Business as usual for Russia-NATO relations?

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer hopes the alliance will fully restore top-level relations with Russia by restarting the activities of Russia-NATO Council, NATO Spokesman James Appathurai said on Wednesday.

The decision could be taken at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

However, Appathurai stressed that this decision does not mean that NATO has changed its position on the South Ossetian conflict in August 2008.

Russia-NATO top-level contacts were suspended on the initiative of the American delegation after Moscow moved troops to protect South Ossetia from Georgian aggression in August 2008. The alliance accused Russia of initiating the aggression against Georgia, something Moscow emphatically disagreed with.

In the middle of the same month all 26 NATO members collectively found Russia guilty of overreacting to Georgia’s actions during the war in South Ossetia.

Nevertheless, in December 2008 an informal relationship resumed after the North Atlantic Council session of foreign ministers decided to gradually restart relations between Russian and NATO. This made informal consultations between Russia’s representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer possible.

Representatives from several NATO member countries had already spoken in favour of the resumption of the Russia-NATO Council’s work. Earlier, Great Britain, France, Germany Italy, Spain and Norway had already described sanctions against Russia as counter-productive.

Rogozin said that Russia is ready to return to a full political dialogue and military co-operation.

“It's now up to NATO to step forward. And if they decide to resume co-operation with Russia during Thursday's meeting, then we can see envoys from the member states gathered for a full Russia-NATO Council meeting at the end of this month or in April,” Rogozin told RT in a phone interview.

Ukraine and Georgia have sent delegations to NATO headquarters to clarify the alliance’s position towards Russia. The aim of the leaderships of these two countries to become NATO members is something Russia has been strongly opposing to.

It is expected that the decision to hold a special ministerial session of the Russia-NATO Council will be officially announced on Thursday, March 5.