Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 26

A Russian diplomat brought what was described as an otherwise celebratory NATO conference in Munich to a gloomy close yesterday when he loudly restated Moscow’s objections to the alliance’s enlargement plans. Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Gusarov reportedly accused NATO–led by the United States–of being intent on the “destruction of the existing world order.” The Russian diplomat also criticized NATO’s decision to admit Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the alliance, and warned anew that Moscow would draw a “red line” against NATO expansion into the territory of the former Soviet Union.

Gusarov also reportedly restated Moscow’s objections to proposals–aimed at orienting NATO in the next century–which would broaden the alliance’s role to involve it in efforts to counter such international security threats as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He warned the alliance against formalizing a policy which would allow it to intervene militarily outside of NATO territory without a UN mandate (AP, Itar-Tass, February 7). That last objection is one which Moscow has raised repeatedly against NATO threats to intervene in the Kosovo crisis.

Gusarov’s remarks come as Moscow struggles to decide whether it will attend NATO’s fiftieth anniversary summit, scheduled to take place in Washington in late April. The first day of the event is to include a welcoming ceremony for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The second day is to include a gathering of NATO’s Partnership for Peace members, a group which includes Russia. During a meeting of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council in Brussels on December 9, the Western alliance officially invited Russia to take part in the Washington ceremonies, but Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reportedly offered no immediate response. The fiftieth anniversary celebration puts Moscow in a difficult position. Russian officials are obviously loathe to celebrate the Western alliance’s successes and would in no way want their presence at the ceremony to be interpreted as acquiescence to NATO’s enlargement plans. At the same time there is the danger that a failure to attend would leave Russia further marginalized in European security affairs. The desire to avoid being marginalized has brought Moscow, grudgingly, to cooperate with NATO–both in the Partnership for Peace program and in the Russia-NATO permanent Joint Council.

Simultaneously, however, and as Gusarov’s remarks made clear, Moscow continues to oppose any strengthening of NATO’s security role. Moreover, regarding Kosovo and a number of other issues, Russian diplomats have worked energetically to take advantage of rifts in the alliance and, especially, to exploit differences between the United States and NATO’s European members. Moscow has labored at the same time to strengthen the role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and continues to argue that this organization–rather than NATO–should form the basis for any emerging post-Cold War European security system.