Russia-NATO Update is a new monthly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news on Russia-NATO relations from the Russian and East European media.
Cartoons Of the Month
Vk.com/13studiya, July 21, 2016.
Psychiatrist to NATO soldier: Stop, stop... Now tell me again: for an entire year you kept looking into a bear's den and screaming into its ear not to attack you? And what happened next?
Twitter.com/sharzhipero, July 11, 2016
NATO military official: Citizens of Russia, do not worry; All this is for your own security!
Quotes Of The Month
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that NATO has rejected Russia's proposal "to ensure indivisible security," since security cannot be ensured at the expense of others. Lavrov said: "They [NATO members] want [instead] to involve ever more countries in NATO and tear them away from Russia."
(Tass.ru, July 22)
Mikhail Alexandrov, military expert at the Moscow-based International Relations Institute, an academic institution run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia: "We need to quit the nuclear weapons testing moratorium, in order to demonstrate NATO that our nuclear arsenal is in an effective warfare condition."
(Pravda.ru, July 14)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rozogin, who is in charge of the defense industry and served as Russia's ambassador to NATO until 2011, explained his views on NATO while visiting Tiraspol, Moldova's second largest city, and the capital of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria). Rozogin said: "One by one, they are normal guys, but when they gather together - they are devil incarnates. It is a relic of the Cold War. What they are doing now toward Russia, its allies, its partners - this is really going too far. They are openly building up not as much military capabilities as military rhetoric...There is in fact nothing behind this apart from the selfish interest to justify its own existence. NATO is not a useful organization. NATO should have been dissolved long ago, and the Russian president talked about it...When new difficulties appear in international relations now, they openly enjoy it, they are glad that they can show that someone needs them... In principle, this organization was set up exclusively for conflicts, for wars, for aggravating the situation."
(Tass.ru, July 6)
In the News:
On July 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Slovenia, a EU and NATO member, at the invitation of Slovenian President Borut Pahor, amid tensions between Russia and the West. During his working visit to Slovenia, Putin held talks with Pahor on security issues and counter-terrorist efforts, as well as various bilateral issues, including trade and economic cooperation, despite EU sanctions. During the talks, Pahor said that Slovenia, as a member of the EU and NATO, and Russia "have become more estranged from each other." He then added: "I think now is the time to start using dialogue to overcome any disagreements because now of all times it is necessary for all of us to join forces to deal with the serious threats of our time... I am pleased that you have accepted our invitation to visit Slovenia...and that we are doing our best to preserve Russian-Slovenian friendship."
In response, Putin stressed the common history that unites Slovenia and Russia. Putin said: "The reason behind our meeting is of a humanitarian and historical nature, but it has given us an opportunity to talk about... Russia's relations with the European Union and NATO, bearing in mind that Slovenia is a member of both. We can see how Slovenia respects our common history, and the memory of those who suffered in past global conflicts."
(Kremlin.ru, July 30)
The cordiality of the visit was also reflected in an article that appeared in Gazeta.ru titled "In Slovenia Putin Forgot about a war with NATO". Slavic studies experts Georgi Engelgardt and Nadezhda Pilko emphasized that Slovenia traditionally emphasized the common Slavic ties between itself and Russia and was working within the EU for the removal of sanctions against Russia, an issue that probably surfaced in discussions between Putin and Pahor.
(Gazeta.ru, July 30, 2016)
On July 13, a NATO-Russia Council meeting took place in Brussels at the permanent representative level. For the first time since this format resumed, the meeting was attended by representatives from the Russian Defense Ministry and the alliance's military agencies.
Commenting on the NATO-Russia Council meeting during her weekly briefing, Zakharova said: "Russia unequivocally and decisively rejected the alliance's attempts to gloss over the discussion on Ukraine with political slogans and declarations...We pointed to the destructive nature of NATO's efforts to strengthen Kiev's military capability and the military exercises conducted by alliance members on Ukrainian soil."
