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Foreign ministers of Russia-NATO Council meet

May 19, 2009 - BRUSSELS

Despite mutual irritation, NATO and Russia have resumed formal contacts and will meet at the ministerial level on May 19. Relations between the two Cold War-era foes were suspended in Aug 2008 because of the war in Georgia, and the tension has been exacerbated by NATO's plans for military exercises with Georgia in May. They meet within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, a panel set up in 2002 to improve relations between the two sides. It could be a testy meeting.

Russia describes the military exercises with Georgia as "a reflection of the spirit of the Cold War." Another ongoing irritation is Georgia's desire to join NATO, which is bitterly opposed by Moscow. The ministers might choose to stay away from the touchiest issues and tackle areas where cooperation could be useful. These include the growing and regional instability accompanying the global economic crisis, piracy and Afghanistan. NATO wants Moscow to provide weapons and training for Afghan government forces. NATO nations accused Moscow of using disproportionate force to eject Georgian forces that had occupied the capital of breakaway province South Ossetia. Russian forces overwhelmed the Georgian army, sending relations between Moscow and Western capitals to post-Cold War lows. Moscow later recognized the self-proclaimed independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia — another separatist region — in a move that NATO strongly opposes. Russia wants to see cooperation between NATO and member-nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. May/2009


Date written/update: 2009-05-19