NATO and Russia's thorny relations

02 сентября 2014, 11:54

 Relations between NATO and its former Cold War foe Russia have been difficult and often strained since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of its equivalent Warsaw Pact military alliance in 1991.

Below are some key bones of contention:

EASTERN ENLARGEMENT (1999 and 2004): A member of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme since 1994, Russia described as "an historic error" NATO's eastern enlargement, but effectively gave a reluctant green light when on May 27, 1997, it signed the Founding Act, a treaty with NATO countries recognising post-Cold War borders.

Kvashnin's visit to NATO opens the way for discussions on military cooperation with Russia as forseen in the NATO-Russia founding act. ©Reuters

On March 12, 1999 NATO admitted three former Warsaw Pact countries -- the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Moscow then warned NATO against admitting a former Soviet republic.

Nevertheless, on March 29, 2004, NATO opened its doors to the three Baltic former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, along with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

In April 2008, NATO went even further, opening up the prospect of membership in the long term for Ukraine and Georgia. Ukraine ruled out that option in 2010 but Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Friday he would ask parliament to endorse a membership bid as the crisis deepened.

THE KOSOVO CONFLICT (1998-1999): In 1998, Moscow, the traditional ally of Serbia, threatened "a return of the Cold War" if NATO forced the Serbs to withdraw from the mainly ethnic-Albanian province of Kosovo.

A demonstrator holds a poster saying "Hands off Kosovo" in front of the U.S. embassy during a rally March 24. Russia, angry at NATO's decision to launch air strikes against Yugoslavia. ©Reuters

On March 26, 1999, two days after NATO's first air strikes, Russia closed a NATO information office in Moscow and froze military cooperation. NATO and Russia on December 15, 2000 agreed to reopen the office.

Tensions resurfaced on Kosovo's February 17, 2008, declaration of independence, with Moscow denouncing a "precedent" encouraged by the West to change international borders unilaterally.

CFE TREATY (2007): On December 12, 2007, Russia suspended a key Soviet-era arms pact, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). It said this was due to NATO's failure to ratify the amended 1999 version by claiming that the Russian troop presence Georgia and Moldova violated the treaty, a charge Moscow rejected.

Voting results at the meeting of the Federation Council which discussed the law "On the Russian Federation to suspend the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe." ©RIA Novosti

THE RUSSIA-GEORGIA CONFLICT (2008): On August 19, 2008 after the brief war between Russia and Georgia, NATO called on Russia to withdraw its forces from the former Soviet republic. It froze relations until the following June, suspending the NATO-Russia Council created in 2002.

NATO allies said they were "seriously considering" the implications of Russia's actions in Georgia and that regular contacts were impossible until its troops had been fully withdrawn. ©Reuters

Moscow then suspended its military cooperation with NATO and accused the alliance of having provoked the conflict.

In May, 2009, NATO went ahead with military manoeuvres in Georgia, while a new security document unveiled by the Kremlin said Moscow viewed the United States and NATO as major threats.

SPYING (2009): In late April, 2009, NATO expelled two Russian diplomats in retaliation for a spy scandal in which a former Estonian official, Hermann Simm, passed secrets to Moscow.

Russian Permanent Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin addresses a news conference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels. NATO had ordered the expulsion of two Russian diplomats over a spy scandal in which an Estonian official was jailed for passing secrets to Moscow. ©Reuters

Moscow responded by expelling two Canadian diplomats from NATO's information office in Moscow and pulled out of a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council planned for late May, which had been intended to put the two sides back on good terms after the Georgian crisis.

THE MISSILE SHIELD (since 2010): Launched in 2010, plans for a European missile shield project based on US technology, will see the progressive deployment of missile interceptors and powerful radars in Poland and Romania.

The project -- said to be aimed at countering a potential Iran threat -- has drawn opposition from Russia, which fears it could compromise its security and it deployed missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave in December 2013.

Ceremony at the site of the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense facility located in a former airbase on Deveselu that will form part of the hield to protect Europe. ©Reuters

LIBYA (2011): A permanent member of the UN's Security Council, Moscow abstained during a vote on Libya in March 2011 which opened the way for NATO air strikes on the forces of strongman Moamer Kadhafi, which led to the fall of the regime. In April Russia accused NATO of going beyond the UN mandate.

A man takes pictures of protesters during Friday prayers in Benghazi. Western warplanes hit Libyan forces at a strategically important eastern town, trying to land a crippling blow on Muammar Gaddafi's tanks. ©Reuters

UKRAINE (2014): The Ukrainian crisis is considered the most serious for relations between NATO and Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, NATO suspended its civilian and military cooperation with Moscow which in turn mocked the alliance's Cold War "instincts".

Ukraine wants supplies of weapons but does not expect NATO to send soldiers to help it fight Russian troops in its eastern provinces. ©Reuters

In late August, NATO said "well over a thousand" Russian troops were operating inside Ukraine, supported by tanks and heavy equipment.

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