MYTH: Russia is not interested in a dialogue with NATO
Russia did not do anything to worsen its relations with NATO. The blame for the degradation of these relations lies entirely with the Alliance. The initiative to restore them and to search for ways to overcome the ongoing tense situation should come from NATO.
Practical civil and military cooperation with Russia was suspended in 2014 at the initiative of the Alliance. In 2016, when NATO proposed convening a Russia-NATO Council (RNC) meeting, Russia met them halfway. Ten meetings in this format were held before July 2019. Russian officials actively engaged in exchanging briefings about military exercises and discussing the situation in Afghanistan and the crisis around the INF Treaty. However, at the same time NATO members pushed us into discussing Ukraine which had nothing to do with the Alliance.
We spoke about the need to discuss pressing matters that are in purview of the RNC, primarily, alleviating military tensions. We put forward specific proposals. At the RNC meeting held on May 31, 2018, we spoke in favour of resuming military dialogue to discuss issues of concern; taking, on the basis of reciprocity, measures to reduce military activities along the line of contact between Russia and NATO (the Baltic region, the Black Sea and the Arctic); and improving the mechanism for preventing dangerous military activities and incidents in the airspace and at sea, primarily in the Baltic and Black Sea regions.
At a meeting with the Commander of US European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Tod Wolters, in Baku on July 10, 2019, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov came up with a number of additional proposals to reduce tensions in Europe, including the withdrawal of operational exercise areas from the Russia-NATO contact line, deconfliction in the air and at sea in the Baltic region by equipping military aircraft with transponders, and determining the minimum allowable distance when aircraft and ships approach each other, as well as continuing the practice of reciprocal announcement of upcoming exercises and inviting observers to attend.
At a meeting with Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the sidelines of the Munich Conference on International Security held in February 2020, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on NATO to respond to Russia’s proposals on de-escalation, which would make it possible to discuss them at an RNC meeting. But we never got a response.
On May 8, 2020, Sergey Lavrov sent a message to the Alliance Secretary General, in which he proposed reducing the intensity of military exercises and maintaining restraint in Russia-NATO contact areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that the proposals that had been sent to NATO earlier remained valid was confirmed.
After the United States deliberately and with full support of its allies destroyed the INF Treaty, Russia took a number of unilateral steps aimed at ensuring predictability and restraint in the missile sector, and also took the initiative to develop these measures on a reciprocal basis with the participation of NATO. In particular, we suggested that NATO members follow Russia’s constructive example and introduce a counter-moratorium on deploying intermediate and shorter-range ground-based missiles with different fixtures in Europe and strike an agreement with us on verification measures.
However, instead of a comprehensive set of de-escalation steps, NATO proposed merely revising the Vienna Document 2011. With regard to using transponders during military aviation flights over the Baltic region, they only noted the need to implement the existing recommendations by the ICAO Baltic Sea Project Team, which was convened in accordance with the initiative spearheaded by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. At the same time, Russia is complying with these recommendations, while NATO fighters invariably and ostentatiously take to the air whenever Russian aircraft fly by, invariably accompanied by volleys of propaganda. The Alliance did not show its willingness to work together in order to reach an agreement on safe distances when aircraft and ships approach each other, citing the bilateral agreements between Russia and a number of NATO countries on deconfliction on high seas and in the airspace above it. However, we do not have such agreements with all NATO members.
Russia’s post-INF Treaty initiatives were rejected under far-fetched pretexts as well. The unwillingness on the part of the United States to limit its ability to project force near our borders and create additional direct risks to Russia's security is covered up by unsubstantiated NATO accusations that we have allegedly already deployed missiles which were earlier prohibited under the INF Treaty. We have repeatedly debunked these fake claims with convincing facts.
The admission of our diplomats to NATO headquarters and contacts with the International Secretariat has been minimised. After 2014, NATO members unilaterally cut the staff at our diplomatic missions in Brussels, in 2015, 2018, and then in October 2021, when they announced their decision to revoke the accreditation of eight employees of the Permanent Mission and indiscriminately accused them of espionage, reducing its membership to 10 people which is clearly not enough to ensure the normal functioning of the mission. At the same time, Jens Stoltenberg said this move was not triggered by any specific event, but was allegedly based on intelligence.
This begs the question: who is actually not interested in a dialogue and who has done everything to prevent this dialogue from continuing?
