Russia and NATO: A History of Relations within the Context of Practical Cooperation at Sea

No image available.

Journal Title: Military Thought

Issue Edition: Vol. 28, No. 1

Author: A.A. Mikhlin, V.V. Molochny, V.A. Balandin

To browse East View's entire collection of over 650 newspapers and journals, sign up for our EVXpress™ Document Delivery Service. To register for free, click here!


Russia and NATO: A History of Relations within the Context of Practical Cooperation at Sea


A.A. MIKHLIN, Capt. 1st Rank V.V. MOLOCHNY, Capt. 2nd Rank V.A. BALANDIN

Abstract. This paper analyzes the arduous path of the Russia-NATO relations in historical retrospect and at the current stage, looks into the principal trends in international terrorism as an element of a single system of new challenges and threats of today, and gives a concise retrospective survey of practical measures implemented along the Russia-NATO line in the area of cooperation in combating new challenges and threats at sea.

Keywords: Uniform system of new challenges and threats of the 21st century, international terrorism, transnational organized crime conglomerates, struggle against new challenges and threats at sea, international relations, Russia-NATO cooperation, systemic structural approach.

The entire history of the 20th century is an unending succession of wars, bloody postwar local conflicts in various parts of the planet, collapse of the socialist system, and the resulting global geopolitical shifts that shook the whole world political system of the time to its foundations. Quite a few countries that used to be members of various military-political blocs vanished from the political map of the world. The worst geopolitical upheaval of the last century was the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which plunged into oblivion the entire Yalta-Potsdam system of postwar world order.

The collapse of the enormous country engendered a host of problems, not only in the domestic but also in the foreign policy of the Russian Federation that had succeeded the U.S.S.R. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, lots of local conflicts erupted in former (FSU) republics, some of them ethnically and religiously conditioned; transnational organized crime burgeoned on an unprecedented scale, and terrorism in all its monstrous manifestations flared up accompanied by a flood of all kinds of drugs that gushed into Russia through the gaps in its frontiers.

Today's world on the whole displays a precipitous growth in the scale, nature, and geography of such transborder challenges and threats as illicit proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and means of their transportation, uncontrolled arms trafficking, irregular migration, human trafficking, illegal turnover of narcotics, psychotropic agents and their precursors, corruption, maritime piracy, cyber crime, global poverty, climate change, and also threats in the area of food, environmental, sanitary, and epidemiological security.1

The main marker of the current stage in the development of international relations is tectonic shifts in the geopolitical landscape mightily catalyzed by the global financial and economic crisis. International relations are undergoing a difficult transition period whose essence is the emergence of a polycentric international system. The process is far from smooth, accompanied as it is by enhanced turbulence in economic and political development at the global and regional levels. International relations continue to get increasingly complex, and their development is increasingly unpredictable.2

The formation of the new polycentric model of the world makeup involves global and regional instability. The contradictions related to the uneven global development, the deepening gap between prosperity standards in various countries, fight over resources, access to markets, control over transportation thruways are getting increasingly acute. The entire gamut of political, financial, economic, and information instruments has gone into operation in the struggle for influence on the international arena.

According to the views of Russia's military leadership, the military-political situation will continue to develop until 2025 involving radical reconstruction of the entire international relations system that affects the foundations of global security. This complicated process will be characterized, on the one hand, by deepening international integration, formation of the global information, economic, and environmental space, but on the other, by a drastic worsening of rivalry between world and regional economic and military-political centers for expanding the spheres of influence, including in ex-Soviet countries, which is among the foreign-policy priorities of the Russian Federation.3

The Euro-Atlantic Region has accumulated a great number of systemic problems that are finding expression in the geopolitical expansion undertaken by NATO and the European Union, including in the Mediterranean Region, with these organizations clearly loath to make reality their political declarations of building a common European security system. Russia's military-political leadership feels serious concern over NATO's decision to raise military spending. That, moreover, when the aggregate military budget of the alliance states totals over US$ 900 billion, which is dozens of times the defense spending of Russia.

The succession of wars for resources unleashed by the United States and NATO in North Africa and the Middle East, thinly disguised as combating terrorism, provoked an uncommonly tough reaction on the part of Islamic fundamentalist politicians. This kind of reaction was planned by Washington-NATO strategists to engulf the entire Islamic world, like a giant wave, as well as the Muslims in Eurasia, and beyond its confines. The events of the bloody Arab Spring of 2011-2014 that unfolded in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt marked the start of the collapse of the old world order system that had evolved in the sub-African region after World War II. According to F. William Engdahl, protests demanding reforms, a change of regime or total revolutions erupted in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, and even in the remote Chinese province of Xinjiang. Wherever the popular protests failed to produce the desired effect, NATO stepped in, openly displaying its involvement that previously was kept under cover. Thus to topple Muammar Gaddafi they had to introduce a no-fly zone over Libya, which resulted in massive bombing of civilians....4 And it was in Libya where NATO first tested the methods of hybrid warfare.5

The growing military presence of the United States and NATO, including in the region of North Africa and the Middle East, the tide of instability and chaos that affected the entire Islamic world did and still does exert a negative influence on Islamic radicals of every description, not unlike the effect of a red rag on a rabid bull. The terrorist acts that occurred over the last few years in Paris, Berlin, and London, the huge migrant flows from several North African and Middle Eastern countries, a serious rise in crime, and the recent trend related to the emphasis in criminal activity shifting toward ethnic criminal groupings closely linked to transnational crime syndicates vividly illustrate this point.

