NATO comes to the CIS

Agency WPS
July 2, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Novye Izvestia, July 1, 2004, p. 4

by Oleg Kasimov

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech at the NATO summit in Istanbul
left no doubts concerning the future of the Russian contingents in
Georgia and the Trans-Dniester region. Moscow does not intend to comply
in the near future with demands from Washington and the West for Russia
to withdraw its troops.

In fact, Washington must have been prepared for this turn of events.
Hence the decision to “activate” military maneuvers around Russia,
without waiting for the pullout. And the United States is not going to
put all its eggs in one basket. On the one hand, busy negotiations are
under way with Moldova and Ukraine in order to speed up their progress
towards NATO membership. From this point of view, observers comment on
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to Chisinau on the eve of the
NATO summit. On the other hand, NATO intends to greatly expand and
intensify its military contacts with countries of the Caucasus and
Central Asia. So it is hardly surprising that the summit declaration
lists these regions as strategically vital for NATO.

Turkey will be placed in charge of this particular mission – in
accordance with what official Washington decided. In fact, Ankara has
already agreed to play by the rules the United States proposes.
Washington will lobby in favor of Turkey being allowed to join the
European Union; and in return, Ankara will play the role of a battering
ram in breaching the defense perimeter Russia established in the
Caucasus and Central Asia. It may lead to a deterioration of
Russian-Turkish relations, but this is the price Ankara agreed to pay
for America’s support.

For the first time in a decade, official Ankara proclaimed its
intention to become much more active as a mediator in the
Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Turkey’s interest in the matter ebbed in
the wake of the Bishkek accord which Armenia and Azerbaijan signed in
May 1994. Foreign ministers of Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan met
within the framework of the Istanbul summit. Following the talks, a
representative of Ankara announced his country’s plans with regard to
the settlement of the drawn-out Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Armenia
hopes that its dialogue with Ankara will result in establishing
diplomatic relations with Turkey and opening the Armenian-Turkish
border. Azerbaijan sees Turkey’s activization as an indication of the
Caucasus being gradually drawn into NATO’s orbit.