NATO’s relations with Russia
At their Summit in Wales in September 2014, NATO leaders condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and demanded that Russia stop and withdraw its forces from Ukraine and along the country’s border. NATO leaders also demanded that Russia comply with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities; end its illegitimate occupation of Crimea; refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine; withdraw its troops; halt the flow of weapons, equipment, people and money across the border to the separatists; and stop fomenting tension along and across the Ukrainian border.
They reaffirmed that NATO does not and will not recognise Russia's illegal and illegitimate 'annexation' of Crimea.
For more than two decades, NATO has strived to build a partnership with Russia, including through the mechanism of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), based upon the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the Rome Declaration. Russia has breached its commitments, as well as violated international law, thus breaking the trust at the core of its cooperation with NATO. The decisions NATO took at the Summit demonstrate its respect for the rules-based European security architecture.
NATO continues to believe that a partnership between NATO and Russia based on respect for international law would be of strategic value. Allies continue to aspire to a cooperative, constructive relationship with Russia, including reciprocal confidence-building and transparency measures and increased mutual understanding of NATO’s and Russia’s non-strategic nuclear force postures in Europe, based on common security concerns and interests, in a Europe where each country freely chooses its future. NATO regrets that the conditions for that relationship do not currently exist. As a result, NATO’s decision to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia remains in place. Political channels of communication, however, remain open.
The Alliance does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia, but it would not compromise on the principles on which the Alliance and security in Europe and North America rest.
NATO has followed developments closely from the very beginning of the crisis. On 2 March 2014, the North Atlantic Council condemned the Russian Federation’s military escalation in Crimea and expressed its grave concern regarding the authorisation by the Russian Parliament to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine.
On 16 March, the North Atlantic Council said that it considered the so-called referendum, held on the same day, in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea to be both illegal and illegitimate. The referendum violated the Ukrainian Constitution and international law, and Allies do not recognise its results.
The crisis had serious implications for NATO-Russia relations from the very beginning. The Alliance took immediate steps in terms of its relations with Russia. It suspended the planning for its first NATO-Russia joint mission and put the entire range of NATO-Russia cooperation under review. In April, NATO Foreign Ministers decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia and in June they agreed to maintain the suspension of cooperation with Russia. Any decision to resume cooperation will be conditions-based, a principle that was reaffirmed by NATO Heads of State and Government in Wales.
NATO is currently identifying ways to transfer those cooperative projects that impact on third parties – in particular the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) Counter-Narcotics Training Project and the NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund - to other non-NRC mechanisms or structures. Political dialogue in the NRC can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, to allow the exchange of views, first and foremost on this crisis. Since the crisis began, the NRC has convened twice.
The 28 Allies and Russia are equal partners in the NRC, which was established in 2002. The NRC provides a framework for consultation on current security issues and practical cooperation in a wide range of areas of common interest. Its agenda builds on the basis for bilateral cooperation that was set out in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which provided the formal basis for relations.
Cooperation between Russia and NATO member states that took place prior to 1 April 2014 was directed by the NRC and developed through various subordinate working groups and committees. Every year under the NRC procedures, NRC member countries should agree on an annual work programme.
The driving force behind the NRC’s cooperation to date has been the realisation that NATO and Russia share strategic priorities and face common challenges. At the Lisbon Summit, the 29 NRC leaders pledged to “work towards achieving a true strategic and modernised partnership based on the principles of reciprocal confidence, transparency, and predictability, with the aim of contributing to the creation of a common space of peace, security and stability”. They endorsed a Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges, which include Afghanistan, terrorism, piracy, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, as well as natural and man-made disasters.
Up to 1 April 2014, key areas of cooperation included the fight against terrorism, defence reform, military-to-military cooperation, counter-narcotics training of Afghan, Central Asian and Pakistani personnel, theatre missile defence/missile defence, counter-piracy, crisis management, non-proliferation, airspace management, civil emergency planning, scientific cooperation and environmental security.
The NRC has also provided a forum for the development of a continuous political dialogue on current security issues, which has expanded steadily to include frank and constructive exchanges on topical and sometimes controversial issues. Discussions have been held on subjects such as the situation in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Central Asia, the Middle East, Iraq, Libya, Syria and North Korea, as well as exchanges on issues such as NATO’s transformation, energy security, missile defence and the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Dialogue has also generated ideas for practical cooperation to help address shared security challenges.
