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
TEXT SIZE - +

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."


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid