Russian leadership mulls implications of NATO’s Chicago Summit

The Russian leadership is cautious in its reactions to the decisions of the 25th NATO summit which took place earlier this week in Chicago. Russia which has a relationship with NATO through the NATO-Russia Council was represented by a senior diplomat at the summit, but both President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev stayed away. Russia continues to demand “legal guarantees” that the new NATO missile shield will not be used against it.

The major topic on the agenda at NATO’s Chicago Summit was progress on the missile defence system which has long been planned for Eastern Europe, and which has soured relations between the alliance and Russia for several years.

 In its Deterrence and Defence Posture Review, issued on the first day of the gathering, NATO announced that the system is now “provisionally operational” and is capable of bringing down incoming missiles.  Full coverage of the European continent is envisaged by 2018. While it is described by NATO as a bulwark against possible long-range attack by Iran and North Korea, the missile shield is seen by Russia as a threat to its own security.  Before the Summit, Moscow sought a legally binding statement from NATO that its European defence system would not be used against it; in its Review, NATO has issued a political (but not legal) pledge to this effect, and expressed a hope for Russian cooperation in this sphere: “NATO missile defence is not oriented against Russia, nor does it have the capability to undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent.  The Alliance, in a spirit of reciprocity, maximum transparency and mutual confidence, will actively seek cooperation on missile defence with Russia”. (see full text here)
Speaking to gazeta.ru, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in World Politics, predicted that Moscow was likely to greet this pronouncement with caution: “Russia’s answer will probably be: ‘We welcome the statement, but in itself it is not enough. We demand a precise legal guarantee’.”
So far, Russia’s official reaction has been brief, but emphatic.  Federation Council Chair Valentina Matviyenko, speaking at a press conference during a visit to Krakow, said:
“In response to our urgent requirement for legal guarantees that this system will not be directed against the Russian Federation, we have received no such guarantees. Such unilateral decisions break international arrangements which were earlier agreed … If we do not receive precise legal guarantees, we reserve the right to take adequate retaliation measures for the protection of our interests and the security of our state”
Matviyenko’s statement echoes that of Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, who said earlier this month that Russia would not rule out the possibility of pre-emptive strikes, should the missile shield be deemed a threat to Russia’s own strategic deterrent.
Vladimir Sotnikov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economics and International Relations, remarked that the full extent and final nature of the defence system has yet to be confirmed, and that NATO appears to be listening to Russian concerns.  Nevertheless, he added that “a key feature of this problem – and NATO shied away from this in Chicago – is the fact that our western partners do not wish to give written legal guarantees…[which] would confirm the responsibilities of both sides and our western partners’ goodwill towards Russia, legally enshrined” .
Poland, meanwhile, has cautioned Russia against any intervention in NATO’s missile shield deployment.  Bogdan Borusevich, chair of the Polish upper house, said that, although talks with Russia should continue, as a non-member state it had no right to influence the development of NATO systems.
source: LINKS Analysis with RIA Novosti and Gazeta.ru
photo: Chairman of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Mativienko (archive picture).