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MOSCOW, May 27 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia and NATO mark key dates of their history on May 27-28. The Russia-NATO Founding Act, the main legal document of the relationship, was signed on May 27, 1997. The main cooperation instrument, the Russia-NATO Council, was established at the Rome summit on May 28, 2002. The Council’s role and weight has been growing steadily.
The Russia-NATO interaction has had its ups and downs in the latest period. There have been a number of crises, such as the NATO operation in Serbia in 1999, the NATO enlargement into Eastern Europe in 2004, the Western hysterical reaction to the Russian peace enforcement operation against Georgia in South Ossetia in 2008 and the hitherto unsolved problem of NATO missile defense in Europe. There were lesser disagreements, as well, among them the recognition of independent Kosovo and the highly doubtful military campaign of NATO in Libya.
Nevertheless, Russia and the alliance are partners, and mutual understanding and openness continue to grow. The sides are mature enough to learn lessons of their altercations and to work towards an improvement of their partnership.
Some disagreements remain, but there are also cooperation spheres of mutual interest, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen keeps telling.
There have been other episodes in Russia-NATO relations, as well. Following the terror attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Moscow was the first to support Washington and to offer assistance in the deterrence of terrorism. Russia is rendering support to the coalition operation in Afghanistan. The sides have a number of agreements on non-military transit supporting the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The steady northern transit route is invaluable for NATO amid constant problems transit encounters in Pakistan.
The helicopter deal was the second joint project in Afghanistan. The United States bought 21 Russian helicopters for the Afghan Armed Forces. Russia pledged to give maintenance to the helicopters and to train personnel. Courses opened in Novosibirsk to train Afghan technicians, who would service the helicopters.
The Russian Interior Ministry center in Domodedovo near Moscow has been training Afghan drug control officers for six years. Russia is very much interested in the successful work of the officers, who may help reduce the colossal inflow of Afghan drugs to Russia.
Russia and NATO have successes in some other spheres in addition to Afghanistan. The NATO Navy provided Russian Navy servicemen in May 2010 with reconnaissance data, which assisted the tracing of the Moscow University Russian tanker seized by sea pirates. Marines based on the Marshal Shaposhnikov warship released the tanker.
It was hard to imagine joint military exercises of Russia and NATO a decade ago. The sailors trained assistance to a submarine in distress in the course of last year’s Bold Monarch exercises. Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and Russian General Staff Chief Gen. Nikolai Makarov were aboard the rescue vehicle, which docked with Russia’s Alrosa submarine lying on the depth of over 100 meters during the practice. Probably, some crewmembers of the Russian Kursk nuclear-powered submarine, which sank in August 2000, could have been saved if the navies had been cooperating then.
Russia and NATO practiced escorting of a transport plane ‘seized by terrorists’ in the NATO airspace and taken across the Russian border during the Vigilant Skies exercises.
A number of air defense war games proved that Russian and NATO missile defense systems were compatible and could enhance the efficiency of a common missile defense network.
Russia and NATO have taken a number of unprecedented steps towards mutually beneficial arms trade.
The sides are also developing new-generation explosive detectors, which may build up security of public transport.
In fact, Russia-NATO cooperation in the past 15 years showed that servicemen found a common language more easily than politicians. The use of the available cooperation potential requires a high level of political understanding, which has not been attained so far because of different interests and approaches to security, as well as numerous stereotypes and complexes.
Russia and NATO have always found ways out of the crises. “The crisis 2008 [over the war in Georgia] had a positive effect on our cooperation – it helped us rid of plenty of demagogy in the Russia-NATO Council and concentrate on truly important affairs,” Dmitry Rogozin said in his being the Russian Permanent Representative to NATO.
The new goal is the settlement of missile defense disagreements. Time will show whether Russia and NATO are capable of reaching a compromise and learning a constructive lesson.