NATO–Russia relations

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NATO–Russian relations, relations between the NATO military alliance and the Russian Federation were established in 1991. In 1994 Russia joined the Partnership for Peace programme.[1] During the 1990s, the two sides signed several important agreements on cooperation.[2]

The Russia–NATO council was set up in 2002, for handling security issues and joint projects. Cooperation between Russia and NATO now develops in several main sectors: fighting terrorism, military cooperation, cooperation on Afghanistan (including transportation by Russia of non-military International Security Assistance Force freight (see NATO logistics in the Afghan War), and fighting the local drug production), industrial cooperation, non-proliferation, and others.

On 1 April 2014, NATO unilaterally decided to suspend practical co-operation with the Russian Federation, in response to the Ukraine crisis.[3]

Early cooperation (1991–2002)[edit]

Coat of arms of the Permanent Mission of Russia to NATO[4]

Formal contacts and cooperation between Russia and NATO started in 1991, within the framework of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (later renamed Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) and were further deepened as Russia joined the Partnership for Peace programme on June 22, 1994.[5]

On 27 May 1997, at the NATO summit in Paris, Nato and Russia signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security,[6] a road map for would-be NATO-Russia cooperation. The parties stated they did not see each other as adversaries, and, ″based on an enduring political commitment undertaken at the highest political level, will build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security″.

NATO–Russia Council[edit]

Meeting of the NATO–Russia council in Bucharest, Romania on 4 April 2008

The NATO-Russia Council was created on 28 May 2002 during the 2002 NATO Summit in Rome. The council has been an official diplomatic tool for handling security issues and joint projects between NATO and Russia, involving "consensus-building, consultations, joint decisions and joint actions." [7][8]

"Joint decisions and actions", taken under NATO-Russia Council agreements, include fighting terrorism,[9][10] military cooperation (joint military exercises[11] and personnel training[12]), cooperation on Afghanistan (Russia providing training courses for anti-narcotics officers from Afghanistan and Central Asia countries in cooperation with the UN), transportation by Russia of non-military freight in support of NATO's ISAF in Afghanistan, industrial cooperation, cooperation on defence interoperability, non-proliferation, and other areas.[2]

The heads of state for NATO Allies and Russia gave a positive assessment of NATO-Russia Council achievements in a Bucharest summit meeting in April 2008,[8] though both sides have expressed mild discontent with the lack of actual content resulting from the council. In January 2009, the Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said the NATO-Russia council was "a body where scholastic discussions were held." A US official shared this view, stating: "We want now to structure cooperation more practically, in areas where you can achieve results, instead of insisting on things that won't happen."[13]

Conflicts of interests[edit]

Georgia war and recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia[edit]

Relations between Russia and NATO became strained in summer 2008 due to Russia's war with Georgia. Later the North Atlantic Council condemned Russia for recognizing the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states.[14] The Secretary General of NATO claimed that Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia violated numerous UN Security Council resolutions, including resolutions endorsed by Russia. Russia, in turn, insisted the recognition was taken basing on the situation on the ground, and was in line with the UN Charter, the CSCE Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and other fundamental international law;[15] Russian media heavily stressed the precedent of the recent Kosovo declaration of independence.

Relations were further strained in May 2009 when NATO expelled two Russia diplomats over accusations of espionage. It has also added to the tension already created by proposed NATO military exercises in Georgia, as the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said,

"The planned NATO exercises in Georgia, no matter how one tries to convince us otherwise, are an overt provocation. One cannot carry out exercises in a place where there was just a war."[16]

Before the Russian Parliamentary elections in 2011, President Dmitry Medvedev was also quoted as saying that had Russia not joined the 2008 South Ossetia war, NATO would have expanded further eastward.[17]

NATO Missile defence[edit]

Further information: NATO missile defence system

The Russian Government says that a US proposed missile defence system in Poland and in the Czech Republic could threaten its own defences. The Russian Space Forces commander, Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin stated in 2007 that "[the] trajectories of Iranian or Korean missiles would hardly pass anywhere near the territory of the Czech republic, but every possible launch of Russian ICBM from the territory of the European Russia, or made by Russian Northern Fleet would be controlled by the [radar] station".[18][19]

However, in 2009, Barack Obama cancelled the missile defence project in Poland and Czech Republic after Russia threatened the US with military response, and warned Poland that by agreeing to NATO's anti-missile system, it was exposing itself to a strike or nuclear attack from Russia.[citation needed]

Russia has also warned against moving defensive missiles to Turkey's border with Syria.[20][21]

In February 2010, Romania announced a deal with the US for an anti-missile defence system, which Russia interpreted as a threat to its national security. The system is expected to be operational in 2015.[22]

Future enlargement plans of NATO to Ukraine and Georgia[edit]

The Russian Government believes plans to expand NATO to Ukraine and Georgia may negatively affect European security. Likewise, Russians are mostly strongly opposed to any eastward expansion of NATO.[23][24] The former President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev stated in 2008 that "no country would be happy about a military bloc to which it did not belong approaching its borders".[25][26]

Cooperation on Afghanistan transit[edit]

In December 2009, NATO approached Russia for help in Afghanistan, requesting permission for the alliance to fly cargo (including possibly military ones) over Russian territory to Afghanistan, and to provide more helicopters for the Afghan armed forces.[27] Russia has so far denied these requests, although it has continued to allow transit of non-military supplies through its territory.[28]

