Russia: a new confrontation? - Defence Committee Contents

4  Russia and NATO

96. For Russia, the end of the Cold War challenged NATO's raison d'être; the removal of the Soviet threat rendered NATO—in Russian eyes—an outmoded and unnecessary institution. This view colours Russian-NATO relations. Nevertheless, Russia has taken a pragmatic decision to engage with NATO on selective areas "in the interests of ensuring predictability and stability in the Euro-Atlantic Region".[159]

NATO-Russia Council

97. The NATO-Russia Council (NRC) is the key body for formal engagement between NATO and Russia. It was established in 2002, in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks that reinforced the need for coordinated action to respond to common threats. The NRC's remit is underpinned by the 1997 Russia Founding Act. The Council functions through 27 committees and working groups responsible for different areas of policy. The FCO described the NRC as an "important tool" in building trust and overcoming the Cold War legacy. It stated that the NRC has conducted important work on "counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, missile defence, defence reform among other things".[160]

98. In August 2008, NATO suspended formal engagement with Russia on the NRC as a result of its disproportionate actions in Georgia. In December 2008, NATO Foreign Ministers agreed for a 'measured and phased re-engagement' with Russia, starting with an 'informal' session of the NRC on 26 January 2009. During our visit to Brussels, some Ambassadors argued that it was a mistake for NATO to have suspended formal engagement with Russia. On the other hand, Oksana Antonenko told us that sending a message to Russia that there was no 'business as usual' was at the time "the right thing to do".[161] NATO's decision to resume formal engagement was welcomed by many of our witnesses. Dr Roy Allison stated:

In my belief, there is no practical alternative for NATO to having a mechanism of dialogue with Russia. The only one available is the NATO-Russia Council.[162]

Dr Alex Pravda told us:

Despite perhaps a feeling among some new East European members of NATO that one should have held out longer in order to have some degree of influence over Russian thinking, I think that restoration was a wise move because withholding that is likely to increase the very high levels of suspicion that tend to prevail between Russia and NATO, and not likely to help in any sense to rebuild degrees of trust.[163]

99. It was hoped that a NRC meeting between Foreign Ministers would take place in May 2009. These hopes were disappointed following a spying scandal and NATO's military exercises in Georgia. The meeting did not go ahead as the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, decided not to attend.[164] At the end of June 2009, NATO and Russia agreed to resume formal dialogue. We welcome the resumption of formal engagement between NATO and Russia on the NATO-Russia Council. Engagement provides a platform for progress in building trust and cooperation. This should not, however, be at the cost of abandoning a commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia. NATO should continue to make clear to Russia that its actions in Georgia were disproportionate and that it should honour its ceasefire commitments in Georgia.

100. Many witnesses questioned the effectiveness of the NRC, despite supporting the principle of engagement with Russia through this forum. Oksana Antonenko believed that NATO's "institutionalisation of the relationship" through meetings, working groups and committees had not achieved results.[165] She also argued that Russia approached the relationship in the wrong way as it saw the NRC as a "back-door membership to NATO".[166] Dr Roy Allison told us that Russia has become increasingly disparaging about the NRC as it views "much of its [NRC's] work has been fairly low grade or public diplomacy relations without leading to any practical results".[167] He also queried whether the NRC provided a "suitable structure" for the type of strategic discussion that was taking place between Russia and the US.[168] Baroness Taylor also voiced criticism of the NRC.

Although I have not discussed this with Foreign Office officials, in the past the bigger issues have been out of bounds or too difficult or too big for the NATO-Russia Council. It never did discuss Georgia or conflict areas of that kind. I do not think it has discussed NATO enlargement. Therefore, on some issues, it could have been a forum for discussion but it has not been on the agenda or it has been considered too difficult.[169]

101. For the NATO-Russia Council to be effective in building trust between NATO and Russia there needs to be an honest dialogue on areas of disagreement as well as agreement. The UK Government should encourage the NRC to be used as a forum to discuss difficult and strategic issues—such as NATO enlargement, Georgia, and human rights—as well as issues where cooperation is more likely.

NATO and Russian cooperation

102. Despite areas of strong disagreement between NATO and Russia, there have been some practical areas of cooperation in recent years. According to the NRC, cooperation has taken place on areas such as counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, military cooperation, non-proliferation, crisis management and Afghanistan.[170] In 2004, for example, the NRC adopted an action plan on tackling terrorism, and Russia has contributed to Operation Active Endeavour which provides a military presence in the Straits of Gibraltar. During our visit to Brussels, we heard about the important work underway at the Domodedovo International Training Centre, near Moscow, to train Afghan law enforcement officers in tackling the drugs trade.

