Russia in the Spotlight
In the last few weeks Russia and its relations with NATO, USA and Europe was constantly in the spotlight of international media.
On March 27, the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) at ministerial level for over a year took place on the Greek island of Corfu. NRC was suspended after the conflict in Georgia. NATO's Secretary General said even though the differences regarding Georgia have remained, Nato and Russia would nonetheless resume co-operation on issues such as Afghanistan, drug trafficking and piracy.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the agreement "to a certain extent a positive development". But he said NATO had to accept Russia's recognition of the independence of Georgia's separatist regions.
NATO's relations with Russia were discussed extensively this week in the conference aimed to launch the public consultation process for the New Strategic Concept. Russia was seen both as a threat and a partner. The former US secretary general Madeleine Albright rejected the Russian-floated theory that the West "took advantage" of its weakness following the break-up of the USSR and enlarged Nato. "I don't buy this theory, that we didn't respect Russia. We spent a lot of time trying to respect Russia, believe me," the former US diplomat said.
Yet to Moscow, Nato membership of its close neighbours and former Soviet republics was "a red line" the West should not have crossed, Moscow-based Dmitri Trenin from the international think-tank Carnegie said. In his view, Nato newcomers whose capitals were "east from Berlin" saw their membership as being "only about Russia." Former Czech minister for EU affairs Alexander Vondra also echoed these concerns, noting that the alliance has no defence planning for its new members. He cautioned against "a total revolution" within Nato that would scrap the old principle of defending any member state against foreign aggression in exchange for broader concepts.
The similar concerns as Mr. A. Vondra's was also expressed by the UK parliament which urged to take a tougher approach to Russia. It said that while Russia did not pose a direct threat to British security in the near future, it is understandable why some Nato members closer to Russia's borders might be worried - especially in the light of Russia's military action in Georgia last year. It also calls on Nato to provide reassurance to states that feel threatened through robust contingency planning. "However desirable co-operation with Russia may be, it should not come at the price of accepting the legitimacy of a Russian sphere of influence," it says.
However, Mr Scheffer in the Conference underlined that the new strategic concept should reassure new members that the alliance takes the traditional defence commitment seriously."NATO cannot function in the long run with two types of membership: those who feel secure and willing to transform and those who feel less secure and are less willing," he said.
Russia's relations with Eastern European countries, especially the Baltic States, which are members of both NATO and EU, remains tense. Russia was enraged by the resolution adopted during the 18th Annual Session of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Parliamentary Assembly in Vilnius, Lithuania (1-4 July). The resolution equated Stalinism with Nazism.and made August 23 a day of remembrance for victims of Stalinism and Nazism. (that's the day in 1939 that Germany and the Soviet Union signed a pact carving up Eastern Europe between them). The resolution, proposed by Lithuania and fellow ex-communist state Slovenia, said 20th-century Europe had faced "two major totalitarian regimes, the Nazi and the Stalinist, which brought genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity." The OSCE assembly comprises 320 lawmakers. Just eight voted against the resolution and four abstained.
Moscow's delegation boycotted the vote on the final day of a week-long session of the OSCE's parliamentary assembly after failing to have the resolution withdrawn. Russia resists fiercely any attempt to equate the regimes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Despite being blamed for the deaths of millions of people through purges and forced collectivism under his rule, Stalin remains a hero for many Russians for his role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.He came third in a nationwide poll last year to find Russia's greatest-ever personality.However, he is vilified in Eastern Europe for imposing dictatorial Communist regimes across the region that remained in power until the 1980s.
However, the President of the USA, Barack Obama, on the opposite, told that "old Cold War approaches to U.S.-Russian relations is outdated" during his first visit to Russia. On Monday, July 6th, an agreement was signed to cut American and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by at least one-quarter, a first step in a broader effort intended to reduce the threat of such weapons drastically and to prevent their further spread to unstable regions. United States and Russia together have 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
The progress reflected an effort to re-establish ties a year after Russia’s war with Georgia left the relationship more strained than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union. The two sides agreed to resume military contacts suspended after the Georgia war and sealed a deal allowing the United States to send thousands of flights of troops and weapons to Afghanistan through Russian airspace each year.
They remained at loggerheads over American plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, which Washington describes as a hedge against an Iranian nuclear breakthrough and which Russia vehemently opposes as a threat in its backyard.