Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov’s interview with the TASS News Agency, September 30, 2016

Submitted on Mon, 10/03/2016 - 14:10

Question: Has NATO responded to Russia’s proposal to strengthen confidence, including in light of the so-called Niinisto Plan for air safety over the Baltic? The proposal was made public at a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council on July 13. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting that the allies welcome Russia’s readiness to discuss ways to reduce risks and will carefully analyse Russian proposals on air safety over the Baltic.

Alexey Meshkov: Last July the Russian military submitted a list of practical steps that can be taken to strengthen confidence. Two months later NATO officials issued oral comments, but only on some aspects of our proposal. These explanations indicate that some of our initiatives have been rejected, such as holding a meeting of military experts in Moscow to discuss European security in light of the Warsaw summit’s decisions; exchanging military opinions on the terrorist threat, primarily with a view to preventing the proliferation of ISIS (ISIS or the Islamic State is a terrorist group that has been prohibited in Russia) and other terrorist organisations; resuming cooperation within the Russia-NATO anti-terrorist project – the Cooperative Airspace Initiative; and conducting an un-politicised  analysis of previous military programmes within the Russia-NATO Council framework.

This reaction to our Baltic risk reduction proposal that you mentioned is indicative. We invited NATO’s technical experts and also representatives from Sweden and Finland to come to Russia for consultations on all aspects of the use of transponders in the region. Why can’t they do this? Instead, they have indicated that we should provide proof of the importance of transponders for preventing air accidents, despite the fact that for the past two years NATO officials have been speaking about the risks posed by our aircraft flying with their transponders switched off, which they described as the biggest military security problem. It looks like an attempt to avoid a practical discussion of our initiative.

NATO has not made any reciprocal proposal but expects us to hold more transparent briefings on Russia’s military capabilities on the western border. They also want to receive information on spot checks during telephone conversations with the Chief of the Russian General Staff. This attitude is also indicative of their idea of modernising the 2011 Vienna document on military confidence- and security-building measures.

We agree that these are important issues that must not be disregarded. But it must not be a one-way street as now.

I believe that NATO’s reaction to our proposal can be explained by its obsession with ideology. The allied countries should have long shown a responsible attitude to developing systemic cooperation with Russia and found the courage to break out of the framework of politicised bloc thinking.

Anyway, we expect a detailed response in an official letter from NATO. Only after we receive it will we be ready to resume a meaningful dialogue. However, as I have said, the bloc’s continued attempts to force a one-sided relationship on us will not help us reach any confidence-building agreements.