If we assume that Russia’s interests in post-Soviet states lie in propping up their authoritarian governments, undeveloped democratic institutions and civil society, and a lack of transparency in relations between government and business, then Russia will have a negative view of the Partnership for Peace program.
To answer this question, we should first consider how Russia views its relations with NATO and post-Soviet states. I am convinced that the main principles guiding this program are in Russia’s interests, namely transparency in the military planning and defense budgets of the nations involved, as well as ensuring democratic control over armed forces. Greater transparency with respect to military issues would contribute to regional stability. Russia cannot recognize the sovereignty of former Soviet republics while at the same time claiming the right to treat them as its sphere of influence and inhibiting their prerogative to formulate their own foreign policy. This also refers to military cooperation. This type of policy frequently is often counterproductive and can work against Russia’s interests in the Commonwealth of Independent States. It’s telling that no other member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization has joined Russia in recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
If we assume that Russia’s interests in post-Soviet states lie in propping up their authoritarian governments, undeveloped democratic institutions and civil society, and a lack of transparency in relations between government and business, then Russia will have a negative view of the Partnership for Peace program. All these factors reduce the chances that the former Soviet republics will integrate in Western organizations, including the European Union and NATO. And as long as Russia sees NATO and its eastward expansion as a threat, it will continue to oppose this program and view it as a gateway to NATO membership for post-Soviet states. It appears that Russia has failed to notice that the zone of stability, cooperation and commitment to democratic principles has increased as a result of NATO’s expansion, and that threats to peace have been reduced.
It is telling that Russia has, in fact, cooperated with NATO, while frequently criticizing military exercises involving NATO forces in former Soviet states under Partnership for Peace – the latest such example being the Russian Foreign Ministry’s strongly worded statements on the Sea Breeze 2011 exercise involving NATO and Ukraine.
In 2007, Russia ratified the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement. Russia was involved in NATO’s peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and contributed the largest troop contingent among non-NATO states. It was also involved in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation. Moreover, Russian warships participated in the counter-terrorist Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea. Russia simply has no choice but to cooperate with NATO in such spheres as the fight against international terrorism and piracy, the theater-level missile-defense system, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, crisis management, high-seas search-and-rescue operations and air traffic control. And it is undeniably in Russia’s interest to increase the compatibility of Russian and NATO forces to allow for successful joint operations. This is another main objective of Partnership for Peace.
I believe Russia’s resistance to Partnership for Peace can be partly explained by the fact that Russia has virtually the same rights as Moldova, Georgia or Kazakhstan under the program. Both sides acknowledged the special importance of strategic partnership when cooperation began in 1997. The establishment of the NATO-Russia Council in 2002 was expected to invigorate bilateral cooperation and to boost the importance of cooperation beyond the ordinary cooperation under the Partnership for Peace program. As Russia has no intention of joining NATO the Partnership for Peace program does not have the same significance for Russia as it does for Central and Eastern European countries, which had used the program to reconfigure their armed forces in line with NATO standards. Nonetheless, expanded cooperation under the NATO-Russia Council, which can be viewed as an effort to make the Partnership for Peace program more substantial, is in Russia’s interests, as it builds up trust between Russia and NATO, thereby strengthening security in Europe.