Recently, NATO has been publicly promoting a simplified "black and white" picture of the history of complicated relations between the Alliance and Russia, accusing Russia of "myth-making" about NATO's "impeccable" actions.
NATO has regularly updated its fact sheets with a view to persuade the public that only NATO has been strengthening European security and stability without any critical self-evaluation of its actions and hard lessons of the military operations in the Balkans, in Afghanistan and Libya. But most importantly, perhaps, there have been no proposals about ways to promote a positive agenda which would allow to overcome current highly risky tendencies in the military-political situation on the continent. The efforts undertaken by the Russian Federation to strengthen the security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic area have been silenced.
We suggest looking into the situation in an unbiased way with a view to understand what actually happened in the last decade in the Euro-Atlantic area and envisage ways to break the spiral of current military-political tensions and restore stability in our common region. Welfare of the peoples and citizens of our countries depends on what path will be chosen.
Here is a brief summary of facts.
- Withdrawal of troops and equipment from the former Soviet Union countries in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe and the Baltic states.
- Russia's participation in multilateral efforts to strengthen European security:
- joint fight against terrorism and piracy;
- joint efforts to ensure the secure destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons;
- settlement in Kosovo;
- peacekeeping in the areas of Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflicts;
- assistance in the stabilization in Tajikistan;
- Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.
- Conventional arms control in Europe.
- implementation by Russia of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE);
- signature and ratification of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE;
- Creation of the US global missile defense system:
- US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty;
- creation of the “Third BMD Site” in Europe of the US global strategic missile defense system;
- Russian proposals to resolve the issue of the Third BMD Site in Europe;
- Joint Statement by Presidents of Russia and the United States on missile defense;
- signature of the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms;
- launch of the US Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense deployment in Europe;
- - proposals by the Russian Federation to create a common European BMD system;
- proposals by the Russian Federation on the need to provide guarantees that the US / NATO BMD is not directed against Russia;
- impact of the progress in negotiating the Iranian nuclear program on the plans to establish a BMD system in Europe;
- US decision to suspend the activities of the Russian-American Presidential Commission on missile defense.
- NATO enlargement and movement of its military infrastructure to the East.
- Russian proposals on strengthening European security:
- Draft European Security Treaty;
- Draft Agreement on Principles of Relations between NATO and Russia.
- Military expenditures of the Russian Federation.
- NATO's actions in the "eastern flank":
- increased presence of naval forces in the Baltic, Black and Mediterranean Seas;
- increased number and scale of exercises by NATO and its Member States in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Baltic States;
- build-up of NATO Response Force’s capability;
- increased military aviation activity of NATO and its members on the separators of the Russian Federation.
- Impact of the Ukrainian crisis on NATO's cooperation with Russia.
- Missed opportunities from the suspension of NATO cooperation with Russia:
- Alliance's initiative to suspend the NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund on the training of helicopter technicians and purchasing helicopter Mi17/Mi35 spare parts for the Afghan Army;
- Suspension of the NRC Project on Counter-Narcotic Training of Afghan, Central Asian and Pakistani Personnel;
- Alliance's initiative to suspend data exchanges within the NRC Cooperative Airspace Initiative;
- Alliance's initiative to suspend the NRC Project on Standoff Detection of Explosive Devices and Suicide Bombers in Mass Transport (STANDEX);
- absence of information exchange on the terrorist threats evolving from the Middle East and North Africa.
1.Withdrawal of troops and equipment from the former Soviet Union countries in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe and the Baltic states.
The end of the Cold War gave unprecedented opportunities to overcome the divisions of Europe. Russian foreign policy was aimed at building the “open architecture” and a common area of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area based on the principles of equal cooperation and mutual trust without reference to the balance of threats and counter-threats and any dividing lines.
Russia made a crucial contribution to the elimination of the material legacy of the confrontation era. Our country assumed the obligations to withdraw its troops and armaments from Germany, Central and Eastern Europe and later from the Baltic countries. In 1991-1994 Russia disbanded the Western Group of Forces in Germany (approximately 5000 tanks, up to 10000 armored vehicles, up to 1500 helicopters and military aircrafts, more than 330000 military personnel), the Northern Group of Forces in Poland (20 launchers of short-range attack missile, 599 tanks, 485 armored combat vehicles, 390 artillery cannons, 202 military aircrafts, 114 helicopters, 56000 military personnel), the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia (72000 military personnel), the Northern-Western Group of Forces in Baltic states (250000 military personnel) and the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary (approximately 100000 military personnel).
Withdrawal of foreign forces from the territory of Eastern Europe rather than a military build-up as we see undertaken by NATO nowadays became a valuable factor of strengthening the European security.
Unfortunately, the political leadership of Western countries has decided to put the stake on “a closed architecture” – inertial NATO enlargement eastwards to the detriment of the development and consolidation of common European institutions, above all the OSCE. As a result, dividing lines in Europe weren’t erased, on the contrary, they were deepened and shifted eastwards.
