|Author (Person)||Prokhorova, Elena|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.12, 28.3.02, p4|
BACK in the early 1990s Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the former enfant terrible of Russia's fledgling political classes, predicted that 'one day the Russian soldiers will wash their feet in the waters of the Indian Ocean'.
Now Zhirinovsky, deputy speaker of the Duma and a member of the NATO-Russia monitoring group, expresses cautious optimism over the future of relations between Brussels and Moscow.
'We should stop viewing NATO as our adversary,' he said. 'NATO never had anything against Russia; it fought against the Communist regime. We should also stop accusing NATO for having bombed Serbia. The object of the exercise was to topple the [Milosevic] regime.
'We should seek that justice be done in The Hague. Certain Kosova Albanian leaders should join Milosevic in the dock.'
Zhirinovsky argues that Russia and NATO have common goals - fighting terrorism and 'ethnic fascism'.
Expressing his 'personal view', he outlined a possible joint project: 'We could think of a cooperative solution for the Chechen problem...why not recreate the Chechen Republic in Georgia proper, in and around the Pankisi Gorge?' (The area to which some al-Quaeda fighters are suspected to have fled).
'We have problems with the Chechens. I imagine it would be easier for the Georgians to find a common language with them.'
NATO and Russia are working out a new format for their relationship, due to be announced in May at the NATO ministerial meeting in Reykjavik. If agreed, the deal will be formally sealed at November's summit in Prague, when NATO is expected to open its doors for the next round of eastward enlargement - an issue that is highly sensitive for Russia.
Moscow cannot help feeling uncomfortable over the Baltics' accession to NATO, in spite of reassurances from Brussels that NATO is a benign political and security organisation.
But alleviating Russia's worries is not the only reason why NATO seeks to redefine its relations with Moscow. Post-11 September logic urges NATO to revise it own raison d'être and strategies towards the European non-member states, particularly Russia and Ukraine.
As NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson bluntly puts it: 'NATO and Russia are doomed to cooperate.'
Another prominent member of the NATO-Russia joint monitoring group, General Andrei Nikolaev, says 'relations between NATO and Russia are likely to evolve in two parallel lines, that is within the '20' and '19+1' formats'.
According to the current '19+1' practice, NATO members consult Russia, or rather confront it, with a consolidated position on issues of common concern. It is expected that under the new '20' model NATO and Russia will identify half-a-dozen topics for joint decisions.
What happens if they fail to reach a consensus?
'NATO will simply revert to taking its own decision within the 19 format, and Russia will feel free to do the same', foresees Gen Nikolaev, who is head of the defence committee of the Duma and close to the Kremlin.
In Nikolaev's view, Russia seeks a real, not a virtual role in NATO decision-making. He believes that could be ensured through Tony Blair's proposal granting Russia a veto on a number of issues. 'Lack of such power within the 20 will discourage the sides from seeking compromise solutions,' warns the defence chief.
However, the British proposal appears doomed to fail, as it seems unacceptable both to the US and the new NATO member states, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, whose motivation for joining the North Atlantic Treaty was to shed the ghosts of the Warsaw Pact.
Nikolaev says there is a vast potential for 'triangular cooperation' between US, Europe and Russia in military-technical affairs. He believes Russia and Europe are 10 years behind the US in defence R & D.
'If it goes on like this,' he forecasts, 'the world will become increasingly unbalanced.
'Possessing nuclear weapons will be seen by many countries as the only means to maintain at least a remote parity in the US-led arms race.'
Article discusses NATO-Russia relations.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|
|Countries / Regions||Russia|