103. Many witnesses believed that they were further opportunities for NATO and Russia to cooperate. Oksana Antonenko argued for increased military cooperation: "while this would help generate stronger capability and interoperability to address shared challenges, its main purpose would be confidence building".[171] Military cooperation could include a wide range of operations: anti-piracy policing, joint operations in the Arctic and even joint peacekeeping. He explained:

Although it might seem far-fetched, joint units could be established between Russia and some NATO member states, modelled perhaps on the Polish-Ukrainian Peace Force Battalion or the Franco-German Brigade, to develop interoperability and trust. This could be achieved in the context of Russian defence reform.[172]

Dr Roy Allison stressed the difficulties in achieving interoperability between Russian and NATO forces. He argued, "this is not just a military technical matter. It is very much a political and diplomatic matter". He told us:

This kind of issue [joint operations] may be possible to return to in the future but when Russia characterises its military operations in Georgia as a form of peacekeeping, a highly coercive form of peacekeeping, you see the difference between the Western and the Russian interpretation of those concepts.[173]

Baroness Taylor told us that Russia was keen to cooperate on tackling piracy and that it had contributed in Chad: Russia provided four helicopters to support EU forces.[174] Yet Gloria Craig, Director of International Security Policy at the MoD, added, "I think the Russian appetite for engaging in peacekeeping in the way we understand is fairly limited".[175]

104. One particular area of further potential cooperation is on the Arctic. During our visit to Brussels, we heard that Russia was focusing its attention on utilising the Arctic waters for military and commercial purposes, as the sea routes are opened up as a result of climate change. There have been increased tensions between Russia and NATO Member States over disputed legal claims to the territory; Dr Irina Isakova, a freelance analyst on Russia, stated that last year NATO Member States and Russia had intensified their military training and exercises in the Arctic.[176] Oksana Antonenko told us that the Arctic was:

one area where NATO and Russia in the long run have a common interest in avoiding conflict, because if a conflict started it would have a huge impact on the security of Russia and the main NATO countries.[177]

On the other hand, Dr Irina Isakova concluded that despite the strategic importance of the Arctic "it is rather unlikely that the NRC would carry the main burden of cooperation in the area. It is mainly going to be shared by other international organisations".[178] Arctic security is an issue of growing strategic importance as sea routes are opened up as a result of climate change. NATO has a critical role to play in securing Russian cooperation or at least minimising tensions over the territory.

105. The NRC has pursued cooperation on a number of fronts; and witnesses have suggested many areas where further cooperation would be beneficial. Yet it is not clear what NATO's priorities are for further cooperation with Russia: countering terrorism; conducting joint operations; countering narcotics; reaching an agreement on the Arctic; tackling climate change; providing air transport security; delivering civil-military emergency planning; or reducing nuclear weapons? In response to a question on priorities, Baroness Taylor outlined broad examples of past UK cooperation with Russia.[179] Group Captain Malcolm Crayford did add that there were "important areas that we need to discuss with Russia: Afghanistan, counter-proliferation, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism".[180] Yet it was still not clear which areas were priorities for the UK.

106. There are many opportunities for NATO to pursue cooperation with Russia for mutual benefit. The full potential of the NATO-Russia Council will not be realised until it takes strategic decisions on the priority areas for cooperation. In relation to these areas of potential cooperation, the NATO-Russia Council should focus its efforts on key strategic areas where there is a consensus within NATO and realistic prospects for success: these areas could include arms control, the Arctic and Afghanistan. We recommend that the UK Government identify and communicate within NATO what its priority areas are for cooperation with Russia.


107. NATO and Russia are both interested in Afghanistan. Some witnesses were hopeful that increased cooperation could be achieved based on shared objectives. Martin McCauley argued that the Russians "fear Islamic forces, fundamentalism, penetrating Central Asia".[181] During our visit to Russia, officials stressed that Russia wanted stability and peace in Afghanistan. We were told that Russia wanted NATO to succeed to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, to curtail the growing drugs trade from Afghanistan to Russia and to help the people of Afghanistan.

108. Other witnesses were sceptical that Russia wanted NATO to be successful. Edward Lucas told us that maybe Russia's "interests are in seeing NATO in trouble" in Afghanistan.[182] James Sherr said, "I think a situation where there is no victory and no defeat is one which suits them very well".[183] Dr Roy Allison thought that there was "quite a strong tendency among Russian military officers to look at this [NATO's campaign in Afghanistan] in terms of schadenfreude, particularly given their woeful performance in the first Chechnya campaign and arguably in the second".[184] A further reason offered for the suggestion that Russia might not want NATO to be successful is that Afghanistan is seen as a test of NATO's new expeditionary role. Roy Allison argued that if NATO were successful there is a sense that this "would then encourage a direction of development of NATO which Russia sees as very much against its interests".[185]

