Russia warms up to NATO

  • 2002-05-16
  • Timothy Jacobs

NATO and Russia signed a strategic alliance this week at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland that would give Moscow an expanded though non-voting role in areas of mutual interest like the fight against terrorism and arms control.

The accord, which will be finalized later this month at the NATO-Russia summit in Rome, would replace the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council that was established in 1997 with the NATO-Russia Council.

The three Baltic countries, which are widely expected to be offered invitations to join NATO at the summit in Prague in November, are putting a positive spin on the closer ties between the alliance and Russia.

"I think that it is very important that Russia wants to become closer to NATO and to the West, and that they are moving in a more democratic direction," said Lithuanian MP Kazys Bobelis, deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee.

"When NATO and Russia first joined forces in 1997 we welcomed the cooperation. We see the closer ties with Russia as a strengthening of the alliance," said Nils Jansons, director of the Latvian Foreign Ministry's security policy department.

Harri Tildo, the deputy undersecretary at Estonia's Foreign Ministry, agrees.

"Positive developments in NATO-Russia relations are in everybody's interests," he said. "As a future member of the alliance, Estonia welcomes these developments, and we hope that they will have additional positive impact on our bilateral relations with Russia as well."

Just a little more than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the three Baltic countries could ironically find themselves in a strategic alliance with Russia as NATO members.

They say they are unfazed.

"NATO is not admitting Russia as a member, and that is very important," said Jansons. "NATO's standards are kept very high, and I think we have shown a commitment to reaching those standards. I think Russia still has a way to go."