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Kremlin Continues to Mistrust NATO


As NATO prepares for its 60th anniversary summit in Germany on April 3 and 4, Russia's suspicion of the Western alliance remains almost as strong as when the grouping was founded.

Today, Moscow is not just upset that NATO's newest members include former Soviet satellite nations, but that continued expansion of the alliance could bring in Ukraine and Georgia, former republics of the USSR that border Russia.

On March 5, NATO foreign ministers agreed to resume ties with Moscow frozen after Russia's conflict with Georgia last August.

Russia's NATO ambassador, Dmitri Rogozin, welcomed the move.

"Our baseline is that this decision is a positive one," he said. "We also take into account the complexities and difficulties which NATO had to overcome to correct the decision it took in August, when it adopted the popular slogan of, 'No business as usual regarding Russia."

But Russia remains wary of NATO. Moscow is particularly concerned that Georgia and Ukraine will join the alliance.

When he served as President, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Ukraine if NATO were to deploy missiles in that country.

Last June, he also threatened to terminate ties with Ukrainian defense industries that rely heavily on contracts with Russia.

He stated, "As for sensitive technologies, and first of all high-tech missile as well as other modern military technologies, we will think ahead in the case … and on how to proceed, regardless of any financial expenses for Russia."

During his March 12 address in Prague marking the tenth anniversary of Czech, Polish and Hungarian NATO membership, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said NATO enlargement remains part of a strategy to consolidate Europe as an undivided and democratic security space.

"At the same time, it is clear that the NATO-Russia relationship is too valuable to be stuck in arguments over enlargement; or for that matter over missile defense; or for that matter over Kosovo," said the secretary-general.

But, these issues are important for Moscow.

Independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer describes Russia as an authoritarian state, which is seeking ways to gain advantage by pressuring NATO and the U.S.

Threatening supply operations in Afghanistan is one such pressure point, he says.

"The most important foreign policy objective of the Obama Administration is success in Afghanistan, but in many regards, we [Russians] control U.S. access to Afghanistan," Felgenhauer explained. "So it seems to us that we can force the Americans to grant serious concessions."

An example of such pressure is Russia's recent two-billion dollar aid package to Kyrgyzstan.

That assistance is widely seen as the reason why the Kyrgyz government is closing the U.S. air base in that country.

Moscow has also been waging an intense propaganda campaign against the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Central Europe, despite assurances from Presidents Bush and Obama that it would be aimed at Iran, not Russia.

Mr. Obama has made clear that he seeks better relations with Russia, but not at the expense of NATO allies.

"I've said that we need to reset or reboot the relationship there," said Mr. Obama. "Russia needs to understand our unflagging commitment to the independence and security of countries like Poland or the Czech Republic. On the other hand, we have areas of common concern."

Senior U.S., Russian and NATO officials have indicated all sides can co-operate on issues of mutual concern, which include nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, piracy and drug trafficking.

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