The first meeting between NATO and Russia in nearly two years ended in representatives trading accusations, creating more tension than existed before.
Historically, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) has met regularly to resolve disputes and discuss various issues that may arise. After the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the NRC ceased meeting from June, 2014, to April 20, 2016. Despite running over time by an hour, the two sides failed to come to any consensus.
“NATO and Russia have profound and persistent disagreements. Today’s meeting did not change that,” said NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg after the meeting in Brussels, Belgium. “NATO allies confirmed that there can be no return to practical cooperation until Russia returns to respect of international law. But we will keep channels of communication open.”
According to a report by the Institute for the Study of War’s (ISW) Franklin Holcomb, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu accused NATO of “provocative” deployments along NATO’s eastern flank.
“Russia continued to conduct a campaign of information warfare against the Baltic States paired with political pressure and military provocation,” wrote ISW. “The efforts aim to provoke ethnic strife and undermine the stability of regional governments.”
Russian aggression just before and after the meeting escalated significantly. Just 10 days before the meeting, a Russian jet buzzed a U.S. Navy destroyer from a dangerously close 30 feet. Officials have referred to the move as a “simulated attack.”
According to Holcomb, Russia’s most recent target has been the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Russian provocations have led to Latvia banning access to Russian news outlets, while Estonian security services report Russian covert activity in the Baltics has risen significantly.
In response to Russia’s moves, the U.S. deployed a contingent of F-22 Raptors, the U.S. military’s most advanced air superiority fighter, to Romania last Monday. In the long-term, the U.S. Department of Defense has announced it will quadruple spending in Europe in the 2017 defense budget.
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