Thursday, October 17, 2019, 07:02 (GMT+7)
Stormy relationship between Russia and NATO

The Russia-NATO relationship has reached the lowest point when Moscow has announced its complete end of civilian and military cooperation with NATO. Public concern has been raised as the broken relationship between the two sides could have negative impacts on regional and global security and stability.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has not pursued socialism; it has decided to integrate into the Western world while the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was no longer in a confrontation, has sought a new mission for itself; therefore, the Russia-NATO relationship has been expected to have a “brighter future.”

In fact, the two sides have made “goodwill” moves to warm up the relationship which was “frozen” during the Cold War. In 1994, Russia joined the “Partnership Program for Peace” developed by the NATO. In 1997, it joined the “North Atlantic Cooperation Council” which was renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between this country and the NATO. To realize those documents, the Russia-NATO Council was established. The Council is the highest-level office for coordinating the cooperation relationship between the two sides. Russia’s military and NATO formulated the mechanism for cooperation in dealing with non-traditional security challenges, exchanging intelligence, organizing joint patrols, joint search and rescue operations, combating piracy and terrorism, and developing military science and technology. In 2008, Russia even allowed the NATO to transport its military equipment across the country’s territory for the bloc’s military to join the international security forces in Afghanistan.

According to experts around the world, NATO and Russia have developed their relationship at various levels, in different forms, which has helped the two sides to increase their defensive capacity and contributed to maintaining security and stability in the Europe in the “Post-Cold War” period. However, in addition to those encouraging results, Russia and NATO have exposed differences and disagreements; therefore, their relationship has been increasingly intense.

Differences hard to resolve between the two sides

The collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist countries in the East Europe has enabled NATO to become the world’s largest and “invincible” military alliance. Nevertheless, as NATO has been not dissolved, it has continued to develop in terms of scale, function, and task. In the “Cold War” period, NATO had only 15 member states; however, since the end of the Cold War, NATO has initiated Central European and East European countries (those countries are in the “Post-Soviet” space) into the bloc en masse (the bloc now has 29 member states). NATO’s border has been expanded towards Russia’s border. Besides, NATO has deployed its troops and modern materiel to its member states bordering Russia, forming up a military posture encircling Moscow. Russia has opposed and considered NATO’s enlargement to the East as a direct threat to its national security. According to the Kremlin, Russia would take retaliatory actions and even military measures for dealing with threats and protecting its national security and territorial integrity. It is NATO’s enlargement to the East that has cast a shadow over the relationship between the two sides.

NATO’s function and task have been adjusted and expanded beyond the Europe. Inventing an excuse about terrorism prevention and combat, under the US leadership, NATO has waged wars in many parts of the world which have been criticized as inhumane by the international community. Typically, regardless of Russia and international community’s opposition, the U.S. and NATO conducted military operations against Yugoslavia in 1999, which led to the overthrow of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. They also launched military attacks against Iraq to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003. NATO believed that those were “pro-Russian” figures. In 2004, the U.S. and NATO continued to conduct the “Orange Revolution” to overthrow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and establish a “pro-Western” Government in Ukraine. Militarily, Ukraine holds a position of strategic importance to both Russia and NATO. Thus, when Russia annexed Crimea, the U.S. and NATO strongly disagreed over Moscow’s decision. They stated that Russia intervened in Ukraine’s internal affairs and destabilized the situation in Eastern Ukraine. In response to Russia’s decision, the U.S. and NATO took a series of tough measures, stepping up military operation as a deterrent to Moscow, breaking off relationships with Russia, imposing economic, political, and diplomatic sanctions this country, and getting the Russia-NATO relationship into the “frozen” state. In 2018, accusing Russia of poisoning the double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK and causing aggression in the Black Sea when this country arrested 3 Ukrainian warships in the Kerch Strait, the U.S. and NATO deployed the system of National Missile Defence in NATO’s member states bordering Russia so as to show off their strength against Moscow. In the Black Sea, to protect maritime safety as an excuse, the U.S. and NATO deployed many aircraft and warships and organized large-scale exercises, which made the situation in the region extremely intense.

Responding to those moves, Russia strongly opposed the NATO’s allegations of “threats” from itself, adding that NATO’s hostile actions towards Moscow were “useless” and only led to instability in the region and the world. According to the Kremlin, over the past decade, Russia put efforts in improving its relationship with NATO; however, this bloc denied the country’s positive attempts. In stead of cementing the relationship between the two sides, NATO has adopted a preventive and deterrent policy towards Russia. As a result, Russia must completely end its civilian and military cooperation with NATO. There is widespread concern that the differences and disagreements between Russia and NATO could push the two sides into the state of confrontation like the Cold War period.

Reasons for the “broken” relationship between Russia and NATO

According to experts, the breakdown of the Russia-NATO relationship has been predicted as NATO always regards Russia as a rival. In 1990, the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration gave the Kremlin a promise that NATO would not expand its territory to the East. In 1997, Russia and NATO signed an agreement in which the latter pledged not to deploy active military units within its new member states’ territory. However, America and NATO broke this promise, quickly stepping up the enlargement to the East, forming up a military posture to encircle Russia. Moscow expressed its discontent and accused NATO of breaking the commitment. When Russia took the measures for defending its national security and benefits, NATO made a slander on this country and turned Russia into a “boogie man” to attack. General Secretary of NATO Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO was facing the challenges which no country could overcome by its own, posed by a “more assertive Russia.” In its National Security Strategy of 2018, America also considered Russia as a potential opponent.

Experts believe that America and NATO always fear that Russia as a nuclear superpower will rise up to become the biggest rival challenging the US global leadership. Therefore, the U.S. and NATO always pursue a “double-dealing” policy towards Russia. They both cooperate and compete with Moscow for geo-strategic and geo-political influence, containing and preventing Russia from becoming a threat to their hegemony and supremacy in the region and the world. Those are the main factors which lead to the breakdown of the relationship between Russia and NATO.


According to military experts from many Western countries, due to the breakdown of the relationship between Russia and NATO, the emergency mechanism between the two sides has been neutralized. While both America and NATO are being confronted with serious non-traditional security challenges, particularly the wave of refugees and migrants from the North Africa - Middle East and the terrorism with the Self-Proclaimed Islamic State (IS), that situation will pose greater challenges to the U.S. and NATO in the global war on terror. Moreover, the breakdown of the Russia-NATO relationship and especially the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) signed by America and Russia in 1987 will push the latter into a new arms race, possibly increasing the risks of armed conflict and nuclear proliferation with the unpredictable implications for the region and the world. The Kremlin has recently warned that there would be no victor in a nuclear war and that type of war should not be allowed to break out. Russia has also recommended America to sign an agreement to prevent a nuclear war. However, there has not been any reply from the U.S. yet.

Russia and NATO play an important role in the world. Changes in the relationship between the two sides will definitely directly impact on the global situation, particularly the Europe’s security and stability. It is expected that in today’s globalization trend, when the dependence on one another among countries is greater, Russia and NATO should promote cooperation on the basis of respect for international law, the United Nations Charter, and each nation’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and equality in order to build a world of peace, stability, and development.

Duc Minh

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