On July 8 and 9, the NATO North Atlantic Council representing 28 member countries will meet in Warsaw. The North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the principal political decision making body within NATO. It brings together high level Representatives of each member country to discuss policy and operational questions requiring collective decisions. Among the issues discussed will be the Baltic countries’ request that NATO troops be stationed permanently in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This is an issue of strategic importance to the Baltic countries. Rotation of troop units is temporary in character and often a victim of budget cutting. There is a dangerous gap between the departing unit and the arriving unit. It is a cardinal principle of military doctrine that the best time to attack is when the other side is pulling back or changing units.
The Baltic countries are front line states to counter Putin’s aggression. There is a strong argument for permanent military bases and troops. Due to their small geographical size, the only way to guarantee their security from Russian conventional military threat is to have robust troops and military capabilities on the ground. The Baltic countries are too small to rely on a strategy of defensive depth that could buy NATO enough time to mobilize a sizable force. NATO troops must be on the spot and ready to respond on a moments notice.
Disregarding the increasing provocations and aggression by Russia, as well as the strategic importance of permanent deployment of NATO troops in the Baltic and Poland, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and some other members, notably France and Italy, strongly oppose the stationing of troops in 6 the Baltic countries and Poland. They argue that it would violate a 1997 agreement with Russia in which NATO pledges not to put “substantial combat forces” in the new NATO member countries. The eastern NATO members suspect, however, that the agreement with Russia is just a cover for not wanting to further damage economic relations with Russia.
The NATO-Russia Founding Act is a document describing how NATO and Russia will regulate their relations. It is all done in terms of political commitments. It is not a treaty approved by the Senate.
In 1997 when there was an era of good feeling between Russia and Western governments, President Boris Yeltsin, President Bill Clinton and the leaders of 15 other NATO countries signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act. The Act provided for an enduring and robust partnership between the Alliance and Russia, one that can make an important contribution to Europe’s security in the 21 century.
The Founding Act contains a pledge that both sides will not deploy nuclear weapons or station a substantial number of troops in the new member states. However, the most basic, important and undeniable fact written in the Founding Act is that all pledges are based on the current 1997 friendly and cooperative relations between NATO countries and Russia. If conditions change, the pledges are off.
Since the signing of the agreement, Russia has violated international law and breached its commitments under the NATO-Russia Founding Act through its aggressive actions in Georgia and Ukraine to mention only a couple of Russia’s violations.
Section I of the Founding Act elaborates the basic principles for establishing common and comprehensive security in Europe. These principles include strengthening the organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), basing NATO-Russian relations on a shared commitment to democracy, political pluralism, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and the development of free market economies. NATO and Russia also pledge to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other or other states, to respect the independence and territorial integrity of all states and the inviolability of borders, to foster mutual transparency and to settle disputes by peaceful means.
Section IV of the Founding Act states that in the “current and foreseeable security environment” NATO will carry out its collective defense and other missions through interoperability, integration and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces on the territory of new members.
When reading the phrase “in the current and foreseeable security environment” it is important to remember that it was written almost 20 years ago, in 1997, when the United States thought it was on a path to partnership with Russia, But in 2016, the security environment has dramatically changed. The conditions undergirding the 1997 understanding with Russia are in shambles. The benign “current and foreseeable security environment” that helped to frame the NATO Russia Founding Act is dead. A revanchist and resurgent Russia is pursuing a path of confrontation, aggression and coercion. When strategic circumstances change, policy makers need to adapt. It is time for NATO to change the fundamental precepts of the NATO Russia relationship. NATO cannot say on the one hand that Russia’s aggression against Georgia and Ukraine has changed the rules of the game, while on the other hand leave the NATO Russia Founding Act untouched.
The following are some of the violations of the NATO-Russia Founding Act that Russia has committed.
- In 1999, Russia agreed to remove all of its troops and weaponry from Moldova by the end of 2002. Today, 2000 Russian troops are still based in the breakaway region of Trasnistria.