To facilitate cooperation, Russia established a diplomatic mission to NATO and Russian Military Branch Offices have been set up at NATO’s two top military command headquarters. In Moscow, a NATO Information Office seeks to explain NATO and promote the benefits of the NATO-Russia partnership, and a Military Liaison Mission is helping improve transparency and coordination on the military side.
Support for ISAF and the Afghan Armed Forces
In spring 2008, Russia offered to support the NATO-led, UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan by facilitating the land transit of non-military equipment for ISAF contributors across Russian territory. Similar arrangements have been concluded with the other transit states, opening up this important supply route for ISAF in 2010. At the Lisbon Summit, NRC leaders agreed amendments to the arrangements agreed in 2008 to allow land transit both to and from Afghanistan of non-lethal cargo. An agreement allowing for multi-modal reverse transit, using a mix of rail and air transit, for ISAF equipment through Russian territory was signed in July 2012. The arrangements, which make use of the Ulyanovsk airport, were employed for the first time in December 2012 for the transit of a cargo for the British contingent in ISAF.
NRC leaders agreed at Lisbon to establish an NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund to help the Afghan Armed Forces to operate and maintain their helicopter fleet. The project was officially launched in March 2011, aimed at providing a much-needed maintenance and repair capacity, including spare parts and technical training. Germany is acting as the lead nation for the project and the NATO Support Agency (NSPA, formerly NAMSA) serving as executing agent. During the first phase of the project, financial and in-kind contributions to the project by ten donor nations – Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey and the United States – amounted to approximately $23 million. Tailored training for Afghan Air Force (AAF) helicopter maintenance staff started in April 2012 at the OAO Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant in Russia, which served as the main training centre for Afghan maintenance personnel under the project. By the end of 2013, 40 Afghan helicopter maintenance staff were trained by the project.
With the launch of the second phase of the project, agreed by NRC Foreign Ministers in April 2013, the scope of the project was expanded: maintenance training, which had previously focused on the Mi-17s (medium-sized transport helicopters that can also act as gunships), would be offered for Mi-35s (large helicopter gunship and attack helicopters with troop transport capability); critical spare parts required to repair seven Mi-35 helicopters, which are currently non-operational, would also be provided; and new support would be directed at developing the AAF’s medical evacuation capacity.
Since cooperation was suspended in April 2014, NATO is working to identify ways to transfer the NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund to other non-NRC mechanisms or structures.
Counter-narcotics training of Afghan and Central Asian personnel
The NRC Counter-Narcotics Training Project was launched by NRC Foreign Ministers in December 2005 to help address the threats posed by the trafficking in Afghan narcotics. It sought to build local capacity and to promote regional networking and cooperation by sharing the combined expertise of NRC member states with mid-level officers from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan became the seventh participating country in 2010.
The project was implemented in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Along with the project’s seven beneficiary countries, this was a joint endeavour of many NRC countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States – as well as two non-NRC contributors (Finland, since 2007, and Ukraine, since 2012).
Fixed training took place in one of four institutes either in Turkey, Russia or the United States and mobile courses were conducted in each of the seven participating countries. In 2013, the project also began work to encourage cross-border counter-narcotics training. This included supporting the UNODC’s work in establishing border liaison officers at existing border checkpoints between northern Tajikistan and southern Kyrgyzstan, and offering joint counter-narcotics training to Afghan and Pakistani officers.
The NRC countries participating in the project convened with representatives of Afghanistan, the Central Asian nations and Pakistan for High Level Steering Sessions, which ensured that the project continued to meet the countries’ counter-narcotics training needs.
By July 2014, over 3,500 officers had been trained under the project. The impact is also being seen through the requests for more specialised training in areas such as clandestine laboratories and forensic investigations for counter-narcotics officers, now that basic training has been widely achieved.
Since cooperation was suspended in April 2014, NATO is working to identify ways to transfer the NRC Counter-Narcotics Training Project to other non-NRC mechanisms or structures.
An NRC Action Plan on Terrorism was launched by NRC Foreign Ministers in December 2004 to improve overall coordination and provide strategic direction for cooperation in this area. NRC leaders underlined the continued importance of cooperation in the fight against terrorism at Lisbon in November 2010 and an updated Action Plan on Terrorism was approved by NRC Foreign Ministers at their meeting in April 2011 in Berlin. A first civil-military counter-terrorism table-top exercise was conducted in the framework of the NRC at NATO Headquarters in March 2012.
