What is the History of the Act, and How Does it Remain Relevant Today?

By PAC Intern Alexander Tantum

NATO flag (via Wikimedia)

The NATO-Russia Founding Act was approved by the North Atlantic Council on May 16th, 1997. One of the primary purposes of the act was to build increased trust, cooperation, and unity between the Kremlin and the member states of NATO. These member states include Eastern European nations such as Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Poland. While the act was not aimed to create a direct allyship between the Kremlin and NATO as a whole, it was intended to create a better relationship between the two groups. Overall, the hope was that it could unite NATO with the Kremlin in creating a region which was marked with less division and instability. This included the mutual acknowledgement of the importance of democracy along with the rule of law. To achieve the aims of the Act, the two sides made “a shared commitment” to a number of principles. These principles included, “…respect for sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security…” and, “mutual transparency in creating and implementing defence policy and military doctrines,” among others. With regards to military actions, the Nato-Russia Founding Act had the purpose of expanding political-military consultations and cooperation, along with greater levels of transparency, predictability, and mutual confidence.

Following the agreement between NATO and the Kremlin in 1997, the Kremlin has been in violation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act at numerous points. For example, during the war in Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin violated the terms of the act multiple times, with regards to the agreement of not using force, and respecting the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all states. Additionally, the Kremlin has made verbal threats against NATO members, including Romania and Poland. Threats have been made against Poland to discourage them from deploying within their own territory and borders elements of the United States and NATO missile defense systems. The Kremlin continuously expressed their frustrations with NATO throughout the duration of their official participation in the act, however, these frustrations were not for legitimate issues. Complaints from the Kremlin included that NATO allies spent too much on defense, and that NATO troops were dangerous. Additionally, the Kremlin believed that NATO exercises threatened their own security.

Today, the principles agreed to within the NATO-Russia Founding Act, along with the official partnership set forth by the act itself, are no more. NATO “suspended practical cooperation” with the Kremlin in 2014. NATO made the decision to suspend practical cooperation with the Kremlin because of the Kremlin’s actions against Ukraine, “including the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea” (NATO). As NATO states, they want relations with the Kremlin to improve, but the Kremlin has to respect their international obligations for that to occur. Perhaps in the future, should the Kremlin prove they are ready to enter into a new agreement and hold up their end of that agreement, NATO and the Kremlin can officially enter a new stage of their relationship. To this point, it does not appear that a new Act is coming soon.

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