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Russia will not close door to NATO in response to demarche — expert

The cooperation between Russian and NATO countries will continue despite certain setbacks because it is mutually advantageous, says military expert Viktor Litovkin

MOSCOW, April 02. /ITAR-TASS/. NATO foreign ministers' decision to stop military and civilian cooperation with Russia will not evoke a response from Moscow, nor will it impact its security, a military expert said on Wednesday.

"Our country will continue to assist NATO countries in conducting the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan," Viktor Litovkin said, "and although Moscow and Brussels have never cooperated closely, with the latter just being declarative about such cooperation rather than practical, Russia will not stop military ties with separate NATO member-states."

For example, it has projects with France, not only the ones to build Mistral helicopter carriers, but also the project to design engines for Sukhoi Superjet and produce night vision sights.

Russia will continue cooperation with Italy's Finmeccanica, Germany's Rheinmetall AG and other NATO countries.

"I believe this cooperation, despite certain setbacks, will continue because it is mutually advantageous. NATO countries' leaders are no enemies of their own industrial centers, especially amid the ongoing economic crisis in Europe," the expert said.


Military cooperation

As for military cooperation, which began to develop in the middle of the 1990s, it was sporadic, expert Viktor Litovkin said. Exchanges of military delegations, meetings between defense ministers, joint naval exercises, anti-pirate fight off the Horn of Africa, operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, the recent joint efforts to withdraw chemical weapons from Syria and eliminate them are very useful events, but not as large or as regular as Moscow would like. Litovkin also said that cooperation was insufficient within the scope of the Partnership for Peace program.

The expert downplayed the suspension of Russia's participation in these events. It will not impact Russia’s security. "Russia severed ties with NATO after the latter bombed Yugoslavia in 1999. For its part, NATO suspended cooperation with Russia after August 2008, when Moscow rebuffed Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia. Some time passed and things resumed their normal course," he said.

In his opinion, Russia and NATO will resume cooperation in several months, after political passions die down. However, they will be at a new level, affected by the events which resulted in the cooling of relations. Brussels is not giving up the Russia-NATO Council format, he said.

Moscow does not want the severance or suspension of Russia-NATO military ties to hurt even one soldier of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan. That is why Russia is not closing the opportunity for NATO to use Russian infrastructure for safe troops withdrawal from that country. Of course, Russia will pay attention to the expansion of NATO military bases on Russia's western borders. Litovkin urged patience, emphasizing that both Moscow and Brussels "objectively needed" cooperation despite problems.