Regular exchanges of information and in-depth consultations took place within the NRC on various aspects of combating terrorism. Under the Cooperative Airspace Initiative, an information exchange system was developed to provide air traffic transparency and early notification of suspicious air activities to help prevent terrorist attacks such as the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
In the scientific and technical field, NATO and Russia worked together on the STANDEX project – a flagship initiative of the NATO-Russia Council – which aims to develop technology that will enable the stand-off detection of explosive devices in mass transport environments. Successful live trials of the technology took place in real time in an underground station in a major European city in June 2013, marking the completion of the development and test phase of STANDEX – the result of four years of joint work between experts from Russia and NATO countries. Countering improvised explosive devices was another important focus of cooperation. Events facilitating the sharing of experiences in hosting and securing high-visibility events have also been held.
Over the years, several Russian ships were deployed in support of Operation Active Endeavour, NATO’s maritime operation against terrorism in the Mediterranean.
Cooperative Airspace Initiative
The Cooperative Airspace Initiative (CAI) was aimed at preventing terrorists from using aircraft to launch attacks similar to those of 9/11. The CAI information exchange provided air traffic transparency and early notification of suspicious air activities. This facilitated transparency, predictability and interoperability in airspace management.
Based on a feasibility study completed in 2005, detailed system requirements and a project plan were agreed for the system to enable the reciprocal exchange of air traffic data between centres in NATO countries and in Russia. Implementation started in 2006 and the system reached its operational capability in December 2011.
The operational readiness of the CAI system was demonstrated during the first live flying, real-time counter-terrorism exercise, “Vigilant Skies 2011”, which took place in June 2011. A simulated computer-based exercise to test and consolidate processes, procedures and capabilities took place in November 2012. Another live exercise took place in September 2013.
A total of around €10 million was invested in the CAI project. Nations that have contributed financially include Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The system was open for participation by other countries.
The NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA), formerly known as the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A), led the implementation of the NATO part of the CAI system, and the software was procured from EUROCONTROL. Implementation of the Russian part of the system was led by the State Air Traffic Management Corporation, under the guidance of the Federal Air Navigation Authority. The Russian segment of the system was developed and supplied by the “Almaz-Antey” Concern.
The CAI system consisted of two coordination centres, in Moscow and in Warsaw, and local coordination sites in Russia (Murmansk, Kaliningrad, Rostov-on-Don) and in NATO member countries (Bodø, Norway; Warsaw, Poland; and Ankara, Turkey).
Theatre missile defence/ ballistic missile defence
Cooperation in the area of theatre missile defence (TMD) was underway for a number of years to address the unprecedented danger posed to deployed forces by the increasing availability of ever more accurate ballistic missiles. A study was launched in 2003 to assess the possible levels of interoperability among the theatre missile defence systems of NATO Allies and Russia.
Three command post exercises were held – the first in the United States in March 2004, the second in the Netherlands in March 2005, and the third in Russia in October 2006. Computer-assisted exercises took place in Germany in January 2008 and March 2012. Together with the interoperability study, these exercises were intended to provide the basis for future improvements to interoperability and to develop mechanisms and procedures for joint operations in the area of theatre missile defence.
In December 2009, an NRC Missile Defence Working Group was established. It was tasked to build on the lessons learned from the previous TMD cooperation and to exchange views on possible mutually beneficial cooperation on ballistic missile defence, based on a joint assessment of missile threats.
At the Lisbon Summit, NRC leaders approved the joint ballistic missile threat assessment and agreed to discuss pursuing missile defence cooperation. They decided to resume TMD cooperation, which had been suspended in August 2008, and to develop a joint analysis of the future framework for missile defence cooperation.
At the 2012 Chicago Summit, NATO leaders stressed that NATO’s planned missile defence capability is not directed against Russia, nor will it undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent. It is intended to defend against potential threats from beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. These points were reaffirmed by NATO leaders at the Wales Summit in September 2014.
Non-proliferation and arms control
Dialogue on a growing range of issues related to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was developed under the NRC. Concrete recommendations have been made to strengthen existing non-proliferation arrangements. A number of in-depth discussions and expert seminars were held to explore opportunities for practical cooperation in the protection against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Work was underway to assess global trends in WMD proliferation and their means of delivery, and to review areas in which NRC nations could work together politically to promote effective multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.
