Russia will restore the former format of relations with NATO, including within the Russia-NATO Council, within a couple of years, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said in an interview with Germany’s Deutsche Welle on Wednesday.
“We wouldn’t want that cooperation [between Russia and NATO] to remain prehistoric. We believe that there is history, and there is the present. But I am sure that very soon, there will also be a future,” he said. “And I am sure that we will restore our relationship with NATO and we will return to the wonderful form of cooperation that is the Russia-NATO Council.”
“I think that it will happen in the next year or two at most,» he added.
As for the Russia-Belarus joint military exercise Zapad-2017 (West-2017) that are to kick off on Thursday, they are of purely defense nature, he stressed.
“I can calm our dear neighbors straightaway. The exercise is absolutely peaceful, and absolutely defensive in nature. In this case, the ‘West’ isn’t to be taken in the broad, political sense of the geographic term as the countries of the West, of the European Union or the members of NATO. The term ‘West’ designates west of the Russian Federation and of Belarus – which is even further west than Russia,” Fomin noted. “There are no plans for any sort of invasion into the territory of neighboring countries. The main goal of the exercise is to practice relevant strategies for the battle against terrorism and to practice the use of the armed forces for that battle.”
The Russia-NATO Council was established in 2002. Before 2014, it met in Brussels at least once a month at the ambassadorial level and twice a year – at the level of foreign and defense ministers and chiefs of general staffs. Over that period, it had three summit meetings. The most efficient areas of cooperation between Russia and NATO were anti-terror efforts and Afghanistan.
Russia-NATO relations lived through three periods of chills due to political crises, namely in 1999-2000 over bombing of the former Yugoslavia, in 2008-2009 over NATO’s negativism about Russia’s actions during the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, and from 2014 to the present over developments in Ukraine. In April 2014, NATO froze for three months all types of practical military and civil cooperation with Russia to say in June 2014 that there was no resuming strategic partnership with Russia at the moment. However, the Alliance decided to preserve the format of the Russia-NATO Council to continue political dialogue. Since then, the Council has been meeting at the ambassadorial level.
At a regular ambassadorial meeting on July 13, 2017, Moscow briefed NATO ambassadors about the forthcoming Zapad joint drills with Belarus. Following it, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he saw no threats from the drills to the NATO member countries.