Euro-Russo Split Widens Part One
Moscow (UPI) Sep 8, 2008
Russia's Defense Ministry has officially informed NATO headquarters in Brussels of its decision to suspend all military cooperation with its counterparts in the alliance.
The move came after similar notices were received by the defense ministries of Norway, Estonia and Latvia.
This means that all joint events between the Russian army and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries planned for this year will be either canceled or rescheduled, figuratively mothballed.
Still, Moscow so far has made no reported attempt to cease relations with Brussels, as it did in March 1991 after NATO aircraft began strikes on Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Official NATO envoys were then given 48 hours to leave Moscow.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov said Aug. 28 at a Moscow briefing: "We aren't planning to slam the door, and they are keeping the door open, too. It will all depend on NATO's choice, on their priorities, not ours."
He said Russia does not need the cooperation as much as NATO does. The alliance wants Moscow for a partner. It wants our support, especially with regard to international operations in Afghanistan, "which is bound to decide the alliance's future. ... Russia's support (in Afghanistan) is crucial for NATO," Lavrov said.
It certainly would be too simple to believe that Moscow-NATO relations became strained after Russia launched its "peace enforcement" operation against Georgian aggressors who ruthlessly bombed and shelled the peaceful city of Tskhinvali, killing innocent civilians -- women, children and elderly people -- and Russian peacekeepers who happened to be there on a noble mission of keeping peace in that unstable Caucasian region.
There had been an increase in tension since NATO refused, possibly under Washington's pressure, to heed Russia's concerns over the unfair distribution of heavy weaponry quotas under the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which happened after the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the accession of former socialist countries and some Soviet republics to NATO.
NATO was indeed quite comfortable with more tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery and aircraft in all the main theaters of operation, and with "gray zones" not subject to inspection. NATO could deploy any number of weapons in these zones without looking back at the CFE.
The Atlantic alliance preferred to ignore Moscow's disapproval, and we know what happened next. The CFE collapsed, burying every instrument of defense transparency and trust in Europe.
Later, Ukraine's and Georgia's NATO accession plans brought yet another disturbing development into Moscow's relations with the Atlantic alliance. NATO began engaging Kiev in its projects with persistence worthy of a better use, despite the fact that the majority of Ukrainians were strongly opposed to the plan.
First, Ukraine's neutrality is documented in its constitution. Second, a NATO rule says a country cannot be admitted unless its population fully supports the move. But what does NATO care for rules if they are contrary to its political and military priorities?
NATO relations with Georgia are even more incredible. NATO isn't even baffled by the fact that the country has serous conflicts with its own breakaway regions that have been subdued by Georgian forces, suffered ethnic purges and finally proclaimed themselves independent.
(Part 2: The threat hanging over Russia's military and security cooperation programs with NATO)
(Nikita Petrov is a Russian military commentator. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
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Moscow (AFP) Sept 8, 2008
Russia said Monday it was dispatching a nuclear cruiser and other warships and planes to the Caribbean for joint exercises with Venezuela, the first such manoeuvres in the US vicinity since the Cold War.
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