Russia can hardly be blamed for not reacting positively to reasonable and mutually beneficial initiatives of the Western partners. Our country repeatedly joined multilateral efforts for the sake of strengthening common security.
Here are the examples. Russian and NATO navies have been patrolling the Mediterranean Sea under the framework of the “Active Endeavour” operation and have been cooperating on counter-terrorism issues, jointly fought against the piracy in the Aden Gulf. Russian peacekeepers participated alongside divisions from NATO Member States in the operation under the UNSC mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995-2003. Another example – joint planning of the first NRC joint maritime mission for the secure elimination of Syrian chemical weapons on the US vessel “Cape Ray” in support of the OPCW-UN joint mission, which was suspended early 2014 after the decision of several NATO member states.
Another important issue – stabilizing role of Russia during Kosovo crisis, which gradually aggravated as a result of undisguised NATO aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 under the far-fetched pretext of protection of the Albanian population of this province from the “ethnic cleansings”. Having brutally violated the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the norms of humanitarian law, the Alliance authorized barbaric bombings of peaceful towns and villages of the sovereign state which lasted for 78 days.
NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” in Yugoslavia became the hardest blow to the basic principles of international relations, seriously affected the trust among states, caused the return of military security aspects to the forefront both within and outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
Through diversified efforts and with essential contribution from the Russian Federation it became possible to get out of the vicious circle of military warfare which NATO was unable to break on its own and to turn the situation towards the only right political and diplomatic solution, and to negotiate in June 1999 a UNSC resolution 1244 which remains a fundamental basis for Kosovo settlement. The document gave a “green light” to the establishment and deployment of multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR) comprising until 2003 the Russian military contingence which actively and effectively participated in the mission with a view to ensure security in the province.
The results of the Russian deployment in Kosovo were highly appraised by both sides to the conflict, as well as by NATO command. Apart from purely military tasks Russian peacekeepers successfully helped solving humanitarian problems of the province – more than 12,000 pieces of explosive ordnance were destroyed, significant number of illegal firearms, ammunition and psychotropic substances were confiscated, some 15,000 locals received medical treatment, a large amount of engineering works has been performed. Therefore, Russia in its mutually beneficial cooperation with NATO has directly contributed to strengthening security and improving normal everyday life of the Kosovo population.
The Russian Federation has participated and continues to participate in other peacekeeping operations. Since 1992 Russian peacekeeping forces (in close cooperation with Moldavian and Transdniestrian military and with participation of Ukrainian observers) were deployed in Transdniestria. This operation which remains the core of subregional stability has contributed to a complete cease-fire and did not allow for a spill-over effect.
In 1992-2008 in accordance with the international agreements Russian military forces were conducting a peacekeeping mission as part of the Joint Peacekeeping Force in the Georgian-South Ossetian zone of conflict and the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force in the Georgian-Abkhaz zone of conflict. Peacekeeping operation in Tajikistan (1993-2000), with the Russian personnel comprising its core, prevented a civil war in Central Asia, and contributed to a reduction of firearms and drugs flows from Afghanistan. In 1994 Russia assisted in negotiating a cease-fire agreement between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh.
The task of dismantling the legacy of the "cold war" required the consolidation of the efforts of all European countries. Russia played a vital role in this process. Our firm commitment to arms control instruments – more security with fewer resources – was ensured through the preservation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) which was signed on November 19, 1990 and its subsequent implementation.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union our country has ensured technically and financially complex implementation of the CFE Treaty, by cutting thousands of conventional armaments and equipment pieces. We fully met our obligations, despite the fact that such large-scale reductions came in the difficult times of the 1990s. By the end of the 1990s the original CFE Treaty which was based on the balance of forces between the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) and NATO, became largely obsolete as a result of large-scale military and political changes (collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the withdrawal of Soviet / Russian troops from Central and Eastern Europe, Baltic and CIS countries, the emergence of a number of epicenters of conflict, and especially the enlargement of NATO to the east). Russia has initiated a deep modernization of the CFE Treaty and its adaptation to the changing European realities.
NATO countries did not immediately agree to hold negotiations. They resulted in the signature in Istanbul on November 19, 1999 of Agreement on the Adaptation of the CFE Treaty, which provided for the transition from zonal limitations for groups of states to a territorial system of national and territorial limits for conventional weapons and military equipment.
As it turned out later, the US and its closest allies in Europe actually had no intention to put this document in force - Washington was quite satisfied with the original CFE Treaty, which in the new environment was giving significant advantages to NATO.
Immediately after signing the Adapted Agreement NATO put forward conditions for its ratification, which clearly indicated what their genuine interest was (especially linking the ratification of the Agreement on the Adaptation to the settlement of local conflicts) - no proper arms control, but rather a military-political "containment" of Russia, elimination of its military presence in the areas of conflict in Moldova and Georgia.
In an effort to help preserve the viability of the Treaty, Russia, together with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine ratified it in 2004, but NATO countries have refused to follow their example. Today some in NATO admit that it was a mistake.
Over time, critical mass of problems accumulated over the CFE Treaty implementation: NATO countries failed to fulfill their commitment to ratify expeditiously the CFE Treaty, they exceeded their "group" limitations on armaments and equipment under the Treaty, as a result of the NATO enlargement, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia did not participate in the Treaty, a number of new members dodged to fulfill the agreements reached in Istanbul).
These exceptional circumstances have prompted Russia to suspend participation in the Treaty on December 12, 2007. The move was fully legitimate from the legal point of view – since the CFE Treaty contained a provision allowing the State party to suspend its participation on the same grounds as it could withdraw from the Treaty (the formula of "more is allowed, then less is allowed as well").
In 2007 - 2010 we participated in a series of Russian-American consultations on the CFE Treaty. Certain hopes were linked with the start of informal "consultations of 36" in June 2010 in Vienna (CFE participants plus six new members - Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia) which were aimed at developing a "framework agreement" on the launch of new negotiations on the ways to strengthen and modernize conventional arms control regime in Europe.
Unfortunately, in the mid-2011, the consultations were deadlocked as a result of the efforts by the US which again put forward preconditions and unacceptable linkages, in particular with the "frozen conflicts". Our proposal to start negotiations without preconditions was in fact rejected by the US officials who urged Russia to withdraw its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
NATO countries realized that they could not push through their preconditions and in November 2011 announced that they suspended information sharing with Russia under the CFE Treaty and stopped to accept our inspections on their territories in response to Russia's "moratorium".
From that moment up until now we have been refraining from making any initiatives in the field of Conventional arms control in Europe. On March 11, 2015 Russia decided to suspend its participation in the meetings of the Joint Consultative Group on CFE, because practical work in this format was in fact suspended. However, this does not mean that we refuse to engage in a further dialogue on conventional arms control in Europe, if and when NATO countries agree to depoliticize their approaches and act with due consideration of the interests of all States Parties, including the Russian Federation.
The documents of the NATO Summit in Wales (September 4-5, 2014) do not contain a single hint of any attempt to redefine the role of arms control with a view to strengthen military security on the basis of a comprehensive analysis of military and political developments in Europe. Nor can we see the determination of the Alliance members to work towards the development of a new agreement that would reflect current realities. Instead, we constantly hear calls to return to the implementation of the CFE Treaty that is hopelessly obsolete.
Another example of one-sided approach of the West to the Euro-Atlantic security is the decision to build a global missile defense system of the United States, which directly affects the security interests of our country.
Over the past fifteen years, Russia has repeatedly proposed diverse initiatives in the field of missile defense, aimed at shifting this "irritant" issue into the sphere of cooperation. Unfortunately, none of them has been realized due to the inflexible position of the US and its NATO allies, for whom defense is apparently a tool to ensure its own military superiority in the first place, without taking into account the security interests of other countries.
The 1972 ABM Treaty (was in force until June 2002) prohibited the establishment of large-scale anti-missile systems in Russia and the United States and thus contributed to the predictability of the strategic situation. Russia has consistently advocated the preservation of this Agreement. Its value has been repeatedly recognized by the international community - in 1999-2001. The 54th, 55th and 56th sessions of the UN General Assembly were adopting resolutions with overwhelming majority in support of the preservation and respect for the ABM Treaty.
On December 13, 2001, the US announced its decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty (legal withdrawal was effective six months later, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty). In a statement of December 13, 2001 the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin said that the Russian side considered the decision wrong. President stressed the need for an early development of a new framework for strategic relations between Russia and the United States in the changed circumstances.
On May 24, 2002 a Joint Declaration "On the new strategic relationship between the United States of America and the Russian Federation", was adopted in Moscow, defining main areas of US-Russia cooperation in the strategic sphere, including in the field of missile defense. Russia and the US have agreed to implement a series of measures aimed at building confidence and transparency in the sphere of missile defense, including the exchange of information on BMD programs and tests, reciprocal visits to observe BMD tests and systems.
The parties also agreed to explore possible areas of cooperation on missile defense, including the expansion of joint exercises, joint programs of research and development in the field of missile defense technologies.
However, practical results were minimal – Washington pursued the policy of unilateral deployment of unlimited global missile defense system, including the creation in Europe of so-called "Third BMD Site" of global strategic missile defense system (interceptors in Poland and a BMD radar in the Czech Republic).
Russia has taken a number of steps to resolve the problem of the Third BMD Site in Europe, and at summits in Heiligendamm in June and Kennebunkport in July 2007 proposed to cooperate with the US in the area of BMD with a view to settle the situation around plans to create Third BMD Site.
The following key elements were at the core of the Russian alternative package proposal – the US would abandon their plans for the Third BMD Site and commit not to deploy BMD assets in the outer space. Joint assessment of missile threats would be conducted and, if necessary, collective response measures would be worked out. In such a case Russia was ready to share with the US tracking data on missile launches in the Middle East from the radar stations in Gabala (Azerbaijan) and Armavir. This information would have been available to the joint Russian-American data exchange center in Moscow, as well as to a similar center in a European country.
Following the instructions of the Presidents of Russia and the US the bilateral high level expert group conducted a series of meetings over 6 months, but did not reach understanding on the issues related to the Third US BMD Site in Europe. Neither were implemented the US ideas on elaborating transparency and confidence-building measures which, according to Americans, would have assuaged Russian concerns.
In particular, those ideas envisaged that ground-based interceptors would be deployed in silos only in case of “materialization” of a missile threat, permanent stationing of the Russian personnel and the use of technical monitoring equipment at BMD facilities, limits to sectors of emission and transmitting power of radar stations etc. But these ideas did not materialize, since the proposals made by the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during “2+2” meeting in October 2007 were afterwards de facto disavowed by the US side.
In particular, these proposals were linked to the inapplicable in such cases principle of reciprocity regarding the access to the Russian military bases. Representatives of the Czech Republic and Poland acted in the same way (the Polish side proposed in December 2008 to reach a bilateral agreement with Russia on confidence-building measures according to which Polish representatives would be granted possibility to hold inspections of strategic facilities on the territory of Russia). To sum up, although the above-mentioned measures could not eliminate the destabilizing potential of the Third US BMD Site in Europe, some of the ideas proposed at that time deserved proper consideration.
The deployment of the Third BMD Site contradicted the basic principle of the Russia-US strategic relations requiring to recognize the interrelationship between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms. It disrupted radically an established strategic balance by creating significant unilateral advantages for the US. For several years we have been drawing attention of our US and European partners to the danger of such plans and pointing to the negative consequences of their implementation for the European and global security. Nevertheless, the US Administration under George W. Bush continued to develop BMD tools, as well as to advance preparations for the deployment of the Third US BMD site in Europe.
The Russian leadership continued to call for missile defense co-operation on an equal basis and aspired to build a genuine strategic partnership in the field of the BMD.
In March 2009 Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov handed to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the aide-mémoire updating the Russian package proposal of 2007. There was no official reaction from the US side to it.
At the July 2009 Moscow summit the Presidents of Russia and the US agreed a Joint Statement on missile defense envisaging a joint assessment of missile proliferation challenges and preparation of recommendations with a view to respond to possible threats, as well as an overview of available means aimed at monitoring missile defense programs’ development.
Practical co-operation was hampered by the ambiguity of the Barack Obama administration’s plans regarding further development of the US global BMD system. American side avoided substantial discussions referring to a continued assessment of the missile defense legacy from the times of the George W. Bush administration.
On 17 September 2009 the US President Barack Obama decided to reconsider US plans regarding BMD assets in Europe.
Russia commended this step which contributed to the conclusion of a new US-Russia Treaty on Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms signed on 8 April 2010. It clearly stipulates the inseparable interrelationship between strategic offensive and strategic defensive (BMD) arms.
However, after renouncement of the Third BMD Site in Europe the United States launched a new BMD project – the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) to missile defense. This US initiative is a matter of concern for Russia, since it envisages deployment of interceptors and other BMD assets next to the Russian separators and in seas around Russia which could create threats to the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces (SNF). Moreover, the new NATO Strategic Concept adopted at the NATO Lisbon Summit (November 2010) declared missile defense one of the “key” competency of the Alliance which meant the involvement of many European States into the project.
Despite the potentially destabilizing character of the US and NATO BMD activities, Russia, acting in the spirit of good will and pragmatism, again chose to put forward initiatives aimed at solving the BMD problem on the basis of principles of equality and indivisibility of security.
As early as 2000 Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to establish a common European BMD system against non-strategic missiles meaning to focus on joint development of Theater BMD capabilities. As a follow-up the subject of BMD was reflected in the Rome Declaration on “NATO-Russia relations: A New Quality” adopted on 28 May 2002, practical work has been carried out in the NATO-Russia Council (NRC).
At the Lisbon NRC Summit in November 2010 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took a further step and proposed to set up a common European missile defense system, based on the sectorial approach (so called “Sectorial Euro-BMD”) when each side is responsible for determined sector. The idea was to create a common security perimeter in Europe with legally ensured equal participation of Russia.
We offered our NATO partners to jointly develop a concept and architecture of the European BMD that would be jointly controlled, adequate to potential threats and at the same time would not undermine strategic stability. Russia was ready to further develop its proposal on common BMD in Europe, as well as to modify it taking into account NATO States’ opinions. This approach was offering unique opportunities for building a truly strategic partnership between Russia and the Alliance based on the principles of equality, indivisibility of security, mutual trust, transparency and predictability.
