Russia–NATO relations

overview of the relations between Russia and the NATO

Relations between the NATO military alliance and the Russian Federation were established in 1991 within the framework of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. In 1994, Russia joined the Partnership for Peace program, and on 27 May 1997, the NATO–Russia Founding Act (NRFA) was signed at the 1997 Paris NATO Summit in France, enabling the creation of the NATO–Russia Permanent Joint Council (NRPJC). Through the early part of 2010s NATO and Russia signed several additional agreements on cooperation. The NRPJC was replaced in 2002 by the NATO–Russia Council (NRC), which was established in an effort to partner on security issues and joint projects together.

NATO and the U.S.’s idiotic brinksmanship on Russia’s borders could yet cause real damage. But wild-eyed speculation about the Kremlin’s intentions has so far run aground on Russia’s apparent reluctance to engage in a shooting war that could spiral into a full-on nuclear holocaust [...] As if Russia can’t move its military around WITHIN ITS OWN BORDERS without catapulting the west to high alert.
~ "Eve Ottenberg", CounterPunch
With NATO’s eastward expansion... We cannot stay idle and passively observe these developments. This would be an absolutely irresponsible thing to do for us. ~ Vladimir Putin

Despite efforts to structure forums that promote cooperation between Russia and NATO, relations as of 2024 have become severely strained over time due to post-Soviet conflicts and territory disputes involving Russia having broken out.