The NRC has also provided a forum for frank discussions on issues related to conventional arms control, such as the CFE Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty and confidence- and security-building measures. A key priority for all NRC nations is to work towards the ratification of the Adapted Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. The Allies have expressed concern over Russia’s unilateral “suspension” of its participation in the treaty in December 2007. While differences remain on this issue, the Allies remain committed to ratifying the Adapted Treaty. At the Lisbon Summit, NRC leaders emphasised their strong support for the revitalisation and modernisation of the conventional arms control regime in Europe and their readiness to continue dialogue on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation issues of interest to the NRC. A Joint NRC Statement was agreed for the 7th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in December 2011.
In July 2014, the United States briefed the North Atlantic Council on its determination that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometres, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.
The INF Treaty, which entered into force in 1988, was concluded to reduce threats to security and stability in Europe, in particular the threat of short-warning attack on targets of strategic importance.
The Treaty has a special place in history, as it required the verifiable elimination of an entire class of missiles possessed by the United States and the former Soviet Union. It remains a key element of Euro-Atlantic security -- one that benefits the security of all parties and must be preserved.
Russia should work constructively to resolve this critical treaty issue and preserve the viability of the INF Treaty by returning to full compliance in a verifiable manner, as stressed by NATO leaders at the Wales Summit in September 2014. Continuing to uphold the Treaty strengthens the security of all, including Russia.
Nuclear weapons issues
In the nuclear field, experts have developed a glossary of terms and definitions and organised exchanges on nuclear doctrines and strategy. Seminars were held to discuss nuclear doctrine and strategy in 2005, 2009 and 2011, lessons learned from nuclear weapons incidents and accidents (2007) and potential responses to the detection of improvised nuclear or radiological devices (2010).
Experts and representatives from Russia and NATO member countries have also observed four nuclear-weapon-accident-response field exercises in Russia in 2004, the United Kingdom in 2005, the United States in 2006, and France in 2007. As a follow-on to these four exercises, in June 2011, Russia and NATO member countries also participated in a table top exercise dealing with emergency response to a nuclear weapon incident. Inviting experts to attend such exercises increases transparency, developed common understanding of nuclear-weapon-accident-response procedures, and built full confidence that the nuclear weapon states of NATO (France, the United Kingdom and United States) and Russia are fully capable to respond effectively to any emergency involving nuclear weapons.
Since the NRC was established, military liaison arrangements have been enhanced, at the Allied Commands for Operations and for Transformation, as well as in Moscow. A key objective of military-to-military cooperation is to build trust, confidence and transparency, and to improve the ability of NATO and Russian forces to work together in preparation for possible future joint military operations. It focused on areas of cooperation such as logistics, combating terrorism, search-and-rescue at sea, countering piracy, theatre missile defence/missile defence and military academic exchanges – and related military activities.
However, on 1 April 2014, NATO Foreign Ministers decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia
Countering piracy was one of the key areas of common interest and concern identified in the Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges approved at Lisbon in November 2010. Cooperation at the tactical level developed from late 2008 between Russian vessels and Allied ships deployed as part of NATO’s counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa, Ocean Shield. At the operational level, regular meetings between staffs sought to enhance NATO-Russia maritime cooperation. Russian ships also used the training facilities of the NATO Maritime Interdiction Training Centre in Crete, Greece, to prepare for counter-piracy missions.
Submarine-crew search and rescue
Prior to April 2014, work in the area of submarine-crew search and rescue at sea intensified following the signing of a framework agreement on cooperation in this area in February 2003.
A Russian navy submarine was fully integrated into a NATO-led exercise for the first time during search-and-rescue exercise “Bold Monarch 2011” off the coast of southern Spain, in June 2011. Prior to this, Russia took part in NATO’s exercise “Sorbet Royal”, in June 2005. The experience and networks developed during the exercise contributed to the success of an actual rescue operation in August 2005 off the coast of Russian Kamchatka peninsula. Russia also participated in exercise “Bold Monarch 2008”.
In December 2013, a sea survival course for aircrews took place in Germany.
Defence transparency, strategy and reform
With a view to building mutual confidence and transparency, prior to 1 April 2014 dialogue took place on doctrinal issues, strategy and policy, including their relation to defence reform, nuclear weapons issues, force development and posture.