The United States and their NATO Allies proved, as before, not ready to move in this direction. Russian concerns had been mostly ignored and under the pretext of NATO’s responsibility to protect its territory the parameters of future European BMD system, its concept and architecture had been defined without Russia. It was offered to us to start setting up some kind of «cooperative» missile defense comprising two «independent, but coordinated» Russian and NATO systems – which couldn’t assuage our concerns. There was also no success in launching a dialogue on transparency and confidence building measures in the sphere of BMD, since the United States and the Allies again (as in the course of the discussions on the Third BMD site) conditioned it groundlessly with Russia’s transparency regarding its own BMD assets.
As our partners practically had rejected to jointly develop a common BMD system, in order to reach a compromise on missile defense issues we emphasized the need for guarantees that the US and NATO BMD is not directed against Russia and its SNF.
Our position was a reasonable one and we were ready to discuss the status and the substance of such possible commitments. But they could not be hollow and unsubstantiated. They should have been formulated in a manner that would provide Russia with objective military technical criteria (speed, numbers, location of interceptors and radars, capabilities of BMD C2 systems) to assess how the US and NATO BMD activities correspond to their declarations – what is done in reality, whether Russian interests are respected, whether strategic nuclear parity is maintained.
However, NATO preferred to avoid discussions on the guarantees that its BMD system is not directed against Russia and proposed to assuage Russian concerns through the development of “practical cooperation” which mostly boiled down to a limited “information exchange” between Russian and US/NATO BMD systems. NATO Allies also refused to discuss the criteria mentioned above.
Russian Federation repeatedly warned that the situation in the BMD sphere could develop in a negative way.
On November 23, 2011 the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev made a statement with regard to the situation around the NATO BMD system in Europe, setting out the response measures which Russia would have to undertake against each stage of the US BMD build-up in Europe.
President pointed out that Russia didn’t close its door for both political dialogue and practical cooperation with the US and NATO in the BMD field, but stressed that the precondition for that was an agreement on a clear legal basis which would take into account Russia's legitimate interests.
Nevertheless, NATO continued to refuse to establish such legal basis and to consider Russia’s concerns about the destructive nature of the BMD system which was being created. In fact the discussion reached a deadlock, since only groundless declarations that the BMD system was not directed against Russia were repeated again and again. The alliance also avoided to talk about the essence of the Russian position regarding the NATO BMD system in Europe, that such system should not jeopardize the strategic stability.
Not challenging the right of the European states to protect themselves (also with the assistance of non-regional states) the Russian Federation insisted on the necessity to abide by the basic principle of the indivisibility of security, to hold a dialogue on a truly equal basis. This should become the foundation for a joint development of such a configuration of the NATO BMD system in Europe which wouldn’t thereafter undermine the Russian potential of the nuclear deterrence.
The US and NATO unresponsiveness to such an approach has become an indicator of their unreadiness to see the Russian Federation as a full-fledged partner and to build a strategic partnership with us on the basis of genuine equality.
It should be noted that the agreements on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Geneva (2013) and Lausanne (2015) didn’t affect the plans to establish the NATO BMD system in Europe, although President Barack Obama claimed in his speech in Prague in 2009 that with the elimination of the “Iranian threat” the incentives for the European BMD would disappear.
Washington and Brussels just changed the rhetoric claiming that the Iranian nuclear deal was not final, placing emphasis on its nuclear programs which allegedly may pose danger to Europe, and talking about missile proliferation as a whole. Such “adaptiveness” and “flexibility” of our partners make us think about a true purpose of the BMD system both of its global and European segments.
When the Ukrainian crisis began in spring 2014 the US suspended the activities of the Russian-American Presidential Commission and its corresponding working groups where the discussion on BMD issues had been conducted. Thus, our proposals on a possible solution to the problems arising from the US BMD plans presented in September 2013 remained unanswered. (The basis of the Russian approach is to secure legal guarantees that the US/NATO BMD system is not directed against Russia, which can be verified by the use of military-technical and geographical criteria). At the same time Ministers of Foreign Affairs of NATO countries suspended all practical cooperation within the NRC (including dialogue on the BMD issues).
Hence, as a result of a destructive position of the US and NATO no systematic work is being done at the moment to settle down a problem of the BMD build-up in Europe. While the US plans are being implemented, prospects of a diplomatic solution are becoming more and more vague.
Such a development can potentially undermine the strategic stability and lead to catastrophic consequences for security both in Europe and in the whole world. Nevertheless, our proposals remain on the table. However, obviously they cannot be implemented in a situation when our partners refuse to dialogue and put pressure, including through sanctions and other means.
Taking into account the continuous build-up of the US/NATO BMD system in Europe the “window of opportunity” for compromise is steadily closing up.
