BRUSSELS/MOSCOW – Russian threat, space strategy and stronger China are just some of the topics of NATO ministerial meeting, ending preparations for the Alliance’s summit in London earlier this December. Experts believe that the “Russian issue” will be central, due to the “Russian-Chinese axis” and the efforts Moscow is making to reach an agreement to ban the deployment of weapons in space.
NATO’s relationship with Moscow is based on “deterrence and defense”, but, according to Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, there is a willingness for dialogue. Alexei Podberezkin of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations interprets this readiness as an expectation that the Russian side will make concessions. According to him, the two strategies form the basis of the Alliance’s policy towards Russia.
“A ‘limited’ co-operation strategy involves negotiating only if it is in NATO’s interests. It does not imply comprehensive dialogue or equality between partners. Limited cooperation violates the security principles of the Russian Federation, is of a declarative nature and can be heard mostly at ministerial meetings. The other is a coercion strategy, which puts constant pressure on Russia, and it involves a wide range of measures, from information, political-diplomatic, to military. This is a real policy of the West,” Podberezkin said.
He added that cooperation between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance would be possible if Moscow agreed to make concessions around Crimea, but also in relations with other countries, such as Iran and, in particular, China.
Interestingly, China is officially included in the agenda of Alliance ministerial meetings for the first time this year. Due to its activities in Europe, Africa and the Arctic, China is increasingly “approaching NATO’s borders”, and the security challenge for NATO is the fact that this Asian country is not only one of the two world’s largest economies, but also boasts the second-largest military budget.
Russian experts believe that NATO is concerned not only with Beijing’s growing military potential but also the “Russian-Chinese axis“. Podberezkin points out that NATO members understand that the organization encompasses the North Atlantic and that pressure on China is meaningless without a partnership with Russia, which is highly unlikely because of the large number of unresolved issues.
“Russian threat” – a condition for NATO’s survival
On the other hand, political scientist Andrei Koshkin points out that Stoltenberg is trying to alleviate the current situation with his statements, taking into account Washington’s interests, as well as the changes taking place on the European continent and in the world. He believes that while the NATO Secretary-General is constantly talking about the need for dialogue with Russia, he must stand by the positions Washington imposes. In addition, it should not be forgotten that the “Russian threat” is vital to the survival of this military bloc.
“If everything is all right and if Russia, in the same way as Washington, cares about the security of European citizens in France, Germany and other countries, it raises the question of the necessity for NATO to exist in Europe,” Koskin said.
The space strategy is another stumbling block in Russia-NATO relations. Stoltenberg’s statement that NATO does not intend to deploy weapons in space, according to experts, is not true.
“NATO is not ready to sign an agreement banning the deployment of weapons in space, which Russia proposes, but is focusing its capabilities on expanding the range of military equipment in space. This applies not only to hypersonic spacecraft rockets, but also to satellites, and in particular those that ensure the operation of large air defense systems, “said Podberezkin.
Yuri Shvidkin, deputy chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, points out that the Alliance is first and foremost a military organization and that its members will try in every way to militarize the cosmos. Stoltenberg’s statements, he said, are destructive, and Russia should take measures that will not allow the militarization of the space by NATO.