Getting Russia Right

Russian T-90A tanks drive through Red Square during the Victory Day parade in Moscow

From Wolfgang Ischinger and Ulrich Weisser, the New York Times:  At a NATO summit in Strasbourg in April 2009, a group of experts headed by Madeleine Albright was directed to prepare the ground for a new “strategic concept. ” The group’s report, presented recently, correctly stresses that conditions for our common security have fundamentally changed since the last strategic concept was issued in 1999. …

But the report falls short of providing a blueprint of NATO’s future strategic concept. This is most obvious regarding NATO’s central challenge, the challenge of getting Russia right. Regrettably, fundamental differences between some new members in Eastern Europe and those in Western Europe about how to deal with Russia have not been overcome. The expert group attempts to bridge the differences by proposing to reach out to Russia, but under the condition that any constructive engagement would have to be based on military reassurances within NATO. This means that defense planning activities — against Russia — would continue to be on the alliance agenda.

But how can the view expressed in the very same report — that NATO is not a threat to Russia, nor Russia to NATO — be reconciled with continuous defense planning activities against Russia? …

As NATO ponders its future strategic priorities, some creative diplomacy might take us a long way toward a more sustainable European security structure. Why not, for example, re-animate the classic contact group format — the foreign ministers of the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, maybe including Poland, plus the E.U. and NATO? Or would a smaller format, consisting of the three foreign ministers of the U.S., Russia, and the E.U., plus NATO’s secretary-general, be more effective in dealing with Russia?

Ambassador Ischinger is chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former deputy foreign minister of Germany. Ulrich Weisser, a retired admiral, served as director of policy planning at the German Ministry of Defense.  (photo: Getty)

Image: Getty%206%209%2010%20Russian%20T-90A%20tanks%20Red%20Square.jpg