Combined, these problems could not fail to cause a serious crisis in relations between Russia and the West. Add to this the deliberate policy of the United States and its allies to contain Russia and exert on this country political, economic, sanction, and other kinds of pressure aimed at undermining regional and global stability. This policy inflicts irreparable damage on the parties' long-term interests, and runs counter to the currently growing need of cooperation and dealing with transnational challenges and threats.6

It seems worth mentioning that at the moment, despite all the efforts the United States is taking to demonize Russia, inside the NATO bloc not only the US Russia policy is increasingly resented, but also the US attitude to its NATO allies. Moreover, the latest first-class armament items coming to the Russian Army and Navy, without an analog in the world, and in many ways vastly superior to those of NATO, the regular large-scale exercises conducted by the RF Armed Forces and the Navy send a clear signal to the Alliance that should a hypothetical conflict flare up, NATO will not stand a snowball's chance in hell to win the stand-off with the great power that is the Russian Federation. It is getting increasingly obvious that the combat might of the North Atlantic Alliance, whatever the NATO fans may allege, is being leveled out fast by the rapidly growing military and economic might of Russia.

Besides, it is necessary to point out two important trends that define today's relations between the United States and its NATO allies in Europe.

The first trend is lack of unity of opinion on many key political (geopolitical) issues. Lately, the relations between the USA and its NATO partners have hardly appeared friendly, owing to wavering and general disarray among the bloc leadership that can no longer be concealed behind the strained smiles of its official heads and the vague wording of NATO press releases. To take key decisions by consensus of all the 29 NATO states is getting an increasingly uphill battle, and this includes issues of defense spending. Far from every NATO member can afford to spend the notorious two percent of their GDP on that. Not least in the relations between the United States and NATO is the US aggressive expansionist policy in various parts of the world. A vivid case in point was the harsh criticism of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 by Germany and France, key US NATO allies in Europe, and refusal of these states to take part in the intervention. Moreover, in the self-same Germany increasingly large numbers of Germans are watching with open indignation the policy of diktat toward their country that the United States is practicing (the brazen shameless conduct of US secret services, including the US National Security Agency, on the German territory, etc.). Yet another vivid example is the series of protests in several European countries, in the Czech Republic in 2009, in Poland in 2016, against component of the US global ABM system (European ABM defense system).7 Besides, making operational the US ABM radar unit in the city of Deveselu (Romania) and in the foreseeable future, in the town of Redzikowo (Poland) may result in these states becoming likely targets of Russia's retaliation, should new US armaments be deployed on their territories. According to military expert Lieutenant General Yu.M. Netkachev, placing on combat duty US ABM missiles in Romania will cause Russian operational-tactical missiles and other precision-guided weapons to be retargeted at these new targets. Ex-director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry M.I. Ulyanov believes that the US decision to launch the ABM system on Romanian territory is a mistake; it upsets the balance of strategic forces in Europe and runs counter to the provisions of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range Missiles.8

The second trend is the historical (genetic) memory handed over from generation to generation in quite a few European NATO member states of their armies suffering defeat at the hands of the Russian (Soviet) army at various stages in history. For instance, the French remember only too clearly the rout of Napoleon in Russia during the 1812 Patriotic War and the Liberation Campaign of the Russian Army in Europe in 1813-1814; the British remember horrendous losses sustained by the British Army during the Crimean War (1853-1856); the Germans will never forget the rout of the Prussian Army in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and of the German Nazi invaders in World War II (1939-1945), etc. In their reminiscences prominent military leaders, e.g., in France and Germany, name among the main reasons for their defeat in wars against Russia inclement Russian winters, the unprecedented endurance and staunch courage of Russian (Soviet) officers and men, and the fantastic standards of their military skills.9

In this connection, it has to be said that despite the rabid anti-Russia hysteria now rife among the political Establishment in the West, not one of the US NATO allies feels like dying for US interests, especially if there is a hypothetical global conflict with Russia that is perfectly capable of not only putting paid to NATO as such, but also to the United States itself.10 In January 2018, German Contra Magazin published an article under the heading NATO versus Russia: Anyone Dreaming of a War with Russia Dreams of Suicide; there its author Ernst Plener writes that any hostilities directed against Russia are suicidal for the West. The author reminds the readers of Iskander-M tactical missile complexes deployed in the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation whose missiles will take minutes to reach Warsaw or Berlin.11

At the moment, the likelihood of large-scale military actions against Russia in the near future involving not only conventional but also nuclear means of destruction remains fairly small. Nevertheless, this does not rule out the possibility of existing conflicts worsening, and new ones emerging on a regional and global scales, which can destabilize the situation in Europe and in the world at large affecting the national interests of the Russian Federation.

At the moment, the likelihood of large-scale military actions against Russia involving nuclear means of destruction remains fairly small.

At present, Russia is building relations with NATO countries mindful of the actual efforts the Alliance takes to ensure the common environment of peace, security, and stability in the Euro-Atlantic Region. They are based on the principles of mutual trust, transparency, and predictability, all NATO members fulfilling their commitments within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council not to provide their own security at the expense of that of others, and also commitments to military reservation under the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of May 27, 1997.

