On October 29, I participated at a very interesting and important session “The Future of NATO and Russia’s Interests” of the Valdai Discussion Club. There was  presented an expert report “The Future of NATO: Trade-Offs and Possible Scenarios”. You can download the report from their site

However, I would like to focus on the speech of  Alexander  Grushko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. He was not in the initial list of speakers and his appearance was a perfect surprise for the audience. It was still more intriguing since he served as Permanent Representative of Russia to NATO in Brussels in 2012-2018. We had got a rare opportunity to know insider’s opinion about this vital and rather hot issue for our country.

Grushko’s talk was rather tough and sober. He stated that relations between Russia and NATO, which affect the entire European security system, are absolutely abnormal.

He briefly outlined key stages of the history of NATO, which are very important for understanding the nature of NATO and its transformation.

1) In 1949, the alliance was created to counter the “threat from the East.”

2) After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, NATO had faced problems of its own relevance and survival. If we recall the political discussions about the future architecture of European security at the turn of 1980–1990, we can notice that the NATO factor was almost absent in them. As well as in the fundamental documents, such as the Charter of Paris for a New Europe and the Charter for European Security. Basically, Europe’s hopes were related to building a new European security architecture based on the OSCE as a backbone factor.

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3) The first blow to this architecture was dealt by the process of NATO expansion to the East, which proved to be useless both for Europe as a whole, and for the new members, as well. This led to destabilization of the situation in Europe, since that means creation of military potential on the eastern flank, capable of projecting force in the direction of Russia. This is alarming and we have to respond by political and military means, i.e. to take military and technical precautions. The process of expansion launched by NATO is fraught with restoring the climate of the Cold War and the new arms race.

4) When it became clear that the expansion policy had exhausted itself, the concept of humanitarian intervention was adopted. As the result, the former Yugoslavia, a prosperous state in the center of Europe, has ceased to exist. The military campaigns in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan did not lead to an increase in security, but vice versa. It is obvious that continuation of humanitarian interventions is a dead end and will not be supported by the general public in Europe which is sick and tired of interventions and their social consequences. NATO decided to go back to basics and once again focus on letter and spirit of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. The Ukrainian crisis served as a convenient excuse for ideologically framing this concept.

Returning to the origins and putting Russia at the center of its military activity, NATO is actually trying to bring Europe back to the Cold War, when security was ensured through the allocation of potentials, counter potentials and new potentials.

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The lion’s share of all NATO’s current efforts is directed at countering the so called “big enemy.” An example of this is the largest since the end of the Cold War, the  Trident Juncture 2018 exercises, which are held from 1 to 7 November. The capability of NATO’s potential in defensive and offensive operations and in all operational environments will be tested, i.e. on the ground, in the water, in the air, plus in the cyber environment. Immediately after their completion, the large Anaconda exercises will begin in Poland.

Changes in the NATO command system are also aimed at restoring the structure of the Cold War.

The economic and resource capabilities of NATO are rather formidable. The combined military spending of NATO countries is more than $ 1 trillion, or 51% of global military spending. If the EU countries obey the dictate of Washington and bring their military spending to 2% of GDP per year, they will increase  from 270 to more than 400 billion euros per year that 10 times exceeds Russian military spending.

If we compare costs and resources, which NATO employs on different directions, it becomes clear that the alliance is focusing on Russia from the point of view of military planning and improvement of military organization.

Alexander  Grushko admitted that unlike the Cold War times, Russia and NATO still have communication channels. There are opportunities for dialogue on the Russia-NATO Council platform. Arms control instruments have been preserved, albeit in a weakened form.

Last but not least, there is a framework Russia-NATO Treaty that contains two fundamental obligations.

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1) The refusal to deploy significant additional combat forces in the regions adjacent to Russia and in the territory of the new members as of the time of its signing.

2) The refusal to deploy new nuclear infrastructure. Taking into account the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) announced by Washington, this provision is of fundamental importance not only for Russia’s security, but also for European security in general. Furthermore, the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe, which formed the basis of European security, was destroyed.

The Deputy Minister concluded that the history of NATO’s evolution has shown that it could not fit into the modern security architecture. The Alliance feels itself comfortable only in the conditions of the Cold War and therefore is trying to recreate this atmosphere.

Further reading

Valdai Discussion Club report “The Future of NATO: Trade-Offs and Possible Scenarios” http://valdaiclub.com/files/20891/

Tatiana Yugay

PhD, Scientific Director of the “Centro Studi Mediterranei Italo-Russo”, and Vice-President.

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