Less than half year after the groundbreaking NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon, the Atlantic Initiative, publisher of atlantic-community.org, engaged Russian experts in a dialogue on how to improve relations between Russia and NATO.
This report reflects the opinion of 103 Russian experts affiliated with the state's largest universities, research and academic platforms, think tanks and various media outlets. Among the participants were renowned experts such as Russian political journalist Ms. Evgeniya M. Albats, Director of Levada Centre Dr. Gudkov, Professor Katsy of Saint Petersburg State University, Dr. Ryabikhin of the Committee of Scientists for Global Security and Arms Control, Prof. Sergeev of the Russian Academy of Science and Prof. Voronkov of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. The NATO-sponsored survey consisted of four multiple-choice and three open questions and was available both in English and Russian.
When assessing the current status of Russia-NATO relations, 54 percent of the experts describe the parties as neither enemies nor friends. This indicates a window of opportunity to change old assumptions and to create new perceptions and models of cooperation. More than one quarter of experts already characterize Russia and NATO as partners, thereby moving closer to the fulfillment of the main pledge of NRC leaders made in Lisbon in November 2010 "to work towards achieving a true strategic and modernized partnership" (NATO).
59 out of 103 respondents presume that it is in Russia's interest to make an agreement on missile defense a precondition for progress on other NATO-Russia cooperation initiatives. It is noteworthy, however, that almost one-third of the experts believe the opposite.
A small majority, 51 percent of the experts, are optimistic about the success of the technically ambitious and politically sensitive project to set up a joined defense shield within the next twenty years. 42 percent of the respondents doubt that this project will be completed. The considerable optimism regarding this historic NATO-Russia project should be taken into consideration, when reflecting on the survey results concerning an agreement on missile defense as precondition for progress on other cooperation initiatives.
NATO-Russia cooperation in Afghanistan is strongly supported by Russia's strategic community. Two-thirds of the experts approve of an increase in Russia's support to a NATO mission in Afghanistan. A further 17 percent of the respondents believe that Russia should provide even more help here.
The most frequent concern of the Russian experts regarding cooperation with NATO on missile defense is a psychological one. This concern focuses on the lack of trust and equality in the partnership. This opinion is shared by almost one third of respondents. A further widespread concern expressed by 28 percent of the experts, outlines the fear that missile defense might be directed against Russia or its interests, cause suppression of the state's nuclear potential or shift the balance of power. This concern is directly linked to historically retained mistrust.
Among suggestions on how to ensure the progression of the Lisbon agreements, the most common recommendation made by 30 percent of the experts is to back the agreements with specific mutual measures. Another suggestion, put forward by 27 out of 103 respondents, outlines the necessity to overcome mutual distrust and increase transparency and equality in the cooperation. Ms. Evgeniya M. Albats, a Russian political journalist, remarks that should trust be established, "everything else will follow."
In response to the question of what NATO should do to support Russian security interests, the predominant recommendation by 21 percent of the experts is to end the eastward enlargement and decrease NATO's influence in the CIS region. As in our previous survey, the suggestion to freeze NATO's eastward enlargement is found in the answers to many questions, even though we did not ask the experts about this issue. This trend outlines Russia's concerns regarding the security of its western borders. Although, in comparison with 2010 when 43 percent of the respondents advocated the termination of NATO's eastward enlargement, this year the issue was raised by a significantly smaller percentage of experts.
Please find a detailed analysis of the responses from 103 Russian experts working and living in Russia as well as their many policy proposals for increased NATO-Russia cooperation in the full report available for download as a PDF.
The report was written by Joerg Wolf and Victoria Naselskaya, editors of atlantic-community.org
This expert survey was made possible with the generous support of the Public Diplomacy Division of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.