Destined to Cooperate? NATO and Russia between Power, Identity and Institutions
The policy paper of Tomáš Karásek, Chief Analyst of the Research Center of the Association for International Affairs, dedicated to the NATO-Russia relations published on the occasion of the International Conference NATO and Russia: Geopolitical Competition or Pragmatic Partnership?
Shifts in the global distribution of power provide a window of opportunity for strengthening NATO-Russia cooperation. Both sides can expect to end up on the losing side in the ‘Asia century’, and weakening their global position with mutual conflict seems unwise and unproductive.
Unfortunately, during the post-Cold War years, both Russia and Europe (including NATO) have often continued painting each other as an antagonist. For Putin, the construction of a new, anti-Western national identity has become an important component of the legitimization of his regime. In Europe, political leaders have conveniently forgotten how complex and difficult the process of transformation is, especially in Russia with its troubled history. Calm insistence on core values and norms along with strategic patience is thus the best advice for Europe, represented both by the EU and NATO.
Established institutional ties between NATO and Russia may function, but they do not hold enough transformational promise. In order to finally and irrevocably depart from the post-Cold War mentality, NATO should seriously consider offering Russia full membership. Such a step, implemented in a serious, politically binding manner, could deliver numerous benefits for the Alliance, including the possibility to resolve conflicts in the shared neighbourhood and boost its global standing.