Should NATO-Russia Founding Act Be Repealed?

By PAC Intern Kamila Magiera

Should NATO-Russia Founding Act be repealed in light of the Kremlin’s serial violations of International law since 2008?

The NATO-Russia Founding Act, also known as the “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation”, was a transformative step towards cooperation between the Kremlin and NATO allies. The act was approved by the North Atlantic Council following months of negotiations by the NATO Secretary General and Russian Foreign Minister, and was signed by Russian President Yeltsin and US President Clinton, among 15 other NATO members, at the NATO Summit in Paris on May 27, 1997. The goal of the act was to widen the relationship between NATO and Russia by “[overcoming] vestiges of past confrontation and competition and to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation”, as stated by then NATO Secretary General Javier Solana. 

This was the first instance a larger alliance since the end of the Cold War, “through reductions of conventional and nuclear forces, through a revision of its strategic concept, through its new missions such as peacekeeping, and through its support for security cooperation throughout Europe, in particular within the framework of Partnership for Peace.” This was also a step towards the limitation of Russia forces from Eastern and Central Europe and revisions of military doctrines that would no longer target NATO member states and neighboring nations. The message this signing and act anticipated was that this was the start of a commitment to build peace and stability between nations that no longer considered one another adversaries. 

However, this act was not favorable for all members present and in the future, including Poland. The agreement states that “substantial combat forces” were not allowed in Central and Eastern Europe, preventing the establishment of permanent NATO bases with American troops in Poland. As Russia grows to be more threatening, and with significant NATO bases in Germany and Italy no longer playing as important of a role today, it is clear that a new approach needs to be taken by putting more personnel on NATO’s eastern flank, such as in Poland. With this in mind: should the NATO-Russia Founding Act be repealed? It is evident that with the Kremlin’s violation of international law since 2008, as well as its growing presence and aggression towards the West, the act needs to be revised, amended, or repealed. 

Many argue that the notion of repealing the NATO-Russia Founding Act would violate the agreement, however, the Kremlin has breached the act and international law on multiple occasions in the last decade. Specifically, it has been invalidated by Russia’s annexation of Crimea by sending in forces in a land claimed to be an autonomous Ukranian zone. “As an occupying power, Russia not only has no right to conscript people in Crimea, but its draft is blatantly violating international law,” said Hugh Williamson. “Doubling down on this violation, Russian authorities are also pressing criminal charges against people who refuse to serve in its armed forces.” It is evident that the Kremlin has not respected or abided by this agreement, therefore invalidating the argument that any adjustments or changes would be the first time the NATO-Russia Founding Act has been violated. 

The NATO-Russia Founding Act needs to be repealed in order for Poland to have a permanent, continuous rotation of troops in-and-out of the country every 90 days for the following reasons: it would help NATO and U.S. forces “overcome the Russian anti-access challenge” and it would demonstrate a strong, long term promise rather than a rotational commitment, a move that is unreliable and unsafe for the alliance. A permanent base in Poland will move the country and region into a more stable and secure area while deterring further aggression from the Kremlin. This translates into not only greater protection but also empowering the entirety of Europe by limiting the forceful conflict. 

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Sources:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/polish-and-baltic-hopes-for-permanent-nato-bases-frustrated-by-1997-agreement-with-russia/article20343316/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/01/crimea-conscription-violates-international-law

https://www.armscontrol.org/act/1997-05/features/nato-russian-founding-act

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