Russia is proceeding with a scheduled meeting with NATO on December 4 after threatening to cancel the talks over what it said was the alliance's refusal to consider Moscow's proposal for a new European security structure.
The Kremlin is calling for a new agreement to replace precisely such institutions as NATO.
But experts say that instead of increasing cooperation, Moscow's plan is really aimed at boosting its own role in international affairs by undermining Western organizations.
The Russia-NATO Council is set to meet in its full form for the first time since Moscow's invasion of Georgia last year. The conflict froze the Kremlin's relations with NATO for more than six months, and sank ties with the West to Cold War levels.
On December 2, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he hopes this week's meeting between NATO foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will help reverse the trend.
"My aim as chair of the NATO-Russia Council," he said, "is that we will be able to agree to a joint review of the 21st century threats and challenges, that we will set out a concrete work plan where we will do more together to face those threats, to the mutual benefit of all countries within the NATO-Russia Council."
Among the issues NATO members want the December 4 meeting to address is Russian help for NATO's mission in Afghanistan. But Moscow threatened the talks would be "under question" unless they focused not on Afghanistan but on a major Russian initiative: the Kremlin's proposal for a new European security pact. The Kremlin released a draft of the agreement last week, saying it should replace outdated Cold War-era institutions, including NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
‘Moment Of Truth’
On December 1, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said "now is a moment of truth" in relations with NATO. Speaking on Russian television, he accused some alliance members of trying to block Moscow's proposals, saying they're "suffering from Cold War psychology."
"Shutting themselves into a little Western house, shuttering the windows, and believing they live in a state of security won't work," Rogozin said. "Trying to make decisions with such sectarian methods, without taking Russia's interests and opinions into account, won't work."
Rogozin later toned down his comments, saying the talks would probably go ahead.
The draft text of Russia's security agreement, posted on the Kremlin's website on November 29, comes more than a year after President Dmitry Medvedev first raised the issue. Speaking in Berlin in June 2008, he criticized NATO for being "unable to find a new meaning for its existence" since the end of the Cold War.
"Today they're trying to find it by trying to globalize the alliance's mission," Medvedev said, "including by encroaching on the prerogatives of the UN and attracting new members. It's clear that won't solve the tasks at hand."
Medvedev said the new pact's main signatories should be what he called the "three branches of European civilization": the United States, European Union, and Russia. He said they would create a new entity stretching from "Vancouver to Vladivostok," something he said is necessary to finally update Cold War-era arrangements.
"I'm convinced Europe's problems won't be solved," he said, "until its unity is established, an organic wholeness of all its integral parts, including Russia."
The Kremlin said its new draft treaty is based on the principle that "no nation or international organization....is entitled to strengthen its own security at the cost of other nations or organizations."
The draft also calls for the United Nations Security Council to be ultimately responsible for "maintaining international peace and security." Russia is one of the council's five veto-wielding, permanent members.
Little Western Support
Western countries responded politely, but have largely ignored Moscow's overtures, and analysts say Russia's initiative will fall flat. Political expert Andrei Piontkovsky calls it a set of "empty declarations."
"It's a propaganda exercise in a very old tradition of Soviet peace initiatives," he says.
Piontkovsky doesn’t believe Moscow seriously hopes that this document will be signed. He says the draft provides only a vague promise for countries "to be friendly."
The text says members would be "entitled to consider an armed attack against any other party an armed attack against itself." But unlike NATO's Article 5, the Russian proposal wouldn't oblige members to respond to attacks against fellow members.
Kirill Rogov, an independent political analyst, says Moscow's main aim is to create a formal mechanism to stop NATO from spreading to former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine.
"It's a return to an old Soviet-era model of blocs," he says. "The idea behind it is that stopping NATO is Russia's main guarantee of security."
Rogov says the Kremlin's posting of its draft agreement on the Internet -- instead of quiet circulation to Western governments for discussion -- indicates even Moscow doesn't expect a positive response. "It's a public relations act," he says.
Russia already this week distributed its draft agreement at a meeting of the OSCE, Europe's main human rights watchdog, and elections monitoring group. Foreign ministers at the OSCE meeting also gave a muted response to the Russian agreement, calling instead for improving existing organizations.
Moscow has long lambasted the OSCE for criticizing Russian elections and human rights abuses, and Rogov says the Kremlin's proposal is partly aimed at minimizing the role of its own membership in the organization.
"The Kremlin believes its participation in such groups doesn't bring Russia tangible security benefits," he says, "but does place obligations on internal politics and social standards” that Moscow doesn't like.
Kazakhstan controversially assumes the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE next year, and many believe Moscow will try to marginalize the organization by leaning on its former subject state.
Human Rights Watch this month criticized Kazakhstan's poor human rights record and urged other OSCE states to ensure Kazakhstan doesn't "further undermine the credibility of the organization."
The first ex-Soviet republic to head the OSCE, Kazakhstan has already said it plans to concentrate on security issues over human rights and elections monitoring. Kazakhstan has also requested the holding of an OSCE summit -- which would be the first since 1999 -- to focus on Moscow's new European security proposals.