Russia and NATO: Increased Interaction in Defense Research and Technology

By Donald C. Daniel and Michael I. Yarymovych Defense Horizons 49

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Russia and NATO: Increased Interaction in Defense Research and TechnologyOverview

As a member of both the Partnership for Peace and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)–Russia Council (NRC), Russia enjoys remarkable status in an alliance formed principally to counter Soviet aggression. Active participation in one additional element of NATO—the Research and Technology Organization (RTO)—would offer unique opportunities to enhance relationships and mutual security. The RTO is the largest organization of its type in the world, has an extremely active program of work, and is eager to work with Russia. 

Enhanced cooperation between NATO and Russia in defense-related research and technology would not be easy. Mistrust is an obstacle, as is difficulty communicating in English and French, the official NATO languages. Also, Russian economic weakness impedes consistent participation, particularly in events outside Russia. 

NATO could reach out to Russia, offering sequential, specific opportunities and limited funding. These opportunities could include involving young Russian scientists and engineers in selected, defense-related research and technology projects; having a special ad hoc senior executive group identify a small number of flagship activities and report on progress to the NATO Conference of National Armaments Directors, the Military Committee, and the NRC; and inviting a few mid-level scientists, engineers, or technical managers to work directly with RTO staff in Paris, where they could assist in defining and providing support for specific elements of the RTO program of work. 

If NATO vectors toward Russia in this way, Russia must respond by vectoring toward the Alliance. The key here is a more consistent and cooperative representation by Russia in the forums that are available to it. Russian representatives must also become more fluent in English and French to achieve meaningful dialogue. This is especially true at the technical, senior executive levels. Finally, Russia must respond promptly to these initiatives. The opportunities are there. Now is the time.

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