In Focus, World

Russia-NATO: the cold war never ended

Shortly after the revival of ties between Russia and the Atlantic alliance a few days ago in Lisbon, new revelations from Wikileaks have brought back to life a historical epoch which was thought forgotten.

But this period, like so many others of a similar nature, did not finish but only changed its appearance. The claims made by several politicians, above all by communists in Russia, about the risks involved in a change in policy with regard to the aforementioned military pact, seem no less true. In spite of the warrant for and subsequent arrent of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London, his collaborators are continuing the war of leaks, even though on this occasion they seem to have hit a very raw nerve for the Russian authorities.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) did everything possible in the Portuguese capital to convince Moscow that changes to the pact, and the much sought-after new reason for its existence, were centred on threatening elements beyond both its borders and those of Russia. But Wikileaks, whose documents even the White House has been forced to recognise as authentic (hence the profound fears that they would be published), has gone some way to revealing the truth of the real motives of NATO in the post-Soviet world.

In Lisbon, according to Wikileaks, the 28 countries in NATO reached a consensus about its defence strategy in Poland and the ex-Soviet republics with coastlines on the Baltic Sea against possible Russian agression, something which was no longer discussed publically. Upon discovering the plan known as “Eagle Guardian”, which includes air patrol of the Baltic nations with F-16 jets with support provided by C-130 military transport planes in Poland, the Russian representative in Brussels, Dmitri Rogozin, expressed astonishment at the news.

Rogozin wondered whether one should trust the Wikileaks revelations showing plans to counter the threat of the “Russian bear”, or the declarations of NATO officials that Russia was still considered a very important partner. In no way should an explanation about the leaks be confined to the level of spokespeople of the Atlantic alliance, announced Rogozin, who called to discuss the matter today with the NATO-Russia Council, almost certainly with an agenda very different to that of Lisbon.

In the Portuguese capital the NATO-Russia Council approved a joint declaration on 20th November, which stated that Russia and NATO did not consider themselves to be enemies. The Council met at the same time as a meeting in Washington between the American president, Barack Obama, and his Polish counterpart, Borislow Komorowski, with the aim of analising the reinforcement of the American military presence in Europe, the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta declared.

Komorowski met the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, in Warsaw on Tuesday in order to boost bilateral relations. According to the cables between European ambassadors and the American Department of State published by Wikileaks, in November 2009 the deputy head of the Pentagon, Alexander Vershbow, proposed to Warsaw the deployment of Standard Missile-3 interceptors (SM-3). At that time Poland denied the existence of a threat from Iran, about which Washington continually warns, but considered that Russia “was something else”.

Furthermore, Eagle Guardian includes, if necessary, the deployment of up to nine American, British, German and Polish divisions in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, as well as naval forces in the Baltic ports of Gdansk and Gdynia. Wikileaks also published a report signed by the U.S Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, which refers to the potential threat of Russia, emphasised the newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta also notes that the F-16 bombers can carry nuclear weapons, which if based in Poland and the Baltic nations could theoretically reach the province of Smolensk and Moscow in just a few minutes. Likewise, the Wikileaks revelations detail the contingency plans whereby, if necessary, the SM-3 missiles could be employed very differently, and the possibility of reorienting the radars of the anti-missile system towards Russia, if the circumstances demanded it.

An official from the Russian foreign ministry admitted that such publications caused a great deal of doubt and discontent. At all times, Russia seeks to assure that there is no military strategy against NATO, said the source, quoted by Russian news agency Itar-tass. The Russian diplomat declared that Russia is reducing its weaponry in the northern enclave of Kaliningrad, separated from the rest of Russia by Poland and the Baltic countries, while also cutting its military capability on its Western flank.

We are always surpised by the NATO planes in the region patrolling Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, instead of seeking to confront real threats, the foreign ministry source added. The Russian press has announced that the first Eagle Guardian joint exercises will take place next year. Many analists believe that between the West and Russia, the cold war may have changed colour or even temperature, but has never truly disappeared.

Some days ago the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Guennadi Ziuganov, asked whether the country was taking another course in its foreign policy, and warned that it would be counterproductive to ignore the half century of NATO plans against Russia. (PL)

(Translated by A.Phillips – ambrosephillips@gmail.com)

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