(Mid.ru, July 14)
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6525, Russian Government Reactions To Meeting Of NATO-Russia Council, July 14, 2016; See MEMRI No. 6522, Following The NATO Summit In Warsaw July 8-9 And Ahead Of The NATO-Russia Council Meeting On July 13 - An Interim Review, July 13, 2016; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6514, NATO July 8-9 Summit In Warsaw: Russian Envoy To NATO Grushko Calls NATO 'Military Methods' An Attempt To Create New Dividing Lines In Europe, Make European Countries Dependent On The U.S., July 8, 2016; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6510, One Day To The NATO Summit In Warsaw, Russian Reactions To UK Parliament's Report On British And NATO Relations With Russia, July 7, 2016; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6507, Two Days To NATO's Warsaw Summit, Pro-Kremlin Think Tank Valdai Club's Expert Warns: 'Western Support... To Anti-Russian Political Forces In Belarus, Armenia And Azerbaijan Would Lead To New Crises Like That In Ukraine', July 6, 2016; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6505, Three Days Before NATO's Warsaw Summit, Russian Envoy To NATO Grushko: NATO Transformed 'Central And Eastern Europe Into An Arena Of Military Confrontation', July 5, 2016; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6503, Four Days To NATO's Warsaw Summit, Putin Tells Meeting Of Russian Diplomats: 'Today, NATO Seems To Be Making A Show Of Its Anti-Russian Stance', July 4, 2016)
Military Drills And Defense News
Military tension is rising between Russia and NATO. The recent NATO-Russia Council meeting, held on July 13, did not bring produce any serious development in terms of political dialogue. The Head of the European Security Department RAS Institute of Europe, Dmitry Danilov, said that the meeting's goal was to reduce risks and mutual harm, since "practically no positive agenda" exists. NATO accuses Russia of conducting "provocative" military activities in the periphery of NATO territory, and of destabilizing European security through aggressive actions such as the annexation of Crimea, and large-scale snap exercises that violate the spirit of the 2011 Vienna Document for building confidence and transparency amongst member states. Russia in return accuses NATO of "confrontational" actions close to the Russian border, since it considers the deployment of NATO' battalions in Poland and in the Baltic countries, and a brigade in Romania a breach of the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act. Moscow is also concerned about the U.S./NATO missile defense system deployed in Eastern Europe. NATO claims that it is directed at Iran and not against Russia, but Moscow considers it a direct threat to its nuclear arsenal. According to MGIMO University Associate Professor, Mikhail Troitskiy, NATO could send a positive signal to Russia if it were to abandon its plans to make the European missile defense system capable of "intercepting intercontinental ballistic missile [i.e. nuclear-armed ballistic missile] by 2020, as neither Iran nor other Middle Eastern players seem capable of acquiring such arms."
In May 2016, the pro-Kremlin Russian think tank Council for Foreign and Defense Policies published a memorandum, titled "Russia's Foreign Policy: From the Late 2010s - To the Early 2020s," that pointed to an increased risk of a nuclear war between Russian and the West. The memorandum stated: "In the world of traditional politics, such a rapid re-distribution of economic and political powers and of moral influence would almost inevitably trigger a series of large-scale wars or even a new world war. But so far, this has been prevented by the most important structural factor that has determined the world's development for the past seventy years - nuclear weapons, especially super-powerful arsenals in Russia and the US. They only prevented the Cold War from becoming a nuclear war. Had it not been for the sobering threat of a nuclear Armageddon, the 'old' world establishment would hardly have agreed to the explosive growth of influence of rising powers, primarily China and India. But the proliferation of nuclear weapons goes on, whereas the level of trust, dialogue, and positive cooperation in the military and strategic sphere is extremely low. Taken together, all this increases the probability of a nuclear war. Sustainable international strategic stability has decreased."
(See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6526, Rise Of Military Tensions Between Russia And NATO, July 18, 2016)
Vk.com/13studiya, May 19, 2016.
Russian President Vladimir Putin standing in front an intercontinental ballistic missiles "Topol-M"
On July 27, the Russian news agency Tass.ru reported that the Northwestern District troops have been reequipped and received new warplanes and air defense missile systems. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said: "The district troops have been reequipped and received new warplanes and the S-300V4, S-400, Buk-M2 air defense missile systems, the Pantsir-S1 combined short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system. As a result, the efficiency of the country's anti-aircraft defense in the northwestern strategic direction has improved 1.5 times."
Shoigu also divulged that Russia formed 13 divisions and brigades and 22 regiments in Southern Military District over 3 years. Shoigu said: "Over 200 organizational structure measures have been carried out in the Southern Military District since 2013 to boost the troops' combat capabilities...Four divisions, nine brigades and 22 regiments have been established, including two missile brigades armed with Iskander-M tactical missile systems that have helped build up the firepower capabilities for destroying a notional enemy." Shoigu added that the Southern Military District has received over 4,000 new and modernized pieces of the armor, including Bastion and Bal coastal defense missile systems, submarines and combat ships armed with Kalibr missiles. He also stressed that a self-sufficient grouping was established on the Crimean peninsula.
