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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