Relations with Russia
For more than two decades, NATO has worked to build a partnership with Russia, developing dialogue and practical cooperation in areas of common interest. Cooperation has been suspended since 2014 in response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine but political and military channels of communication remain open. Concerns about Russia’s continued destabilising pattern of military activities and aggressive rhetoric go well beyond Ukraine.
NATO is pursuing a dual-track approach towards Russia: meaningful dialogue on the basis of a strong deterrence and defence posture. (NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, September 2017)
- Relations started after the end of the Cold War, when Russia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (1991). This forum for dialogue was succeeded in 1997 by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which brings together all Allies and partner countries in the Euro-Atlantic area.
- Practical cooperation started after Russia joined the Partnership for Peace programme (1994) and deployed peacekeepers in support of NATO-led peace-support operations in the Western Balkans in the late 1990s.
- The 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act provided the formal basis for bilateral relations.
- Dialogue and cooperation were strengthened in 2002 with the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) to serve as a forum for consultation on current security issues and to direct practical cooperation in a wide range of areas.
- Russia's disproportionate military action in Georgia in August 2008 led to the suspension of formal meetings of the NRC and cooperation in some areas, until spring 2009. The Allies continue to call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
- All practical civilian and military cooperation under the NRC with Russia has been suspended since April 2014, in response to Russia’s military intervention and aggressive actions in Ukraine, and its illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, which Allies condemn in the strongest terms. But channels of political and military communication remain open to exchange information on issues of concern, reduce misunderstandings and increase predictability.
- Allies’ concerns about Russia’s destabilising actions and policies go beyond Ukraine and include provocative military activities near NATO’s borders stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea; irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military posture and underlying posture; the risks posed by its military intervention and support for the regime in Syria; and the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom in March 2018, a clear breach of international norms.
- NATO has responded to this changed security environment by enhancing its deterrence and defence posture, while remaining open to dialogue. The Alliance does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia.
More background information
After Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the Allies suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation in April 2014, while keeping open channels of political and military communication. The NATO-Russia Council (NRC) remains an important forum for dialogue, on the basis of reciprocity, and has met eight times since 2016.
At the NATO Summit in Wales in September 2014 and at successive summits since then, Allied leaders have condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, calling on Russia to stop and withdraw its forces from Ukraine and along the country’s border. Allies continue to demand that Russia comply with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities; end its illegitimate occupation of Crimea; refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine; 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. NATO does not and will not recognise Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea.
The Allies have also noted that violence and insecurity in the region led to the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines passenger flight MH17 on 17 July 2014, calling for those directly and indirectly responsible to be held accountable and brought to justice as soon as possible. In May 2018, the Joint Investigation Team, which is investigating the MH17 crash, concluded that the BUK-TELAR that was used to down the aircraft originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, a unit of the Russian army from Kursk. Allies stand in solidarity with the Netherlands and Australia, which call on Russia to take State responsibility for the downing of flight MH17.
Allies strongly support the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine by diplomatic and peaceful means and welcome the ongoing diplomatic efforts to this end. All signatories of the Minsk Agreements must comply with their commitments and ensure their full implementation. Russia has a significant responsibility in this regard.
NATO’s concerns go well beyond Russia’s activities in Ukraine. The Allies continue to express their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova within their internationally recognised borders and call on Russia to withdraw the forces it has stationed in all three countries without their consent. Russia’s military activities, particularly along NATO’s borders, have increased and its behaviour continues to make the Euro-Atlantic security environment less stable and predictable, in particular its practice of calling snap exercises, deploying near NATO borders, conducting large-scale training and exercises and violating Allied airspace. Russia is also challenging Euro-Atlantic security and stability through hybrid actions, including attempted interference in the election processes and the sovereignty of nations, widespread disinformation campaigns and malicious cyber activities. The Allies also condemn the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Salisburyin March 2018, and express solidarity with the United Kingdom. In the wake of this attack, the maximum number of personnel in the Russian Mission at NATO Headquarters was reduced by 10 people.
This is compounded by Russia’s continued violation, non-implementation and circumvention of numerous obligations and commitments in the realm of arms control and confidence- and security-building measures. In December 2018, NATO foreign ministers supported the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach 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 Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security, and have called on Russia to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance. 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 and 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. Moreover, Russia’s ongoing selective implementation of the Vienna Document and the Open Skies Treaty, and its long-standing non-implementation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty undermine Euro-Atlantic security.
Russia’s military intervention and considerable military presence in Syria have posed further risks for the Alliance. On 5 October 2015, in response to Russia’s military intervention in Syria, the Allies called on Russia to immediately cease their attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians, to focus its efforts on fighting so-called Islamic State, and to promote a solution to the conflict through a political transition. In April 2018, Allies expressed strong support to the U