Current crisis of the Euro-Atlantic security has been largely generated by the fact that NATO could not fully adapt to the real security needs. “Genetic code” of NATO has been preserved which predetermined the easiness and speed with which Brussels has come back to the reflexes of “Cold War” and NATO model of the past.
As for the issue of the promises that were made to the leaders of our country that NATO will not expand to the East, it would seem rather a matter for historians to seek, verify and analyze such facts, especially as it is always very important to have a good view on a relevant historical context when many certain moments of the past are studied.
According to the records of our archives which were confirmed by researches of foreign historians there were promises not to expand NATO that were made, in some case even publicly, but many today in NATO do not prefer to recall them. During negotiations over the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany the leaders of NATO member-states reassured the Soviet authorities that they don’t have any plans for enlargement to the East. Documental proof of the reassurances made by western leaders can be found in declassified in May 2006 records of conversations of Mikhail Gorbachev with the Secretary of State James Baker (February 9, 1990), the Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl (February 10, 1990) and the President of France Francois Mitterrand (May 6, 1991). These materials are provided in the book by Yevgeny Primakov “Years in big politics”, Moscow, 1999.
For many years we were receiving assurances that the membership of the Central and Eastern European countries in NATO will improve relations with Moscow, relieve them from phobias inherited from the “heavy historical legacy” and will create a “belt” of Russia-friendly countries. These affirmations turned out to be a myth. On the contrary, today the security policy of these countries is based on the idea that there is a need for their special protection. NATO enlargement has only aggravated the syndrome of “front-line states” and created preconditions for a new Iron Curtain – from the side of the West.
When Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined the alliance in 2004, the Baltic air policing mission has been established. Arguments that there were no objective reasons to take such a decision were rebutted under the pretext that the creation of groups with different levels of security inside the “North Atlantic Community” is unacceptable. Instead of cooperative efforts with Russia and other countries of the region they had chosen a block approach that led to the weakening of regional security and stability. Today the relevant military infrastructure has been built up and operationalized on the territory of the states that joined NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At present, US Army weapons and military equipment are being deployed in the Baltic countries.
However, even basic common sense does not help: an increasing degree of the military tensions on the Russian separators does not meet the long-term interests of these countries, it weakens rather than strengthens their security, increases the danger of spiraling into a new arms race.
Another effort to get rid of the legacy of the Cold War was made by Russia in June 2008, when we proposed to jointly elaborate a European Security Treaty. It was intended to build a common space of military and political security in the Euro-Atlantic area for all states regardless of their membership in any military and political alliances. The document aimed at legally fixing the principle of indivisibility of security, which was repeatedly confirmed at different levels and in different formats. This principle means that no state can strengthen its security at the expense of other states. A draft treaty prepared by the Russian side was sent to the heads of countries and the heads of international organizations, including NATO and the EU. It was stressed that we were open to substantial discussions. Unfortunately, Western partners didn’t express their readiness to discuss our proposals substantively.
In order to strengthen one of the pillars of the European security Russia submitted for consideration of partners a Draft Agreement on Principles of Relations between NATO and Russia in December 2009. However, partners haven’t expressed their readiness to discuss it.
Commitments to build a genuine strategic partnership were jointly set forth in the Joint Statement of the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon in 2010. Russia put forward a proposal for a more effective joint fight against common security challenges (including missile defense). However, the provisions of the document saying that the security of all states of the Euro-Atlantic community is indivisible and the security of NATO and Russia is intertwined, haven’t been put into practice. The Alliance continued to be used as an instrument to secure the interests of narrow groups to the detriment of the objective needs of the Pan-European and global security.
When looked at unbiasedly, allegations of military threats to NATO Allies from the Russian Federation appear unfunded. They are aimed at justifying the build-up of NATO forces at the so-called “eastern flank” of the Alliance.
The statistics speaks for itself. According to the latest assessments of Western experts the total military budget of NATO Allies is more than 1,023 trillion US dollars (of which 735 billions fall to the US share). At the same time Russian defense expenditures is 17 times smaller and amount to about 60 billion US dollars. Russia ranks as the world’s 40th in terms of proportion of defense expenditures to the length of state separators.
One should also take into account that the growth of the Russian defense expenditures was in many respects caused by the necessity to compensate a years-long gap in financing of the Russian Armed Forces, especially in the 1990s, to replace obsolete equipment, to raise personnel allowances to a proper level and to solve numerous social problems of the servicemen.
Unlike the US, Russia does not deploy elements of its nuclear potential beyond its separators (whereas the US non-strategic nuclear armaments are based in five non-nuclear European countries). Russia does not have a huge web of military bases in different regions of the world, does not strive for an “assured military superiority”.
In strategic terms the NATO expansion brought its military infrastructure directly to the Russian separators. In case of a military conflict critical infrastructure in almost all European part of the Russian territory will be open to attacks by air forces of NATO member states. The so-called on-flight time was halved.
The measures undertaken since 2008 aimed at bringing certain military facilities in the Baltic countries, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria closer to NATO standards make such objectives even more achievable.
