On January 12, 2021, for the first time in over two years, the NATO-Russia Council will meet. In the background are Russia's demands for written guarantees barring NATO's expansion in the Post-Soviet Space and even expectations for a rollback of NATO's presence in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or the Soviet Bloc. The format is an unusual one in terms of the USSR-Russia diplomatic tradition. Russia has preferred to cut deals with the great powers and most notably the US on setting rules and establishing spheres of influence. Now it must confront not only the major players but also the diplomatic minnows, some of whom are openly averse to dialogue with Russia.
Professor Gevorg Mirzayan, an international affairs expert and prolific columnist is aware of the problem but believes that the format has advantages. By participating, even Russia's most virulent foes are acknowledging the legitimacy of negotiations. Secondly, the opening act provides cover for the US to tell them later that they were consulted, before the US and Russia cut a backroom deal in the "adult's room".
Yuri Mavashev, Director of The Center for a New Turkey takes a different approach. He believes that recent events such as the establishment of AUKUS, while depriving France of a lucrative submarine contract, reveals the fissures in NATO. Russia should exploit the divergent positions within NATO to weaken the latter's position. Mavashev cites Turkey, his area of expertise. Turkey is thoroughly on board with dialogue, because a NATO-Russia confrontation threatens Turkey militarily and economically.
The two articles follow below:
Russian flag alongside NATO flag (Source: Profil.ru)
Mirzayan sees the January 12, 2022, meeting as the curtain raiser with the entire cast present. Later, the big players take over.
"After the end of the recent Russia - US talks, President Joseph Biden made it clear that he would like to hold a meeting between Russia and 'some' NATO member-states to discuss Russia's 'concerns.' After Moscow forwarded to the Americans and then published its concerns (the draft agreement with NATO and the treaty with the US), the alliance member-states became concerned, and the bureaucratic leadership of the bloc began to talk about the inadmissibility of such separatist agreements. 'We support the right of all states to choose their own destiny and to have a foreign policy free from outside influence. NATO's relations with Ukraine concern only Ukraine and the 30 alliance-member states. We categorically oppose any attempt to divide NATO's common security,' reads NATO's official statement.
"In the end, the US, apparently, gave up on the meeting of a select few and decided to bring the entire North Atlantic bloc to a meeting with Moscow. 'We are ready for a meaningful dialogue with Russia. I propose calling for a Russia-NATO Council meeting as soon as possible in the new year,' said NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg (who, understandably, doesn't make such decisions on his own). The preliminary meeting of the Council is set for January 12.
"The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed receipt of the invitation, but has so far withheld any organizational specifics. 'The terms, modalities, format and composition of the delegation are being worked out,' said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Grushko. For instance, Russia wants not only diplomats but also representatives of defense agencies to attend the meeting. 'Since this is about military security issues, it is crucial that high-ranking military officials participate in the NRC meeting,' continued Alexander Grushko.
"Everything Is Burning
"While the Foreign Ministry is thrashing things out, experts have begun discussions, and there are things to discuss. On the one hand, the NATO-Russia Council is not the best form of dialogue between Moscow and the alliance. A number of states that to put it mildly, are uninterested in a dialog between Russia and the West (and are certainly not interested in NATO and the US making any compromises with Russia) will attend the meeting. Poland, the Baltic states, and the United Kingdom will all try to turn a serious discussion into a media farce.
"Moreover, non-NATO states can assist them in this task. For instance, the Ukrainian authorities assertively demand that they be invited to this event. 'The first and main topic of talks between the US, the EU or NATO and Russia should be the settlement of the international armed conflict in Europe, [i.e. the] Russian aggression against Ukraine. The issue of Euro-Atlantic security is now being decided in Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine should participate in security consultations on this issue,' argued Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba.
"If Kiev will still be invited to this high-level meeting (and such a probability exists, as the West may invite Ukraine at least for political reasons), then one can forget about not only any kind of constructive approach, but also about preserving the confidentiality of the talks behind closed doors. Everyone is well aware that Ukrainian officials at serious events are only burning pipes [Mirzayan insinuates hints that Ukrainian officials get inebriated at such events], but also leaky ones [that give out information].
"In turn, as a result of a similar council with similar participants and similar rhetoric, Moscow might also ignite. If the Russia-NATO Council ends in a scandal, the Kremlin might perceive it as a Western refusal to seriously discuss Russian proposals. And, according to Vladimir Putin, Moscow's response to a Western rejection 'may be very different' and 'depends on the proposals that our military experts will provide me with.'
"Rooms For Adults
"On the other hand, the Council also has a silver lining. Any negotiating exercise in the current situation is necessary and important. All the more so if concerns Russia - West negotiations. 'The NATO-Russia Council can serve an important role as a forum for dialogue and information exchange aimed at a decrease of misunderstandings and better predictability,' the alliance's website unveils the Council's purpose.
"In addition, the very decision to hold multilateral talks evidences to the NATO's readiness to discuss Russian draft documents, including the most important one on NATO's non-enlargement to the east. The presence of Eastern European colleagues is proof that they also view the topics as negotiable, not taboo. In the future, the US (provided, of course, it enters into any agreements with Moscow) will use the mere holding of this council as proof that before the 'separate' treaties with Russia, it has discussed everything with its allies, that no one double-crossed the allies.
