At a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) at the ministerial level in Brussels on Thursday, NATO secretary general and the Russian foreign minister started an indirect dispute on the expediency of the adoption of the political statement saying that the European missile defence system is not targeted against Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the Alliance is ready to fix on paper the agreements stating that Russia and NATO are not adversaries.
After Thursday's statement the Kommersant daily asked Rasmussen to comment on the currently discussed by the Alliance possibility of adopting a political statement that its missile defence system is not aimed against Russia. The NATO chief replied that NATO member countries “are politically ready to reaffirm the principles of the Founding Act (on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Russian Federation) of 1997.” He recalled the document’s provision saying that the RF and NATO “do not regard each other as adversaries and shall not use force against each other.” “There is sense in reaffirming these principles. And we are ready to do this,” Rasmussen pledged. He did not specify if he meant the fixing on paper the earlier agreements or a separate statement on missile defence.
However, the publication notes, to all appearances, Russia will not be satisfied with either. Answering the newspaper’s question whether a NATO political declaration will remove Moscow’s concerns in the missile defence sphere, RF Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out: “Not intentions and promises are important in the military sphere, but potentials. If the four-stage adapted approach (to the creation of the Alliance’s missile defence system) is implemented, then at the final stage the infrastructure and potential will be created that will present serious risks to our nuclear deterrence forces. Therefore, just to say: look, in the year of 1997 of the past century we had stated that we are not enemies and will take care of each other’s security - is absolutely not enough.” Sergei Lavrov emphasised that Russia needs “clear-cut and firm guarantees” that the NATO system is not targeted against it.
A Kommersant source in the NATO headquarters recalled that the RF already now can receive data on the technical characteristics of the US missile defence elements and that the proposal made to the Russian experts to watch tests of American interceptor missiles in Colorado Springs “still remains in force.” “I don’t understand why the Russians have refused to come,” the NATO official was puzzled. “We are ready to show them everything, even let them insert an USB stick in our computer.”
The publication’s source in the RF Foreign Ministry called NATO’s proposals a fiction. “They will let us look at the missile perhaps only through binoculars, and the computer will not contain any important information. And since they do not trust us, it’s senseless to check it.”
The RF foreign minister noted that the recent joint computer exercises on the problem of the theatre missile defence “have very convincingly shown the objective advantage of the joint work on building a missile defence system in the Russia-NATO format,” writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Sergei Lavrov pointed to the successes in the cooperation on Afghanistan. However, he firmly made it clear that Moscow does not welcome a hasty withdrawal of NATO forces from this country and calls for the preservation of the international military presence until the Afghans are capable of maintaining stability on their own.
The NATO-Russia Council also discussed the issue of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Here Moscow has taken a rigid stance: it will be possible to talk on the mutual reduction of the tactical nuclear weapons of Russia and the United States only after Washington returns this kind of weapons from Europe to its own territory and dismantles the whole infrastructure needed for its use, the newspaper stresses.
The governmental Rossiiskaya Gazeta believes that the recent NATO-Russia Council meeting has demonstrated, as it has often happened before, the presence of the dialogue between the sides, but has not brought nearer the solution of any key problems in relations between the Alliance and Moscow. NATO’s unwillingness to take into account Russia’s geopolitical interests in practice depreciates any joint undertakings on the other “tracks” of countering common threats and deprives them of trust that is needed for successful cooperation, believes the newspaper.