Within the framework of the bilateral cooperation the US plans to substantially strengthen the military potential of its Eastern European allies by equipping their armed forces with advanced armaments, for instance aerial cruise missiles “JASSM”. This would enable tactical air forces of the NATO member states to strike targets deep on the Russian territory without entering the operating zone of the Russian air defense.
Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis the Alliance uses the pretext of the so-called “Russian aggression” to increase consistently its military presence close to the Russian separators.
The ongoing reinforcement of the NATO “Eastern flank” fuels additional tensions and undermines military security in the European region which was previously considered the most peaceful in military terms. Moreover, an increased military activity raises risks of unintended dangerous incidents.
Up to 30 military aircrafts from NATO member states, no less than 300 armored vehicles and more than 1500 servicemen of the US land forces and marines are currently stationed in Eastern European states on the so-called “persistent rotational” (in fact permanent) basis.
Warships of the NATO member states navies, including non-regional (first of all belonging to the US), are almost permanently present in the Black sea basin. The navy formations which patrol the Baltic (First Standing Mine Counter-Measures Group) and the Mediterranean (First Standing Naval Force) sea basins under the NATO flag are reinforced.
The scale and composition of allied military exercises in Europe were increased. In 2014, the number of operational and combat trainings grew by 80%, more than 200 NATO's, multilateral and national maneuvers were held in Europe.
At the same time, it is to note that Alliance's most large-scale exercises Saber Strike and BALTOPS were held in May-June 2014 closely to Russian separators, on the territory of Baltic States, Poland and in the Baltic Sea. The orientation of these activities was not held in secret.
During this period NATO countries established the Baltic group of forces, numbering about 10 thousand soldiers, about 1,500 armored vehicles, 80 planes and helicopters and 50 warships. It is symptomatic that five USAF strategic bombers, deployed at RAF Fairford in the UK, were conducting specific tasks during the exercises.
According to the information we receive, 65% of the maneuvers planned within 2015 combat training program will be held in Central and Eastern Europe.
Operational capacity of the NATO coalition armed forces is being increased in accordance with the Alliance's Readiness Action Plan approved at the UK Summit in September 2014.
For example, in 2016 it is planned to increase the number of stand-by units of NATO Response Force (NRF) from 13 to 30 thousand. Within NRF it is also envisaged to create a multi-service Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (with land, air and sea components) able to be quickly deployed (from two to seven days). It will consist of 5000 troops.
Whereas initially NRF mainly targeted terrorist organizations, since mid-2014 it particularly provides for getting ready to face and meet an “aggression of an eastern neighbor" implying Russia.
To ensure the coordination of the deployment of these groups at the Russian separators, as well as the organization of appropriate training and interaction with the national armed forces of the host countries, it was decided to establish a network of six advanced command centers in the Baltic countries, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. Such elements may possibly be set up in other countries of the region.
At the same time a system of logistic support, including warehousing facilities for military equipment, ammunition, fuels and lubricants, and other supplies, is planned to be established on the territory of the Eastern European countries. The question of heavy weaponry prepositioning is being advanced to a practical level.
It is planned to significantly modernize military and related civilian infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe. In particular, the United States reserved more than 110 million USD for these purposes in its 2015 defense budget.
All of the above makes it possible not only to rapidly deploy NATO coalition forces near our separators, but also, if necessary, to significantly accelerate the subsequent establishment of groups of forces by reducing the time of transferring units from the continental US and the UK.
In addition, a Host Nation Support agreement was signed with Finland and Sweden, which in fact legitimizes the possibility of NATO troops to stay on the territories of these countries and to use their infrastructure to support the lift of coalition forces to the north of Europe.
The activities of military aircraft of Russia and NATO countries deserve a particular attention. The hype by the Alliance about the «risks» for civilian air traffic posed by flights of the Russian military aircraft near the separators of NATO countries «with transponders turned off» is obviously misleading.
The flights of Russian aircraft are carried out in strict compliance with international rules of airspace management – over the open sea without entering the airspace and violating separators of other states. This can be confirmed by objective technical control data for each particular case.
Statement by the NATO leadership about the intensified activities of the Russian Air Force over the Baltic and the Black Sea represents a distortion of facts. These measures were taken in response to the military build-up and activity of NATO countries near the Russian separators.
Given the fact that the military activities of NATO aircraft near the Russian separators outstrips the intensity of flying long-range aviation in Russia, it seems that the hype in the Western countries about the so-called incidents of the violations of rules by the Russian Air Force is aimed at diverting the attention of the international community from the build-up of forces and airborne weapons of NATO countries near the separators of our country.
NATO countries have increased significantly (4-fold) its Baltic air policing mission. The intensity of reconnaissance flights by the US Air Force and Alliance members over the territory of the Baltic countries, the Baltic and Barents Seas, has risen remarkably accounting for up to 8-12 sorties per week. The flight routes lie in the vicinity of the Russian separators.