109. An example of Russian unwillingness to cooperate fully with NATO on Afghanistan is Russia's alleged influence over Kyrgyzstan's decision in February 2009 to close the US airbase at Manas. [186] This airbase hosts approximately 1,000 military personnel from the US, Spain and France, and provides vital support to air operations in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan's decision to close the base followed the offer of a £1.4 billion loan from Russia and alleged pressure from the Kremlin.[187] Subsequently, the US Government has been successful in persuading Kyrgyzstan—with the help of financial concessions—to allow the base to stay open for at least one more year, though its long-term future remains uncertain.[188] Baroness Taylor stated that "it would be in everyone's advantage if that [the Manas base] remained open".[189]

110. NATO has an interest in securing safe passage of its goods through Russian territory to ISAF forces in Afghanistan. In April 2008, at the Bucharest Summit, an agreement was reached between NATO and Russia to allow the transit of non-military goods through Russian territory.[190] In March 2009, the US started to transport its non-military goods under this agreement.[191] A number of NATO members have reached bilateral agreements with Russia to enable the transit of military goods—France, Germany and Spain.[192]

111. Oksana Antonenko argued that it was important to "avoid bilateralism in an area of concern to the Alliance as a whole".[193] She acknowledged that some countries, such as the US and Germany, felt that it would be easier to reach bilateral agreements, but argued that in the longer term it would be useful "to start discussing a more comprehensive agreement on all supply routes because we need a number of them, not only for non-military but also military supplies".[194] Baroness Taylor told us that this issue was less relevant to the UK as "we use a southern route".[195] The Government should work within NATO to secure an agreement with Russia on the transit of NATO military goods through Russian territory to ISAF forces in Afghanistan. We acknowledge that the UK currently relies on a southern transit route to supply its Armed Forces, yet it has a vital interest in ensuring the effectiveness of the entire coalition mission in Afghanistan. The Alliance's effectiveness would be enhanced by accessing an alternative supply route for its military goods other than through Pakistan.

NATO enlargement Figure 2: NATO members and partners

Source: Produced by TSO


112. NATO enlargement is one of the long-standing and fundamental areas of tension in the NATO-Russian relationship. During our visit to Russia, we were told that NATO enlargement was a 'natural' issue of concern given that NATO is a military alliance. Russia's official position on NATO is outlined in its latest foreign policy concept:

Russia maintains its negative attitude towards the expansion of NATO, notably to the plans of admitting Ukraine and Georgia to the membership in the alliance, as well as to bringing the NATO military infrastructure closer to the Russian borders on the whole, which violates the principle of equal security, leads to new dividing lines in Europe and runs counter to the tasks of increasing the effectiveness of joint work in search for responses to real challenges of our time.[196]

113. In contrast to Russia's perception of NATO's enlargement, NATO's rationale for extending membership is that it can be a tool for greater stability and democracy within Europe. Russia has described NATO enlargement as a process of NATO increasing its sphere of influence at the expense of Russia, yet one of the essential criteria for NATO membership is that aspiring countries must apply to join: as Baroness Taylor pointed out "it does not actively recruit members".[197] The essential difference between NATO and Russia's approach to Eastern Europe is that NATO recognises that these countries should exercise a free choice over their future destiny.

114. NATO's long-standing policy on membership is that European countries who want to join need to meet the common criteria laid down by the Alliance and be admitted by a consensus of existing members. A 1995 NATO study considered the merits of admitting new members. It concluded that enlargement would contribute to the enhanced stability and security of all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area by encouraging and supporting democratic reforms and promoting good-neighbourly relations. Aspiring members are expected to meet the following expectations, although meeting these does not give any automatic right to join:

Aspirants would be offered the opportunity to discuss and substantiate their willingness and ability to assume the obligations and commitments under the Washington Treaty and the relevant provisions of the Study on NATO Enlargement. Future members must conform to basic principles embodied in the Washington Treaty such as democracy, individual liberty and other relevant provisions set out in its Preamble. Aspirants would also be expected:

a)  to settle their international disputes by peaceful means;

b)  to demonstrate commitment to the rule of law and human rights;

c)  to settle ethnic disputes or external territorial disputes including irredentist claims or internal jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with OSCE principles and to pursue good neighbourly relations;

d)  to establish appropriate democratic and civilian control of their Armed Forces;

e)  to refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN;

f)  to contribute to the development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions and by promoting stability and well-being;

g)  to continue fully to support and be engaged in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace;

h)  to show a commitment to promoting stability and well-being by economic liberty, social justice and environmental responsibility.[198]


115. In April 2008, NATO held a summit meeting at Bucharest where, among other things, the future membership of Georgia and Ukraine was discussed. In January 2008, the Governments of Georgia and Ukraine had requested that the Alliance grant them Membership Action Plans (MAPs) to set them on the road to eventual membership. The main features of MAP are:

