"Vaccine" from the NATO-21
Is it possible that the skirmishes in the media over the primacy of vaccines and vaccinations are destroying hopes for a "new normality" in Russia's relations with the West?
A collective information campaign is being conducted against the "undemocratic vaccine". In such a "toxic" atmosphere, hopes for confidence in the military sphere in relations with the West are doomed. That is why the risky attempt of two leading academic centers of the Russian Academy of Sciences to seek ways of reconciliation with NATO is commendable. We are talking about the international dialogue, organized by Alexei Gromyko (Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences) and Sergei Rogov (Institute of USA and Canada studies, Russian Academy of Sciences).
As the correspondent of The Moscow Post reports, following the results of the project, proposals were made to reduce the risks of military conflict. The recommendations are based on the opinions of participants from Russia, the United States, Germany, France and other NATO countries. Support for the final statement was expressed by 16 former ministers, 24 ambassadors, 27 retired generals and admirals, mostly foreign. The purpose of this project is undoubtedly good, but the "devil" is said to be in the details.
First, the institutional framework for relations with Brussels has been irreparably weakened. The Moscow report suggests to reestablish military-to-military contacts, to activate ambassadors’ level dialog in the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), confirming mutual obligations under the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act and the 1999 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, as well as validity of documents signed in Helsinki in 1975 and the OSCE legal instruments. There was a proposal to draft the Codex of regional security for Europe.
"Code of safe conduct" was new in "Moscow Report", but many of the proposed steps has been discussed already and accepted within the known agreements, both valid and outdated. The question is, whether there is a need for a confidence-building scheme that replicates Soviet era agreements, as well as Russia-NATO negotiating experience. Russia has maintained continuity with respect to the international treaties of the Soviet period and ready to follow later arrangements. NATO and the USA, in the first place, chose confrontation.
For example, the 1997 NATO-Russia summit in Paris led to the signing of the "NATO–Russia Founding Act". According to some members of the Alliance, especially Eastern Europeans, this document became invalid in 2014. From Moscow's standpoint, NATO's actions in Yugoslavia back in 1999 called this agreement into question. What exactly remains valid today? Perhaps there are still intact "bricks" from which you can still build something?
The NRC, formed in 2002, replacing the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (1997), would have been a platform for dialogue. After the return of Crimea to Russia, the activities of the NRC were blocked. Only channels at the level of the chiefs of staff remained open.
Secondly, NATO's attitude to the agreements concluded with Russia, as well as to Russia itself, seems to be deteriorating. The strategic concept of the Alliance announced in 1999 declares the right to conduct military operations outside the territories of the member states, after the beginning of the bombing of Yugoslavia. The 2010 edition mentioned, however, the intention to build relations with Russia. By 2020, the situation has noticeably worsened. The Alliance's military Committee at the level of the chiefs of General staff has developed a new military strategy (Brussels, May 22, 2019). It is based on the NATO Strategic Concept in its latest version, dated July 12, 2018. This document has already been drawn up taking into account the "Russian nuclear threat".
In December of this year, the Alliance's foreign Ministers confirmed the need for dialogue, but cynically accused Russia of "encircling the Alliance from the Arctic to Syria." It is proposed to build relations with Moscow from the position of "unity and strength" with the expectation that a "way out of the impasse" must be found on the terms of the Alliance. Russia is declared a "serious danger and a major threat."
Third, we should consider the sharp deterioration of relations with the United States. Washington declares Russia as "the main threat" and urges the Alliance to the anti-Russian actions, trying to implant the logic of military confrontation in the politics of the EU and its leading countries, including Germany. The Pentagon is moving combat units closer to the Russian borders. The rotation of NATO troops in the contact zone of the military forces means the actual refusal of the Alliance from the agreements and previously accepted obligations.
One of the recent manifestations of open hostility is the actions of Lithuania, Poland, and other satellites against Belarus. NATO is increasing its forward presence on the Western borders of the (Russian Federation-Belarus) Union State: the military infrastructure is being improved, and stocks of material and technical means, weapons and military equipment are being created. Missile defense launchers capable of using offensive cruise missiles are deployed in Romania and Poland. Dual-use aircraft of non - nuclear NATO member countries are involved in scenarios that simulated the use of nuclear weapons.
Finally, the agreed legal framework of relations in the military field, which is completely dependent on the United States, is broken. The whip of the "Russian threat" led to the fact that the Alliance de facto withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty. In 2002, Washington destroyed the Missile Defense Treaty. Romania and Poland decided that the installation of American anti-missile defense systems have to improve their security. Nevertheless, Europe seems to regret the demise of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, but START-3 is next in line.
The search for a way out of the state of growing suspicion is one-sided and Moscow's proposals, including those made through the NRC channels, remain unanswered: (1) take measures to reduce the activity of military activities along the line of direct contact between Russia and the Alliance, (2) improve the mechanism for preventing dangerous military activities in the air and at sea.
In response, the Defender Europe 2020 exercise, the scale of which had to be curtailed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, involved the transfer of more than 20 thousand American troops to Poland and the Baltic States. According to Russian Defense Ministry data, maneuvers of the US armed forces and their allies this year took place in the Sakhalin and Primorsky regions.
The information domain has become almost the dominant theater of hostile actions. In general, "Russophobe fakes" are firmly in use in many European countries, but lack behind the United Kingdom and the United States. The zones of naval exercise of the "encircled NATO" approached the Russian borders. In 2019-20, dozens of NATO warships were alternately located in the Black Sea, every third of which equipped with cruise missiles. Since the beginning of 2020, NATO aviation has performed more than 80 reconnaissance flights along the borders of Russia. Daily patrols from the air of the Black Sea zone are carried out by aircraft and drones of the Alliance. Only in August of this year, Russia 27 times scrambled fighter jets to intercept NATO scouts over the Baltic, Barents, Black and Okhotsk seas.
In August-September of this year, USAF bomber aircraft made 10 single and group flights in the airspace of Western and Eastern Europe, over the adjacent sea areas. B-52 bombers flew to the Southern and Northern regions of Europe. B-1B bombers appeared over Ukraine and were approaching the airspace of the Kaliningrad region.
It also looks like, that for NATO, Ukraine has become a prerequisite for maintaining relations with Moscow. A new stage of dialogue in the format of "thirty-to-one" may be held hostage by Kiev's national radicals, Poland, as well as the quarrelsome "Baltic warriors". These satellites supported by Washington will slow down the normalization process, even if it becomes possible.
The room for confidence-building measures with NATO is narrowing, but a conservative approach to relations with Brussels is also possible. This option should answer the question about the objectives of the dialogue with NATO as an organization. Is there a need for a multilateral negotiation procedure that will pump up the already inflated cheeks of the NATO bureaucracy? Maybe each party (or country) will find a "safety vaccine" for itself? Maybe the Western neighbors should be offered to conclude a "treaty of non-aggression 2.0"? All this sounds depressing, but it corresponds to the current situation of "chaotic confrontation" or "coexistence with no rules". But let us remember that even the UFC-type competition has been regulated to avoid fatal accidents.