bne IntelliNews – BLOG MOSCOW: NATO talks will fail

I think the story of the NATO talks is actually very simple. Russia doesn’t want NATO troops, weapons or exercises in Ukraine the same way JFK didn’t want Soviet missiles in Cuba. Ukraine’s border faces the European part of Russia where 80% of its population lives and which is home to most of its million ki, large cities with more than one million inhabitants. With missile flight times of around 5 minutes to hit these cities, including Moscow, missiles in Ukraine are anathema to the Kremlin and Putin simply won’t even accept the possibility of them being deployed there.

Everyone focused on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s “no NATO enlargement” demand. eight point list, but in fact, I believe the really important item in the list of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is item 3: “we agree that we are not enemies”.

At first glance, this seems a bit strange. Nobody called Russia the enemy. He is usually treated more like an ill-mannered, but very tall, wandering teenager who needs to be coaxed to learn better manners.

But in reality, the article goes to the heart of the problem. NATO can be designed as a defensive alliance, but designed to defend against what? Russia of course. What makes the Kremlin nervous is that NATO is a regional security agreement from which Russia has been excluded. This makes Russia the de facto enemy – something the Kremlin disagrees with, but what Western policy since 2003 and the withdrawal of the ATM treaty in 2003 have only grown stronger in Putin’s mind – and not without reason. Cold War mentality is alive and well.

What Putin is asking for is news understood security treaty that includes Russia in the security arrangements, but with special status and arrangements that recognize bad relations. Without a deal like this, the only way Russia can respond to the things NATO does that it doesn’t like is to move in troops – as it has. A new agreement would create a diplomatic mechanism for these tensions.

I tried to think positively about how to resolve the current impasse. One could argue that the NATO Council is the right mechanism and that it already exists, but as I just said, NATO by design excludes Russia and the very raison d’être of NATO implies that Russia is the enemy.

Rather than debating the question of article 6 of NATO enlargement, I think we would be better served by focusing on article 3 and accepting Russia’s request not to be enemies . I understand that this is problematic thanks to things like election interference and the annexation of Crimea, but I also think that a lot of those things were the unintended consequences of a long series of bad policy mistakes on the side of the West. Commentators often point out that most of Putin’s actions tend to be reactions to Western policies rather than preemptive. The problem with Putin is that he’s not afraid to act boldly, but at the same time he’s also locked into the exact same Cold War mentality as his opponents, so it all becomes self-prophecy. director based on a negative feedback loop.

Why talk about NATO? Why not start by accepting article 3 and building a new security agreement that would include guarantees for the security of Ukraine as well as that of Moldova, Georgia, the Balkans and all those who are nervous? Then you would completely deny the need for Ukraine’s NATO membership and dodge that bullet. In the end, that’s what Putin wants: security – the same way Ukraine wants security. We all want security so that we can return to work and complete the transition to prosperous capitalist states.

Could we accept Russia as a “non-enemy” (which is clearly far from being a “friend”)? The main difference between this Cold War and the previous one is that in the latter, Russia/USSR was clearly the enemy while the East/West clash was an ideological clash between capitalism and communism. Both sides were determined to dominate each other. This time, we are both on the same side: we are both capitalists.

Despite constant complaints and the application of labels such as “Putin’s Russia” and “kleptocracy”, such as bne IntelliNews keep emphasizing, Business Planet works really well, as I pointed out again recently in a Podcast with bne IntelliNews Russian columnist and leading commentator Mark Galeotti.

I have also long argued that the best way to deal with Russia is to allow it to prosper. After eight years of a boom that began when Putin took power, 2008 was the high water market for Russian liberalism. Economist Sergei Guriev, who became the chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), drafted a completely liberal, market-oriented economic plan for then-President Dmitry Medvedev , including a radical privatization program, and Guriev told me later that Medvedev presented it to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) that year almost completely intact. The crisis that began a few months later in September shattered that effort in what to me is one of the greatest unacknowledged tragedies of the post-Soviet period.

The better the Russian economy is doing, the less important the government becomes and the more the Russian people themselves will hold the government to account. And the closeness that accompanies business relations is the best way to change your mind. This is how the gay and civil rights movements grew: by working with bigoted people every day, who became more tolerant as they got to know individuals, as I have argued. in an editorial entitled “The 50-year fight for gay rights”.

I became very pessimistic last week as I watched the NATO talks unfold. I see no real understanding of the Russian position and no willingness to move beyond the “Russia is our enemy” mentality.

This is a golden opportunity to put in place a new post-Cold War security infrastructure that could end the clashes and could also lead to Russia’s withdrawal from Donbass. As we said, the only reason Russia is there is to keep Ukraine out of NATO.

Putin imposed these talks on us, not us on him. He is clearly willing to negotiate and has shown willingness to make concessions in the past. Everyone wants a safer Europe and if NATO is really purely defensive, then why not strike a new inclusive deal with Russia if that improves security?

Does NATO really have any objections to banning military exercises near the Russian border? Russia has already proposed applying the same ban. This would have the immediate consequence of defusing tensions on the Ukrainian border and making it difficult to repeat the troop build-up. Do we really think Russia is about to attack the West? No one who has lived or worked in Moscow believes this. Do we really need to deploy missiles near Russia if we are not going to attack, especially after Russia agreed to limit the same missile deployments it has on the MFA list? And why not go back to making the OSCE and the NATO Council real coordination bodies in order to have a diplomatic channel to resolve the inevitable quarrels and fears? As I said, the only mechanism currently available in these disputes is for Russia (and for us) to move troops and ships, as we saw in April and again in October on the Ukrainian border, as well as during NATO naval exercises in the Black Sea. which ran for most of the last year.

These NATO talks will fail. Russia agreed to wait ten days from the end of the talks for a written response from the United States to its demands. The Kremlin has made it clear that if the US rejects its key demand on NATO expansion limits, then it will resort to “military/technical” means. We have said very clearly that we don’t believe an invasion of Ukraine is on the cards for many reasons, but I’m sure Putin has thought about it very carefully and will have very bad surprises in store for the West from the beginning of February if the talks fail. I fear we are rapidly heading towards another Cold War stalemate. I hope I’m wrong.

This article first appeared as a blurb in bne IntelliNews’ EDITOR’S CHOICES, a daily e-mail digest of the best stories from the past 24 hours, delivered free to your inbox. Click on here to view past issues and to subscribe.