No. 2 - Mar 1995
Vol. 43 - pp. 20-23


Alexander Velichkin
Deputy Chairman of the Confederation of Journalists'
Unions and Director General of the Moscow Press Club

The Alliance's Partnership for Peace initiative and the outcome to the current debate on the Organization's future enlargement are intended to help overcome old divisions in Europe, not lead to new ones. Yet some segments of opinion in Russia, as the following extracts from the Russian Press illustrate, fear that it will lead to the country's isolation, a view that was robustly refuted recently by Secretary General Willy Claes when he emphasised that Russia was too big a country to be isolated by others; it could only isolate itself. The Editor

This review of Russian press comments on relations between Russia and NATO does not attempt to cover the entire range of concepts and opinions on this subject. Only the main points of discussion are touched upon. In order to understand the underlying ideas echoed in the press it should be noted that there are at least four factors shaping public attitudes on this subject in Russia:

  1. The democratic community has been disappointed by Russia's failure to integrate quickly into the community of Europe;

  2. The foreign policy pursued by the Government lacks consistency;

  3. National philosophical and moral ideals have not developed;

  4. Losing the Cold War and the disintegration of the USSR have caused national humiliation.

Partnership for Peace

The polemics in the Russian press concerning Russia joining the Partnership for Peace programme essentially amount to a discussion of NATO's evolution and the consequences for Russia of the various scenarios. To put it bluntly, two general positions can be distilled: for and against close partnership with NATO.

In his article "Russia must join NATO", published in Izvestia (6 September 1994), Boris Fyodorov, a deputy in the State Duma, asks: "What would NATO membership offer Russia? Surprisingly, a great deal."

"Firstly", he says, "it would mean the reform of NATO and the end of the dominant US role in the Organization. The situation in Europe would be stabilized, with Russia providing the counterbalance to the growing weight of a united Germany, which has been a cause for alarm in the eyes of many.

"Secondly, this would mean the effective end of the Cold War... Our integration into the international community would be an additional guarantee for the development of democracy [in Russia]."

Vyacheslav Nikonov says in "Russia and NATO", published by Nezavisimaya Gazeta (4 September 1994): "The Partnership for Peace programme, limited as it is - it does not even reach the current level of Russian cooperation with NATO - is nevertheless fairly harmless. It may even be useful if it dispels some of the West's prejudices regarding Russia and provides an opportunity to realize our mutual interests."

Vladimir Lepyokhin, Editor-in-Chief of Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta (New Daily Newspaper), expresses another view in his article "NATO is not run by gods, but are our people any better?" (22 September 1994). According to Mr. Lepyokhin, "Russia has almost nothing to gain from this programme (Partnership for Peace)... At best, it can only safeguard Russia against itself." He adds that, "Today, our main concern should be the establishment of our own collective security system (at least within the limits of the former USSR), something which no good uncle at NATO is going to do for us."

Of course there are many shades of opinion between these two different points of view, but the Russian press expresses growing disillusionment as the euphoria resulting from expectations of quick rapprochement between Western Europe and Russia fades away.

Mikhail Stoyanov in "Russia is viewed as a Partner, not an Ally", Moskovskaya Pravda (17 September 1994), writes: "It could be just a coincidence. Nevertheless, so long as Russian troops remained in Germany and the Baltic states, Russia was regarded as a European state in the full sense and its political transformation was considered quite compatible with possible NATO membership. In any case, high-ranking politicians on both sides of the Atlantic kept assuring Moscow that Alliance membership was only a matter of time, requiring Moscow and the other East European countries first to pass through an "incubation period" by way of the Partnership for Peace programme. Moscow contemplated these prospects in earnest at the highest level."

The author goes on to cite the statement attributed to the German Defence Minister Volker Rühe in which he asserted that the Alliance would fall apart and become a pale shadow of the UN in Europe, should Russia join NATO. Mr. Stoyanov concludes that, "Having withdrawn its troops from Central Europe, Russia no longer seems sufficiently European to aspire to a place in NATO."

Ignoring Russia's claim to the role of equal partner with NATO member countries led to a crisis in relations between Russia and the Alliance over military action against the Serbs in Yugoslavia and, in particular, to two months' delay in Russia's joining the Partnership for Peace programme. The editorials in the Russian newspapers reacted sharply.

"There is no need to be hasty in joining the Partnership programme", Leonid Timofeev wrote in "Partnership can wait", Komsomolskaya Pravda (16 April 1994), "given that it states that stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic region can only be achieved on the basis of cooperation and joint actions, whereas NATO does not judge it necessary to inform Moscow when it comes to bombing the Serbs."

