Russia and NATO
François Heisbourg
Vice President of Matra Defense Espace


In the relationship between Russia and NATO, there are several issues that I consider vital and, I suspect, others do too. First, there is the interest or importance that Russia attaches to a specific NATO-Russia treaty, along the lines recently suggested by Prime Minister Alain Juppé and subsequently picked up by the other European Union members. If such a treaty is considered to be worthwhile, what kind of consultations should it call for? If it is to provide a special mechanism for consultations, would it be geographically focused on areas of common concern (i.e., the Balkans, the Caucasus), or should it be issue-related (i.e., covering matters of common interest such as the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction), or all of the above?

Another issue is whether Russia's opposition to the enlargement of NATO has limits. In other words, if the EU enlarges--and it has enlarged recently and will continue to enlarge--will the Visegrad countries and others join the EU? The Maastricht Treaty does contain provisions giving the new members of the EU the option of putting forward their candidacy to the Western European Union. This option is not unconditional, but it exists. Now, of course, if one joins the WEU as a full-fledged member, one enters into a club all of whose current members are members of NATO for a rather simple reason; Article V of the WEU Treaty mirrors and indeed strengthens in its language Article V of the Washington Treaty, and, until now, congruence between the two has been deemed to be absolutely essential. So, if there were enlargement of the EU in Central Europe, there would be every chance that the new members would want to join the WEU and would also want to join NATO. What would be Russia's reaction to that? In that case, enlargement would be occurring not as a reaction toward Russia, but rather as an organic process flowing from the development of the EU.

A third question relates to Russia's membership in NATO. This idea has been put forward, of course, by prominent Russians and indeed in previous decades by a number of Soviets--such as Andrei Gromyko back in the 1950s. That brings us to the core issue: if Russia joins NATO, NATO ipso facto ceases to be a defense organization.

Next, what is the consequence of Russia's actions in Chechnya on Central and Eastern European attitudes vis-a-vis the enlargement of NATO? The enlargement of NATO has become an evermore prominent issue over the last few months, and, rightly or wrongly, I suspect that much of that is due to the display of Russian military force being used to operate against a part of the Russian Federation.

Finally, has Russia ceased to see itself as an empire? That question may bring no direct answer if only because of the diversity of the political forces in Russia. But the question is one which, of course, many people ask themselves though they may not always ask it out loud as I can, since I am not a diplomat.

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