Nato plays cagey with the Bear: The West

'EVERYBODY is conscious,' said the senior British official at Nato headquarters, 'that the Russian position has hardened a good deal over the past few weeks.'

Moscow wanted a free hand in military activities within the boundaries of the former Soviet Union, he said. It had pressed Nato not to admit new countries. And there were lingering doubts that, though the deterioration in attitude might just be connected with the elections, 'it may be more lasting'. Could the bear be making a comeback?

Yet, downstairs, Nato foreign ministers were drawing up plans that could admit Russian officials to the inner sanctums of the alliance: Nato headquarters in Brussels and the military nerve centre at Mons.

The reasons for these shifts and the implications for Western security are going to take up a lot of time between now and the January meeting of Nato leaders in Brussels.

The end of the Cold War left a security vacuum in Central and Eastern Europe, and the West is trying to work out ways to fill it. But the role of Russia remains highly uncertain. The central plank of post- war US foreign policy - the containment of the Soviet Union - was swept away with the end of the Cold War.

At meetings of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels and of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in Rome last week, the policy that will replace it started to come into focus. The West is following a two-track policy. On the one track, it is reassuring Moscow that its concerns are understood and taken into account. Russia is special: that message came from Warren Christopher, among others, as the US Secretary of State outlined his views on the new Washington- Moscow axis.

'We will always have a special relationship with them, as long as their nuclear capability is as it is, and as long as the United States and Russia are in the arms-control business together,' he said.

Indeed, once the other republics are nuclear-free, Russia will be the sole nuclear power in the former Soviet Union. Mr Christopher leaned heavily last week on Ukraine, Russia's nuclear neighbour, to persuade it to disarm.

The West is also trying to persuade Russia that the alliance is no longer the enemy. A senior Nato source said last week that there was concern over a 'perceptual gap' between Moscow and Brussels. 'We have to overcome those forces . . . which cling to the old thinking and maintain, or even try to revive, the image of Nato as the enemy,' Nato Secretary- General Manfred Worner told last week's meeting.

The January summit is also likely to give Russia increased links to the alliance. 'There would be a special kind of agreement,' said the official, 'a special degree of consultation.' The slow-down in letting in new members is partly aimed at propitiating Russian concerns.

But, on the other track, the West is trying to limit Russian influence and devise rules to keep it in its place. On peace- keeping, the West and the Central and Eastern Europeans are worried, and want to create criteria for judging Moscow's actions. The senior British official conceded that 'there are certain areas of the world where the Russians have a particular interest'. But 'there isn't a blank cheque for Russia on peace-keeping. They'd like us to do that, but we won't'.

Policy is still hampered by uncertainty, say diplomats and ministers. Official visitors and speeches from Moscow contain conflicting signals. Despite repeated promises, nobody has arrived to brief Nato on Russia's new military doctrine.

The big question remains what sort of security structure can or should be built in Eastern Europe. For the countries in the region, the expansion of Nato eastwards is the answer, but that is not yet on offer.

If it were, the Eastern Europeans would want the right to full consultations, leading if necessary to action in the event of a threat from the east. 'We don't want consultations for consultations' sake,' said a Polish diplomat. The eastern countries also want a pathway to membership laid out through Partnerships for Peace, the initiative to build stronger political and military East-West links.

There is a whiff of history about all this. In the immediate post-war years, as the US tried to work out how to handle the Russians, George Kennan, director of the US policy planning staff, wrote an influential article, 'The Sources of Soviet Conduct'. Because of traditional Russian insecurity, the Soviet Union could be expected to push beyond its borders, he argued, and it must be resisted. His views helped create the doctrine of containment, and Nato. Forty years later, many of his concerns seem just as valid.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - OTE £42,000

£28000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a leading s...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant -Engineering -Renewable Energy

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map