty demonstrates positive movement in precisely that direction. It’s called “the golden standard” because both sides managed to find a balance of interests that on the one hand guarantees stability, and on the other, stimulates movement.
Final question. Is NATO invincible?
That’s a philosophical question. NATO members call their alliance the most successful one in the history of mankind. That’s debatable. NATO is indeed transforming, but in the course of its transformation it is not moving in the direction of integrating into the common efforts of the international community to create a new system of security based on completely new principles. And sometimes, it even turns into an instrument of legitimizing one-sided decisions.
The bombings in Yugoslavia in 1999 and NATO’s participation in the operation in Libya demonstrate that there is a danger of NATO turning into a “global policeman” that operates beyond the boundaries of international law. Strategically, this issue has not been solved yet, and it’s very important to Russia, because it is going to interact with NATO only within the legal framework, where all member states of the NATO-Russia Council abide by the international laws and respect the prerogatives of the United Nations Security Council. If NATO tries to put itself above international law, the base for interaction will start to deteriorate, and that will become a source of constant mistrust. It’s a very serious problem that we are currently discussing with NATO. We are closely watching the direction of the bloc’s evolution and there are different views on the matter. NATO is not a homogenous bloc; it has countries with a more conservative point of view. Nevertheless, we think that the future of NATO as a structure capable of contributing to European, Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security depends on the alliance’s ability to operate exclusively within the framework of international law and respect the interests of other countries of the Euro-Atlantic region. These are the key elements for building Russia-NATO relations.