The Russian Federation deeply resents NATO's eastward expansion, with the military infrastructure of the Alliance creeping ever closer to our borders and its military activity on the up in the areas bordering Russia, for it regards these actions as violating the principle of equal indivisible security, with the old division lines deepened and new ones appearing in Europe.12 The RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs is of the opinion that deploying NATO military contingents and combat hardware on the territory of states contiguous with Russia adversely affects the level of security in those very states. The Russian Foreign Ministry also appealed for caution to the countries that had allowed NATO contingents to settle on their territory. According to the RF FM, the negative consequences of military preparations by the Alliance ought to cause serious concern in all countries. Similar tactics of NATO actions merely aggravates the security situation with regard to those countries whose territory is used to deploy NATO forces and assets.13

Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that at the moment some NATO members are voicing increasingly sound opinions about the need to restore constructive relations with Russia. In Germany, say, people openly demand their country's withdrawal from the Alliance and immediate normalization of relations with Russia.14 Even though Germany is a NATO ally of the United States, the U.S.A. is doing it damnedest to prevent a Russia-Germany rapprochement and the resulting powerful economic alliance of the two states, because that would automatically deprive Washington of its geopolitical and economic influence in the EU territory. Incidentally, the policy of sanctions that the EU introduced against Russia under US pressure has failed thanks to a well-considered and balanced policy pursued by the military-political leadership of this country, inflicting more than 100 billion euros' worth of losses on the Europeans.15 Forty percent of these losses was sustained by Germany whose monthly loss was 727 million euros, with the annual amount exceeding nine billion,16 and Italy accounting for over 10 billion a year.17

The basis of this positive striving displayed by the leaders of a whole series of NATO members is awareness of the unquestionably important role of this country in solving the more acute key problems of regional and international security, settling international conflicts of varying intensity, and providing strategic stability and supremacy of law in the multipolar world taking shape. Many countries of the bloc positively assessed the renewal of work by the Russia-NATO Council in 2016, specially remarking on the importance of filling the agenda with specific issues oriented above all toward averting incidents in the course of military activity and enhancing mutual transparency. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that relations between Russia and NATO could be restored exclusively on the basis of equality and abidance by agreements to do with indivisible security for all countries in the Euro-Atlantic space.18

The aggregate potential of Russia and NATO would make for successful solution of problems of varying complexity not only in the short, but also in the medium and long term (obviously, provided the Alliance is willing) along several lines that seem important to us:

- combating terrorism (maritime terrorism);

- countering piracy in various parts of the World Ocean;

- combating illicit drag trafficking, including at sea, on a bilateral and multilateral basis;

- prospective cooperation in fighting other challenges and threats of today, including irregular migration.

Incidentally, in 2017, over 170,000 irregular migrants arrived in Europe by the so-called Mediterranean route.19 What this challenge is like and what its aftereffects might be is clearly indicated by the events currently occurring in this area in the countries of Central and Western Europe, and also in the Mediterranean Region.20

The activity by terrorist and extremist groupings, criminal organizations and groupings, including transnational ones, related to illegal trafficking of drags and psychotropic substances, weapons, ammunition, and explosives, to organizing irregular migration and human trafficking, is among the main threats to the state and public security of the Russian Federation.21 The new maritime piracy (terrorism) threat taking shape is having a most unfortunate effect on security levels and stability of energy resource delivery to customers along naval communications, and ultimately on the stability of the military-economic and strategic situation in the world.

The global spread of piracy (maritime terrorism), its recent steep rise and increase in the economic and political damage inflicted by maritime crime have resulted in making straggle against the said criminal activity in the World Ocean a real task for the navies of the world's leading states, Russia's Navy included.

Such forms of unlawful activity at sea as piracy and terrorism, their essence, content, and crime vector, development trends, distinctions and mutual connection remained for a long time outside the expert community's attention, unheeded by the military-political leadership of the world's foremost states, and also of relevant UNO entities. And it was not until the early 1980s that certain shifts for the better started occurring in this area.

What makes the issue topical is disclosure of interaction mechanisms between Russia and NATO when implementing a whole series of measures to counter the new challenges and threats of the 21st century, including at sea. Despite the serious and largely insurmountable geopolitical contradictions and friction in Russia's far from easy relations with NATO, and the two sides' standpoints on quite a few global problems (provision of European and global security) that at times are directly opposite, Russia is still one of the most influential poles in the multipolar world and a leading geopolitical actor on the international arena.

In 2002, under the Rome Declaration on new relations between the RF and NATO, the NATO-Russia Council was set up (hereinafter, RNC), within whose framework Russia and all NATO member states were presented as equal partners, and decisions were to be taken by consensus. Within the RNC there were over 25 working groups and committees set up to deal with various issues, including for combating terrorism, arms and proliferation control, Afghanistan problems, and also peacekeeping. Since the RNC started its work, a lot has been done to implement a number of joint Russia-NATO projects.

With the appearance of the RNC, the mechanisms of communication and interaction between the military were strengthened, both in the NATO commands (for operations and transformation), and in Moscow. The main point of military cooperation is to consolidate trust, confidence and transparency, and also increase the ability of Russian and NATO forces to cooperate when preparing various joint military exercises in the future. Cooperation focused on such areas as logistics, fight against terrorism, search and rescue at sea, combating piracy, TOO/AMD/AMD, and measures in the military sphere.22

The Navy, being a constituent of the RF Armed Forces, also actively participated in the measures under the program of Russia-NATO cooperation. From the moment of signing in February 2003 the frame agreement on cooperation in the area of search and rescue at sea of crews from wrecked submarines, work in the area has been progressing steadily. From 2005 to 2011, Russia took part in three search and rescue exercises under NATO supervision, Operation Active Endeavor (2006-2008), and also in the operation by the Turkish Navy to prevent the threat of terrorism and WMD proliferation, Black Sea Harmony (2007-2015, renewed in 2017) conducted in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas in order to counter new challenges and threats of the 21st century.