"Russia refused to accept the role of a "junior partner". The Russian response to NATO's arbitrary actions was altogether negative...", declares Manki Ponomarev in Krasnaya Zvezda (15 July 1994). Egor Yakovlev, Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper Obshchaya Gazeta (No.28), notes that "whether we like it or not, the conclusion is that the Yugoslav tragedy has come at just the right time to revive NATO after the end of the Cold War, as spelled out in one of the Alliance's latest documents: "We confirm the enduring validity and indispensability of our Alliance.'"

"The military actions carried out by NATO up till now have been manifestly absurd', underlines Alexander Golts in his article "The Future of Europe: NATO or the CSCE?" in Krasnaya Zvezda (26 November 1994). "However", he concludes, "NATO's bombardments were not completely senseless as a demonstration of power... if the Alliance is looking to show that it is NATO that calls the shots in Europe".

The end of a love affair?

When Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev refused to endorse formally Russian cooperation with NATO at his meeting with the North Atlantic Council in Brussels last December, in response to NATO's decision in principle to expand the North Atlantic Alliance by admitting East European countries, the Russian headlines declared: "Kozyrev doubts sincerity of his Western partners", Novaya Ezhednevnaya Gazeta; "Russia's not happy with double standards", Krasnaya Zvezda; "Dismay in Brussels", Rossiyskaya Gazeta; "Russia and NATO: engagement broken off", Sevodnya; and "NATO's expansion plans threaten 'cold peace' for Europe", Rossiyskiye Vesti.

"NATO does not need Russia", claims Yuriy Stroev in an article entitled "Will NATO's frontier reach Pskov?" in Novaya Ezhednevnaya Gazeta (16 November 1994). "This is clear from Washington's increasingly open antagonism towards Moscow's policy for settling the Bosnian conflict and the Iraqi crisis, as well as the ever-increasing penetration of the US into South-Eastern Asia and its nudging of Japan towards greater militarization", argues Mr. Stroev. "The strategic balance has already been upset and is now clearly tilting in favour of the US and NATO, which have been given a free hand both in Europe and in the rest of the world."

The author concludes by asking, "...What is the point in the loudly proclaimed 'Partnership for Peace' initiative? Is it not a means for NATO's gradual expansion to take in the countries of Eastern Europe? To advance even further East and create a new line of division?'

"Western policy as far as NATO's prospects are concerned has been crystal clear", writes Pavel Shinkarenko in Rossiskiye Vesti (8 December 1994). "In Washington, as in certain other capitals, they are looking to take advantage of the new opportunity presented by the end of the Cold War to expand their sphere of influence in Europe and to prevent Russia from taking part in the decisions on the Continent's most fundamental issues. The quickest way has been chosen. The politicians thought that it was enough to bring Moscow's former allies into the Western military bloc, protecting them from their eastern neighbour with NATO's nuclear umbrella."

The Russian fiasco makes journalists probe into the reasons for the failure of the NATO-Russia "love affair". "Why", they ask, "isn't Russia's opinion taken into account?"

In his article "Metamorphosis in attitudes at the top" in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (11 November 1994), Vladimir Katin notes, "Apparently such attitudes have been formed in the minds of NATO leaders under the pressure of recent events in Russia, including the crisis in the financial system, the fall in the value of the rouble, the exposure of scandals, large-scale corruption, and the constant reshuffling of the government. In general, one feels that Russia is no longer treated as a power to be reckoned with, and its lack of internal stability determines the attitudes taken towards it."

One can not ignore another aspect of the NATO-Russia problem, which is related to the relations between the US and Russia. The magazine USA (No.1, 1994) has its own theory on this problem:

"It is apparent that Russia's natural partners in the outside world might be those centres of economic power which will be motivated more than others to seek cooperation with Russia and are ready to render it assistance without discrimination... In Europe, this would be France and Germany, the integrating nucleus of the EU", conclude the editors.

"... Naturally, if the US is sensitive to any drive by its fellow Western nations towards closer unification within the EU, more concern is likely to be caused by any rapprochement between Russia and Western Europe. NATO, as the simplest and most effective means of exerting pressure on Western Europe, could therefore become the principal instrument to thwart such a rapprochement. In other words, NATO under US leadership for the foreseeable future constitutes one of the checks on Russia's primary historical mission in Europe."

USA concludes that, "...Russia's strategic and long-term interests require either the dissolution of NATO or its full "Europeanization". ... In the long term, the existence of NATO runs counter to Russian strategic interests in Europe, because this alliancewill always retain its anti-Russian orientation even in these post-Communist times."

With due regard for the above, one should not be surprised to see articles in the Russian press such as "Should NATO shut up shop?" reprinted from The Christian Science Monitor in Za Rubezhom (No.16, 1994), the title of which says it all.

"If one considers whom and what purposes NATO is serving today, one thing is crystal clear: the Alliance was created to offset a danger which no longer exists," declares Manki Ponomarev in his article "The Evolution of NATO - Where does it go from here?" in Krasnaya Zvezda (15 September 1994). The key element in preserving NATO is, according to the author, "Washington's efforts to retain control over Western Europe which, with the creation of the European Union, is becoming a serious competitor for the United States in the fields of politics and economics."

