15 January 2013, 19:27

Russia-NATO: bolstering partnership or playing trust?

Russia-NATO: bolstering partnership or playing trust?

A session of the Russia-NATO Council at the level of chiefs of General Staff is to be held in Brussels on January 16. High on the agenda will be the approval of a bilateral cooperation plan for 2013.

At the same time, both sides remain at odds over a spate of issues, something that prompted some analysts to speak of the sides ‘playing trust’ rather than bolstering full-blown cooperation.

According to NATO’s press service, the sides will discuss a wide array of issues of common interest to better address modern-day challenges. The Russian delegation is headed by Colonel General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s military chief of staff. Additionally, the sides will deal with the situation in Afghanistan, NATO’s transformation and the implementation of the so-called Smart Defense program. It stipulates effectively using defense potential amid restricted financing.

Although NATO officials repeatedly signaled the alliance’s readiness for partnership and dialogue with Russia, Brussels and Moscow are still at loggerheads over the European missile defense system and NATO’s decision to deploy the Patriot interceptors near the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia says that it will not prevent Ankara from exercising the right to ensure its national security in accordance with Clause 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Moscow warns against exaggerating the threats.

Earlier this week, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said that 6 Patriot batteries, supplied by the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, will be operational in Turkey in early February at the latest.

Moscow, in turn, warns NATO against becoming the world gendarme and defying the UN. Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine, says that the alliance ignoring Russia’s interests hampers full-fledged bilateral partnership.

"No doubt, Russia is interested in expanding cooperation with NATO on a whole range of programs, Korotchenko says. Regrettably, the sides have yet to arrive at a consensus on European missile defense, a problem that tarnishes bilateral ties. No breakthroughs have been reported during talks to this effect due to the West’s and the US’ reluctance to heed Russia’s concerns. On the whole, bilateral ties are being developed, but Russia wants more efforts in this direction."

Some analysts say that NATO upholding its position resembles playing trust. In an interview with the Voice of Russia broadcast on Tuesday, expert Margarete Klein of the Science and Politics Fund in Germany stressed the necessity of showing strategic approaches to the matter.

"I think that it is necessary to turn the existing cooperation into strategic partnership, Klein says. For this to happen, we should first of all take more steps to strengthen bilateral trust. Also, we need to enhance strategic collaboration with Russia and resolve differences on problems pertaining to the Euro-Atlantic region," she concludes.

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, now that the Cold War has become a thing of the past, a big question mark hangs over the feasibility of NATO as a military alliance, a contentious issue that is yet to be resolved.

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