News / Europe

NATO, Russia Move Toward Cooperation

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks at the Caspian summit in Baku, Azerbaijan, 18 Nov 2010
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks at the Caspian summit in Baku, Azerbaijan, 18 Nov 2010
James Brooke

Russia is helping NATO in Afghanistan and keeping an open mind about a NATO missile-defense shield over Europe. 

NATO is offering Russia "a fresh start" - and the Kremlin is interested.

Following a series of friendly meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is to address the NATO-Russia summit Saturday in Lisbon.  This will be the highest-level such meeting since Russia invaded Georgia two years ago and pushed relations to rock bottom.

In Lisbon, Russia's president is expected to offer wider help to the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan.  On the American-led missile defense shield for Europe, he is offering an open mind.

President Obama has noticed the change, saying after meeting with Russia's president Sunday in Japan, "I am glad to have him as an excellent partner on a whole range of issues."

In Moscow, Air Force Commander Alexander Zelin told Interfax after briefing foreign air force attaches, "We will continue developing our air and space defenses and tackling tasks of non-strategic and strategic air defenses.  God willing, we will tackle this task jointly with NATO."

But in November 2008, President Medvedev denounced the American missile-defense plan and vowed to deploy missiles and radar-jamming equipment near Russia's border with Poland.  

Much has changed since then, as Russia's economy has fallen back, and China's economy has jumped forward. 

'Junior partner'


Russian political analyst Konstantin von Eggert says China increasingly treats Russia as a junior partner, is elbowing Russia out of Central Asia, and is leaping ahead of Russia in the quality of its military technologies.  He says the Kremlin took note of China's recent aggressive moves against Japanese and Vietnamese sea claims.

"I have heard quite a few people among the military who say they look east as the rising source of danger," he said.

But on the European end of Russia's Eurasian landmass, Russians say President Obama does not share George W. Bush's interest in expanding NATO to Russia's borders.  A pro-Russian government in Ukraine is essentially dropping Ukraine's NATO candidacy, and Georgia remains embroiled in fights with Russia and two Kremlin-supported secessionist provinces.  As a result, there is little support inside NATO to admit Georgia to Europe's self-defense club.

Moscow analyst Mikhail Troitsky says Russia needs European capital and technology to get its economic growth back.

'Reapproachement'

"You cannot advance in modernization by attracting foreign investment and best practices if you remain in relations of mutual deterrence with the countries that you consider to be the main sources of those technologies.  The rapprochement with NATO is being driven by considerations of that kind," he said.

Indeed, as the Kremlin caters to Russia's middle class, Moscow's loudest demands on Europe have recently been for a visa-free regime for Russian tourists.

Russia's NATO turnaround is most striking with Afghanistan.  During the Bush years, the Kremlin largely complained about the NATO military operation in Afghanistan.  But, with the Obama administration announcing that it will start to end major combat operations in Afghanistan next summer, Russia's leaders are pondering a post-NATO Afghanistan.

Kremlin's major concern

If the drawdown of NATO's 120,000 troops destabilizes the Kabul government, analyst Von Eggert says Islamic fundamentalism could spread north into the five Central Asian nations that once were Soviet republics.

"Russia has in fact transparent, translucent borders with the Central Asian states," he said. "So whatever Islamic radicalism is going to be imported into places like Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, it is going to go all the way - straight to Moscow.  This is something that gives a lot of Russian decision makers creeps."

In Lisbon, Russia is to offer to allow NATO to ship back and forth across Russia heavy lethal equipment, such as armored personnel carriers for to Afghanistan.  Current arrangements allow only for the one-way transport of non-lethal NATO supplies, such as food and fuel.  Last week, Russian cargo planes delivered 20,000 Kalashnikov rifles to Kabul.

At the NATO meeting, Russia is expected to agree to send to Afghanistan 20 MI-17 transport helicopters and to train Afghan pilots and mechanics.  In the late 1970s, Soviet engineers designed these helicopters specifically for the Soviet war in Afghanistan.  In that war, Soviet forces suffered 15,000 dead and 50,000 wounded.

Today Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin says sending Russian troops to Afghanistan is "taboo."  He tells Ria Novosti, "We have already been in Afghanistan, and we did not like it."

The closest Russia has come is allowing four of its anti-narcotics agents to participate in recent American raids against drug laboratories in Afghanistan.  About two million Russians are addicted to heroin and opium, which largely come from Afghanistan.  On Saturday, Russia is to offer to open a counter-narcotics center near St. Petersburg to train agents from Afghanistan and Central Asia. 

True mood changes?


Russia's new cooperation with NATO has its critics.

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov warns Interfax the Kremlin is preparing to join "the surviving elements of the Russian Army and Navy to the U.S. and NATO expedition forces.  All this means is that Russia is voluntarily leaving the ranks of the world's leading powers."

Some Europeans wonder if Russia truly plans to cooperate with NATO.  Historically Russia's closest neighbors have given the earliest and most accurate alerts about mood changes of the Russian bear.  

Now, Poland President Bronislaw Komorowski worries the cooperation could be real.  In a newspaper essay, he warns about NATO developing relations with Russia "at the expense of the security interests of other countries in Eastern Europe."

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs