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NATO - Russia Relations


"Dialogue can be difficult, but it is also essential and in times of raised tensions, such as now, it is particularly important to keep channels of communication open." - (Press point by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, 13 July 2017)

Recommended Reading on NATO-Russia Relations

In Paris France, on 27 May 1997, NATO and Russia signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation, creating the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. In 2002 they upgraded that relationship, creating the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). They reaffirmed their commitment to the Founding Act at NATO-Russia summits in Rome on 28 May 2002 by the Declaration on “NATO-Russia Relations: a New Quality”, and during the Lisbon NRC Summit in 2010.

After the August 2008 conflict in Georgia which severely disrupted NATO-Russia relation, NATO's leaders endorsed the decision to resume cooperation with Russia at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in 2009, stating that:

"Despite our current disagreements, Russia is of particular importance to us as a partner and neighbour. NATO and Russia share common security interests.[...] We are committed to using the NATO-Russia Council as a forum for political dialogue on all issues – where we agree and disagree – with a view towards resolving problems, addressing concerns and building practical cooperation." (Art. 35 of the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit Declaration, 4 April 2009)

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The NATO-Russia Relations since the Ukraine Crisis

On 2 March 2014 the North Atlantic Council condemned the Russian Federation’s military escalation in Crimea and expressed its grave concern regarding the authorization by the Russian Parliament to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine.

On 16 March, the North Atlantic Council considered the so-called referendum held on 16 March in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea to be both illegal and illegitimate (NATO's relations with Russia).

On 1 April 2014, during the NAC, NATO Foreign Ministers stated : « …We have decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Our political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, to allow us to exchange views, first and foremost on this crisis. We will review NATO’s relations with Russia at our next meeting in June…” (NATO-Russia Council)

The measures following NATO Ministers’ decision to suspend all practical cooperation with Russia apply as from 8 April 2014. (NATO News, 7 April)

A chronology of NATO statements on the “Situation in Ukraine” (18 February – 18 March 2014)

On 25 June 2014, ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers from NATO member states, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters: "I regret to say that we see no signs that Russia is respecting its international commitments. Today, we will review our relations with Russia and decide what to do next." (Deutsche Welle, 25 June 2014)

NATO-Russia Council meetings:

Since the start of the Russia/Ukraine crisis, there have been two NRC meetings in 2014 (March 2014 , June 2014), and one meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (March 2014), which included Russia. 

Further information on the Ukraine Crisis:

'The Ukraine Conflict' Hot Topic offers a constantly updated list of books and articles from the NATO Multimedia Library catalog, from a current as well as historical perspective. (It might be useful to sort the result list by publication date (please sort by 'B1 (Year)').

In January 2015, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Berlin: "NATO still strives for a cooperative, constructive relationship with Russia.  NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia.  But if we are going to have a constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia, Russia must want it too." (Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with members of the German Federal Press Conference, Berlin, 15 January 2015).

In talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stresses NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine (29 January 2015).‚Äč

"NATO stands firm in support for Ukraine": on 13 May 2015 during the NATO Foreign Ministers Meetings in Antalya (Turkey),  the NATO Secretary General called on Russia “to fully abide by international law.” Mr. Stoltenberg also underscored that “Russia’s annexation of Crimea is illegal and illegitimate; we do not and we will not recognize it.”

Following his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the NATO Secretary General said: "We have suspended all practical cooperation with Russia as a response to their behaviour in Crimea and Ukraine.  But we are keeping the lines of political contact open and we will continue to do so." (Statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, 19 May 2015).

NATO-Russia Council meetings:

In 2015 there were no NRC meeting. However, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council which included Russia, was held on 11 March 2015.

On 8 April 2016, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared: "Following consultations with Russia, we have agreed to hold a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at Ambassadorial level." (NATO, Statement by the Secretary General on NATO-Russia Council meeting, 8 April 2016).

Following the NATO-Russia Council, held on 20 April 2016 at NATO HQ, Jens Stoltenberg stated: "NATO Allies and Russia hold very different views. But we have listened to what each of us have to say". Three important topics were discussed during the meeting: the crisis in Ukraine; issues related to military activities, transparency and risk reduction; and an assessment of the security situation in Afghanistan. (Doorstep statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, 20 April 2016).

On the occasion of the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting held at NATO HQ on 20 May 2016, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced: "NATO should convene a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council before our next Summit in July." (Doorstep statements by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini before the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on cooperation with the European Union)

On the eve of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, the Secretary General announced that a NATO-Russia Council at Ambassadorial level would take place on the 13 July 2016. (Statement by the Secretary General on NATO-Russia Council meeting, 6 July 2016).

On 13 July 2016, NATO Secretary General welcomed frank and open discussions in NATO-Russia Council.

