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Re-Setting the NATO-Russia Relationship

WARSAW – Earlier this year, a group led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (which included me) issued a report on a new strategic concept called “NATO 2020.” The report recommended that NATO open its door to new members while seeking a more constructive relationship with Russia. We outlined a dual strategy of reassuring the NATO allies that their interests would be defended while engaging with the Kremlin in a manner consistent with the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act and the 2002 Rome Declaration on the NATO-Russia relationship.

Reassuring alliance governments does not require only that “any constructive engagement would have to be based on military reassurances within NATO,” as prominent experts like Wolfgang Ischinger and Ulrich Weisser have said. Security assurances should also comprise confidence-building measures, along with conventional and nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The Albright report outlined a strategy of “re-engagement and reassurance.” The “reset” of relations with Russia can succeed only if it is reciprocal. Russia, therefore, should apply two fundamental principles that it has already accepted in several declarations. First, as the Helsinki Final Act put it, every sovereign nation has an inherent right “to belong or not to belong to international organizations, to be or not to be a party to bilateral or multilateral treaties, including the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance; they also have the right to neutrality.” Second, the sovereign equality of states includes respect for all the rights inherent in sovereignty.

NATO needs Russia, and Russia needs NATO, and the US shift away from unilateralism has restored the importance of multilateral security institutions while giving NATO the chance to establish new partnerships with the EU and Russia. Back in February, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the alliance’s Strategic Concept seminar in Washington that, “while Russia faces challenges to its security, NATO is not among them. We want a cooperative NATO-Russia relationship that produces concrete results and draws NATO and Russia closer together.”