To the Editor:
Charles Kupchan ("NATO's Final Frontier," May/June 2010) rightfully draws attention to the difficulties associated with letting Russia join NATO. But he does not address the prickliest question: Does Russia even want to be a part of NATO? Most high-ranking Russian officials say no. But their responses leave room for maneuver.
In the past, Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has suggested that NATO is more likely to join Russia than vice versa. In a recent interview, however, he chose to emphasize that it is divisions among NATO allies -- not reluctance among Russians -- that would prevent Russia from ever being considered for membership. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for his part, has defended the achievements of the NATO-Russia Council, a body established in 2002 to promote cooperation between Moscow and the alliance. Although he has rejected the idea of Russia joining NATO, he has premised his position on the fact that "nobody has invited [Russia] to join." As Russia's idea for a European security treaty -- which has so far gotten a cool reception -- suggests, the Russian leadership is interested in integrating with Western states to some degree, or at least in erasing Cold War-era dividing lines.
It is up to NATO to offer membership to Russia, and success or failure will depend on how seriously the gesture is framed. For Moscow, a tacit precondition for its joining would be that it be on a par with the United States, not treated as Europe's embarrassing cousin. The bargain must be truly comprehensive, linking Russia'smembership to the renegotiation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (which Moscow suspended in 2007) and to a sustainable diplomatic solution to Georgia's territorial disputes. NATO could make such an offer -- even as soon as its November summit in Lisbon.
Postgraduate student, University of Queensland