Suggestions of Russia joining NATO[edit]

The idea of Russia becoming a NATO member has at different times been floated by both Western and Russian leaders, as well as some experts.[29]

In March 2009, the Polish Foreign Minister, Radosław Sikorski, suggested including Russia in NATO.[13] The Russian leadership, however, made it clear Russia did not plan to join the alliance, preferring to keep cooperation on a lower level now. In March 2009, the Russian envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, in response to Radosław Sikorski′s proposal, while not ruling out NATO membership at some point in the future, was quoted as saying: "Great powers don't join coalitions, they create coalitions. Russia considers itself a great power."[13]

In early 2010, the suggestion was repeated in an open letter co-written by German defense experts General Klaus Naumann, Frank Elbe, Ulrich Weisser, and former German Defense Minister Volker Rühe. The letter′s authors posited that Russia was needed in the wake of an emerging multi-polar world in order for NATO to counterbalance emerging Asian powers.[30]

In Sept 2010, in New York, the NATO-Russia Council met for the first time after relations were suspended as a result of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war of 2008; on the eve of the meeting, the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, Ivo Daalder, mentioned the hypothetical possibility of Russia joining NATO.[31]

Recent developments. Suspension of cooperation[edit]

On 6 June 2011, NATO and Russia participated in their first ever joint fighter jet exercise, dubbed "Vigilant Skies 2011". Since the Cold War, this is only the second joint military venture between the alliance and Russia, with the first being a joint submarine exercise which begun on 30 May 2011.[32]

In April 2012, there were some protests in Russia over their country's involvement with NATO, mostly made up of Ultranationalist and Pro Leftist groups.[33]

Reuters reported in February 2014 that Russia and NATO were drawing up plans to jointly guard the MV Cape Ray as it is used to dismantle Syrian chemical weapons.[34]

In early March 2014, tensions began flaring between NATO and Russia as Russian troops moved into Crimea to annex the territory that it claimed as historically Russian. NATO condemned Russia's actions as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.[35] On 1 April 2014, NATO issued a statement by NATO foreign ministers that said, among other things: ″We have decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Our political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, to allow us to exchange views, first and foremost on this crisis″.[36]

On 16 June 2015, Tass quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov as saying: “None of the Russia-NATO programs that used to be at work are functioning at a working level.”[37]


  1. ^ Signatures of the Partnership for Peace Framework Document
  2. ^ a b Fact sheet of NATO-Russia Council practical cooperation
  3. ^ "Ukraine crisis: Nato suspends Russia co-operation". BBC News (Russia: BBC News). 2014-04-02. Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  4. ^ "The Permanent Mission of Russia to NATO". Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  5. ^ Formal NATO-Russia Relations
  6. ^ Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation Paris, 27 May 1997
  7. ^ NATO-Russia council Statement
  8. ^ a b NATO's relations with Russia
  9. ^ NATO-Russia council on Terrorism
  10. ^ NATO-Russia to practise anti-terrorist response
  11. ^ RFS and NATO ships joint manoeuvres
  12. ^ Allies and Russia attend U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accident Exercise
  13. ^ a b c "Russia does not rule out future NATO membership". EUobserver. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  14. ^ "NATO Press Release (2008)108 – 27 Aug 2008". Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  15. ^ "NATO Press Release (2008)107 – 26 Aug 2008". Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  16. ^ "Nato-Russia relations plummet amid spying, Georgia rows". Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  17. ^ "Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia prevented NATO growth – Medvedev | Russia | RIA Novosti". 2011-11-21. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  18. ^ "Военные считают ПРО в Европе прямой угрозой России – Мир – Правда.Ру". 2007-08-22. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  19. ^ "Q&A: US missile defence". BBC News. 20 September 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  20. ^ "Russia Warns Against NATO Missiles on Syrian Border."
  21. ^ "Turkish Request for Missiles Strains Ties with Russia."
  22. ^
  23. ^ Bush backs Ukraine on Nato bid, BBC NEWS (1 April 2008)
  24. ^ Ukraine Says 'No' to NATO, Pew Research Center (29 March 2010)
  25. ^ What's New In Russia's New Military Doctrine?
  26. ^ "Medvedev warns on Nato expansion". BBC News. 25 March 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  27. ^ NATO chief asks for Russian help in Afghanistan Reuters Retrieved on 9 March 2010
  28. ^ Moscow denies NATO access to Afghanistan Russia Today Retrieved on 9 March 2010
  29. ^ Could NATO Membership For Russia Break Impasse In European Security Debate?, 5 February 2010.
  30. ^ Ex-minister wants to bring Russia into NATO Der Spiegel Retrieved on 9 March 2010
  31. ^ 5 Reasons Why Russia Will Never Join NATO The Moscow Times, 19 November 2010.
  32. ^ Russian and NATO jets conduct first joint exercise
  33. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (21 April 2012). "Russians Protest Plan for NATO Site in Ulyanovsk". The New York Times. 
  34. ^ "Exclusive: Russia, NATO Plan Joint Operation on Syria's Chemical Weapons". New York Times (Reuters). 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  35. ^ "NATO warns Russia to cease and desist in Ukraine". Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  36. ^ "Statement by NATO foreign ministers, 1 April 2014". 
  37. ^ Not a single Russia-NATO cooperation program works — Russian diplomat TASS, 16 June 2015.

Further reading[edit]

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