Once the Cold War was over, and the standoff of the two world systems ended, the international policy of suppression and superiority pursued by most EU countries and the US, precipitous spread of globalization, the sharp stratification of states into the very rich and the very poor, the very powerful and the very weak, the growing social tension, unemployment and discontent caused by the global economic crisis opened up the latest and far from heartwarming phase in the history of humanity.

The current challenges and threats, above all terrorism in every shape and form, constitute a complex, multidimensional and multifaceted phenomenon with its attendant subjective and objective factors that call for a scrupulous study based on an all-embracing system and structural approach that implies using at once the entire set of theoretical, methodological, logical, mathematical, and international-law instruments taken together in order to uncover the underlying causes of new challenges and threats of today with their interrelations, and prognosticate the activity of various drug, terrorist, pirate, and other transnational criminal groupings in the short, medium, and long terms. At present, we observe a steady trend related to the fact that not one of the existing global challenges or threats is examined individually, they are studied exclusively in a comprehensive interconnection with each other. Speaking of terrorism, one can say that it is constantly undergoing serious transformations, including under the impact of progress in science and technology, and that the intellectual potential of terrorists is growing rapidly.

Modern terrorism as an element of the single system of new present-day challenges and threats displays the following typical trends.

Trend one. International terrorism is trying to exert an increasingly active influence on the shaping of the political (including the geopolitical kind) situation in various regions of the planet. A typical case in point is the European Union the majority of whose members are also NATO member states. In the course of the June 4, 2017, terrorist act in London the terrorists openly showed to the authorities that they despised law and their country per se.23

Another vivid example is the activity of the international terrorist grouping Islamic State (IS) banned in Russia. When it was at its peak, the IS controlled up to 70 percent of Syria's territory, and is still in control of some 30 percent of Iraq.24 During the war in Syria, the Americans spent nearly two billion dollars to supply weapons to the so-called Syrian democratic opposition. The weapons were Soviet-made and were purchased in Ukraine and in Georgia.25 According to Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces General of the Army V.V. Gerasimov, the so-called Islamic State had at its disposal up to 1,500 tanks, some 1,200 guns and mortars. Within the last two years, nearly 60,000 terrorists were destroyed, over 2,800 of them coming from the Russian Federation.26

Things that terrorists do can, first, meet with a most harsh response on the part of official authorities in one or another EU country, not just with regard to migrants from Muslim countries arriving in search of political asylum, but also with regard to their own nationals who are second-or third-generation descendants of the people from the said countries and wholeheartedly support terrorists. Second, activity by terrorists can provoke full-scale clashes on an interethnic and interreligious basis with all the ensuing unpredictable consequences, which, in their turn, can grow into a full-scale civil war in Europe.

There are eloquent statistics to show how badly Europe suffered at the hands of terrorists at various periods in its history; from 1970 to 1988 - British Spanish, French, Italian, and German terrorist groupings were responsible for the death of over 4,800 people, and from 1993 to 2017, they killed nearly 1,200 Europeans.27

Trend two. A clear-cut division into land-based and maritime terrorists in some parts of the world according to the kind of crime they commit, and the close ties these have with various pirate and other transnational criminal syndicates active in various regions of the world. Maritime terrorists, using increasingly advanced vessels and combat gear, started transferring their operations to the shores of the most civilized and economically and militarily developed states, at times invading their territorial waters, delivering surprise attacks in seaports and roadsteads, provoking the armed forces of these states into harsh response. At the moment, maritime terrorism and piracy plague ever more regions of the world. Terrorist attacks become increasingly intense, ingenious and cruel, causing considerable loss of life and property, inflicting serious economic damage on merchant and transportation shipping, and also on Navy ships controlling the latter and the coast guards of a whole series of countries. And whereas in the open sea ships are more or less immune to terrorist attacks, in roadsteads, ports, rivers, canals, where there is little room for maneuver, terrorists have a lot of scope for attacking. Also, maritime terrorists increasingly resort to the tactics of assaulting a vessel from the water, a method that proved most efficient, by using small speedboats with suicide crews.28

According to British Lloyds insurers, in the recent past over 90 percent of terrorist acts occurred in the littoral waters of developing countries whose leaders were incompetent and powerless to counter extremists, having no skills, forces, and assets for that. Besides, corruption, that is especially rife in African countries, did and does a lot of harm, nourished as it is by supplies of drugs, weapons, ammunition, irregular migration, human trafficking, trade in human organs, etc.

How vulnerable naval and merchant shipping navigation can be to terrorist was convincingly proved in the course of events that occurred on October 12, 2000 in the Yemeni port of Aden, where during an attack by members of the al-Qaeda terrorist grouping against the USS Cole, an American destroyer, moored there at the time, 17 US marines were killed and 42 suffered injuries of varying degrees of seriousness, while the vessel herself was badly damaged to the point of decommissioning. The incident became a sort of detonator that triggered an immediate chain reaction on the part of other terrorist groupings the world over, including in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, encouraging them to organize other similar subversive and terrorist acts at sea.

The actual potential of maritime terrorists, not only at the tactical (regional), but also at the strategic (global) level, creates a comprehensive threat to international security. A number of maritime terrorist groups engaged in unlawful activity in various coastal regions of the planet focus on using mines, either locally made or imported from abroad. For instance, the notorious Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) got them, as analysts in various Western countries believe, with the help of corrupt members of state entities in the Middle Eastern countries; as for the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorist groups, they manu-

facture their own mining equipment. Latin American and Asian terrorists widely use both contact mines and trip-wire varieties.29

It has to be said that today the world weapon market abounds in all kinds of technologies for building any vessels suitable for terrorist purposes, and also corresponding equipment, weapons, and ammunition of various types, as long as the customer has the money. The spread of weapons, ammunition, drugs, psychotropic substances, and toxic agents has now reached a stupendous scale. Thus in 2000, the Colombian police seized a whole submarine which the local drug barons intended to use to transport narcotics. The submarine could hold from 150 tons to 200 tons of the drug and had a crew of 12.30

Trend three. The confuence of terrorism, including the maritime kind, with other challenges and threats of today, the all-round support it receives from quite a few countries of the world, suggest that it has become a very well prepared adversary that incorporates a whole series of terrorist groupings of various political persuasions to make up a no-nonsense force, well-organized, armed and equipped with cutting-edge devices, in possession of numerous cells across the world numbering vast numbers of followers. It is capable of large-scale terrorist warfare, including the hybrid kind, of a regional and global nature, including active use of the Internet, in close cooperation with various transnational criminal syndicates, keenly and flexibly reacting to the merest change in the geopolitical and economic situation in any given country or a whole region in various parts of the world. Taking up the latest advanced technologies obtained with the help of corruption, international terrorism can act in virtually any physical medium, including in cyberspace, with farreaching politically biased goals and unpredictable consequences.

Trend four. The interconnection of terrorism, maritime terrorism included, with other challenges and threats of today and transnational organized crime as a whole, gets more solid by the year. Huge sums of money gained from selling drugs in various parts of the planet go to finance a variety of drug, terrorist, pirate, and other transnational criminal groupings the world over. In this context, it may be worth mentioning that in the European Union alone, say, there are some 5,000 transnational crime groupings at work that unite members of more than 180 ethnic groups, which are under investigation by Europol. As for the illegal drug trafficking as such, it is estimated to yield some 24 billion euro in Europe.31

Thus there appear prerequisites for multilevel, in terms of makeup, and multi-profile, in terms of specialty, transnational crime conglomerates on a global scale with similar objectives that can also coordinate their actions along several lines at once, affecting the formation of political and geopolitical processes in various countries and regions of the planet, thus creating enormous global arcs of instability stretching from Central and South America to Africa, and from the Indian Ocean to the countries and territories in the Pacific area.

For the Russian Federation, countering international terrorism remains a major priority of its foreign and domestic policies closely connected with the efforts it takes to create a new system of international security. Its military-political leadership advocates pooling the efforts of all interested countries to fight the new challenges and threats of today, but certainly not vying with each other, including along the Russia-NATO line, in the interests of forming a new more reliable architecture of international security up to the current demands. And the types of activity to overcome such threats as terrorism, drug smuggling, irregular migration, etc., have been fixed in the basic Russia-NATO documents.

In this context, and given the fact that the main freight turnover routes in the direction of the Black Sea start in the Mediterranean Region, involving Russia (before 2008) in Operation Active Endeavor under the NATO aegis in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea Harmony antiterrorism operation by the Turkish Navy was and is of great significance.

Speaking of Operation Active Endeavor, it is necessary to say that it owes its appearance to the 09.11.2001 events in the United States. To carry out this operation, a special multinational formation of ships was set up on the rotation principle to include, until July 2016, up to 12 destroyers, a frigate of the permanent formations of the NATO Joint Naval Forces in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, submarines, reconnaissance and patrol aircraft. The ships were rotated every three to four months, and some ships and submarines were replaced within two to six months.

The main objectives of Operation Active Endeavor were as follows.

- combating terrorism;

- conducting naval operations in the East Mediterranean, and also in the Strait of Gibraltar area to ensure safe passage of nonmilitary ships of NATO states;

- developing cooperation with non-NATO countries.

In order to conduct the operation more efficiently, the entire Mediterranean Sea was divided into sectors. Depending on the kind of the sector, the tasks carried out by the operation ships varied. Here are a few of those:

- in the East Mediterranean: presence and containment, surveillance, inspection of the vessels with the captain's voluntary consent;

- the Strait of Gibraltar: provide convoys for certain ships with dangerous and extraimportant freight while passing the strait area, etc.

The Russian Navy started preparing to take part in the operation from the moment of signing the Agreement between the Russian Federation and NATO, on December 9, 2004 (in the form of letter exchange), on participation of RF Navy forces and assets in NATO's antiterrorism Operation Active Endeavor, which continued till 2008. At various times, the Russian Navy sent to take part in the operation its Moskva missile cruiser, and Pytlivy patrol ship.

Another fairly important point worth mentioning is that maintaining the safety of busy merchant shipping lanes in the Mediterranean is crucial to NATO. Speaking of energy resources alone, the oil and gas transported over the Mediterranean account for 65 percent of the total consumed in Western Europe; there, too, are the main pipelines connecting Libya with Italy, and Morocco with Spain. Therefore, Active Endeavor aimed at ensuring safe and uninterrupted supplies of energy resources to Europe.32

From 2001 to the end of the operation in July 2006, some 128,000 vessels were monitored. Control over the black migration market in the Mediterranean was indirect, yet tough enough, to rescue civilians on various oil rigs and sinking ships. Thus on March 23, 2006, while conducting the antiterrorism operation in the Mediterranean, the NATO forces notified the Greek coast guards of the M/V Crystal. The coast guards intercepted the ship, and arrested its captain and crew that attempted to smuggle 126 irregular migrants across the Mediterranean. The operation has had one more concomitant effect, namely, improving the safety of navigation in the region as a whole.33

Thanks to its advantageous geopolitical position, the Black Sea Region was, is, and for a long time to come will remain a focus of close attention from the countries of the West and the East, especially in the wake of the Crimean Spring events of 2014 and the Crimea and Sevastopol subsequently joining the Russian Federation. The Black Sea plays a tremendously important role in the security and economics not only of the countries around the Sea, but also of those with access to the sea via the river systems of the Danube and Dniester.

The strategic position of the Black Sea at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and also the fact that it constitutes a most important transit route, makes it vulnerable in terms of threats from international terrorist groupings. One of the main routes of transporting oil, passengers, and container cargo goes through the Black Sea. It remains a vital transit route also for supplying energy carriers to world markets. Instability in the Black Sea Region would have large-scale consequences impossible to predict for security and stability in the Mediterranean and Euro-Atlantic regions on the whole.

The NATO leadership has repeatedly tried to extend Operation Active Endeavor to the entire Black Sea Region. However, these attempts came up against active opposition on the part of some Black Sea states, first and foremost Russia and Turkey, which believe that the countries of the Black Sea basin have enough forces and assets to ensure regional security and stability on their own without interference by other NATO states, primarily the US.

To prove this point, the Turkish Navy launched on March 1, 2004, an operation to preempt the threats of terrorism and WMD proliferation codenamed Black Sea Harmony, which continues to this day, in accordance with the main principles enshrined in the UN Charter, and the goals listed in UN Security Council resolutions 1373 (of 2001), 1540 (of 2004), and 1566 (of 2004).

The main objectives of Operation Black Sea Harmony are as follows.

- ensuring naval presence along merchant shipping lanes and regular monitoring of sea areas under Turkish jurisdiction and of the airspace over the latter;

- tracking suspect vessels, etc., in the line of sight or covertly.

One more naval component of terrorism countering forces in the Black Sea region is the Black Sea Naval Force of operational interaction (BLACK-SEAFOR), whose creation was agreed in Istanbul on April 2, 2001.

Subsequently, this agreement was ratified by all the member states. Among the principal tasks of Blakseafor are search-and-rescue and humanitarian operations, sea mine clearing, environment monitoring, joint exercises, and goodwill visits. Blackseafor can also be used to carry out the said tasks within the framework of peacekeeping operations conducted under a UN or OSCE mandate, should these organizations apply to the Black Sea states.

The area of the group activity is the Black Sea, yet going beyond its boundaries has also been provided for, given a consensus of the member states to this effect.

The group consists of four to six vessels (one from each state).

It is convened whenever some specific tasks have to be carried out, and barring that, at least once a year, for four to six weeks as part of planned activation to drill training exercises. The Blackseafor activity relies on the principles of consensus-based decision-making and voluntary participation. According to some experts, before long the standards of Blackseafor training will allow it to perform antiterrorism actions on its own, similar to Operation Black Sea Harmony. However, considering the Crimean Spring events resulting in the Crimea and Sevastopol joining Russia, hostile and openly Russophobic policies pursued by several Black Sea states (Bulgaria and Romania, that are NATO members, Georgia and Ukraine seeking NATO membership) with regard to the Russian Federation, the rising numbers and standards of exercises by NATO countries in the Black Sea, there is a big question mark over further Blackseafor activity.

Nevertheless, fight against international terrorism and attendant additional challenges and threats of today can and must become part of the efforts to keep international relations civilized at all levels, which rules out use of illicit methods, even if the ultimate goal appears noble enough.

Given the above, despite the existing disagreements, both Russia and NATO are aware that cooperation in this area is a must, the more so since the events of

the last few years point to international terrorism increasingly set on rocking the current foundations of international law and order by aiming their attacks at the peaceful civilians of continental Europe, not least thanks to the disastrous migration policy pursued by the leaders of several European countries to please the United States.

It is also important to bear in mind that the world community is threatened not only by the terrorism phenomenon as such and related challenges and threats of today, but also by the inadequate response to those on the part of various legitimate entities meant to combat all that. Under conditions of the antiterrorism/anti-Islamic frenzy building up in some European countries, certain crucial concepts get blurred, and the system of international relations undergoes profound erosion. The state declared a pariah within the axis of evil or an abettor of terrorists, in contrast to any national, regional, or global terrorist organization, is a different, or more specifically, lawful entity of global politics and full-fledged member of the international community.

Fighting against international terrorism and attendant additional challenges and threats of today can and must become part of the efforts to keep international relations civilized.

Establishing the involvement of one or another state in various aspects of terrorist or other kinds of unlawful activity, determining the degree to which the official authorities in those states are responsible for that, devising and implementing corresponding measures to influence them employing the entire set of international-law and other instruments, and also a number of other issues to do with this sphere, are a prerogative of some respected international organizations, above all the United Nations and its structural subdivisions, such as the Security Council and the International Criminal Court. It is utterly inadmissible to accuse of terrorism whole nations, ethnic groups and states, or religions to promote geopolitical plans of the NATO bloc or its members based on the changeable political situation.

