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Russia against deploying “substantial” NATO military forces in Central Europe

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, October 28
Russia will announce a “groundbreaking” agreement with NATO about Russia's’ return to the war in Afghanistan, at the Lisbon Summit next month, The Independent reported yesterday. According to the British newspaper, in return for their help in Afghanistan, Moscow “is seeking what it terms as more cooperation from NATO.” “Moscow would also like NATO to accept a fait accompli over Georgia, where Russian troops remain in South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the war of two years ago,” the Independent wrote.

Russian daily The Kommersant also reported on Russia’s intention to persuade NATO not to deploy “substantial military forces” on the territories of NATO’s new members. According to Kommersant, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov handed in a special document, ‘Agreement on the basis of Russia-NATO Relations', to the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen last December, however its contents were not made public at that point.

“We want to achieve a situation where the level of predictability of military actions on the territories of the states, which recently joined NATO, will be higher than what we have now,” The Kommersant quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Ryabkov as saying “Now we don’t have this level [of predictability],” the Deputy Minister added. Quoting an anonymous source from the Alliance headquarters, the Russian daily reported that the document has indeed been handed to NATO officials. “However it is hard to say what will come of this,” the anonymous respondent told the Kommersant. From 1999 to 2009 Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia have joined NATO.

The official reaction of Tbilisi to the information disseminated by foreign media outlets is skeptical, with some of the politicians saying that NATO will “never agree” on Moscow’s proposal. The document, proposed by Russia, contradicts international law, in particular the Paris Charter and Helsinki Act on European Security, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for European Integration, MP Davit Darchiashvili said. “These are the international documents, based on which the states have a freedom of choice of the alliances. Defence alliances envisage movement of armed forces on the territories of member states,” he noted, adding that it is in the interests of NATO to deploy anti-missile forces and that “it is up to the alliance to decide where to deploy them.”

As for Russia’s demand that NATO accepts “new realities” in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, the Georgian MPs have expressed their confidence that NATO will never agree to “legitimize the results of the war.” “Lately, the position of the US [about Georgia] has never been so stable,” MP from ruling National Movement Party, Nugzar Tsiklauri said “the term ‘occupation’ was accepted recently and it means that we are seeing progress. NATO will never agree on the establishment of the reality that Russia wants to create on occupied territories of Georgia,” he added.

Some Georgian analysts have described Russia’s proposal as “utopia.” “NATO will never agree to sign a capitulation document,” analyst Soso Tsintsadze said. Russia has seemingly started using “ultimatum language”, the analyst suggested. “I don’t exclude that while meeting in Deauville [earlier in October] with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Medvedev received some support from the two leaders about the document, however in this case the position of USA is very important, which I believe will not agree on tying NATO and on changing the direction which the Alliance has been pursuing since the day it was established,” Tsintsadze said.

The NATO Lisbon Summit, where the Russian Federation is expected to announce its Afghanistan plans, is due to take place on November 19-20, 2010.