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19 Feb, 2010 18:53

Russia might join NATO – former high-ranked alliance official

There is room for Russia in the alliance inner circle, said former NATO Secretary General George Robertson in an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Robertson believes there is no reason why Russia could not eventually join NATO if the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation continues to expand at the rate it is doing at the moment.

On the same day, Andrey Nesterov, a spokesman from the foreign ministry of Russia, said that NATO is a very close partner of Russia, especially when it comes to matters of security. Relationship between Russia and NATO is a partnership with mutual benefits, Nesterov added.

Nesterov also said that as long as NATO continues to stick to provisions set down by the 2002 Rome summit, there is no reason why Russia cannot continue to be a strong and helpful ally towards NATO.

Russian experts, however, say even if there may be something to the suggestion, there will more likely be stronger partnership than Russia actually joining the alliance.

“To be a member of an alliance, there should be trust, and we should say there is no trust between Russia and NATO in general, especially between Russia and new members of the alliance – the Baltic states, Poland, and other central and eastern European countries,” Ruslan Pukhov, political analyst and Director of Centre for Strategic Analysis, told RT. “NATO is doomed to choose between cooperation with Russia and good relations with its new members. This is one of the main obstacles for Russia to have closer cooperation with NATO.”

“Obviously, there is certain room for cooperation to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, drugs, human trafficking. But the main target of NATO – to keep Russians out of Europe and to keep Americans in – has not changed since the time the first Secretary General said about it in mid 1950s,” Pukhov added. “Russia can become a member of NATO, but only in very distant future if the circumstances have changed.”

Russia-NATO relations have a long history. In the early 1950s, the Soviet Union wanted to join the alliance, but it was knocked back by the member nations. Instead, they offered the USSR cooperation that prompted the Soviet Union to form the Warsaw Pact with the countries of Eastern Europe and eventually led to a lot of tensions throughout the 20th century and the Cold War.