"True, the Eastern European and British parties to this meeting will act disfunctionally. However, all (well almost all) true participants to the negotiation process are adults and understand that it's possible to hold collective formal meetings (without any real content) with the invitees, and later meet in a more intimate format and discuss all the controversial issues.
Naturally, one shouldn't expect breakthrough decisions from the meeting; Russia and the functional NATO countries will only discuss these issues, while the final agreements are still a long way off.
However, Moscow isn't demanding immediate decisions and doesn't set any deadlines to the negotiation process. For Russia the main thing is that this discussion (a real, not a theatrical one) to develop in a constructive way, in a direction towards concluding agreements. So if the 'adult' NATO member-states need to ostentatiously convene a kolkhoz [i.e. soviet collective farm] for this purpose, along with invitees, we [Russia] can tolerate it."
Gevorg Mirzayan (Source: Ru.Sputnik.md)
Mavashev, in contrast to Mirzayan, is for exploiting the cacophony within NATO.
"North Atlantic Alliance Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg's invitation to Moscow to schedule on January 12 the first NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting in two and a half years brings hope to international actors and analysts. This hope is that the Russian proposals for security guarantees, previously put forward by the Kremlin to the collective West, have at least been taken into account.
"By the way, one of these proposals was precisely about the need to renew the NRC format, to restore channels of communication and to stop monitoring each other at the borders through scopes and binoculars. All the more so since the headache caused by such tension has already acquired a much broader character than our relationship and was reflected by worldwide instability.
"The creation this year of the AUKUS defense alliance (i.e. a bloc consisting of the US, Australia and Britain, openly directed at China) not only brought World War III closer, but also questioned the format and logic behind NATO's existence.
"After all, as it turned out, Washington and London have effectively confirmed to their allies within the North Atlantic Treaty that security is actually most 'divisible.' when it's required by the Anglo-Saxon world. So what solidarity is there to speak of within the bloc, considering that France (a NATO member-state), was deprived in 2021 of a contract worth tens of billions of dollars to supply nuclear submarines to Australia? Let me remind you that this happened because of Canberra's decision to enter a similar agreement with Washington.
"Is it any wonder that against the background of this short-sighted policy of the West, at the close of the year India signed a package of key documents with Russia designed to strengthen and deepen military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Delhi? It's enough to recall the start of S-400 Triumf air defense systems' deliveries and an agreement on AK-203 (Kalashnikov rifle) manufacturing, concluded with this country.
"[All of these things happened] despite the fact that back in March, Pentagon Chief of Staff, Lloyd Austin paid a visit to India, and the US media were literally bursting with loving epithets about what 'strategic allies' Washington and Delhi make. American attempts to draw the Indians to their side against Beijing were unsuccessful.
"On December 9 to 10 during the 'Summit for Democracy' the military-political bloc also encountered another problem under the general 'Biden policy' title, when the US' NATO ally Turkey wasn't invited to this summit. Apparently, the country wasn't 'democratic' enough in the eyes of the White House.
"Meanwhile, Turkey's position on holding an NRC meeting is fundamentally important for the future of the world order. 'Russia is always on the agenda during NATO meetings. Some [of the alliance's members] are for dialogue, some are for tension. But Turkey always favored dialogue. All issues can be resolved through dialogue. Russia-NATO meeting is important for us; we perceive as a positive signal that Russia welcomes it. We will always provide a constructive answer if Russia asks us any specific questions about NATO,' said Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu.
"Ankara, as a veteran member of the North Atlantic Alliance, judging by its statements and actions, understands quite well that in the event of a potential Russia - NATO conflict, it will come under attack. And this is far from being just an issue of military response.
"The Turks know that renouncing the bloc's further expansion to include post-Soviet countries (to which Russia also draws attention) and the stationing of military forces and arms on the territory of European states would also open great economic opportunities for Ankara itself. Under turbulent conditions in the Black Sea region, they can hardly turn their country into an infrastructure, transport and energy hub. And, according to the policy documents of the ruling Justice and Development Party the Turks strive for this goal.
"Not to mention the fact that a Russia - West confrontation forces Ankara to make a choice in favor of cooperation with these or other players in other global regions as well, i.e. it will find itself blocked under the principle of 'we make friends against them'. Meanwhile, Turkey practices a pragmatic approach in international affairs, pursuant to which, it never slams the door in front of its partners' noses in order not to miss an opportunity. Thus, a fortiori, this country is unready to close its doors [to partners] for the sake of a bloc, which constantly points out its 'deficiencies in discipline'.
"Accordingly, one can expect that Turkey, guided by its purely national interests, will continue to advocate dialogue with Russia, including through NATO, and will oppose anti-Russian sanctions. After all, over the recent years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been fully convinced how restrictions work.
"There is no doubt that the Turkish authorities won't forget the fact that the US, being the first fiddle in NATO, didn't invite Ankara to the 'Summit for Democracy,' and the Joe Biden Administration simply reaffirmed former President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the republic from the program for the production of the F-35 5th generation fighter aircraft, for the purchase of Russian S-400 systems.
"So, the US's and NATO's mantras about the 'common threat' or 'common interests' won't work on the Turks anymore, due to the fact that Ankara in choosing partners closer adheres to the principle of 'trust but verify.'"
Yuri Mavashev (Source: Ednews.net)