|Updated: 29-Oct-2002||NATO Background Information|
NATO-Russia: forging a new relationship
A new page was opened today in NATO-Russia relations. The Heads of State and Government of NATO Allies and Russia have established a ground-breaking new body - the NATO-Russia Council - which brings together NATO Allies and Russia to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20. Spurred by the tragic events of 11 September 2001, today's decision demonstrates the shared resolve to work closely together as equal partners in areas of common interest and to stand together against common threats and risks to security.
The road to the Rome Summit
The tragic events of September 11 were a stark reminder of the need for comprehensive and coordinated action to respond to common threats. In a joint statement after an extraordinary session of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC) on 12 September 2001, Allied and Russian ambassadors were united in their anger and indignation at the barbaric attacks on the United States and called on "the entire international community to unite in the struggle against terrorism".
The Allies and Russia were quick to recognise and seize the opportunity to boost NATO-Russia cooperation. On 3 October 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin and NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson met in Brussels to discuss possibilities to deepen NATO-Russia cooperation. Further high-level contacts - including another meeting between Lord Robertson and President Putin in November in Moscow - paved the way for the initiative, announced by foreign ministers at the 7 December meeting of the PJC in Brussels, to give new impetus and substance to the NATO-Russia partnership by creating a new council to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20. PJC Foreign Ministers pledged to develop the necessary arrangements in time for their next meeting in May 2002 in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Thanks to good will, dedication and intensive negotiations, foreign ministers were in a position at their meeting in Reykjavik on 14 May to approve a joint declaration on NATO-Russia Relations: A New Quality, which was submitted for adoption and signature by Heads of State and Government and the Secretary General of NATO at their summit meeting in Rome on 28 May 2002.
Building on the goals and principles of the 1997 Founding Act, the declaration establishes the NATO-Russia Council as a mechanism for consultation, consensus-building, cooperation, joint decision and joint action. NATO's member states and Russia will work as equal partners on a wide spectrum of Euro-Atlantic security issues of common interest.
The new Council, replacing the PJC, will work on the principle of consensus and on the basis of continuous political dialogue on security issues to enable early identification of emerging problems, determination of common approaches and the conduct of joint actions, as appropriate. Chaired by NATO's Secretary General, meetings will be held at least monthly at the level of ambassadors and military representatives; twice yearly at the level of foreign and defence ministers and chiefs of staff; and occasionally at summit level.
Work under the NATO-Russia Council will focus on all areas of mutual interest identified in the Founding Act. The Allies and Russia will intensify cooperation within the framework of the new Council in a number of key areas. These include the struggle against terrorism, crisis management, non-proliferation, arms control and confidence-building measures, theatre missile defence, search and rescue at sea, military-to-military cooperation and civil emergencies. The members of the Council will work with a view to identifying further areas of cooperation.
Today's summit meeting in Rome takes place one day after the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Founding Act, providing an ideal opportunity to underline the achievements of the past five years and look back on the remarkable transformation in NATO-Russia relations and the Euro-Atlantic strategic environment since the end of the Cold War.
The transformation of NATO
The role of NATO changed significantly following the end of the Cold War and the sea change in Europe's military and political situation that accompanied it. While the reduced threat of direct military confrontation opened up tremendous possibilities to set European security affairs on a new, more constructive path, new threats to stability soon emerged. To adapt to the new strategic context, the Alliance adopted a broader definition of security and launched a broad-based strategy of partnership and cooperation throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.
A continuous process of internal and external adaptation has enabled NATO to operate effectively in the new security environment, providing the flexibility needed to address the challenges posed by intra-state conflicts and ethnic violence, humanitarian and environmental disasters and - of key relevance in the wake of September 11 - international terrorism. This capacity to adapt has enabled the Alliance to reaffirm its role as an indispensable pillar of Euro-Atlantic stability. Its expanded role in the new security environment goes beyond deterring aggression against members and providing a forum for transatlantic consultations to exporting security and stability to the wider Euro-Atlantic community. The Alliance effectively promotes the growth of democratic institutions; the peaceful resolution of disputes; conflict prevention and crisis management; and partnership and cooperation with non-members.
Fostering Euro-Atlantic partnership and cooperation is now regarded as one of NATO's fundamental security tasks. The process was initiated in 1990, when Allied leaders extended a hand of friendship across the old East-West divide, proposing a new cooperative relationship with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet republics. This set the scene for the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) in December 1991, as a forum for consultation.
The process took a significant leap forward with the launch, in 1994, of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) - a major programme of practical bilateral cooperation between NATO and individual Partners, which promotes transparency in defence planning and budgeting, democratic control of armed forces, and the capacity for joint action with NATO in peacekeeping operations. The invitation to join PfP has since been accepted by 30 countries, three of which have become members of the Alliance.
Today, the 19 Allies consult regularly with 27 Partner countries on security and defence-related issues in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), which succeeded the NACC in 1997. Military forces from NATO and Partner countries frequently exercise and interact together. Moreover, some 9,000 soldiers from Partner countries serve alongside Alliance soldiers in NATO-led Balkan peacekeeping operations, with Russia making the largest contribution of any Partner nation.
Building bridges with Russia
NATO has attributed particular importance to developing cooperation with Russia, whose involvement is critical for any comprehensive post-Cold War system of European security.
A founding member of the NACC in 1991, Russia joined the Partnership for Peace in 1994. But the true basis for the development of a strong and durable partnership between NATO and Russia was provided by the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, signed in Paris in 1997, which expressed a joint commitment to build a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Under the Founding Act, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC) was created as a forum for regular consultation on security issues of common concern. Its aim was to build mutual confidence and help overcome misperceptions through dialogue and the development of a substantial programme of security and defence-related cooperation.
To facilitate cooperation, a Russian Mission to NATO was established on 18 March 1998. On 20 February 2001, a NATO Information Office in Moscow was inaugurated to improve mutual knowledge and understanding. And, marking the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Founding Act, a NATO Military Liaison Mission was established in Moscow on 27 May 2002 to improve transparency and develop practical military cooperation between NATO military authorities and Russia's Ministry of Defence.
Partnership in practice
The value of the NATO-Russia partnership is best seen in practice. One of the most successful areas of cooperation has been the joint commitment to promoting peace and stability in the Balkans. Russian and NATO soldiers have worked together for over six years to support the international community's efforts to build lasting security and stability in the region.
This is not the only area where the NATO-Russia partnership has borne tangible fruit. An extensive programme of cooperation has led to substantial achievements with visible results. Moreover, various seminars, workshops and exercises, organised to develop cooperation in some of the key areas outlined below, have led to an unprecedented level of contacts at different levels and in different spheres.
The tragic sinking of the Russian nuclear submarine, Kursk, on 12 August 2000 with 118 sailors aboard, led to agreement on a NATO-Russia work programme on search and rescue at sea in December 2000. Major strides have been made since then in promoting cooperation, transparency and confidence in this area.