MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - NATO said on Saturday a new Russian military doctrine identifying NATO expansion as a threat did not reflect the real world and undermined efforts to improve ties between the Western military alliance and Moscow.
Russia was angered by NATO expansion to include former Warsaw Pact states after the collapse of the Soviet Union and was particularly incensed by the alliance’s promise of eventual membership to Georgia and Ukraine, former Soviet republics Moscow still considers part of its sphere of influence.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approved the new military doctrine on Friday.
“I have to say that this new doctrine does not reflect the real world ... NATO is not an enemy of Russia,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.
“It does not reflect realities and it is in clear contradiction with all our endeavours to improve the relationship between NATO and Russia.”
The doctrine identifies one of the “main external threats of war” as NATO’s expansion east to Russia’s borders, and sees U.S. plans to create an anti-missile shield in Europe as a concern for national security.
Rasmussen said NATO was keen to develop a strategic partnership with Russia and to expand cooperation in Afghanistan, where the two sides share security concerns.
He said he would stress these issues in a meeting in Munich with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“I have urged Russia to step up their engagement in Afghanistan. I have presented proposals to the Russians when I visited Moscow in December as to how they could further their engagement,” Rasmussen said.
“I think Russia and we share the same interests in success in Afghanistan.”
LIMITS TO COOPERATION
However, analysts said the Russian move was another setback for Rasmussen’s priority of improving ties with Moscow, having inherited an extremely strained relationship from predecessor Jaap de Hoop Scheffer last year.
NATO froze ties with Moscow over Russia’s 2008 intervention in Georgia and has only gradually resumed formal contacts.
Thomas Valasek, of the Centre for European Reform think-tank said NATO would continue to try and forge greater cooperation on shared security concerns, even though progress had been limited.
He said Russia had been consistent in its view of NATO as a threat and in looking for ways to divide the alliance and halt its enlargement, while NATO was “torn between seeing Russia as it is and seeing it as we would like it to be”.
Russia has agreed to allow land transit of non-lethal NATO supplies to Afghanistan and pledged to do all it can to help the alliance’s troubled Afghan effort, short of sending troops, but Valasek said there had been little significant cooperation.
On his December visit to Moscow, Rasmussen failed to get immediate firm pledges of additional assistance for Afghanistan, including expanded transit options, helicopters and more support for training Afghan security forces.
“Even the vaunted northern corridor (supply route), hasn’t really gone anywhere,” Valasek said. “There’s been one shipment that’s come through, that’s all. The reason is that the Russians are insisting on substantial payments for the service. NATO thought it was in a partnership, they view it as a business.”
In Moscow, Rasmussen rebuffed the Kremlin’s call for new defence arrangements in Europe, saying he saw no need for a new security treaty proposed by Russia.
Medvedev published a draft post-Cold War security pact on Nov. 29, saying it could replace NATO and other institutions and restrict the ability of any country to use force unilaterally.
NATO countries have reacted sceptically, seeing the Russian plan as an attempt to divide the alliance and saying that the existing Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is the right place to discuss security issues.
Editing by Jon Boyle
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.