Russia displays carrot-and-stick approach to NATO

April 3rd, 2008 - 10:38 am ICT by admin  

By Alissa de Carbonnel
Moscow, April 3 (DPA) When it comes to what it views as NATO’s “unacceptable” expansion into Georgia and Ukraine, Russia is deploying all its diplomatic canons and cunning. “Being a child of military conflict, NATO is looking for a new ideology,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, commenting on President Vladimir Putin’s trip to NATO summit in Bucharest.

But “we cannot accept attempts to present NATO as an organisation that plays the role of a democratising structure”, Peskov added.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has viewed NATO’s eastward expansion as a menacing betrayal and perpetuation of Western containment policy.

Along with its military resurgence, resentment has grown louder among Russia’s top brass over NATO troops inspection and the alliance’s demands that it pull out from bases in Georgia and Moldova.

In December, it placed the treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) - a vital part of Cold War arms restraint agreements signed with NATO - on ice.

One month later, its new firebrand envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, surprised many in Brussels when he presented an edge-sharp axe to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer with an offer “to bury the hatchet”.

At the time, Peskov stressed that Putin’s attendance in Bucharest “by itself displays Russia’s readiness to discuss enhancing cooperation”.

“Russia expects that we will see a reciprocal attitude of a positive approach and constructiveness” from NATO counterparts, he told DPA.

But Russia has often confused the West as it mixes bellicose threats with ideology-bending proposals for mutual cooperation.

Calling it the “moment of truth”, Sergei Rogov of the USA and Canada Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, placed the accent of the Bucharest talks on US-Russian relations.

“If the US achieves an agreement to begin talks on Ukraine and Georgia’s accession, any hope of a compromise will be dispelled,” Rogov wrote in comments carried by Russian business daily Kommersant.

Setting the two former Soviet states on track for membership will not easily be agreed among NATO’s 26 members, with some fearing a further straining of relations with the Kremlin.

“Moscow is issuing threats and offering perks,” Moscow-based independent analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, who specialises in security issues, said.

Russia has threatened to retarget its missiles at Ukraine and its parliament last week passed a resolution to recognise Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, if either country were to join NATO.

Other big bones of contention involve Kosovo and the US plans to deploy a missile defence system in Eastern Europe.

“The US and the West at large face a choice: either to agree to qualitatively new relations with Russia or to take responsibility for confrontation,” Rogov said.

Most dramatically, Russia announced Friday it was prepared to offer logistical support to NATO in Afghanistan, but only as long as its security concerns, namely Georgia and Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO, were respected, the Interfax news agency reported.

“NATO is already overstepping its limits today,” Putin warned.

But his spokesman has denied that the offer of help in Afghanistan will be the subject of haggling in Bucharest.

“It is not a matter of bargaining. This is not a market. It is a political stage for discussing mutual interests and concerns,” he said.

According to Felgenhauer: “If the West gets cold feet over Georgia and Ukraine, it will be rewarded with positive moves from Russia.”

He cited among these the end of a blockade and resumption of air and postal links to Georgia. And Rogov has suggested Russia could also join the bandwagon of US-led states lobbying for new UN sanctions on Iran.

Immediately following talks with other NATO leaders, outgoing presidents George W. Bush and Putin are scheduled to meet in the Russian resort of Sochi.

Peskov said the talks would concern the signing of an agreement for the “continued legacy of US-Russian relations” for the next presidential term in both states, including talks on issues of missile defence, the CFE treaty and non-proliferation.

Given the warming of rhetoric between the old Cold War foes in the latest rounds of missile defence talks, a Putin-Bush agreement looks to hinge mainly on whether NATO chooses to open or close its Eastern doors.

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