Re-setting the NATO-Russia relationship

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The NATO and OSCE summits represent a chance to create a new security system for the twenty-first century, writes Adam Daniel Rotfeld, a former Polish minister of foreign affairs.

The following contribution is authored by Adam Daniel Rotfeld, a former Polish minister of foreign affairs.

"Earlier this year, a group led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (which included me) issued a report on a new strategic concept called 'NATO 2020'. The report recommended that NATO open its door to new members while seeking a more constructive relationship with Russia. We outlined a dual strategy of reassuring the NATO allies that their interests would be defended while engaging with the Kremlin in a manner consistent with the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act and the 2002 Rome Declaration on the NATO-Russia relationship.

Reassuring alliance governments does not require only that 'any constructive engagement would have to be based on military reassurances within NATO,' as prominent experts like Wolfgang Ischinger and Ulrich Weisser have said. Security assurances should also include confidence-building measures, along with conventional and nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The Albright report outlined a strategy of 're-engagement and reassurance.' The 'reset' of relations with Russia can succeed only if it is reciprocal. Russia, therefore, should apply two fundamental principles that it has already accepted in several declarations.

First, as the Helsinki Final Act put it, every sovereign nation has an inherent right 'to belong or not to belong to international organisations, to be or not to be a party to bilateral or multilateral treaties, including the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance; they also have the right to neutrality.'

Second, the sovereign equality of states includes respect for all the rights inherent in sovereignty.

NATO needs Russia, and Russia needs NATO, and the US shift away from unilateralism has restored the importance of multilateral security institutions while giving NATO the chance to establish new partnerships with the EU and Russia. Back in February, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the alliance's Strategic Concept seminar in Washington that, 'while Russia faces challenges to its security, NATO is not among them. We want a cooperative NATO-Russia relationship that produces concrete results and draws NATO and Russia closer together'.

Visiting Moscow that month, our NATO expert group sought to promote a re-thinking of mutual perceptions. The main problem in the NATO-Russia relationship is not a lack of institutions, documents, or procedures, but a lack of transparency, confidence, and mutual trust. American security analyst Charles Kupchan raised a pertinent question when he asked whether Russia should eventually join the Atlantic alliance, pointing out that the settlements concluded after the Napoleonic wars and World War II show that alliances between former adversaries can be critical to the consolidation of great-power peace.

In other words, NATO's strategy towards Russia must be guided by a spirit of inclusiveness. But such a strategy requires that Russia clearly demonstrate its political will to cooperate with NATO. Russia must make a choice."

To read the full op-ed, please click here.

(Published in partnership with Project Syndicate.)

Subscribe to our newsletters