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Termination of NATO-Russia relations fraught with risk of sudden crisis - analysts

June 17, 2015, 20:08 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© TASS/Yuri Smityuk

MOSCOW, June 17. /TASS/. NATO’s actual termination of cooperation with Russia cannot but raise concerns, polled experts have told TASS.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov said on Tuesday that "at the working level not a single program ever launched in Russia-NATO relations is now in action." The latest official contact between Russia and NATO took place several weeks ago, when Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met in Brussels.

"Everything looks pretty clear: Russia was given the hotline phone numbers it may dial in emergency. And this is it," Meshkov said. Earlier, Lavrov said that all contacts between the Russian and US defence ministries, including those in the context of the Russia-NATO Council had been frozen, and not at Russia’s initiative, but by the United States.

The president of the Foreign and Defence Policy Council, Fyodor Lukyanov, believes that the Russia-NATO Council, the way it had existed until just recently, is now history.

"In general, the relations between Russia and NATO over the past twenty years were rather bureaucratic contacts. There have never been prospects for political cooperation and there are none in sight today. Before, NATO and the Soviet Union were in confrontation against each other, but they knew perfectly well where the "red line" not to be stepped over was. Now this awareness has been eroded to a dangerous degree," Lukyanov told TASS.

"In the current strained geopolitical situation it is important to establish contacts between those representatives of NATO and the Russian Armed Forces that are directly responsible for the operative situation and for the redeployment of military hardware. This is crucial not for the sake of achieving some sort of agreement, but for having the understanding what the other side has been doing so as to rule out an unforeseen march of events. It’s better to have it this way than no way at all. There have already been situations in which NATO’s and Russia’s warplanes and ships came too close to each other, which might have provoked a conflict," Lukyanov said.

"That NATO’s headquarters has agreed to give Russia the hot line numbers means communication has not been lost altogether and the two sides will be able to give each other a call in emergencies to defuse tensions. In any case, the parties should create some sort of contact agency instead of the Russia-NATO Council that has sunk into oblivion," Lukyanov said.

The director of the International Security Centre under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Aleksey Arbatov, believes that Russia and NATO should by all means stay open to contacts.

"Keeping the door shut would be very unwise. Any careless move by a bomber or a naval ship on either side may instantly trigger a major crisis," Arbatov told TASS.

"An escalation of world tensions, like those observed during the Cold War years during the Berlin or the Caribbean crisis should be prevented by all means. It would be appropriate to recall the 1972 convention on the prevention of incidents on and over the high seas and to project its provisions to the current situation, in which Russia and NATO conduct large-scale exercises," Arbatov believes.

"Last April joint operation was resumed of the military liaison group, which in 1946 through 1990 consisted of Soviet and Western specialists. Moreover, to rule out an unintentional clash contacts must be restored between Russia and NATO at the level of top military officials, or at least the commanders of military districts," Arbatov said. Asked who should pioneer such an initiative, Arbatov replied: "The one who is wiser."

State Councilor Nikolai Mikhailov, Russia’s Former Deputy Defence Minister, is certain the disruption of cooperation will harm both NATO and Russia. There will be more misunderstanding, distrust, suspicion and risks. It was not Moscow that took that unconstructive move, but Washington and Brussels," Mikhailov told TASS. "The Russian leadership’s stance looks encouraging. It has expressed concern, and not fear over the expansion of NATO’s infrastructures towards Russian borders and the termination of contacts with Brussels, but at the same time demonstrates calm, dignity and readiness to make an adequate response," Mikhailov said.

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