Updated: 29-Oct-2002 NATO Background Information

correct as of
May 2002

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.

  • Peacekeeping in the Balkans

    Russian forces are making a valuable contribution to the UN-mandated, NATO-led peacekeeping forces in the Balkans. The mission of these forces is to prevent a resumption of hostilities and maintain a secure environment in which, with international assistance, these war-torn countries can rebuild and the growth of democracy can be promoted.

    In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russian peacekeepers serving in the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) - and its predecessor, the Implementation Force - have been stationed in Multinational Division North since January 1996. They have been responsible for an extensive area, conducting daily patrols, security checks and assisting with general reconstruction and humanitarian tasks, such as helping refugees and displaced persons return to their homes.

    Despite political differences over NATO's 1999 decision to take military action to head off a humanitarian catastrophe and stop further political and ethnic repression in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Russia played a vital diplomatic role in securing an end to the Kosovo conflict and its troops, originally deployed in June 1999, have formed an integral part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR). As well as maintaining security, KFOR supports the international humanitarian effort and the work of the UN Interim Administration. Russian soldiers serve as part of the US-led Multinational Brigade (MNB) East, the French-led MNB North and the German-led MNB South.

    The terms of Russian participation in these peacekeeping missions are set out in bilateral agreements between NATO and Russia. A Russian general, based at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) near Mons in Belgium, serves as a Deputy to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and advises on all matters concerning the Russian contingents in SFOR and KFOR.

    Close cooperation between NATO and Russia in the Balkans has been critical in improving relations and building trust between the Russian and Allied militaries, both on the ground and at higher command-levels. Military cooperation between Russian and NATO troops in SFOR continued unabated in 1999, despite the differences over the Kosovo air campaign that led to a year-long interruption in Russia's wider working relationship with NATO. This is a true testament to the strength of the joint commitment to peacekeeping and the mutual trust that has been built up in the field.

  • Military and defence cooperation

    NATO and Russia have conducted several air-defence exercises to improve their ability to work together during peace-support operations and to test the interoperability of equipment and procedures in areas such as air transport and air-to-air refuelling.

    In the area of defence cooperation, a contract was signed between NATO and the Moscow State University for Economics, Statistics and Informatics in March 2002 for the opening of an information, consultation and training centre to help resettle recently and soon-to-be discharged military personnel. NATO and Russia have recognised a shared interest in defence reform and modernisation. Exchanges of views in this area could lead to joint projects in the context of deepening NATO-Russia relations.

  • Disaster prevention and response

    A Memorandum of Understanding on Civil Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness between NATO and the Russian Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergencies and the Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters was signed on 20 March 1996. Its aim is to develop a capacity for joint action in response to civil emergencies, such as earthquakes and floods, and coordinate detection and prevention of disasters before they occur. Various disaster relief exercises, often including participants from other Partner countries and international organisations, help develop civil-military cooperation. Joint work on pre-disaster planning aims to ensure a timely and effective response capability.

    Russia actively participates in most NATO-led civil emergency planning activities under PfP and has hosted a number of major exercises, seminars and workshops. In 1997, the Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee, which advises the North Atlantic Council on civil emergency and disaster relief matters, became the first NATO committee to meet in Moscow. Also in 1997, under the PJC work programme, a joint pilot project was launched on using satellite technology in disaster management.

  • Search and rescue at sea
  • 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.

  • Science and the Environment

    Since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between NATO and the Russian Ministry for Science and Technology on 28 May 1998, an extensive programme cooperation has been developed in these areas. Under the direction of a Committee on Joint Scientific and Technological Cooperation, the programme focuses on three specific areas of particular interest to Russia, namely plasma physics, plant biotechnology and the forecasting and prevention of natural and industrial catastrophes.

    NATO science fellowships and grants support the training of scientists and researchers as well as collaboration between scientists from Russia and NATO countries on specific research projects. Financial support is also available for research infrastructure, such as computer networking equipment. A visits programme facilitates the exchange of ideas and experience among high-level specialists in NATO member countries and Russia.

    Intergovernmental cooperation on problems of the environment and other challenges of modern society is also underway.

  • Combating new security threats

    Russia and NATO have regularly consulted on new security challenges, such as terrorist threats and the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the spread of ballistic missile technology. In the wake of September 11, Russia and NATO cooperation in these areas has intensified. The threat posed by al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan confirmed Russia's long-standing concerns about the risks of instability and the spread of extremist fundamentalism and secessionism on its southern flank.

    NATO and Russia have launched a series of cooperative efforts aimed at combating the terrorist threat, including a regular exchange of views between senior-level terrorism experts. A constructive, high-level conference on The Military Role in Combating Terrorism, co-sponsored by NATO and the Russian defence ministry, brought together civilian and military experts at the NATO Defense College in Rome on 4 February 2002. Anti-terrorism cooperation has also extended to scientific research with a workshop on Social and Psychological Consequences of Chemical, Biological and Radiological Terrorism in March 2002. Moreover, on the basis of the Rome Declaration of 28 May 2002, they have decided to intensify their cooperation further, including through the development of joint assessments of the terrorist threat to the Euro-Atlantic area.

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