Moscow and NATO trying to find common ground in Brussels

Moscow and NATO trying to find common ground in Brussels

The meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at the ambassadorial level has opened at alliance's headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.

"I look forward to this meeting, as we will inform each other on our military condition. I consider this an important step towards greater predictability and transparency, and it is especially necessary now when we are stepping up military activities along our borders," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said before the meeting.

According to Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko, the Russia-NATO Council is gradually resuming its routine operation. 

"Flexible format of the meeting will make it possible for the Russia-NATO Council to look at issues of regional security and certain aspects of military activities of mutual interest," he said.

The agenda of the Russia-NATO Council meeting remains basically the same, with the sides planning to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan, the crisis in Ukraine and issues of reducing military risks in Europe.

It is interesting that the alliance convened a meeting of its NATO-Russia Council on the eve of the meeting of foreign ministers from NATO countries, which is expected to be attended by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

A military observer of the TASS news agency, retired Colonel Viktor Litovkin, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, said that meetings of such a format are extremely necessary, since they enable the military professionals of both sides to express their position directly. However, according to the expert, no significant changes should be expected from the fourth meeting of the Council, since NATO is not a politically independent structure. "NATO acts under the leadership of the United States, while Washington under the new administration has not yet developed an unambiguous position with regard to Russia," Litovkin noted.

According to the expert, it is possible to talk about the real desire of NATO to get closer to Moscow only if the administration of the US President Donald Trump starts such actions, which is possible only after a personal meeting of the leaders of the two countries.

He recalled that the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations, General Curtis Scaparrotti, recently called Russia the main opponent of the alliance, while Stoltenberg on the eve of the meeting stressed that Moscow was not a threat. "Today, the alliance takes a dual position, as the administration of President Trump has not yet developed its own idea of ​​how relations between Washington and NATO and between Russia and the United States should develop," the expert concluded.

A senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, in turn, noted that first of all, the parties need to rebuild trust, which was once lost. "For significant changes, it is necessary to focus on practical issues," the expert believes.

According to him, the steps taken earlier by Russia's western partners have undermined mutual trust, which can be rebuilt by a joint solution to a common problem in the face of international terrorism. Olenchenko added that it is necessary to restore cooperation in the field of military monitoring, and restore relations between Moscow and Washington at the pre-sanctions level.

"Part of the Western partners intends to follow the path of new claims to us. I think they should understand the hopelessness of this path," the senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences said.