After almost three years of complete radio silence between Russia and NATO, the latter took the initiative to reestablish a fragile relationship between both parties.
In fact, NATO Military Committee General Petr Pavel and Chief of Russia’s General Staff – First Deputy Defense Minister Army General Valery Gerasimov held telephone talks.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, both sides discussed, “security issues, restoring military interaction, the prevention of incidents and the participation of the alliance’s representatives in international events”.
Once of the main subject was most likely the possible co-operation in Syria as well as the situation in Eastern Europe. Crimea was most likely mentioned but as stated in the past, Russia will never allow Crimea to return to Ukraine, especially after the Crimean voted highly in favour of rejoining Russia. Another possible subject was monitoring aircraft flying near each other’s borders and how to avoid a possible escalation in tensions due to it.
General Gerasimov raised concerns about NATO’s eastward march and its buildup near their shared borders. In fact, the alliance has been moving a considerable number of troops in the Baltic States in an effort to deter Russia’s “aggressive” stance on the three NATO allied countries. Renewing discussions could ease tensions in Europe and could thaw the relationship between both sides.
“The Chief of Russia’s General Staff drew his interlocutor’s attention to the existing concerns related to the considerable buildup of the North Atlantic alliance’s military activity near Russian borders and the deployment of the system of the NATO united forces’ forward stationing,” the ministry said.
NATO has been moving troops eastward since the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014 and took a decisive position when they announced a military partnership with Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers to both fight in eastern Ukraine against separatists and counter a possible Russian offensive in Ukrainian territory, although very unlikely.
However, as a gesture of good faith, General Gerasimov informed NATO General Pavel about Russia’s planned military exercises and key international events for 2017.
Although the meeting must’ve been uncomfortable, both sides agreed on maintaining contacts in the future. Russia also took the opportunity to extend an invitation to NATO leaders and representative of member countries to attend the Moscow Security Conference on April 26-27.