Starting the Process of Trust-Building in NATO–Russia Relations: The Arms Control Dimension

Jacek Durkalec, Lukasz Kulesa and Ian Kearns
Polish Institute of Institute of International Affairs
Year published

 A review by Nigel Chamberlain

NATO-Russian relations have “chilled considerably” but a fundamental change of the climate is possible if they could work together to increase mutual trust in the military field. The authors promote three trust-building measures: graduated reciprocation (a sequence of limited conciliatory steps); costly signals (bold concessions aimed at showing trustworthiness); and reliance on inter-personal dynamics, especially contacts between leaders.
They believe that a combination of these three approaches aimed at reaching specific, realistically selected arms control aims can bring about notable progress in the NATO–Russia context, but it must be based on mutual restraint and increased transparency.
The report offers seven specific recommendations:
1. Political rhetoric. Refraining from aggressive or provocative statements and correcting manifestly false information in the media.
2. Military doctrines. Discussing the conceptual approaches to new
capabilities such as cyber-warfare and the military use of space to provide more confidence and predictability in any future crisis situation.
3. Exercises. Striving to exclude from the scenarios of major exercises specific activities which could be seen as excessively provocative; agreeing on providing information and issuing invitations to observe major exercises conducted in the NATO–Russia border area.
4. Conventional Forces modernisation and deployments. providing advance information about the timing and context of acquiring and deploying major new weapons systems.
5. Missile Defence deployments. Elaborating and communicating the criteria behind the implementation of NATO’s missile defence deployments; providing information about the aims and scope of modernisation of Russia’s MD component of the Air-Space defence systems.
6. Tactical nuclear weapons. Agreeing on transparency measures and pledging not increasing the number of tactical nuclear weapons.
7. Sub-regional approach. Exploring the benefits and challenges of agreeing specific additional confidence and security building measures for Central and Eastern Europe.
In their concluding remarks, the authors state that tackling common challenges (terrorism, regional instability in Central Asia and the Middle East or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction) is unlikely to change the present unsatisfactory state of bilateral relations between NATO and Russia. For this reason, they argue that the sources of mistrust must be identified and specific trust-building measures be applied to them to directly address “the legacy of hostility”.
Durkalec, Kulesa and Kearns believe that the measures they propose can be pursued instantly, as they do not require major changes of policies or military doctrines, and that they can be based on politically binding declarations rather than legally binding instruments. They suggest that the NATO-Russia Council meeting during NATO’s 2014 Summit would provide be a perfect opportunity to announce an agreement on steps towards restraint and transparency.