Shoigu also informed that more than 2,000 items of new and modernized combat hardware will arrive for the Western Military District in 2016.
(Tass.ru, July 27)
On July 27, the Russian news agency Ria.ru reported that Central Military District launched massive drills of anti-aircraft units involving 3000 servicemen deployed to four various ranges, in Astrakhan, Orenburg, Chelyabinsk, close to Caspian Sea and Kazhahstan borders and Tajikistan. The operational scenario is defending military and civil critical infrastructure. Equipment includes: S-300, Buk-M2, Tor-M2. During the drills the units will fire more than 4000 rounds of various weapons, including the firing of 120 missiles.
(Ria.ru, July 27)
On July 27, the Russian news agency Ria.ru reported that the Eastern Military district launched different set of drills, involving 8.000 servicemen, 100 aircrafts, 1.000 units of infantry equipment and the Navy ships of the Pacific Fleet (close to Mongolia, North Korea, China and Japan). The operational scenario involves joint actions by anti-aircraft units, military aviation, military air-defense and infantry in eight different regions of the Russian Far East.
(Ria.ru, July 27)
On July 26, the Russian news agency Tass.ru reported about other drills in the Eastern Military District, close to Mongolia, China and North Korea. The massive drills of anti-aircraft units involve 1.500 servicemen. The operational scenario implies deployment by rail and by road transport, locating enemy air targets, changing positions and reporting to command centers.
(Tass.ru, July 26)
On July 25, Russian news agency Ria.ru reported about drills in the Western Military District, more specifically in the Leningrad region, close to Finland, Estonia, Latvia. Iskander-M tactical missiles brigade started drills involving 50 units of launchers and special equipment. The operational scenario is to locate and destroy radiolocation stations and command facilities of a "hypothetical" adversary. The operational scenario implies concealed deployment to a remote operational area.
(Ria.ru, July 25)
On July 23, the Russian news agency Ria.ru reported on the Russian Northern fleet's drills in the Barents and White Seas, which involved over 100 vessels, including nuclear and conventional submarines. The vessels received shore support from at least two brigades and 1.000 pieces of heavy equipment. Russian jets and anti-aircraft units also participated in the drills.
(Ria.ru, July 23)
The Barents Sea and the White Sea.
On July 19, Ria.ru reported that the First Armored Army of the Western Military District announced anti-aircraft/anti-missile drills. The anti-aircraft units will conduct a rapid relocation and deployment. The drills will take place at a distance of 1500 kilometers from the regular deployment district. More than 2.000 servicemen and 500 units of heavy and special equipment will participate in the drills aimed at repelling a hypothetical combined missile-aircraft strike.
(Ria.ru, July 19)
Vk.com/13studiya, May 24, 2016
On the wall U.S. President Barack Obama wrote "War," but Putin writes: "We are choosing peace"
Russia To Respond If Finland Joins NATO
On July 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Finland. In that occasion, Putin said that Russia would respond if Finland joins NATO. Putin said: "Do you think we will continue to act in the same manner [if Finland joins NATO]? We have withdrawn our troops 1,500 [km from the border]. Do you think they will stay there?"
Commenting on Putin's statement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mentioned possible Russian reactions if Finland joins NATO: "Clearly, if the infrastructure of an organisation that refers to you as an enemy is getting closer to your borders, you have to respond. We have enough expertise in this area. I'm confident that the Defence Ministry and the General Staff know exactly what to do. Again, we believe that our relations with Finland are as good as ever. We hope that our Finnish neighbors will not succumb to the temptation to join anti-Russian actions."
