The decisions of the NATO summit on increasing military presence close to the Russian borders will be the main topic of NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting on Wednesday. Another two issues – the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan. Another sensitive issue of missile defense – is not on the meeting’s agenda and can be casually discussed in the framework of the discussion of the results of the NATO summit in Warsaw on July 8-9, where the alliance announced setting missile defense system of the Alliance to the initial level of preparedness.
Russia and NATO focus on different topics of the NRC meeting. “The central theme at the meeting will be the decisions of the Alliance’s July 8-9 summit in Warsaw on the further NATO military build-up on the “eastern flank” of the Alliance and their impact on European security,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier, adding that other topics would include the settlement in Ukraine, the situation in Afghanistan and regional terrorist threats.
The Russian side wants to hear the alliance explain its decision to deploy four NATO battalions in Poland and the Baltic States, numbering 1,000 people each, as well as “advanced military presence” in the Black Sea region on the base of established multinational brigade in Romania. In addition, the talks will touch upon increasing activity of the alliance at the sea and air borders of Russia.
“During the consideration of other issues related to military activity, the Russian side intends to initiate the discussion on the initiative put forward by our Finnish partners, the so-called ‘Niinisto plan’ on strengthening aviation security in the Baltic Sea region, to highlight the risks to strategic stability emerging as a result of the currently being created US/NATO missile defense system in Europe,” Zakharova added.
In turn, NATO prefers to bring “the situation in Ukraine and the implementation of the Minsk agreements” to the foreground, while the problem of increasing military activity in Europe is considered as “discussion of transparency problems with the Russian military.” Alliance, in particular, is strongly concerned about the practice of sudden operational readiness tests of Russian troops, and would like to discuss the rules of warning NATO countries about them as well as a monitoring mechanism for these maneuvers.
A source in NATO said on Monday that the alliance’s agenda for the NRC did not change after the summit in Warsaw, and still focuses on the situation in Ukraine and around the country, implementation of the Minsk agreements, as well as military activity with particular emphasis on transparency and risk reduction, security situation in Afghanistan.
NATO froze all practical cooperation with the Russian Federation in April 2014 – after Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The operation of the NATO-Russia Council was preserved to maintain political dialogue channels open. The current meeting of the Council will become the third after the cooperation freeze. The Council’s first meeting was held June 2, 2014, its second on April 20, 2016.
Contacts between Russia and NATO continued in other formats too. On June 17, 2014, NATO’s Headquarters in Brussels held a Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) meeting at the level of permanent representatives; on May 19, 2015, the Belgian capital hosted a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the NATO secretary-general. Later Lavrov and Stoltenberg met twice – on September 29, 2015 in New York and on February 12, 2016 in Munich.