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MOSCOW, October 2. /TASS/. Russia pins new expectations on NATO’s newly-appointed Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg. A born leader, former Norwegian prime minister and chief of the Norwegian Workers’ Party, Stoltenberg in his new capacity of NATO’s chief is capable of taking the initiative to try to defuse tensions in relations between the alliance and Russia, or he may choose to be an advocate of the United States’ hard line policies, polled experts told TASS.
Stoltenberg’s first statements made at a news conference in Brussels on October 1, the day of his inauguration, were traditionally bellicose and matching well the rhetoric of his predecessor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Stoltenberg said Russia’s actions in Ukraine were one of the main challenges to NATO. Russia, he said, “maintains its ability to destabilize Ukraine” and “remains in breach of international law.” At the same time he voiced the readiness for cooperation with Russia. "I see no contradiction between a strong NATO and our continued effort to build a constructive relationship with Russia," he declared.
“NATO’s newly-appointed secretary-general is just another high-ranking bureaucrat who will be acting within the established system of coordinates. The role of personality in history should not be exaggerated. Germany’s Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel had looked Russia’s best friend until just recently, but now, under current external pressures she is Moscow’s harshest critic in the whole European Union,” the head of the International Security Centre under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Aleksey Arbatov, told TASS.
“If major NATO players, in the first place, the United States, find the situation in Ukraine favourable enough for easing tensions in relations with Russia, Stoltenberg may add some initiatives of his own through consultations within the Russia-NATO Council. But if Russia-NATO relations continue to develop under a negative scenario, the newly-appointed secretary-general will have to be an advocate of the hard line. NATO’s secretary-general does not shape the alliance’s policy, but translates it into life,” Arbatov said.
“Of course, NATO’s leadership and Russia should exert efforts to overcome the current crisis in their relations - the deepest since the end of the Cold War, but the personality of the alliance’s secretary-general decides nothing. The alliance’s policy will be mapped by the 28 member-countries of NATO. Their position will largely depend on progress in the peace process in Ukraine. And the NATO countries, in the first place the United States, put the responsibility for the peace process on Russia,” Arbatov said.
“NATO’s bureaucracy will never be independent in its actions, let alone actions in relations with Russia. The Russia-NATO Council was created for promoting understanding between the two sides in acute international situations. But as soon as the crisis in Ukraine broke out, Brussels succumbed to Washington’s pressures to shut the doors of the Russia-NATO Council in defiance of the very logic of this institution’s existence,” a deputy director of the Institute of US and Canada Studies, Major-General Pavel Zolotaryov, told TASS.