MYTH: Russia destabilises the situation in the Euro-Atlantic area
We are interested in maintaining stable security architecture in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic area based on international agreements and the UN Charter. However, with the tacit consent of its NATO allies, Washington has been consistently destroying the well-functioning international legal mechanisms in recent years.
The crisis surrounding the INF Treaty is the most vivid example. Two weeks after the United States withdrew from the treaty in August 2019, it demonstratively tested a missile of a class that was previously prohibited by the agreement, namely, the Tomahawk family medium-range cruise missile. Moreover, this launch, which was carried out from a ground-based version of the Mk-41 universal launcher, fully confirmed the validity of Russia’s complaints about the US-NATO Aegis Ashore military-strategic infrastructure facilities deployed near Russian borders, which we have for many years presented to the United States in the context of the INF Treaty without any constructive response on their part.
In addition, the United States engages in R&D and testing of a wide range of other ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missile systems. At the same time, the US military are saying that they should be deployed in Europe and the APR as soon as possible. This clearly shows that Washington's scrapping of the INF Treaty was caused by its desire to get rid of restrictions on developing capabilities designed to exert military pressure on countries that Washington considers rivals or potential adversaries, rather than mythical violations of the INF Treaty by Russia.
In turn, President Vladimir Putin came up with specific initiatives to stabilise the situation after the INF Treaty was terminated, which continue to be blatantly dragged out by NATO countries.
MYTH: NATO is a defensive alliance and its expansion does not threaten Russia
All of NATO's collective defence is concentrated on the eastern flank. The alliance apparently has no more important problems to deal with. Terrorism and security threats coming from other regions are apparently not as important as the danger allegedly emanating from Russia.
The unchecked expansion of the Alliance and the engulfing of new territories go hand in hand with the deployment of military infrastructure there, which is used for military support of NATO's confrontational rhetoric and can potentially be used, among other things, to speed up the delivery of heavy military equipment and troops to the borders of our country. Training grounds and storage facilities for prepositioning heavy military equipment are being built in Eastern European NATO member states. Opportunities are created for a foreign military presence on the territory of these states, which effectively balances on the brink of violating, if not the letter, then the spirit of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.
NATO members engage in “nuclear sharing” which runs counter to the NPT provisions. More than 200 US and NATO military facilities are deployed in Europe, and many of them in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic region, and the Black Sea region. The Balkan countries are next in line. At the same time, NATO denies Russia the right to take action to ensure its national security interests even on its own territory. All this cannot but cause our concern and inevitably triggers adequate defensive responses on our part.
NATO expansion is fuelling tensions. NATO accuses Russia of military activity in the contact areas, but these areas formed precisely in the wake of NATO expansion.
MYTH: Russia is provoking an escalation of the situation on the border with Ukraine
Russia's actions are of a purely defensive nature. Recently, we have witnessed a major increase in NATO’s military presence in the Black Sea region. Warships with missiles on board enter it increasingly often and US strategic aircraft have been flying over more frequently. Large-scale exercises, including snap exercises, are being conducted in the area. Almost every week, our data recorders track over 50 reconnaissance aircraft and drones cruising along our borders.
NATO is purposefully putting us to the test by sending warships and aircraft into areas in the immediate vicinity of our borders, thus forcing Russia to respond. That said, our response is appropriate, proportionate and restrained.
The Alliance is accusing us of building up our military presence in Ukraine, meaning the Republic of Crimea. As a reminder, this territory is part of the Russian Federation, and our armed forces are stationed there legally. Throughout history, in addition to the Black Sea Fleet, marines, coastal defence and other land components, as well as aviation, have been stationed in Crimea.
MYTH: NATO’s presence enhances regional security
This is an illusion. The consequences of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the destruction of Libya's statehood come to mind. Afghanistan is the most recent example. The 20-year presence of NATO contingents in Afghanistan and their subsequent hasty “flight” failed to achieve any of their goals. The situation has only got worse.
Today, the alliance is again trying to go beyond the limits of its traditional area of responsibility and to extend its vision of the world order to new regions. To do so, it engages its partners in order to fulfil these goals. NATO has always been offering to “be friends against someone.” So, a new wave of geographic expansion of NATO interests to the APR is of an openly confrontational nature. The Alliance is trying to turn this part of the world, which is a space of cooperation, into an area of geopolitical competition.
Declaring cyberspace and outer space NATO's “operational domain,” including under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, undermines international efforts to create legally binding mechanisms for preventing the use of these areas for military purposes.
Source: Russian MFA website