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NATO and Russia perform an intricate dance

The posturing NATO complains about works well for Russia.

Now the Obama administration, following up on a campaign promise to review the missile defense plans, has signaled to Russia that it might be willing to curtail the program as a tradeoff for more cooperation on curbing Iran’s nuclear pursuits.

A particularly harsh critic of Moscow, Liik would like to see international organizations like NATO and the European Union stop what she calls the “pretense” that Russia meets the thresholds for formal cooperation. Instead, she suggests, create forums to discuss matters that everyone agrees must be discussed between the two sides.

For example, Liik said, the EU put on hold its negotiations for a new partnership accord because of the Georgia conflict, but resumed them quickly despite ongoing questions about Russia’s commitment to the peace accord it signed with Georgia. In a paper for the Robert Schuman Foundation in Paris, Finnish Institute of International Affairs scholar Arkady Moshes attributed the quick resumption of “business as usual” to increased self-confidence on Moscow’s part and a lack of self-confidence on Europe’s side.

Liik would agree with that. “We confuse places where we can punish Russia and places where we can’t,” she says. “It puts us in a ridiculous position.”

Liik isn’t surprised, however, that Russia doesn’t fully subscribe to the efforts of the NATO-Russia Council, which she says has not lived up to its potential. “The West itself should’ve invested much more into the NATO-Russia Council,” she says, “and not into pleasing Russia but into making this organization work to achieve our goals vis-a-vis Russia.”

This is not an isolated view. At the March 5 NATO foreign ministers’ meeting, for example, Lithuania was determined until the very last minute to hold out against the U.S.-led desire to resume high-level dialogue with Moscow. Poland was similarly disinclined to resume the dialogue. But these countries were ultimately overpowered by the forcefulness of the views of the U.S., Germany, Britain and others that there are simply too many matters of mutual interest to keep relations suspended.

Whether NATO capitulated to Russia too easily or not, the Kremlin was not entirely pleased. Moscow was not happy with the fact that the resumption of NATO-Russia Council talks would not happen until after NATO’s 60th anniversary summit — to which it was not invited.

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The Czech Republic celebrates 10 years in NATO

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