Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 90

Russian ambivalence in the area of relations with NATO has apparently resurfaced in the wake of the U.S. Senate’s April 30 vote in favor of NATO membership for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. After a week of virtual silence from Russian leaders on the vote, a Russian news agency reported that the country’s Defense Ministry issued a statement on May 7 accusing the United States of making a “fatal mistake” by approving NATO’s enlargement. The statement also warned that enlargement could “lead to extremely negative consequences fraught with historical consequences.” Among them, the statement suggested, would be a new reluctance by Russian lawmakers to ratify the START II treaty. “From now on the question of why Russia is not ratifying the START II treaty should be discussed not in Moscow but in Washington,” the statement reportedly said. (AP, May 7)

Russia’s Defense Ministry — like the country’s political and security elite as a whole — has long been critical of NATO’s enlargement plans, but has also lined up solidly behind ratification of START II. There have, moreover, been a number of indications recently that ratification of the treaty by the Russian Duma might finally be forthcoming. The May 7 statement came during a visit to Moscow by White House National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, who was in the Russian capital for talks on the treaty.

A day after the release of the May 7 statement, however, Russia reportedly agreed for the first time to send troops to a NATO exercise. A NATO official in Brussels called the decision a significant step toward closer ties between Russia and the Western Alliance. More than thirty Russian soldiers are to join some 3,000 troops from seventeen other countries in Operation Cooperative Jaguar, a week-long peacekeeping exercise scheduled to begin in Denmark on May 18. (AP, May 8)

Russia has long been a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. In May of last year, it signed a broad cooperation agreement with the Western Alliance — the Russia-NATO Founding Act. But Moscow’s participation in NATO activities has thus far been both desultory and a disappointment to Western leaders. Russia’s chief diplomat, Yevgeny Primakov, is to travel to Brussels later this month for a meeting of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council at the level of Foreign Minister. The Council was created with the signing of the Founding Act. Among the topics on the agenda for Primakov’s visit is fulfillment of a NATO-Russian action plan agreed upon last December in Brussels. The program includes a number of priority issues to be the subject of discussions and informational exchanges, including the defense policies and military doctrines of NATO and Russia, defense budgets, disarmament and arms control, and peacekeeping. The program also calls for ongoing cooperation both under the Partnership for Peace program and in a host of other areas.