A vivid case in point is the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1998-1999 and the work of the so-called International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia active between 1993 and 2017, which tried and sentenced to long prison terms for imagined war crimes exclusively Serbs but none of the leaders in the United States and NATO for giving obviously criminal orders resulting in real war crimes against the civilians in former Yugoslavia.


The relations between Russia and NATO should rely exclusively on equality in strict accordance with the provisions of the Founding Act on Mutual Rela-

tions, Cooperation, and Security between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of May 27, 1997.

Assessing the positive or negative trends in Russia-NATO relations one cannot overlook the matter of the bloc's further expansion and the related problem of its subsequent transformation. Russia made known its sentiments about these developments, which can be described as calmly negative. RF President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly commented on the NATO activity at Russia's borders. Speaking at the October session of the Valdai International Discussian Club in 2017, Vladimir Putin said that Russia was aware of each step taken by the Western forces.34

At the same time, in his speech at the Board of the RF Defense Ministry summing up the work in 2017, the Russian President called correct and timely the strengthening of the Russian Army and Navy, given the military-political situation taking shape in the world. According to Vladimir Putin, this country has to be prepared to effectively respond in time to any threat, because the countries of the West are constantly trying to upset the global balance of forces.35

Obviously, the NATO eastward expansion proceeds in accordance with the Alliance's policy of globalizing functions and reserving for itself the role of a leading military-political force not only in Europe, but also in the world at large. The very logic of NATO expansion is hard to perceive other than as desire to achieve further weakening of Russia's position and role in international affairs. Moving the military structures of the bloc closer to the Russian borders is a perfectly obvious and utterly unjustified recurrence of the Cold War, whatever reasons may be cited to substantiate it. Further expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance thanks to the incorporation of new members has adversely affected the geopolitical and geostrategic position of Russia, which induces it to take certain measures to parry these threats that are new indeed.36

Instead of trying hard to step up unfounded anti-Russia hysteria in the Western media and engage in saber rattling next door to Russia's borders, which, in the event of a hypothetical conflict, will bring nothing but defeat with the ensuing consequences to the Alliance, the parties had better seek ways of cooperation in combating new challenges and threats of today that are really putting the world in jeopardy, in strict accordance with the norms of international law, international-law and other instruments available, and using not only a bilateral, but also a multilateral format of cooperation. Despite the Russophobic elites in Europe, the pragmatically minded members of those still realize that Russia is a most important neighbor (and one located on the shortest route to China, to boot), and that the European Union is being plagued by so many domestic problems that pointless quarrels with Russia merely aggravate the situation.37

Given the rapid progress in science and technology in the first half of the 21st century and considerable differences in the technology gap that is continuing to deepen thanks to globalization between industrially advanced countries in the West and developing countries in various parts of the planet, the parties

should take into consideration the fact that terrorism does not remain at a standstill, but is constantly undergoing transformation under the impact of progress in science and engineering. Its intellectual potential is growing; the makeup of terrorist organizations is changing; on top of the ground component, they have now acquired a maritime one as well.

Thus, terrorism is turning into an adversary well prepared in every respect, including financially, that comprises a whose series of terrorist groupings of various political hues, and into a serious force that is well-organized, armed and equipped with cutting-edge technologies, and can wage large-scale terrorist, including hybrid, wars on a regional and global scale in close cooperation with various transnational criminal syndicates the world over, keenly responding to the merest changes in the geopolitical and economic situations, be it in a single country or region in various parts of the world. Armed with advanced technologies, international terrorism can act in virtually every physical medium, including in cyberspace, with far-reaching politically biased aims and unpredictable consequences.

Considering the above, it is of immense importance that Russia and NATO should cooperate in combating new challenges and threats at sea, namely, that Russia should participate in events conducted by the international community to combat terrorism (the maritime variety), maritime piracy, irregular migration, illicit drug trafficking, destroy the terrorists' maritime infrastructure, and undermine their economic basis. Besides, a promising area of cooperation, including along the Russia-NATO line, could be a prospective exchange of data about persons suspected of unlawful activity at sea lanes.

In present-day conditions, another thing that is becoming important is consolidation of efforts by terrorism fighters, including along the Russia-NATO line. The main efforts should focus on coordinated actions by the interested countries at all stages of combating the new challenges and threats of today that would make impossible the activity of various drug, terrorist, pirate, and other transnational groupings, including those built on the ethnic principle. Without a steady operational interaction and common understanding of the prospects of the situation development in Afghanistan, in the areas of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean on the whole successful struggle against new challenges and threats of today is impossible in principle.

As for the use of force in international relations, this can only be sanctioned by the UN Security Council in strict accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Neither NATO nor any other organization have the right to act instead of the decision-making mechanism of the UN with regard to the use of force.


1. Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation. Approved by RF Presidential Decree 640 of November 30, 2016.

2. URL:!OpenDocument

3. Karyakin, V.V. and Kozin, V.P., Voyennaya politika i strategiya SShA v geopoliticheskoy dinamike XXI veka [The Military Policy and Strategy of the USA in the Geopolitical Dynamics of the 21st Century], Monograph, Granitsa Publishers, Moscow, 2014.

4. Engdahl, W.F., Svyashchenniye voyny Zapadnogo mira [The Holy Wars of the Western World]. The Lost Hegemon: How the CIA Lost Its Holy War Crusade], Selado Publishers, Moscow 2016 (translated from the English).