In the analysis "NATO's Land Forces: Strength and Speed Matter", Gen. John Nicholson, the Commander of Resolute Support and United States Forces-Afghanistan, invites the Alliance "to reduce the potential for mistakes or miscalculations that could lead to a military confrontation, which could then escalate. These are reduced through increased transparency and communication." (PRISM, 18 July 2016).

On 16 August 2016, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an op-ed article by NATO Deputy Secretary Gen. Alexander Vershbow: “NATO and Russia: Why Transparency is Essential”. On 15 September 2016, NATO DSG met with the Ambassador of the Russian Federation, Alexander Grushko: they discussed ways to increase transparency and risk reduction, following up from the agenda of the last Ambassadorial meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) on 13 July 2016.

Following the Meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (third time the NATO-Russia Council had met in 2016), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated: "Allies and Russia hold different views. And our meeting does not indicate a return to business as usual. But without talking, we cannot solve our differences and improve mutual understanding." Discussed topics were: Ukraine crisis, Afghanistan, military activities, transparency and risk reduction. NATO Secretary General concluded: "NATO does not seek confrontation and poses no threat. Everything we do – including strengthening our presence in the east of the Alliance – is defensive, proportionate and in line with our international commitments." (Statement by the NATO Secretary General following a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, 19 December 2016).

NATO-Russia Council meetings:

In 2016 there have been three NRC meetings: 20 April, 13 July and 19 December; and one meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia (12 February 2016) on the occasion of the Munich Security Conference.

On 12 January 2017, during a Joint press point held by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Bill English, Mr. Stoltenberg asserted: "We don’t see any imminent [Russian] threat against any NATO ally. What we see is a more assertive Russia. We see a Russia which has invested significantly in their armed forces, in new military capabilities, and a Russia which has been willing to use military force against neighbours as we have seen in Georgia and in Ukraine with the illegal annexation of Crimea and supporting the separatists in Eastern Ukraine. That’s the reason why NATO has responded and we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defence since the end of the Cold War with more military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance".

"It was a long meeting, it was a frank meeting and the meeting was constructive. This is the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council this year" stated NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the Press conference he held after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council and ahead of meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers (30 March 2017)

About the Ukraine crisis, Mr. Stoltenberg said: "Allies and Russia continue to have clear disagreements on the crisis in and around Ukraine. [...] We do not, and will not, recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea."

About Afghanistan: "It is in all our interests to continue helping the Afghan forces to provide for their own security." 

About improving transparency and risk reduction: "Today, we took another step, through an exchange on our respective military postures. Russia gave a briefing on the three new divisions in its Western Military District. And NATO provided a briefing on the four battlegroups we are deploying to Poland and the Baltic countries. I look forward to future briefings in the same spirit of transparency.[...] The idea is to use the Council as a platform for political dialogue for transparency and enabling more transparency and predictability in the relationship between Russia and NATO and we have made some progress."

Julie Wilhelmsen and Jakub Gozimirski published in March 2017 a chapter called "NATO and Russia: Spiral of distrust’ in Karsten friis (ed.) - pre-print version, in the book "NATO and Collective Defence in the 21st Century"; Routledge, 2017, pp. 63 -77.

Marking the 15th anniversary of the NATO-Russia Council in June 2017, a Russia expert (Radoslava Stefanova, Head of the Russia and Ukraine Relations Section at NATO) looks back in disappointment at how the high hopes for the partnership have been dashed in recent years: "A personal take on NATO-Russia relations" (NATO Review, 13 June 2017).

Following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council held on 26 October 2017, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had a Press Point where he said: "Our dialogue is not easy, but that is exactly why our dialogue is so important".

NATO-Russia Council meetings:

First meeting of the NATO-Russia meeting in 2017 took place on 30 March. The following NRC Meeting at the ambassadorial level (the fifth such meeting since April 2016) was held in Brussels on July 13, 2017 (Press point by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg).

The NATO-Russia Council met on 26 October 2017 in Brussels, for the third time this year. Allies and Russia had an open and useful exchange on three topics: Ukraine, Afghanistan and transparency and risk reduction. (Secretary General discusses NATO-Russia Council)

On  27 March 2018, NATO Secretary General stated: "The attack in Salisbury was the first use of a nerve agent on NATO territory. On March 14, NATO Allies made clear their deep concern, and condemnation of this reckless breach of international norms. [...] I have today withdrawn the accreditation of seven staff at the Russian Mission to NATO. I will also deny the pending accreditation request for three others. And the North Atlantic Council has reduced the maximum size of the Russian Mission to NATO by ten people, in line with my decision. This will bring the maximum size down to twenty." (Statement by NATO Secretary General on further decisions following the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, 27 March 2018)

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Did NATO promise not to enlarge?