Past initiatives launched in the area of defence reform focused on the evolution of the military, management of human and financial resources, reform of defence industries, managing the consequences of defence reform, and defence-related aspects of combating terrorism. NATO and Russian linguists also produced a terminological glossary to support practical cooperation and contribute to understanding within the NRC, which was completed in 2011.
From 2002 to 2008, a NATO-Russia Resettlement Centre helped facilitate the integration of former Russian military personnel into civilian life by providing information regarding job-search and resettlement, professional courses for trainees, job-placement services, and English-language and management courses for small and medium-sized enterprises. Set up in Moscow in July 2002, its operations were gradually expanded into the regions. Over the project’s lifetime, around 2820 former military personnel from the Russian armed forces were retrained and over 80 per cent found civilian employment as a result of the retraining or the help of the Centre’s job placement unit.
Defence industrial cooperation
A broad-based “Study on NATO-Russia Defence Industrial and Research and Technological Cooperation”, launched in January 2005 and completed in 2007, concluded that there was potential in combining scientific and technological capabilities to address global threats.
Logistics form the backbone of any military operation and in today's security environment, the need for more mobile forces and multinational operations calls for improved coordination and the pooling of resources, wherever possible.
Before the suspension of practical cooperation with Russia, opportunities for logistics cooperation were pursued on both the civilian and military side, including areas such as air transport, air-to-air refuelling, medical services and water purification. Meetings and seminars focused on establishing a sound foundation of mutual understanding in the field of logistics by promoting information sharing in areas such as logistic policies, doctrine, structures and lessons learned.
NATO and Russia cooperated between 1996 and 2014 to develop a capacity for joint action in response to civil emergencies, such as earthquakes and floods, and to coordinate detection and prevention of disasters before they occur. Moreover, it was a Russian proposal that led to the establishment in 1998 of the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, which coordinates responses to disasters among all countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (the 28 NATO members and 22 partner countries).
Under the NRC, a key focus of cooperation in this area was to develop capabilities to manage the consequences of terrorist attacks. Two disaster-response exercises held in Russia (Bogorodsk, 2002, and Kaliningrad, 2004) and another in Italy, in 2006, have resulted in concrete recommendations for consequence management. Another table top consequence-management exercise was hosted by Norway in 2010. More recent work focused on risk reduction, capacity building and cooperation in the area of civil preparedness and consequence management related to high visibility events.
Russia was actively engaged within the framework of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme from 1992. The SPS Programme enables close collaboration on issues of common interest to enhance the security of NATO and partner countries. By facilitating international efforts, in particular with a regional focus, the Programme seeks to address emerging security challenges, support NATO-led operations and advance early warning and forecast for the prevention of disasters and crises.
Scientists and experts from Russia sought to address a wide range of security issues, notably in the fields of defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents, mine detection and counter-terrorism (including explosives detection such as the STANDEX project mentioned above). Areas for cooperation were identified in the NRC and a concrete Action Plan developed to carry out activities. One activity included a project to develop solutions for effective oil spill management in the southeastern Baltic. An SPS multi-year research initiative was launched in June 2013 to establish a continuous risk monitoring assessment network that will observe munitions dump sites in the Baltic Sea (MODUM). Such sites represent a major environmental and security hazard in the region.
On 1 April 2014, NATO Foreign Ministers decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. However, SPS projects currently underway with Russian participation can end according to schedule but no new projects with Russian participation will be launched.
Terminology and language training
To facilitate better understanding of terms and concepts used by NATO and Russia, glossaries were developed on the entire spectrum of NATO-Russia cooperation. Following the publication in 2011 of an NRC Consolidated Glossary of Cooperation covering some 7,000 terms, additional glossaries have been developed on missile defence, nuclear doctrine and strategies, helicopter maintenance, counter–piracy, ammunition demilitarization and counter-narcotics.
Language cooperation was expanded in 2011 with the launch of a project to harmonise language training for military and civilian experts at the Russian Ministry of Defence, who engaged in cooperation with NATO, aligning training with NATO standards.
Raising public awareness of the NRC
An NRC web site (http://www.nato-russia-council.info/) was launched in June 2007 to increase public awareness of NRC activities. The NRC website has been suspended following the decision by NATO Foreign Ministers on 1 April.