(Mid.ru, July 4)
Confidence Building Measures In The Baltic Region
During Putin's visit to Finland, the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto recommended enhancing confidence building measures in the Baltic region. Putin said: "The Finnish president [Sauli Niinisto] came up with the proposals today on the first steps aimed at enhancing confidence and preventing conflicts [in the Baltic airspace]. I have already said that I agree with this... We welcome the Finnish President's proposal [to ban flights over the Baltics with transponders off]. Upon my arrival back in Moscow I will order the Foreign and Defense Ministries to raise this matter at the upcoming Russia-NATO Council meeting, which is to take place after the Russia-NATO summit in Warsaw." On July 2, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu ordered the defense apparatus to present recommendations on building such confidence measures. In an official statement the Ministry of Defense stated: "According to the President's orders, the Minister of Defense orders the preparation of recommendations on building confidence [trust] measures, which will enhance the safety of aviation activity in the Baltic Sea region. Specifically, the work is being performed on organizational and technical measures, including the use of transponders by the military aviation". During Putin's visit to Finland, the Finnish president recommended to Putin to ban military aviation flights without transponders.
(Ria.ru, July 2; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6502, Russia This Week - June 27 - July 4, July 4, 2016)
Commenting on the confidence measures in the Baltic, (ret.) Colonel Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the Russian National Defense magazine, said: "This decision reiterates Moscow's intention to decrease the military tensions with NATO and to provide confidence and transparency in military activities so as to minimize possible incidents in the Baltic airspace." Korotchenko added that he would like to hope that NATO countries would act as responsibly as Moscow.
(Ria.ru, July 2)
The president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov, mentioned that by using transponders, Russian military aircraft will increase security along Russia's borders but NATO would not reciprocate on the issue since it is interested in continued tensions. He added that the U.S. would seek to keep its aircraft along the Russian borders unidentified. Sivkov said: "[If we use transponders] no one is going to accuse us of violating foreign airspace; safety and security will increase and this in turn will decrease tensions in the airspace. Furthermore, if previously we had to scramble our aircraft in order to identify the air target, now we will know for sure that it is an American reconnaissance aircraft. It's very undesirable for the U.S."
(Ria.ru, July 2)
Commenting on the same issue, Mikhail Nenashev, captain first-rank and Chairman of the All-Russian Movement for Supporting the Fleet, said: "NATO's and America's conduct is about straightforward provocations, and thus all the technical deterrence, security and safety measures are not the first priority. The priority is NATO's policy to increase tensions."
(Ria.ru, July 2)
The Baltic Fleet - Vice Admiral Alexander Nosatov Appointed Acting Commander Of The Baltic Fleet
In June, Russian Defense Minister and Army General Sergei Shoigu fired Baltic Fleet Commander Viktor Kravchuk, his chief of stuff Rear Admiral Sergey Popov and more than fifty high-ranking fleet officers, including other admirals and captains first class. According to the Russia media outlet, Fotanka.ru, this is the first time that a massive firing of officials has been publicized. According to the official statement Kravchuk and Popov were penalized for "serious shortcomings in organizing combat training, daily activities of their units, poor care of their subordinates as well as misrepresenting the real situation in their reports."
On July 1, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that he had appointed Vice Admiral Alexander Nosatov to the post of Acting Commander of the Baltic Fleet. Until recently Nosatov commanded the Black Sea Fleet headquarters and also headed the Naval Academy. Viktor Litovkin, a military observer from the TASS news agency and a retired colonel, said: "All those involved in the Baltic Fleet will be replaced. They will all be demoted and sent to the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet and other places."
(Rbth.com, July 4; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6502, Russia This Week - June 27 - July 4, July 4, 2016)
Makeup of Baltic Fleet Command Forces (Source; Themoscowtimes.com, July 6, 2016)
The Black Sea
Ria's columnist Sergey Varshavchik writes that the Black Sea became strategically important for NATO, after Crimea was annexed by Russia. Varshavchik writes: "All sides understand quite well that no one is going engage in a nuclear Ping-Pong, while a military confrontation between fleets will end in the quick death of NATO's crews...The entire territory of the Black Sea is within the range of the Russian missile carriers and submarines". Varshavchik also writes that the Black Sea fleet conducted a series of drills, while NATO was holding its summit in Warsaw (July 8-9, 2016), in order to test combining missile strikes with heavy bombers during naval battle.
(Ria.ru, July 20)
In an interview with the media outlet EUobserver.com, Montenegro's prime minister, Milo Dukanovic, said that Russia is working with "strongholds" of anti-EU and anti-NATO sentiment in the Western Balkans in order to compete for influence. Dukanovic said: "They [the Russians] have their strongholds, the role of which is to oppose NATO and the EU, not only in our country, but in all the countries of the region." He then added: "It is clear Russia is very supportive and provides the logistics for certain political parties, NGOs, and media outlets which are trying to hamper Montenegro's path to Euro-Atlantic integration", he said. It should also be noted, that Montenegro, in an observer status, participated for the first time at a NATO summit. The Balkan country was invited to become NATO's 29th member in December 2015, and subsequently the Accession Protocol was signed in May 2016. Montenegro now enjoys invitee status and is integrating into NATO activities.
