NATO in the Face of a Rising Russia
2:00 – 3:30 pm Wednesday, October 8
Center on Global Interests, 10th Floor, 1050 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC

As a result of the Ukraine crisis, Russia-NATO relations have reached their lowest point since the Cold War. On October 8 CGI hosted John Wallace, a former consultant to the Supreme Allied Commander and his Executive Command Group on the NATO Allied Command Transformation, to discuss NATO cohesion in the face of a reemerging Russia. Wallace also touched on the appointment of new Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the long-term prospects for NATO-Russia relations. Emphasizing the need to restore productive ties, Wallace suggested the following key recommendations:

  • Though both sides remain cautious, new NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg has indicated a more conciliatory approach to Moscow. To effectively seize this opportunity, Russia must signal a willingness to reengage with NATO at the highest levels. Meanwhile, without amending its open-door policy, NATO must act in recognition of Russia’s legitimate interests in Eastern Europe, including its opposition to membership for Ukraine and Georgia.


  • The annexation of Crimea remains a large sticking point in the Russia-NATO relationship that is nonetheless unlikely to be reversed. In this instance, Crimea can be used as the object of a major trade-off– for example, a formal recognition of the annexation by Ukraine in exchange for a declaration by Russia that it will henceforth respect Ukraine’s territorial and political sovereignty.


  • The Central European NATO member states can be enlisted to restart the NATO-Russia dialogue. The Czech Republic and Hungary, for example, have positive working relationships with both Russia and their eastern neighbors, and can play an important role in facilitating communication from the perspective of shared historical and cultural experiences.


  • Russia should cooperate more closely with NATO in the sphere of military transformation by accepting NATO’s invitation to send a representative to the Allied Command Transformation. Transformation primarily focuses on education and training, conducting exercises and experiments to assess new concepts, and promoting interoperability throughout the Alliance as well as with its partners. Russia has been previously invited to be a contributor in this process but has repeatedly declined. Both sides stand to gain valuable insights on operations, capabilities, and technologies through this cooperation.


  • Finding areas of mutual interest for cooperation will at a minimum contribute to trust and confidence building between NATO and Russia. Even when cooperation is rightly suspended in many spheres due to external events – as was the case with the Russian-NATO council – informal channels must always remain open at the highest levels, to allow each side to test the waters on ways that the crisis can be resolved.

Wallace concluded that in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, NATO must redefine its understanding of security in the 21st century and determine where Russia fits into the equation. Otherwise, “a return to the status-quo of tensions raises the risk of miscalculation.”

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