Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

NATO and Russia: Between tension and dialogue

Tensions remain high between NATO and Russia. But Putin knows that the arms race is what collapsed the former Soviet Union, writes Al-Sayed Amin Shalaby

Al-Ahram Weekly

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and its annexation of Crimea, tension escalated between NATO and Russia, including a mutual military build-up and military manoeuvres. In a study (published in the quarterly Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya by Al-Ahram, April 2016), I question whether we are witnessing a new Cold War and new arms race between Russia and the West.

The recent NATO Summit in Oslo (8-10 July 2016) came amid an atmosphere of increasing threat to the security alliance, where the US president said that NATO faces unprecedented peril, promising that the alliance can rely on American’s support. The final communiqué of the summit defined the broader threats, including Russia’s assertiveness, terrorism that reached alliance territories and tension in the Middle East and North Africa.

On what the communiqué called provocative and aggressive Russian action, it recalled its grievances against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, large scale snap exercises and provocative military activity near NATO borders, including Baltic States. The summit recognised that the alliance responded by enhancing their deterrence and defence posture. However, the alliance was careful to state that it will remain open for periodic, focussed and meaningful dialogue with Russia, willing to engage on the bases of reciprocity with a view to avoiding misunderstandings, miscalculation and unintended escalation, and to increase transparency, and predictability, calling on Russia to use existing lines of communication.

The NATO secretary-general in a press conference following the summit expressed the willingness of NATO to deescalate tensions. He said that Russia does not represent an immediate or direct threat to NATO, insisting that any strong defence is accompanied by constructive dialogue, adding that the Cold War is a matter of history and should remain so.

The Russian response was almost similar. In a rare visit, Vladimir Putin, prior to the summit, visited Finland where he focussed on the security of the Baltic region.

I believe that the NATO secretary-general’s remark that the Cold War should remain a matter for history is a mutual interest for both the West and Russia. Historians of the Cold War know its revival would mean huge military spending on both sides, a consequent continuation of tension, and a new Iron Curtain separating Eastern Europe from the global mainstream.

Putin, in the midst of escalation with NATO, noted that Russia will not be dragged to an arms race with the West. He almost certainly has in mind how the former Soviet Union’s arms race with the US was instrumental in its collapse.

The writer is former executive director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

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