Young Russians discuss future of NATO-Russia relations

  • 19 Nov. 2012 - 20 Nov. 2012
  • |
  • Last updated: 04 Dec. 2012 20:53

Young academics from Russian think-tanks and leading Russian universities spent two days in Belgium, meeting with NATO representatives at NATO Headquarters in Brussels and Allied Command Operations in Mons, on 19 and 20 November.

NATO flag flying at NATO Headquarters Brussels.

The candid discussion between the group of 14 and NATO staff focused on current relations between the Alliance and Russia and looking at ways this could improve in the future.

"Globally, the problem is that Russia sees itself as more powerful than it is,” says Igor Istomin, Lecturer, Department of Applied Analysis of International Issues, MGIMO-University at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia. “And NATO countries see themselves as more powerful than the Alliance is. There isn’t much equality on either side,” he adds.

The importance of people-to-people contact was highlighted by the group as key to building strong, transparent, future relations, but it wouldn’t be enough to solve the problem.

The two-day visit was one of many made to NATO  by members of the public including students, academics and politicians, offering briefings and discussion on various Alliance topics.

Building trust

“The security of Russia and NATO are intertwined,” says Petr Lunak, Deputy-Head of the Engagements Section in the Public Diplomacy Division. “The NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon has brought tangible results in particular on Afghanistan: Helicopter Trust Fund, counternarcotics, transit arrangements.”

 “We still have differences on missile defence, Georgia or conventional forces in Europe or Libya,” adds Lunak. “But that should not prevent us from working together in other areas such as the fight against terrorism to name but one. Furthermore, finding a solution on missile defence could be a real game changer.  Even some Russian specialists conclude that NATO missile defence is not a threat to Russia.”

“Practical cooperation in cyber defence should also be encouraged,” says Oleg Demidov, Junior Research Fellow, PIR Centre. “Promotion of areas where there could be practical cooperation could help build trust,” he adds.

“To some extent tensions between NATO and Russia will continue,” says Tatiana Anichkina, Institute of the USA and Canada Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. “The only way to solve it is to have one table at which all decision-makers sit. Whom, or which countries, that should include is, and will be, an ongoing debate. “

“There will always be a level of dissatisfaction, the simplest thing would be Russian accession to NATO,” adds Istomin.