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Vincent Huston
Vincent Huston is a student in Human Environment at Concordia University.

How to press reset between NATO and Russia?

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In 2014, the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine led to a serious breakdown in the trust between NATO and Russia; an escalation in tensions followed. Russian military presence alongside various rebel groups within Ukraine repeatedly made headlines, and led to many casualties in both the regions of Crimea and Donbass.

Russia’s motives can be linked to the presence of its naval base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol which harbours its Black Sea fleet. In addition to this, there are important oil and gas reserves in the area as well as a population that sees itself as being more a part of Russia than Ukraine.

Today, many NATO countries including Poland and the Baltic States have condemned growing Russian aggression, and concerns over human rights violations are constantly growing. The Baltic States have asked for support in order to defend themselves from potential threats. In fact, the United States plans to send 4,000 troops to the region along with a heavy infantry brigade in the upcoming year. In addition, NATO has held exercises in the region that have brought in over 10,000 troops.

The Kremlin sees the NATO build up on the Russian frontier as a provocation. With the current setup, the relationship with Russia must be reset. Ways must be found to cooperate in order to counter shared threats such as Islamic terrorism and organized crime.

[I]t is not strategically viable for NATO to put an emphasis on military within the region, as many of those countries are still largely dependent on Russia for resources. The development of a good relationship is important so that there are no electricity and natural gas shortages.

The key to developing a mutual sense of trust is to build a relationship from common interests. In prior times, this has been done through the NATO-Russia council (NRC) which has successfully led to cooperation in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Central Asia. For example, Russia played an important role in revamping helicopter fleets in Afghanistan as a part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and has also provided anti-drug smuggling expertise. Russia has also played an important peacekeeping role in Kosovo and Bosnia.

Nowadays, it is important to rebuild this relationship by developing a politico-military strategy that deals with the constant threat imposed by ISIS in Syria and its neighboring states. Although Russia’s support of the Assad regime certainly goes against the wishes of most NATO countries, dialogue and diplomatic reasoning must be emphasized.

On the flip side, it is important for NATO to stress cooperation with Russia in regards to protecting the Black Sea region from any terror threats. This can be done through the continuation of BLACKSEAFOR which normally consists of the Navy’s of all Black sea countries. This can go a long way in rebuilding the relationship. Having said that, restraint must be stressed since Russia did not deescalate its navy’s modernization plans throughout the conflict in Crimea. It would then be beneficial to draft agreements that take into consideration the shared interest of defending the Baltic region in order to maintain political stability and to promote prosperity amongst all nations involved.

Russia and NATO must also find ways to relieve the anxiety coming from the Baltic States. This is due to Russia’s military presence in Ukraine and Georgia which is highlighted by their control of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea. This has led many to accuse Russia of still having an imperialistic view of the world.

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Having said that, it is not strategically viable for NATO to put an emphasis on military within the region, as many of those countries are still largely dependent on Russia for resources. The development of a good relationship is important so that there are no electricity and natural gas shortages. For example, Russia has shown the willingness to cut off the gas supply on various occasions in Ukraine.

To begin talks in regards to bettering relations between the Baltic States and Russia, there should be a focus on flows of information. The main concern is that Russia continues to exert an unwavering influence in those regions with their media’s propaganda that violently misinterprets the foreign policies of all allied nations. It is then important to create a platform that will lead to dialogue with the end goal of accentuating the flow of information amongst Baltic countries. This would give more freedom to the population as they could have better access to media outlets from all over the world.

With the previous mentioned factors, NATO and Russia must rebuild their relationship in order to counter the threat imposed by international terrorism (ISIS) and to relieve tensions amongst the Baltic States. This should lead to continued involvement in military exercises such as BLACKSEAFOR and talks on ways to allow for better freedom of information in the Baltic States.


The Prince Arthur Herald
Photo Credit: Twitter, @EuroNews