Russia and the Dramatic Restructuring of Political Alliances: Introductory Remarks
Vice Admiral (Ret.) Ulrich Weisser
Former Head of Planning Staff, Ministry of Defense of Germany
I am privileged to introduce the session on "Russia and the Dramatic Restructuring of Political Alliances." It has always been my view that the restructuring and enlargement of NATO and the EU and a working political, economic, and strategic partnership with Russia are the two indispensable sides of the same coin. In November of 1996, I was a member of a German delegation that consulted with Moscow to explore the possibilities of a strategic partnership between NATO and Russia. I pointed out that the future strategic challenges would be challenges for the Euro-Atlantic community and for Russia, and that we should therefore create mechanisms and instruments with which to arrive at a common analysis, a common decision, and common actions if the situation requires.
The NATO-Russia Founding Act more or less reflected this approach, but it has not really fulfilled expectations, particularly not in Moscow. Crisis management work in Europe has lent some credibility to the usefulness of the newly developed NATO-Russia Council, but it also has not really stood the test.
Now, however, in the aftermath of the events of September 11, responsible political leadership has received a wake-up call. It has suddenly become evident that, more than ever, we would be well advised to turn our commitment to a strategic partnership with Russia into practical, equitable terms. Germany, I believe, can play an important role in anchoring Russia to Euro-Atlantic structures. A strong relationship and a strategic partnership with Russia are important to both European and global security.
Europe and Russia do not necessarily have identical interests or solutions, but they are confronted with common challenges, such as the fight against international terrorism; containing the crisis potential in the Balkans, the Caspian Sea area, Central Asia, and the Middle East; the growing threat of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction; and the need for cooperation in the fields of arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation. In all of these areas, Russia and Europe both have interests and responsibilities. Intensified cooperation between North America, Europe and Russia is therefore vital for all of us if we are to work as the core alliance against international terrorism.
During his visit to Germany in September 2001, President Putin gave his unambiguous commitment to fight international terrorism. This commitment reflects a vital need to work with Russia, rather than put Russia aside and allow mistrust to thrive. NATO must strike the right balance between a new internal cohesiveness based on a new strategic consensus and the flexibility to work together with partners and Russia in particular. The NATO-Russia summit will show whether we get it right.
I myself felt encouraged when President Kwasniewski spoke about the possible future outcomes of this summit. But he reminded us that only real, joint action will prove whether we have embarked on the right course for a strategic partnership. We are all interested in hearing what our Russian friends have to say about these issues, and how they see the restructuring of political alliances in our dramatically changing world.