Strategic reconnaissance flights by the US Air Force RC-135 are conducted almost on a daily basis. In 2014, more than 140 RC-135 flights were carried out (in 2013 – 22 flights).
In comparison with 2013 the intensity of reconnaissance flights of NATO countries over the Black Sea has increased by two times. Since January 2015 regular flights of US strategic reconnaissance «Global Hawk» drones have been seen in this area (and in March 2015 they appeared in the airspace of Ukraine for the first time).
NATO countries use airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) E-3A «AWACS» from airbases «Geilenkirchen» (Germany), «Konya» (Turkey) and «Preveza» (Greece) to monitor the traffic situation in the western part of the Black Sea, over the territory of Ukraine and in western regions of the Russian Federation. Similar aircraft of the British RAF and France from airbases «Waddington» and «Avord» have been periodically used for the same purposes.
These aircraft carry out duty flights in the airspace of Poland and Romania with increased intensity from two flights per month in January - February 2014 up to 40-60 flights per month in March-December 2014. Their total number increased from 20 during the same period in 2013 up to 460 in 2014. The total number of sorties of NATO tactical aviation in the separator regions of Russia and Belarus in 2014 compared to 2013 increased by two times and amounted to more than 3,000 sorties.
All these facts testify to an unprecedented increase in the activities of the Armed Forces of NATO countries near the separators of the Russian Federation. Such actions are accompanied by provocative statements about the need to ''deter'' Russia and an aggressive propaganda campaign unleashed recently against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis. Obviously, this is not helping to reduce tensions.
The allegations of Russia’s «unreadiness» for a «genuine cooperation» sound unsubstantiated. The events in Ukraine were immediately used by the Alliance to return to the initial function of collective defense from the threat from the East. NATO decided on 1 April 2014 to suspend all practical cooperation and de-facto to stop the work of the NATO-Russian Council. From the very beginning we were speaking in favor of making the NRC an «all-weather» forum for political dialogue under any circumstances and on all issues, including those that we disagree on.
In in February 2014 a coup d’état took place in Kiev which was organized with the help of nationalist and radical elements. The agreement between the legitimate (at that time) authorities and the opposition, which was signed with the active participation of Western countries, was violated. The violent suppression of dissent took place, leading to the armed confrontation in Eastern Ukraine.
The accusations by some NATO officials of the so-called ‘Russian aggression in South-Eastern Ukraine’ remain unfounded and ungrounded. No proofs to substantiate these statements were officially provided, except for several so-called ‘conclusive evidence’ which appeared to be false. Moreover, no facts testifying to the concentration of the Russian troops near the Russian-Ukrainian separator or undeclared military activity were not established within the current mechanisms of confidence-building measures, e.g. inspections under the Vienna Document observation flights under the Open Sky Treaty. At the same time there are examples of actions by the Kiev authorities which have been classified by influential international organizations as violations of international rules. However, these facts have not been duly qualified by NATO.
The current negative tendencies are not Russia’s choice. We are convinced that there is no real alternative to mutually beneficial and wide cooperation between Russia and NATO on the basis of equality, pragmatism and respect for the interests of each other. Russia is not interested in the confrontation or spiraling into a new Cold War.
The decision by NATO to freeze NRC activities has the potential to cause and actually has already led to negative consequences - military and political risks have increased, as well as «missed opportunities» from the absence of cooperation with Russia.
The Alliance’s choice to suspend practical collaboration with Russia does not contribute to the fight against threats and challenges which are common to all NRC members. The suspension of the NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund (on the training of helicopter technicians and purchasing helicopter Mi17/Mi35 spare parts for the Afghan Army), as well as of the NRC Project on Counter-Narcotic Training of Afghan, Central Asian and Pakistani Personnel have weakened the capacity of the Afghan national security forces. It’s especially important now that they are taking full responsibility for the security and stability in the country. It is clear that the interests of stabilization in Afghanistan suffer as a result of the NATO decision to suspend these projects.
The suspension of data exchanges within the NRC Cooperative Airspace Initiative (aimed at combating terrorist threats from the air, facilitating cooperation in case of technical failures or emergency situations) objectively lowers the level of security of flights and deprives of additional opportunities to save lives of our citizens.
And who will win from the suspension of the NRC Project on Standoff Detection of Explosive Devices and Suicide Bombers in Mass Transport (STANDEX)?
Another missed opportunity is the absence of information exchange on the terrorist threats evolving from the Middle East and North Africa, including the expansion of the «Islamic State» and the issue of terrorists returning from the conflict areas. The experience of work within the NRC proved the added value of this format as a forum for information exchange.
In the modern world the only way to effectively fight against transnational challenges and threats is through joint efforts.
We are convinced that this fact sheet will allow an impartial observer to understand the history of relations between Russia and NATO and to make conclusions based on the real facts and not their interpretations.