Russia – NATO: How to Prevent War?

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Experts are concerned over the possible war between Russia and NATO and hope that they could prevent the war by ‘urgent reports’.

Russia - NATO: How to Prevent War?

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This article originally appeared at Interpolit, translated from Russian by Olga Seletskaia exclusively for SouthFront

Former ministers have tabled a proposal to regulate Russia-NATO relationship using the same model as the US using with China.

NATO-Russia Council should urgently discuss the possibility of adopting a memorandum of understanding between the Alliance and Russia to ensure mutual security. This is stated in the report “Do not let the war: how to reduce the risks of military incidents between Russia and NATO?”, published on August 26.

The authors have concluded a significant deterioration in relations between Russia and the West over the past year and a half because of the situation in Ukraine. They point out that recently 66 incidents involving the armed forces of Russia and NATO, Sweden and Finland occurred at sea and in air. At least three of them were extremely risky.

It only the professionalism of the military that insured against the tragic consequences of such incidents; but in circumstances of the increased international tension, there is a risk of dangerous miscalculation or of an accident that can lead to open military confrontation between Russia and the West.

In this situation, experts suggest to urgently convene the Russia-NATO Council and to sign an agreement similar to the US-Chinese agreement of 2014. The document should establish principles and procedures of interaction that must be followed when dealing with naval and military aircrafts. It also proposes to ban simulated attacks guided by missiles. Furthermore, it voiced the idea of ​​holding annual meetings to analyze all events related to the implementation of the agreement.

During “cold war” there were two similar agreements of 1972 and 1989 between the USSR and USA. Now it is proposed to include in the agreement not only the rest of NATO, but also Finland and Sweden.

The document was prepared by a special working group of the project “Building greater Europe: the necessary measures until 2030”, which includes experts from the influential British research center European Leadership Network, the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, the Polish Institute of International Affairs and the Organization for International Strategic Studies (USAK ) in Ankara.

The proposal was signed by a group of experts, including former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his British counterpart Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Minister of Poland Adam Rotfeld, former Heads of the military departments of the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Specialist in International Security Victoria Legranova believes that nowadays the signing of any Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and NATO is a positive thing.

– But it so happened that the current confrontation with Russia is not the most important matter for the United States. The Americans are now trying to transform NATO’s structure from inside: to abolish the veto right within the Alliance, to make decisions based on majority vote, to have a single command center for the strategic nuclear forces of France and Britain, to lobby the interests of the the military-industrial corporations.

Unfortunately, the “hawk ideas” of the Americans are winning and it will keep winning for some time. Another thing is that the situation has reached such a point that there is a real factor of a military clash between the NATO countries and Russia. After all, the entire Euro-Atlantic security system, which since the beginning of the 90s has been functioning sufficiently well, is completely destroyed by now.

On June 13, 2002 the United States withdrew from the Treaty on the restriction of missile defense systems of May 26, 1972, according to which the Americans could only place missiles and all tools for targeting and missile guidance weapons on their own territory; and now the missile defense system is already placed in Europe.

On March 10, 2015 Russia suspended its participation in the meetings of the JCG (Joint Consultative Group) about the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CAFE). Thus, the announced by Russia in 2007 suspension of the signed in 1990 CAFE became complete. Although it seems that it was Russia who ended CAFE, but there were reasons for it. In particular, the Baltic countries did not want to join the Treaty. And if so, what was the point to know how many tanks Germany has, if their number in Latvia is hidden from Russia?

Not mentioning that due to the Americans’ efforts Treaty on Intermediate and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) is falling apart. That is, the United States have been conducting and are conducting a one-sided policy of destroying the European security system. As a result, we came to the reality when the number of military aircrafts’ dispatches is constantly increasing from both sides.

It is quite dangerous, given that military aircraft often flies with transponders turned off (radar transceiver device that allows to “see” the aircraft, in particular, ground-based radars – “SP”). Consequently, the work load on civilian traffic controllers is increasing as well. Dealing with modern weapons, an error or some misunderstanding can lead to tragic consequences.

The deputy director of the Tauride information-analytical center RISS Sergey Ermakov remarks: the problem is that the Alliance did not accept the reunification of the Crimea with Russia when the crisis in Ukraine broke out, and they do not link the conflict in the Donbass with errors and the actions of the current Kiev authorities, but rather blame Russia for it.

– As a result, NATO accuses Russia in all the troubles, and cooperation under NATO-Russia Council stopped. The Alliance no longer sees Russia as a partner.

Yes, it is a good idea to sign the Memorandum of Understanding. But for some reason, it looks like the work of Russian permanent representative to NATO Alexander Grushko’s group is clearly being hindered – either it is accused of spying, or there are no funds to rent the premises.

Again, the Council’s work ended only at the initiative of the Alliance. NATO only left the mechanisms for consultation in the military sphere, which give advantage to the bloc. Yes, the military bloc is interested in removing the threat of escalation. Mostly because it already overstretched the threat by so many its own military exercises.

Experts who are analyzing the report have already picked up on these issues. However, it again looks like smearing responsibility for the tension in the world. But it is the Alliance that must restore the work of the NATO-Russia Council.

By the way, the NATO-Russia working groups were dealing with the incidents in the air. We even held joint exercises to reduce the danger of terrorism in the airspace, engaging ground services. Of course, back then everyone knew at what frequency transponders worked, and nobody turned them off.

It seems odd to turn to US-China and US- Soviet models of cooperation in the sense that certain agreements already were made within the NATO-Russia Council. What can the new model bring? Well, we agree to sign a memorandum of cooperation with the intention to live in friendship and peace. But even before the Ukrainian events, Russia offered a simple thing – a formal statement signed by NATO that a missile defense system built by NATO would not threaten Russia. Alliance responded that such a statement was not needed.

In addition, the report says nothing about the role of the OSCE, although the same Adam Rotfeld, when he was a Head of the International Research Institute for the Conservation of the World in Stockholm (SIPRI), constantly argued for giving the organization a more significant authority.

Therefore, though this report, in my opinion, brings the issue to high importance level, but essentially it is an attempt to resolve major differences by making small steps. Besides, Russian interests and concerns are not taken in consideration in the report. In fact, at the time when this report was published and discussed, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was visiting Tbilisi, where he met with Georgian top officials at the opening ceremony of the NATO training centre.

Member of the Scientific Council of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, professor of political science at the Moscow State University Manoilo Andrew believes that there is nothing new in the report’s proposals.

– Experts are true when they pinpoint that the escalation is related to the fact that NATO is focusing its troops and bases along the Russian borders; and Russia has to respond symmetrically. It is obvious that this race will not lead to anything good.

The proposals do not offer any effective solutions to the problems expressed in the report. Western actors do not have a desire to use the NATO- Russia Council platform for negotiations. If it were of interest to them, it would have long functioned to its fullest. In general, Americans are not prepared to use a variety of channels for a final clarification of their position. They believe that a pressure exerted on Russia eventually bring results.

With China, the US’ game is completely different. The Americans are now actively returning to the Asia-Pacific region, they are moving their fleet into the region, they restore their military bases in the Philippines – to constrain China by all means. Those provocations, that Americans periodically initiate in the South China Sea and to which Beijing also periodically responds, – those provocations fit into the positional confrontation in the region. And since it is a question of positional actions, respective game rules are required. That’s why, in late 2014, the United States and China signed an agreement defining the formats of interaction in emergency situations.

As for Russia, a call to revive the NATO-Russia Council will do nothing. Only multipass diplomatic combination can reduce the risk of escalating conflict from the cold into the hot phase, but this kind of combination was not offered in the report.

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