Berlin Information-centre for Transatlantic Security (BITS)
British American Security Information Council (BASIC)
Centre for European Security and Disarmament (CESD)
Centro de Investigación para la Paz (CIP)
The NATO-Russia "Founding Act":
Otfried Nassauer, Director, BITS
On May 27, 1997 the Heads of State and Government from NATO's sixteen Nations and the Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed the "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation". The accord is supposed to pave the way for "a stable, peaceful and undivided Europe, whole and free, to the benefit of all its people." The document, indeed, leaves both NATO and Russia at crossroads.
The implementation of the NATO-Russia accord will either make NATO-Russia relations the centerpiece of the future European Security Architecture, creating an increasingly co-operative security structure, or it will result in a stumbling block, leading to new division lines in Europe. Either NATO and Russia will implement the Founding Act by constructively engaging each other over the major questions of developing a European Security Architecture for the 21st century or they will opt to turn it into a means to justify renewed confrontation.
Opting for the constructive approach requires political will on both sides. The mechanisms for co-operation and consultation agreed to in the Founding Act allow for such an approach. Therefore NATO and Russia should
begin working together to the maximum extent of cooperation as soon as possible. The first meeting of the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) should take place as soon as possible and focus on building a sound organizational and institutional structure for intense future NATO-Russia cooperation;
invest substantial resources in constructively engaging each other over serious issues;
take the initiative to reinforce and strengthen the OSCE as envisaged in the Founding Act. NATO and Russia should give priority to developing a European Security Architecture fulfilling existing commitments under the Paris Charta and the Lisbon Document of the OSCE;
assist the Vienna negotiations about Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) by jointly agreeing on new upper limits for conventional weaponry in Europe, reflecting ceilings substantially lower than current actual holdings
assist future steps of nuclear disarmament by establishing a framework for talks about nuclear doctrine, strategy, postures and safety measures among the four nuclear weapon states involved in the process. Practical steps to support this effort could include an agreement to take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert and to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons from European countries. This could give the nuclear disarmament process new life and pave the way for talks among the P5;
and establish a system of mutual transparency, confidence and security building measures going significantly beyond what has been agreed in the OSCE context. Thus NATO and Russia might provide a positive example of what might be possible for all OSCE-member states.
While constructively engaging each on arms control measures NATO and Russia should make every effort to not weaken the OSCE or any other regime and forum already in place. One way to achieve this goal could be the establishment of structural links between the OSCE and the PJC. The presence of a representative of the Chair in Office of the OSCE at PJC meetings could for example ensure transparency of the 16+1 process.
Opportunities associated with 16+1-process
NATO and Russia have negotiated an accord which could give substance to their relationship and establish a strong co-operative partnership. It lays out a wide range of areas of consultation and cooperation, allowing for cooperation in all relevant areas but defense and internal NATO relations. It also allows for building the respective institutions and working structures and giving them the necessary resources to effectively fulfill their tasks.
Both sides can contribute to give the agreement real substance. The NATO Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC), which is at the center of NATO-Russia relations, mirrors NATO's decision-making-structure. It has the authority to create its own support structurea and to cover all areas of common interest with the exception of NATO's integrated military command structures.
Russia should make extensive use of the mechanisms agreed to in the Founding Act to constructively engage NATO. Moscow should back this approach rapidly by establishing a high level diplomatic and military presence at NATO offices. Russia should push for a working group structure in the PJC framework that deals effectively with all areas of substance and is able to deal with them effectively. The presence of a Russian ambassador and staff at NATO is a major change. Implementation should not be delayed.
Russia should seek to set the agenda of cooperation. The Founding Act provides both sides with the right to take the initiative. Russia should engage NATO in discussions about strengthening the OSCE. Russia should also raise its security concerns for consultation as well as promote areas for cooperative action. If necessary, Russia should not hesitate, to back its initiatives with the necessary political as well as financial resources to implement proposals for cooperation.
In addition, where appropriate, Russia and Ukraine could join their efforts to engage NATO wherever possible. If Kyiv and Moscow both agree on a need for consultation or cooperation with NATO, NATO might find it much more difficult to object their proposals. In addition, redundancies could be avoided. Furthermore, such an approach would have a positive impact on Russia-Ukraine relations.
NATO member states should respond to Russian offers for constructive engagement. Since Russia is disappointed that the Founding Act is not a legally-binding treaty, it will have to be convinced that the Act has substantial benefit and was not simply the most expedient means of ensuring Russian acceptance of NATO expansion. To get the PJC off to a good start, NATO should take the lead and develop an agenda for the PJC through its High Level Working Groups.
NATO has to be ready to address substantial unresolved Russian security concerns. Otherwise domestic opposition might force Russia to withdraw from the process. The history of NATO-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War does not set a good precedent, because NATO did not give in on any Russian demands of substance. This left the most contested questions, such as future European conventional force ratios, unresolved. Russia crossed several of its "red lines" drawn during the talks. NATO crossed none. Specifically, the Founding Act is not legally binding and NATO did not make a binding commitment not to move its military forces (conventional or nuclear) closer to the Russian border.
An agreement on substantially lower ceilings for conventional forces, addressing Russian concern over NATO's substantial conventional superiority, still has to be found during the Vienna talks on a CFE-2 treaty. NATO should commit itself to develop a proposal that could meet Russian concerns.
NATO should also take the initiative to develop a constructive approach allowing for future steps of nuclear arms control. NATO should offer its support to START III negotiations that begin independently of Russian ratification of START II. It should support taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert and it should agree to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, making both measures part of a START III-agreement.
The 16+1 process must help to resolve these problems or it will fail.
Risks associated with 16+1-process
NATO's decision to enlarge in several steps carries a high risk for NATO-Russia relations. At the Madrid Summit, NATO will declare that it will not close its doors and expects additional countries to be invited for membership in the not too distant future. Such statements will be made specifically vis-à-vis the Baltic States. The NATO-Ukraine Charter keeps the door open for the Ukrainian as well.
Thus the debate about future steps of NATO enlargement will continue to be an influential factor for NATO-Russia relations for years. Russian opposition to NATO enlargement is unlikely to change, NATO-Russia relations might therefore develop in an unfavorable environment. The ongoing debate about again widening NATO may hamper or even become a stumbling block for the development of NATO-Russia relations. Constructive elements contained in the Founding Act might never be implemented and a truly cooperative approach never get off the ground. Renewed confrontational behavior and the creation of new division lines might be the result.
Even a working 16+1 mechanism could increase dividing lines or create new ones within Europe by establishing two classes of European states, those that are part of direct consultations with NATO and those that are left out, only taking part in the Partnership for Peace Plus (which will
be launched at the Madrid summit) and the new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The "Bosnia model" sets a bad precedent here, because smaller European countries were effectively excluded from the political decision-making process. Joint NATO-Russia peace-keeping operations agreed in the 16+1 framework under NATO or CJTF mandate must therefore have the support of all OSCE-member states and a UN mandate, as laid out in the Founding Act.
In the short term, there is a risk that the
16+1 process will not begin until September. The political momentum resulting from the intense negotiations leading to conclusions of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the signing of the NATO-Ukraine Charter might get lost. Any postponement could easily result in early frustration by all participants. Already, Russian analysts fear that the 16+1-process will become "another PfP", where substantive issues are not discussed and substantial implementation never takes place.