In the article "Joining NATO is like playing a round of golf", published in Moskovskaya Pravda (18 November 1994), the author tries to prove that "NATO expansion would compel the US to defend those countries whose main threat is posed by their lack of internal cohesion and their regional rivalries rather than by the renewal of Russian power."

"The Budapest Summit has demonstrated the acute differences between Europe and America, differences which put NATO's existence into question", writes Yuri Kovalev, in Izvestia (15 December 1994), referring to an opinion voiced by the French newspaper Liberation: "Like Moscow, Paris is against hasty decisions to expand NATO". Mr. Kovalev adds, "Andrei Kozyrev has overcome his typical pro-American bias and more often than ever favours a European orientation these days. We are Europeans, he says, and we must take care of ourselves first."

In his article entitled "A Europe without blocs or spheres of influence", published in Rossiyskiye Vesti (6 December 1994), Pavel Shinkarenko writes, "Clearly, it was no accident that the US and Western allies chose the eve of the Budapest Summit for [the announcement of further steps towards] the expansion of NATO. They were obviously demonstrating their unwillingness to support the Russian plan to transform the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe into a universal structure for European security and cooperation along the lines of the UN. In its turn, by promoting the idea of an expanded NATO, the West intends to assign to the Alliance the same universal functions which Moscow is trying to vest in the CSCE. If that move is successful, Russia will stay outside NATO and will be denied an equal opportunity to take part in the decisions relating to security on the Continent in the immediate future."

A further warning against NATO expansion is contained in an article by Sergei Karaganov, entitled "The threat of another defeat", published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (3 February). "NATO's plans for expansion mean a potential new Yalta, a potential new split of Europe, even if less severe than before. By accepting the rules of the game, which are being forced on her, ...Russia will lose. And Europe will lose, too." Karaganov concludes that, "Consequently, we must do our best to hinder the approval of the decision on NATO expansion. We should make sure that it is postponed, refuse to formalize it de jure - by not accepting it - or de facto - by increasing confrontation and attempting to establish our own alliance. We should search for a third way out. It exists, somewhere, but it calls for a brand new level of diplomacy that differs from that which Moscow has been demonstrating in the past few years."

Echoes of the Chechen war

The hostilities in Chechnya occurred against the background of highly critical Russian press coverage. Russian leaders even accused the separatist leader Dzhokar Dudayev of bribing the country's mass media.

Indeed, the press fiercely criticized the poor preparation of the military operation and its devastating results (extensive human and materiel losses, the destruction of Grozny and the death of innocent civilians) and questioned its expediency (allegedly other methods of settling the problem, such as talks with Dudayev, an economic blockade, etc., could have been used).

This media outcry also included pessimistic forecasts concerning Russian-NATO relations.

Yuri Maloveryan writes under the heading, "The Baltic states draw conclusions" (Segodnya, 1 February), that "virtually all political forces in the Baltic states agreed that their joining the EU and NATO will be the main guarantee of their security. The fact that Moscow still does not value people's lives and the opinions of its partners convinces the Baltics still more of the need to take refuge under Europe's wing."

The newspaper Trud (1 February) carried a story by its Istanbul correspondent, Vladimir Khovratovich, about the press conference of the "so-called Foreign Minister of Chechnya, Shemsettin Yusuf." The Chechen Minister told journalists that "the Chechen rebels weakened the strength of the Russian army and thus made a strategic gift to NATO".

The Communist newspaper Pravda (6 January) quotes Neues Deutschland: "The Western leaders will be rewarded for turning a blind eye to the killings of peaceful Chechens. The payment will be Moscow's blessing for NATO's expansion to the East." Alexander Stepanov adds in the same article that, "Clearly, any attempt by Moscow to give a befitting assessment of NATO bombardments in Bosnia will, from now on, appear hypocritical."

In the same issue of Pravda, Pavel Bogomolov, in his article "The culmination of incompetence, corruption and uncontrollability", writes that we see "the death throes of the NATO brain trusts" concept, according to which the West should make a strategic stake in Russia dependent on only one person, in this case President Boris Yeltsin".

Sergei Oznobishchev's analytical comments on the crisis confronting Russia's foreign and domestic policy, "Russia-NATO-Chechnya: forebodings and reality", was published in Segodnya (3 February). The author points out that "the main failures of our foreign and domestic policies are our relations with NATO and the blood bath in Chechnya". The decision of the NATO Council to examine the expansion of the Alliance, according to Oznobishchev, signifies a defeat for Russian foreign policy. "Russia has actually ensured the process of NATO's geographical expansion", the author writes. "The small possibility of establishing special relations with NATO, which would reaffirm Russia's status as a great power, will now only materialize in the future, if at all."

© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 1995.