Re-engagement between Russia and NATO is in everyone’s interest (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The end of the Cold War gave unprecedented opportunities to overcome the divisions of Europe. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has extensively contributed to building a peaceful, secure and stable Euro-Atlantic area. We made a crucial contribution to the elimination of the material legacy of the era of ideological and military confrontation. Our country assumed the obligations to withdraw its troops and armaments from Germany, Central and Eastern Europe and later from the Baltic countries.

For the last 25 years Russia has reacted positively to reasonable and mutually beneficial initiatives of the Western partners in the sphere of the European security, although those were scarce and not as far reaching. Russian and NATO navies have been patrolling the Mediterranean Sea under the framework of the “Active Endeavour” operation, cooperating on counter-terrorism issues, jointly fighting against piracy in the Aden Gulf. Russian peacekeepers participated alongside brigades from NATO Member States in the operation under the UNSC mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995-2003. There are many other examples of mutually beneficial cooperation. In 1990, Russia signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) and cut thousands of conventional armaments and equipment pieces. Another effort to get rid of the legacy of the Cold War was made by Russia in June 2008, when we proposed to conclude a European security treaty. It was intended to build a common space of military and political security in the Euro-Atlantic area for all states regardless of their membership in military and political alliances, to find a common denominator for the patchwork architecture littered with institutions inherited for the Cold War era.

Unfortunately, the Western countries have opted for “closed shop” philosophy, i.e. mechanical NATO eastward enlargement at the expense of development and consolidation of truly regional (in the sense of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter) European institutions. The US has taken efforts to build a missile defence system in Europe that directly impacts the security interests of our country, undermines strategic stability. As a result, dividing lines in Europe persist, and the ensuing tensions and deterioration of trust have brought about the Ukrainian crisis as sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, the alliance has been using the pretext of the so-called “Russian aggression” to increase consistently its military presence near Russian borders. NATO has decided to suspend all practical cooperation and de-facto to stop the work of the NATO-Russian Council. This can and actually has already led to negative consequences - military and political risks have increased, and a lot of opportunities have been missed as a result of the lack of cooperation with Russia. The alliance’s choice to suspend practical collaboration with Russia does not contribute to the fight against threats and challenges which are common to NATO member-countries and Russia.

The current negative trends are not Russia’s choice. We are convinced that there is no real alternative to mutually beneficial and wide cooperation between Russia and NATO on the basis of equality, pragmatism and respect for each other’s interests. Russia is not interested in any confrontation. In a crisis our cooperation is all the more important. It has to be all-weather, good or bad. And it is the only antidote to temptations of unilateralism, which is always counterproductive, destabilising and self-destructive.