Guest Lecture: NATO-Russia Relations – a View From Inside Out

On 26 February 2010, Dr Andras Racz, SPES fellow at IEP, gave a lecture under the title “NATO-Russia Relations – a View From Inside Out.” The talk was organized by the Berlin Working Group on Security Studies (BAS) as well as the Youth Atlantic Treaty Organiz­ation (YATA).

Racz started by explaining the meaning of 40 years of hostility as well as the role of the Cold War in shaping Russian percep­tions of NATO to this day. According to him, Moscow is aware of its inferiority to NATO in terms of strength, weaponry and economy, and hence, no military attack on any NATO member country is on the agenda. What is more, NATO is not perceived as an enemy which has to be defeated, but rather as a danger, against which Russia needs to defend itself.

Racz continued by enume­rating certain events which influ­enced Russia’s perception of NATO: starting with the war in Kosovo, which marked a decreased influence of Moscow as NATO engaged in a war without UNSC approval, through the impro­vement of the relati­onship as a result of a common terrorist threat, to the 2004 NATO enlar­gement – a very sensitive issue for Russia. Not less important in the NATO-Russia relations were the Coloured Revolu­tions in the post-Soviet space and the resulting more pro-Western attitudes of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. According to Racz, however, momentous to the NATO-Russian relations were the missile defense plans (in the Czech Republic and Poland) of the Bush adminis­tration. According to Moscow, if success­fully imple­mented, they would pose a direct threat to Russia.

After having outlined past challenges of the NATO-Russia relations, Racz analyzed the changes the new US adminis­tration brought to the table. He empha­sized that despite having a promising leader, the Obama adminis­tration did inherit issues of proble­matic nature, which it had to deal with. As a conse­quence, Russia is a challenge and at the same time a primary coope­ration partner, and hence, the US policy towards Russia has become more pragmatic (e.g. human rights are not being mentioned by Obama). According to Racz, so far the balance of the US-Russia relations has been positive. Since NATO enlar­gement is not on the agenda any more, and the missile defense system is going to be built in Romania (which much more adequately corre­sponds to the Iranian threat), their relati­onship has norma­lized and in some cases successful coope­ration can be observed (e.g. Agreement on Afgha­nistan military overflights, possible coope­ration on North Korea, recent Russian state­ments on Iran).

The last part of Racz’s presen­tation concerned the perspec­tives of the NATO-Russia relations. Here, he pointed out two documents of symbolic impor­tance, namely Medvedev’s proposal for a “New European Security Treaty” and the new “Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation until 2020.” Whereas the former is, in Racz’s opinion, an indication of a legitimate Russian interest to be involved in matters of European security, the latter signifies narrowing down of Russia’s ambitions and capabi­lities in the field of security and defense to only regional power. Racz stressed a much more moderate approach in the foreign policy of Russia than in the previous military doctrine, which can be deduced from the change in the Russian perception of NATO – from ‘military threat’ to ‘military danger,’ and more stricter condi­tions under which Weapons of Mass Destruction can be used. Finally, he empha­sized the regional as opposed to the global role and power of today’s Russia – a topic which was further developed in the following discussion.
Von: Malgorzata Wojcik