EXPLAINER: Moscow’s rocky relationship with NATO alliance

MOSCOW — A Russian army buildup close to Ukraine has raised fears in Kyiv and the West that Moscow may invade its neighbor.

The tensions over Ukraine come amid a brand new low in relations between Russia and NATO, which as soon as had been so heat that President Vladimir Putin even floated the prospect of his nation becoming a member of the army alliance.

A have a look at Russia-NATO ties:


For many years all through the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies in Central and Eastern Europe had been locked in a tense standoff with NATO.

That confrontation eased within the Nineteen Eighties when Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev moved to reform the Soviet Union and inspired democratic reforms in East bloc international locations. Gorbachev did not attempt to avert the collapse of communist regimes in these allies, and he rapidly agreed to the reunification of East and West Germany after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

During the talks on German reunification, Gorbachev acquired Western guarantees that NATO would not broaden eastward, however he by no means documented these verbal pledges.

Busy with political and financial crises that adopted the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin paid little consideration when Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999.

That similar yr, NATO’s air marketing campaign in opposition to what’s now Serbia, a Russian ally, marked the primary main rift between Moscow and the army alliance since the united states collapsed.


After Putin succeeded Yeltsin in 2000, he moved rapidly to bolster relations with the West, even testing the grounds for Russia to presumably be a part of NATO.

Lord George Robertson, who was NATO’s secretary-general in 1999-2004, just lately recalled how Putin requested him when the alliance was going to ask Russia and the way he was offended when Robertson replied that Moscow must apply for membership, identical to another candidate.

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Putin later stated NATO was unwilling to embrace Russia as a result of the West feared its energy and impartial stance.

While exploring attainable NATO membership, Putin additionally moved to forge nearer political and safety ties with Washington and its allies.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults, Putin was the primary overseas chief to name then-U.S. President George W. Bush, providing help. He rapidly welcomed the U.S. army deployment to bases in former Soviet republics in Central Asia for the battle in Afghanistan. In one other goodwill gesture, Putin moved to close Soviet-era bases in Cuba and Vietnam.

Even although Moscow’s NATO bid by no means materialized, Russia and the alliance agreed in 2002 to determine a council to coordinate insurance policies and cooperate on combating terrorism and different points.


Russia-NATO ties started to worsen in 2002 after Washington opted out of a Cold-War-era treaty banning defenses in opposition to ballistic missiles, a transfer Moscow noticed as a potential menace to its nuclear deterrent.

The U.S. battle in Iraq in 2003 drew robust criticism from Moscow and additional strained relations. Russia grumbled additional when Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the previous Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO in 2004.

Tensions between the West and Russia mounted in 2004 over the Orange Revolution protests in Ukraine that compelled the cancellation of a fraud-tinged election victory of a Kremlin-backed presidential candidate. The Kremlin seen these protests and the sooner ouster of an unpopular chief within the former Soviet republic of Georgia as Western-inspired meddling in what it thought-about Russia’s yard.

In a watershed speech at a safety convention in Munich, Germany, in 2007, Putin sharply criticized U.S. strikes around the globe, saying Washington “has overstepped its nationwide borders in each approach,” and known as NATO’s eastward enlargement “a severe provocation.”

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Russia complained vociferously when NATO promised membership to Ukraine and Georgia at a summit in Bucharest, Romania, in April 2008, seeing it as a blow to its important safety pursuits.

Four months later, Russia routed Georgia in a five-day battle that erupted when the South Caucasus nation used power to attempt to reclaim management over the Moscow-backed separatist province of South Ossetia.

Russia rapidly acknowledged South Ossetia and one other Georgian insurgent province, Abkhazia, as impartial nations and bolstered its army foothold there.


In 2014, Ukraine’s Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from energy by mass demonstrations that broke out when he determined to ditch an settlement with the European Union, in favor of nearer ties with Moscow.

Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing separatist rebels in jap Ukraine’s industrial heartland, generally known as the Donbas. The battle, now in its eighth yr, has killed over 14,000 folks, and efforts to hunt a political settlement have failed. Moscow denies any involvement, saying any Russians concerned within the combating are volunteers becoming a member of the separatists.

The U.S. and its allies then slapped Moscow with sanctions, and NATO halted all sensible cooperation with Moscow, bolstering its forces close to Russia. The Kremlin denounced these deployments and drills close to its borders as a safety menace.

In October, Russia suspended its mission at NATO and ordered the closure of the alliance’s workplace in Moscow after NATO withdrew the accreditation of eight Russian officers to its Brussels headquarters over their alleged ties to Russian intelligence.

Tensions soared final month amid the Russian troop buildup close to Ukraine. Putin has denied planning such an assault however sought a Western pledge that NATO wouldn’t incorporate Ukraine into the alliance or deploy its forces there — an enlargement he described as a “purple line” for Moscow.

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In a video name final week, U.S. President Joe Biden warned Putin of “extreme penalties” if Russia invades Ukraine, however promised to carry consultations to handle Russian issues.


NATO’s credibility hinges on its widespread protection assure, generally known as Article 5, underneath which an assault on one member is taken into account an assault on all of them, and its dedication to supply membership to any European nation that may contribute to safety in Europe and North America. But each Ukraine and Georgia have unresolved conflicts on their territories, and bringing them in now would oblige all 30 member international locations to spring to their protection militarily.

Russia needs the West to make a legal pledge to not deploy forces and weapons to Ukraine, and the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded final week that NATO rescind its 2008 pledge to just accept Ukraine and Georgia as members.

The U.S. and different NATO allies rejected Russia’s calls for. “NATO’s relationship with Ukraine goes to be determined by the 30 NATO allies and Ukraine, nobody else,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated final week.

Putin countered NATO’s argument by saying that whereas Ukraine is free to determine its safety preparations, these should not threaten Russia.

“Every nation definitely has the proper to decide on probably the most acceptable approach of guaranteeing its safety, nevertheless it should be accomplished in a approach that doesn’t infringe on the pursuits and undermine safety of different international locations, on this case Russia,” Putin stated. “Security should be international and equally cowl everybody.”


Associated Press author Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.

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