  • The mutual trust that emerged with the end of the Cold War was severely shaken a few years later by NATO's decision to expand to the east. Russia had no option but to draw its own conclusions from that.
  • Misjudging Moscow had long been the occupational disease of European diplomacy. It cursed alike Swedes, Poles, Napoleon and Hitler. It now blighted a western alliance divided on how to respond to this newly aggressive Russia. The EU had no military arm, though it often toyed with the idea of one. There had been a European ‘defence community’, a Eurocorps, a rapid reaction force, a ‘military action plan’ and even a joint operational headquarters. For good measure, Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair had in a speech in Chicago in 1999 suggested that a concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’ be seen as valid wherever democracy and human rights were under threat. To him, there could be no limit to NATO’s responsibility. But who should define threats and responsibilities? After New York’s 9/11 atrocity in 2001 at the hands of Al Qaeda, NATO found itself expected to intervene wherever Washington’s rulers ordained. Armies from virtually all Europe’s states were summoned to fight with varying degrees of enthusiasm and engagement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. As America tested its hegemonic muscles, obedience was the price for the continuance of the nuclear umbrella. No one asked, let alone answered, the question of who should police the ever-expanding borders of democratic Europe.
    • Simon Jenkins, A Short History of Europe: From Pericles to Putin (2018)
  • Russia was now becoming a dominant factor in European diplomacy. It had copious natural resources, a large army, a nuclear arsenal and a reckless capacity for mischief-making, cyber attacks and overseas assassination. As Churchill had said in 1939, Russia might always be ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, but on one matter Putin was crystal clear. He did not like NATO’s encirclement of his borders or meddling within his ‘sphere of interest’. In this he had an increasingly sympathetic ear from Germany’s Angela Merkel and from some former Warsaw Pact leaders. Geography mattered. It was easy for Britain and France to play belligerence with Moscow. It was less easy for Germany and the still ingénue democracies to its east.
    • Simon Jenkins, A Short History of Europe: From Pericles to Putin (2018)
  • If Russia and NATO cooperate, who are they going to be against? There used to be two systems, two military blocs. One system collapsed. Its military bloc collapsed. And the other part remains in perfect operating order. That beautiful NATO bloc was first aimed at the Soviet Union, and it would be a pity to abandon it. So, now it is re-aimed at Russia.
  • The existing crisis with Russia has origins that go far beyond Putin. Russia has a foreign and security blob, just as does the United States, with a set of semi-permanent beliefs about Russian vital interests rooted in national history and culture, which are shared by large parts of the population. These include the exclusion of hostile military alliances from Russia’s neighborhood and the protection of the political position and cultural rights of Russian minorities.
    In the case of Ukraine, NATO membership for that country implied the expulsion of Russia from the naval base of Sevastopol in Crimea (a city of immense importance to Russia, both strategic and emotional), and the creation of a hard international frontier between Russia and the Russian and Russian-speaking minorities in Ukraine, making up more than a third of the Ukrainian population.
    The Yeltsin government protested strongly against the start of NATO expansion in the 1990s and Russia accustomed itself without too much trouble to NATO membership for the former Soviet satellites in Central Europe. But from the very beginning of NATO expansion in the mid-1990s, Russian officials and commentators—including liberal reformists—warned that an offer of NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine would bring confrontation with the West and an acute danger of war. These warnings were echoed by George Kennan, the original architect of the strategy to contain the USSR and the State Department’s greatest ever Russia expert, as well as by Henry Kissinger and other leading American statesmen.
  • These Russian policies have been linked to a specific set of post-Soviet issues and Russian regional goals. They are not part of some grand malign design to destroy international order, or to act as a willful “disruptor.” Insofar as Russia has set out deliberately to damage Western has been as a way to put pressure on the West in pursuit of those goals. It may also be pointed out that in the Middle East, it is the U.S. that has frequently acted as a disruptor as with the invasion of Iraq, the destruction of the Libyan state, and Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear agreement with Iran, while Russia has often defended the status quo—partly due to a fear of Islamist terrorism that it shares with the U.S. In other words, while the terms of any compromise with Russia over Ukraine would involve some tough negotiation, we can seek such a compromise without fearing that this will open the way for further Russian moves to destroy NATO and subjugate eastern Europe—a ridiculous idea for anyone who knows either the goals of the Russian establishment or the character of Poles and Estonians.
    • Anatol Lieven, Russia Has Been Warning About Ukraine for Decades. The West Should Have Listened Time,  January 25, 2022
  • Failing at least initial moves towards such a compromise, it does indeed look likely that there will be some form of new Russian attack on Ukraine, though by no means necessarily a large-scale invasion. In the event of war, however far the Russian army marches will be followed by a new Russian proposal for a deal in return for Russian withdrawal. The only difference between then and now will be that NATO will have been humiliated by its inability to fight, the West and Ukraine will be in a much weaker position to negotiate a favorable deal—and that in the meantime, thousands of people will have died.
    • Anatol Lieven, Russia Has Been Warning About Ukraine for Decades. The West Should Have Listened Time,  January 25, 2022
  • Last spring the hoopla about Russia invading Ukraine died an ignominious death when nothing happened. This autumn, the latest Russia-will-invade boogeyman was already on life-support when the pro-western Ukrainian president decided to goose it November 26 with the breathless proclamation that Moscow intended to overthrow him “next week.” When that didn’t happen, on December 4, the Washington Post hyperventilated about Russia igniting a war, like, any day, in an anonymously sourced piece of exemplary CIA stenography, worthy of the fantasies published in the run-up to the U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq.... So Russia hesitates and the U.S. screams. What else is new? Don’t get me wrong: NATO and the U.S.’s idiotic brinksmanship on Russia’s borders could yet cause real damage. But wild-eyed speculation about the Kremlin’s intentions has so far run aground on Russia’s apparent reluctance to engage in a shooting war that could spiral into a full-on nuclear holocaust.... In early November CIA chief William Burns trekked to the Kremlin amid worries about a Russian troop buildup. As if Russia can’t move its military around WITHIN ITS OWN BORDERS without catapulting the west to high alert.

President Vladimir Putin's Speech on Ukraine and US Foreign Policy and NATO - 24 February 2022


(Full text)