5. "Iznasilovanniye Amerikoy [Raped by America] program," NTV Channel, September 15, 2017.

6. Concept of the Foreign Policy....

7. Poland Starts Protesting against US MD Base. URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

8. Mukhin, V., "Amerikanskaya PRO v Yevrope uzhe pod pritselom Moskvy [Moscow Already Has the US MD in Europe in Its Sights], Nezavisimaya gazeta [Independent Gazette]," May 13, 2016. URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

9. "Voyennaya tayna [Military Secret]" program, REN-TV Channel, January 13, 2018.

10. "Vesti nedeli [News of the Week]" program, Russia-1 Channel, March 18, 2014.

11. Plener, E., "NATO protiv Rossiyi: lyuboy, kto mechtayet o voyne s Rossiyey, mechtayet o samoubiystve [NATO gegen Russland: Wer von einer militarischen Losung gegen Russland traumt, traumt vom Selbstmord]," URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

12. Russia-NATO Council. TASS File, URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

13. Russia Calling on Countries That Let NATO Forces Take Root to Be on Guard. URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

14. Firsova, T., "Chleny partiyi 'Alternativa dlya Germaniyi' podderzhali vykhod FRG iz NATO [Members of the AFD Party Back Germany's Withdrawal from NATO]," RIANovosti News Agency, URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

15. "60 minut [60 Minutes]" program, Russia-1 Channel, November 1, 2017.

16. "Itogi nedeli [Taking Stock of the Week]" program, NTV Channel, December 17, 2017.

17. "Vesti [News]" program, Russia-1 Channel, January 16, 2018.

18. Russia-NATO Council...

19. "Vesti" program, Russia-24 Channel, December 19, 2017.

20. Mikhlin, A.A., "Nelegal'naya migratsiya: vyzovy i ugrozy bezopasnosti na Yevropeyskom kontinente [Irregular Migration; Challenges and Threats to Security on the European Continent]," Military Thought, # 4, 2017, pp. 1-11.

21. Strategy of National Security of the Russian Federation. Approved by RF Presidential Decree 683 of December 31, 2015.

22. Ostankov, VI. and Anastasin, A.V., Rossiya i NATO v sovremennom mire: problemy vzayimootnosheniy i perspektivy partnyorstva [Russia and NATO in Today's World: Issues of Interaction and Prospects of Partnership].

23. "Vesti" program, Russia-24 Channel, June 4, 2017.

24. "Dokumental'niy film [Documentary]" program, Russia-24 Channel, December 17, 2017.

25. "Sluzhu Rossiyi [Serving Russia]" program, Zvezda Channel, September 16, 2017.

26. Baranets, V., "My perelomili khrebet udarnym silam terrorizma," nachal'nik Genshtaba rasskazal podrobnosti operatsiyi v Siriyi [We Have Broken the Backbone of the Terrorists' Assault Forces," Chief of the General Staff gives particulars of the operation in Syria], URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

27. Juma, Abbas, "Terroristy v Yevrope segodnya i 40 let nazad: Bylo bol'she krovi, no men'-she paniki [Terrorists in Europe Today and 40 Years Ago; There Used to Be More Blood but Less Panic]," URL: (Retrieved on August 11, 2018.)

28. Chertanov, V., "Morskoy aspekt mezhdunarodnogo terrorizma [The Maritime Aspect of International Terrorism]," Zarubezhnoye voyennoye obozreniye, # 2, 2002.

29. Ibid.

30. Shtyblikov, D., "Morskoy terrorizm kak sostavlyayushchaya sovremennogo terrorizma. Sovremenniye ugrozy i vyzovy [Maritime terrorism as an Element of Contemporary Terrorism. Present-Day Threats and Challenges]," URL: (Retrieved on August 12, 2018.)

31. European Union. Serious and Organized Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) 2017. Crime in the Age of Technology.

32. Lyashchenko, A., "Aktivniye usiliya [Active Endeavor]," Krasnayazvezda [Red Star], February 17, 2005.

33. Operation Active Endeavor. URL: (Retrieved on August 19, 2018.)

34. Yegorov, G., "Napomnite, u kogo bazy po vsemu miru?" V Germaniyi otkazalis' podderzhat' usileniye NATO na Baltiyskom more v otvet na 'ekspansiyu' Rossiyi [Will You Remind Us Who Has Bases All Over the World? Germany refuses to support NATO reinforcement in the Baltic Sea in response to Russia's alleged expansion], URL: https// (Retrieved on August 19, 2018.)

35. "Pora otvechat' za naglost' SShAv devyanostykh": v Rossiyi otreagirovali na plany NATO usilit' VMS v Britaniyi iz-za podvodnoy aktivnosti RF ["It's Time to Answer for the US Insolence in the 1990s." Russia responds to NATO plans of strengthening Navy in Britain because of RF submarine activity], URL: (Retrieved on August 19, 2018.)

36. Ostankov, V.I. and Anastasin, A.V., Op. cit.

37. Mirzaian, G., Russkim stalo naplevat' na NATO [The Russians Don't Give a Damn about NATO Now], URL: (Retrieved on August 19, 2018.)

Translated by Margarita Kvartskhava


To browse East View's entire collection of over 650 newspapers and journals, sign up for our EVXpress™ Document Delivery Service. To register for free, click here!