NATO, Russia antiterrorism allies
By ALAN FREEMAN, The Globe and Mail
Friday, September 14, 2001
LONDON -- In an unprecedented joint declaration, NATO and Russia put aside their traditional disagreements yesterday and promised to work together to combat global terrorism of the kind that struck New York and Washington.
In a strongly worded statement, the NATO-Russia Permanent Council said in Brussels that Russia and the 19-nation Western military alliance are "united in their resolve not to let those responsible for such an inhuman act go unpunished."
"NATO and Russia call on the entire international community to unite in the struggle against terrorism," it added.
The statement is remarkable, considering Russia's opposition to NATO's actions in Kosovo and to U.S. plans for missile defence, as well as the West's criticism of the Russian crackdown in Chechnya.
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said the NATO-Russia council had sent a powerful message that would build "the foundation of a new co-operation, and indeed a new coalition, against these terrible attacks that may be visited on any capital city on any day."
"The statement speaks for itself," he continued. "It's strong. It's powerful and it's a message that I hope will be read by those who need to be deterred from using this kind of terrorism in the future. If they [terrorists] get away with it in New York and Washington, you can be pretty certain that they will go for other cities the next time, and Moscow may well be second on the list."
In Paris on an official visit, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the attacks on the United States "have dealt a blow not only to it but to the entire world community, as well" and that the world community must unite.
Roy Allison, head of the Russia and Eurasia program at Royal Institute of International Affairs, said the agreement with Russia "hasn't come out of the blue," and reflects earlier talks between Russia and NATO on fighting terrorism.
Mr. Allison said the Russians believe they have been victims of Islamic extremism in their battle against secessionists in largely Muslim Chechnya and hope their agreement with NATO will encourage the Americans to "go quiet" on their criticism of the Russian military crackdown.
"There are very many Russian officials that believe that the Chechen revolt is part of an international Islamic conspiracy. And there are those who are worried about the spread of Muslim fundamentalism into some of the Russian republics."
In an apparent reference to deadly 1999 bombings in Russia blamed on Chechen separatists, the NATO statement said that "the Allies and Russia have suffered from terrorist attacks against civilians."
However, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, made clear yesterday that his government will not forget its views of Russian actions in Chechnya. According to Agence France-Presse, he conceded that Chechen rebels had received support from outside Muslim terrorist groups, but he insisted that "the Russian approach to solving that conflict is leading them down the wrong path."
Mr. Allison said Moscow has also been concerned about the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and its support of Islamic insurgents who have crossed from Afghanistan into Tajikistan and other countries.
"They have a deep antipathy and a considerable strategic concern about the Taliban," he said.
The joint declaration comes just a day after the unprecedented decision by the 19 NATO members to invoke Article V of its founding treaty, which declares that an attack on one member is considered an attack on NATO as a whole.
The nature of the co-operation was uncertain, but French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said it is essential that all countries co-operate, using any proper means to fight terrorism. "In some cases, military responses will be necessary. In others, police, legal, fiscal or political ones."