- In 2001, the U.S. Department of State raised concerns with Moscow about the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad. Since then, there have been repeated accusations that Russia has deployed tactical nuclear weapons there.
- In 2006, Russia temporarily cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine which also reduced gas supplies to other European countries, including NATO allies.
- In 2007, Russia was behind a cyber attack against Estonia in retaliation for moving the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn, a Soviet war memorial.
- In 2007, Russia unilaterally suspended its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty which promoted military transparency and limited conventional arms deployments.
- In 2008, Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia, getting to within miles of the capital. Today, Russia still occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s territory and is in violation of the 2008 cease fire agreement.
- In 2010, Russia started to upgrade and increase the number of troops and armaments at its Gyumri base in Armenia which borders NATO member Turkey. Today, an estimated 5,000 Russian troops with dozens of fighter planes and attack helicopters are based in Armenia.
- In 2013, two Russian bombers and four fighter jets took off from St. Petersburg and carried out what was thought to be a simulated nuclear strike against two targets in Sweden.
- In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and invaded part of the Donbas region of Ukraine in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing Ukraine‘s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Minsk Agreement agreed to by Moscow has been ignored and Moscow continues to support separatists with arms, training, and Russian military personnel.
- In 2014, the state Department first officially accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, although Russia had begun to test prohibited missiles in 2008.
- In 2014, Russian agents crossed the border into Estonia to abduct an Estonian Internal Security Service officer.
- In 2014, a new Russian army helicopter brigade was formed and stationed near the Estonian and Latvian border.
- In 2015, Russian Ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin said during an interview: “I don’t think that Danes fully understand the consequence if Denmark joins the American led missile defense shield. If they do, then Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles.
- In 2015, Russia started its encirclement of NATO by sending thousands of troops to Syria, reinforcing the Black Sea Fleet, and increasing the number of troops in Armenia. Russia is also probing Turkish air space.
- In 2015, according to NATO Commander General P.M. Breedlove, Russia has been developing a ground launch cruise missile version of the Iskander rocket in violation of the Intermediaterange Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987.
Probably the best proof that the security environment has drastically changed and the 1997 NATO-Russian Founding Act is obsolete is the Act’s preamble. It declares that “NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries.” Today Russia’s military doctrine designates NATO and the United States as a major threat to Russia. And Putin, Kremlin leaders and media have many times have publicly voiced that sentiment.
Government leaders in the Baltic nations and Poland have argued that Russia’s aggressive action in Ukraine has violated the Founding Act, and that it is no longer in effect urging NATO leaders to station permanent troops in the region. They are right! NATO should comply with their request.
NATO needs to declare the NATO-Russia Founding Act as void because of Russia’s gross violations and station NATO troops permanently in the Baltic countries. This is a MUST part of Baltic security.
I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO CONTACT ASAP THE SECRETARY OF STATE, THE CHAIRMEN OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE AND THE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE IN THAT ORDER.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the letter, this is a serious and critical issue to the Baltic countries, and they need and deserve 30 minutes of your time. Your letter need not be a long one. A half page will do. If you need, please consult our web site for instructions and sample letters. Iwould appreciate if you would let me know by letter or email that you have contacted the persons listed below. Thank you.
Valdis V. Pavlovskis, President
Secretary of State John Kerry: Tel: (202) 647-5791, Department of State, 2201 “C” Str., NW, Wash. DC 20520
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Tel: (703) 692-7100, Department of Defense, 1400 Defense Pentagon, Washington DC 20301
Senator John McCain, Chairman Armed Services Committee, Tel: (202) 224-2235, Fax (202) 228-2862, U.S. Senate, Washington DC 20510
Senator Bob Corker (TN), Chairman Foreign Relations Committee, Tel: (202) 224-3344, Fax (202) 228-9566, U.S, Senate, Washington, DC 20510
Senator Jack Reed (RI), Ranking Member Armed Services Committee, Tel: (202) 224-4642, Fax: (202) 224-4680, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510
Benjamin Cardin (MD), Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee, Tel: (202) 224-4524, Fax (202) 224-1651, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510