During her weekly briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zakharova said: "We have taken note of Prime Minister Dukanovic's statements...It can be seen that even before Montenegro was dragged into the alliance, the prime minister of that country rolled over for the leaders of this organization one more time... We can see that Mr. Dukanovic is openly and unequivocally exercising a policy of intentional damage to the traditionally friendly relations between Montenegro and Russia...Responsibility for the consequences of Podgorica's anti-Russian line lies fully and completely with Montenegro's current officials."
(Euobserver.com, July 12, 2016; Mid.ru, July 14; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6443, Russian Reactions To Negotiations On Montenegro's NATO Membership, May 20, 2016)
Russia-Moldova Relations - Russian Deputy PM: Moldova May lose Transnistria Due To Rapprochement With Romania
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with the Kommersant daily after his visit to Moldova: "The fact remains, it is obvious even to the fiercest supporters of unification with Romania, that if Moldova takes a step towards Romania, the Transnistria region will fall off at this steep turn... [If Moldovans want to join Romania] then they had better let the Transnistrian region go amicably, and if they do not want to go to Romania, if they want to remain a sovereign state, a smart state that will protect all its citizens, then it will take years, but those years will not be in vain as they will be spent on restoring territorial integrity."
(Tass.ru, July 8)
During Sweden's Almedalen Week, an annual political festival (July 3-10), Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said that Russia is using "various methods to try and weaken Europe".
The head of Sweden's military intelligence and security service, Major General Gunnar Karlsson, also spoke at the event, saying that Russia would "benefit from and would like to see a split within the EU, and also NATO". Sweden's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Micael Byden, also spoke of Sweden's relationship with Russia, voicing his concern about a number of near-collisions in the past years between Russian military jets and Swedish aircraft. Byden said: "There are examples when we flew close to each other. One mistake can mean an accident that can be used improperly or maybe I have information that could solve the issue but it does not reach [its destination]."
Commenting the Swedish official's statement, Zakharova said: "We were perplexed by the statement made by Supreme Commander of Sweden's Armed Forces Gen. Micael Byden about Russia being the biggest military threat to Sweden at the annual Almedalen political week...One gets the impression that many Western countries are part of a well-orchestrated effort to accuse Russia almost daily of posing a threat to someone...As for Sweden, we hear such statements regularly and in different contexts...Ultimately, all the stories about Russian subs proved to be simply the inventions of Swedish military officers, like the universally known tale about the Loch Ness Monster but this time [set] in Sweden. Not a single story was confirmed. Needless to say, it is deplorable that Russophobic statements coming out of the Swedish military - all haunted by a phantom Russian threat - are becoming routine...Let me repeat that if our Swedish partners have concerns over the so-called 'Russian threat,' we are always ready to discuss them in a direct dialogue on all issues that arise. Regrettably, the Swedish side is deliberately avoiding a businesslike, substantive discussion, resorting instead to public diplomacy that is not being used for its designated purpose. This is not public diplomacy but using the media for propaganda."
(Thelocal.se, July 7, Mid.ru, July 7)
Interview Of The Month
Sergey Karaganov (Source: Karaganov.ru)
On July 13, the German weekly Der Spiegel published an interview with former Kremlin foreign policy advisor Sergey Karaganov on NATO and Russia-West relations. In the interview, Karaganov said that the world is in a pre-war situation. He stressed that Russi warned NATO against approaching the borders of Ukraine, because that would create a situation that Moscow cannot accept. Karaganov said: "Russia has stopped the Western advance in this direction and hopefully that means that the danger of a large war in Europe has been eliminated in the medium term. But the propaganda that is now circulating is reminiscent of the period preceding a new war."
Concerning the Baltic States, Karaganov said: "This chatter that we intend to attack the Baltics is idiotic. Why is NATO stationing weapons and equipment there? Imagine what would happen to them in the case of a crisis. The help offered by NATO is not symbolic help for the Baltic States. It is a provocation. If NATO initiates an encroachment -- against a nuclear power like ourselves -- it will be punished."
(Spiegel.de, July 13)