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Russia and NATO: foes forever?

January 23, 2015, 19:17 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, January 23. /TASS/. Russian experts are passing skeptical notes as they comment on statements by officials of the North-Atlantic pact as regards the willingness of the latter to build fruitful relations with Moscow.

General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Operations, said in Brussels on Thursday that the bloc planned resuming contacts with the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

He said NATO officials have discussed extensively the resumption of communications and the importance of ties with high-ranking Russian military representatives.

Gen Breedlove confirmed NATO’S plans to restore contacts with the General Staff chief, Gen Valery Gerasimov.

He indicated among other things that he had contacts with Russian counterparts in March 2014 in the wake of events in Crimea and he praised that experience.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said still earlier, on January 8, that the bloc was seeking fruitful productive relations with Russia, including in the sphere of struggle with terrorism.

Along with it, he told a news briefing in Sofia on Thursday that NATO was planning a greater military presence in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and three former Soviet Baltic republics - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

In addition, he insisted on the importance of increasing the number of naval ships in the Black Sea. This will increase NATO’s presence on its eastern flank, Stoltenberg said.

He claimed that all of this was done for the purposes of defence and was part and parcel of the bloc’s collective defence.

In the course of last year, the US deployed several thousand servicemen, heavy armaments and several dozen combat aircraft in the Baltic countries and Poland. Five new military bases will be set up in the region and also supplementary rapid deployment forces for emergences dispatching anyplace in these countries will be created.

How does all of this tally with the stated desire to develop fruitful relations with Russia?

“Statements on the American side prove that the US would like to keep up its policy of an ever-increasing pressure on Russia and simultaneously to maintain cooperation in selected spheres important for it,” Vasily Kashin, a senior research fellow at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies told TASS.

The Russian side is discontent with an approach of this kind and it has made its position clear more than once, he said. Still contacts between military experts are beneficial for both sides on the face of extreme tensions in Eastern Europe.

“To prevent incidents, military people should communicate with one another,” Kashin said. “The general policy of confrontation doesn’t change and yet a need for cooperation on concrete issues does exist.”

“In some cases Russia agrees to collaborate while in other cases it wraps up collaboration because there’s no sense in keeping them up just because someone else wants them.”

There is no doubt that limited contracts with NATO should be regained once a deescalation of combat operations in Ukraine takes place so as to assure at least a minimal level of trust, Kashin said.

Since the situation has a bearing on nuclear powers and possible threats to global security, contacts should be resumed in the future. “But it’s clear as daylight that a return to the format of cooperation with the North-Atlantic alliance, which existed in the past, won’t be replicated in the immediate future - or ever at all, for that matter,” Kashin said.

“NATO believes its contacts with Russia should develop - in the spheres where NATO decision-makers find them lucrative,” says Dr. Alexey Podberyozkin, the director of the Center for Military and Political Research at MGIMO Diplomatic University.

“If you take the arms reduction talks, they press for reduction of precisely the weaponry systems, which they need,” he said. “The same goes for contacts. They are prepared to speak with us about Afghanistan, the International Space Station, or supplies of Russian weaponry to Iran.”

He believes that Russia-NATO relations will remain at the same low level where they are now.

“If we feel like acting a la Gorbachev and making concessions and compromises day after day, we’ll be good fair partners for them then but if we speak about equality and defence of our interests, we’ll always be passed off as imperialists,” Dr. Podberyozkin said.

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