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Russian, European retired political heavyweights urge deal to ward off military threats

August 27, 2015, 18:36 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
Nato military exercise

Nato military exercise

© AP Photo/Petr David Josek

MOSCOW, August 27. /TASS/. The latest call from retired Russian and European political heavy weights and public figures for breathing a new life into the activities of the Russia-NATO Council has met support from Russia’s leading experts.

The call for promptly convening a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council and getting down to work on an agreement to prevent military incidents in the air and on the high seas came from a group of former Russian and European defence and foreign ministers. The statement adopted by the members of the Greater Europe Project’s working group was published on the website of the Russian Council for International Affairs. The document carries the signatures of Russia’s former foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, Poland’s Adam Rotfleld, Spain’s Ana Palacio and Turkey’s Hikmet Cetin, Britain’s former defence minister Des Browne, Britain’s former foreign and defence minister, Malcolm Rifkind and former defence ministers of Germany Volker Ruhe and France Paul Quiles.

They recall that the past year saw 66 air and maritime incidents involving the armed forces of Russia, NATO, Sweden and Finland. Their idea is to convene an urgent meeting of the Russia-NATO Council to discuss the outlook for signing a memorandum of understanding between NATO and Russia regarding the rules of conduct that would guarantee safe interaction in the air and maritime space. The proposed agreement on these issues would be identical to the US-Chinese agreement of 2014.

Regardless of its practical results the message from Russian and European politicians is of great importance for lifting overall tensions in Russia-NATO relations, senior lecturer at the presidential academy RANEPA, Sergey Fokin, has told TASS. "The more so, since over the past year military tensions remained on the ascent and the number of military exercises grew on both sides. Whatever the objections to a resumption of Russia-NATO Council meetings, an extra discussion site in itself would be highly welcome," he said.

"That such people of authority make joint statements of this sort indicates there are some fundamental reasons behind," the chief of the European Security section at the Institute of Europe under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dmitry Danilov, has told TASS. "It still remains to be seen how to achieve this, but this is an entirely different matter. The regulatory base in the field of arms control and disarmament and confidence building measures works poorly amid current tensions. Creating more control mechanisms and confidence-building measures would be an extremely complicated task."

The latest statement by the Greater Europe Project’s working group indicates that work is in progress to identify the best way of translating the proposal into reality, Danilov believes.

"This theme might be discussed within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council. This would leave the door open to political cooperation in the future. The agenda, even a very negative one, would eventually yield favourable effects," he said.

Danilov remarks that the idea of joint control of soaring risks has a fundamental backing of the German side and meets with understanding in NATO by and large. True, there are "advocates of NATO’s collective defence from Russia," such as the Baltic countries and Poland, which keep insisting that Russia cannot be talked to until it has changed its stance on the Ukrainian crisis. The very instance such a document has been published plays a positive role.

"If these proposals are accepted, cooperation along military lines will be surely unblocked," Danilov said with certainty.

On the other hand he doubts that the proposal may eventually work.

"There still is no certainty that such a proposal will be of interest politically to NATO, on the one hand, and to Russia, on the other, and at the same time will not contradict their political benchmarks and principles. NATO’s is a strategy of containing Russia and of making it change its policy towards Ukraine. In the meantime, Russia is keen to conduct its consistent policy within the framework of that crisis, avoiding concessions and an escalation of tensions at the same time. In what kind of situation these conflicting political doctrines of Russia and NATO can be reconciled, if at all, remains a big question," Danilov said.

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