  • I will begin with what I said in my address on February 21, 2022. I spoke about our biggest concerns and worries, and about the fundamental threats which irresponsible Western politicians created for Russia consistently, rudely and unceremoniously from year to year. I am referring to the eastward expansion of NATO, which is moving its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border. It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe.
    In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine... is approaching our very border. Why is this happening? Where did this insolent manner of talking down from the height of their exceptionalism, infallibility and all-permissiveness come from? What is the explanation for this contemptuous and disdainful attitude to our interests and absolutely legitimate demands.
    Entreaties and requests do not help. Anything that does not suit the dominant state, the powers that be, is denounced as archaic, obsolete and useless. At the same time, everything it regards as useful is presented as the ultimate truth and forced on others regardless of the cost, abusively and by any means available. Those who refuse to comply are subjected to strong-arm tactics.
  • Russia is not the only country that is worried about this. This has to do with the entire system of international relations, and sometimes even US allies. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a redivision of the world, and the norms of international law that developed by that time – and the most important of them, the fundamental norms that were adopted following WWII and largely formalised its outcome – came in the way of those who declared themselves the winners of the Cold War.
    ...we saw a state of euphoria created by the feeling of absolute superiority, a kind of modern absolutism, coupled with the low cultural standards and arrogance of those who formulated and pushed through decisions that suited only themselves. The situation took a different turn.
    There are many examples of this. First a bloody military operation was waged against Belgrade, without the UN Security Council’s sanction but with combat aircraft and missiles used in the heart of Europe. The bombing of peaceful cities and vital infrastructure went on for several weeks. I have to recall these facts, because some Western colleagues prefer to forget them, and when we mentioned the event, they prefer to avoid speaking about international law...
    Then came the turn of Iraq, Libya and Syria. The illegal use of military power against Libya and the distortion of all the UN Security Council decisions on Libya ruined the state, created a huge seat of international terrorism, and pushed the country towards a humanitarian catastrophe, into the vortex of a civil war, which has continued there for years.... A similar fate was also prepared for Syria. The combat operations conducted by the Western coalition in that country without the Syrian government’s approval or UN Security Council’s sanction can only be defined as aggression and intervention... But the example that stands apart from the above events is, of course, the invasion of Iraq without any legal grounds.
  • Overall, it appears that nearly everywhere, in many regions of the world where the United States brought its law and order, this created bloody, non-healing wounds and the curse of international terrorism and extremism. I have only mentioned the most glaring but far from only examples of disregard for international law.
    This array includes promises not to expand NATO eastwards even by an inch. To reiterate: they have deceived us, or, to put it simply, they have played us... This type of con-artist behaviour is contrary not only to the principles of international relations but also and above all to the generally accepted norms of morality and ethics. Where is justice and truth here? Just lies and hypocrisy all around.
  • Incidentally, US politicians, political scientists and journalists write and say that a veritable "empire of lies" has been created inside the United States in recent years. It is hard to disagree with this – it is really so. But one should not be modest about it: the United States is still a great country and a system-forming power. All its satellites not only humbly and obediently say yes to and parrot it at the slightest pretext but also imitate its behaviour and enthusiastically accept the rules it is offering them. Therefore, one can say with good reason and confidence that the whole so-called Western bloc formed by the United States in its own image and likeness is, in its entirety, the very same "empire of lies".
  • Properly speaking, the attempts to use us in their own interests never ceased until quite recently: they sought to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode us, our people from within, the attitudes they have been aggressively imposing on their countries, attitudes that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature. This is not going to happen. No one has ever succeeded in doing this, nor will they succeed now.
  • With NATO’s eastward expansion the situation for Russia has been becoming worse and more dangerous by the year. Moreover, these past days NATO leadership has been blunt in its statements that they need to accelerate and step up efforts to bring the alliance’s infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders. In other words, they have been toughening their position. We cannot stay idle and passively observe these developments. This would be an absolutely irresponsible thing to do for us.
  • For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends. For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to our interests but to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty. It is the red line which we have spoken about on numerous occasions. They have crossed it.
  • We can see that the forces that staged the coup in Ukraine in 2014 have seized power, are keeping it with the help of ornamental election procedures and have abandoned the path of a peaceful conflict settlement. For eight years, for eight endless years we have been doing everything possible to settle the situation by peaceful political means.
  • I would also like to address the military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Comrade officers, Your fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight the Nazi occupiers and did not defend our common Motherland to allow today’s neo-Nazis to seize power in Ukraine. You swore the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and not to the junta, the people’s adversary which is plundering Ukraine and humiliating the Ukrainian people. I urge you to refuse to carry out their criminal orders. I urge you to immediately lay down arms and go home. The military personnel of the Ukrainian army who do this will be able to freely leave the zone of hostilities and return to their families...
  • I want to emphasize again that all responsibility for the possible bloodshed will lie fully and wholly with the ruling Ukrainian regime.
  • At the end of the day, the future of Russia is in the hands of its multi-ethnic people, as has always been the case in our history. This means that the decisions that I made will be executed, that we will achieve the goals we have set, and reliably guarantee the security of our Motherland.
  • I believe in your support and the invincible force rooted in the love for our Fatherland.
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