Saturday, June 27, 2009

NATO agreement with Russia is a glass half-full

It's not exactly bad news that NATO and Russia have agreed to resume military cooperation in the aftermath of the suspension that followed Moscow's unfortunate war with Georgia last year. But it certainly can't be called good news, either. "The NATO-Russia Council is up and running again also at the political level," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a meeting of ministers Saturday in Corfu, Greece, according to Cable News Network (CNN). Russa is not a member of NATO but consults with the alliance and takes part in its international activities through the council, which was formed in 1982, CNN said. Of course it's important to keep a military power like Russia engaged in world diplomacy, but the Georgia crisis is far from resolved, at least as far as Western nations are concerned. Russia intervened military and humiliated the Georgian armed forces in a 5-day war last August after Georgia sent its military to try to prevent the secession of its South Ossetia and Ahzbakia provinces. Russia declined to attend last year's meeting and was suspended from the council, presumably to punish Moscow for extending immediate diplomatic recognition to the two provinces as independent countries and for not withdrawing its troops from Georgia as provided in last year's ceasefire accord. Well, it's nearly a year later and the situation remains the same. Russian troops still occupy South Ossetia and Ahzbakia, only now ostensibly to protect their soveriegnty, and Nicaragua is the only other country in the world to recognize them as independent states. It is counterproductive to pretend, as NATO has, that everything is back to normal. Scheffer said at the Corfu meeting that NATO-Russia cooperation on "common security interests" -- such as Afghanistan, arms control and fighing drug trafficking, terrorism and piracy -- was more important than the disagreement over Georgia. NATO ministers "are in the process of examining the current institutional structure of the NATO-Russia Council and have agreed to make it a more efficient and valuable instrument for our political dialogue and practical cooperation," Scheffer said. Tell that to our friends in Tblisi, the Georgian capital. And tell that to any other countries considering joining the Western alliance. Georgia's application to join NATO is said to have provoked Russia into launching last year's attack.

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