116. In the end, NATO decided not to grant Georgia and the Ukraine MAP status. Instead, it created a new category of prospective membership status—it granted them Annual National Programmes to help them prepare for eventual membership. Commissions were established to help support this process. The final Summit declaration stated:

NATO welcomes Ukraine's and Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.  Both nations have made valuable contributions to Alliance operations. We welcome the democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia and look forward to free and fair parliamentary elections in Georgia in May. MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership. Today we make clear that we support these countries' applications for MAP. Therefore we will now begin a period of intensive engagement with both at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP applications. We have asked Foreign Ministers to make a first assessment of progress at their December 2008 meeting.  Foreign Ministers have the authority to decide on the MAP applications of Ukraine and Georgia.[200]

117. The merits and consequences of NATO's decision at Bucharest are fiercely debated. At Bucharest, the US advocated extending membership while others such as France and Germany opposed it. In particular, France and Germany argued that Georgia was not ready to join because of its unresolved territorial disputes, which risked prompting a direct confrontation with Russia. Baroness Taylor told us, "We did not offer a membership action plan because we were not ready for that".[201]

118. Russia made it clear that there would have been consequences if NATO had granted Georgia and Ukraine MAP status. In February 2009, President Putin threatened to target Russian missiles against Ukraine if the country ever hosted NATO military installations.[202] Russia felt that NATO did not go far enough in rejecting Georgia and the Ukraine's application for MAP status, as NATO had still left the door open for their membership. Russia's Ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, called the Alliance's promise of eventual membership an "obvious affront to any vision of partnership or democracy".[203] Some commentators believe that Russia's actions in Georgia were a result of NATO's decision at Bucharest, which left the door open to Georgian membership.[204] Others believe that NATO's failure to grant Georgia MAP status emboldened Russia to take the action that it did in Georgia. Andrew Wood commented,

If I were a Georgian I might well feel, because I would feel I had been attacked, that I might not have been attacked if I at least had had MAP status".[205]

However, he concluded that in reality MAP status would probably have not made a difference to the course of events in Georgia.


119. Advocates of Georgian and Ukrainian membership to NATO argue that it would enhance the security of existing NATO members and regional stability. The Polish Embassy stated,

the best tool for stabilising the Euro-Atlantic area are NATO's and EU's enlargement policies. Maintaining membership prospects and active NATO and EU assistance with the adjustment policies will be the best remedy for the post-Soviet region and may constitute a part of a constructive answer to Moscow's politics in the area.[206]

It is clear that one of the main reasons why the aspiring countries want to join NATO is that they believe that their security will be significantly enhanced. They believe that NATO's Article 5 mutual defence clause would either deter potential attackers or ensure that other NATO Member States would come to their aid. A further argument put forward in favour of granting NATO membership is that it helps promote democracy in aspiring states. The FCO stated, "the strict criteria, which aspirant members must meet, help to entrench democratic and defence reform within these countries".[207]

120. Others argue that Russia should not be granted a veto over NATO membership. There are consequences of not enlarging, just as there are risks attached to extending membership. James Sherr argued "the surest way to create major conflict in the region would be for us to close the door and accept Russia's claims to it".[208] He stated that Georgia and Ukraine were not yet ready to join NATO under its membership criteria, but that this was distinct from ruling out further enlargement.[209]

121. On the other hand, others argue that extending membership would unduly antagonise Russia and damage Alliance unity. A recent report from a bi-partisan commission in Washington recommended that NATO abandon plans for extending membership to Georgia and Ukraine. It argued that their membership would weaken the security of existing members and could "seriously damage" relations between NATO and Russia.[210] Professor Margot Light suggested that extending NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine could split NATO:

I think what would really pull the Alliance apart would be the possibility of Russia attacking a NATO member and Article 5 being invoked. I think that really would split NATO completely.[211]

122. Russia should not have a veto over NATO membership. The costs of NATO closing the door on further enlargement are as great as the costs of premature enlargement. Membership of NATO should be based on the performance of aspiring countries in meeting the criteria for membership. We reiterate the conclusion that we set out in our Report, The future of NATO and European defence: [212]

NATO should continue to be open to the acceptance of new members in the Euro-Atlantic area. The promise of NATO membership provides the Alliance with a means of encouraging countries on its borders to embrace internal democratic reform and the reform of their Armed Forces; it is a powerful tool of defence diplomacy. However, it is important that as new members join the Alliance they bring with them additional capabilities or, at the least, a commitment that would add to NATO's capabilities in future. New members cannot only be consumers of security; they must also contribute to the common defence.

123. Acceptance of new NATO members should continue to be performance-based; if a country meets the criteria for membership, and can demonstrate that it is able to contribute to the security of existing NATO members it should be permitted to join. We believe it is essential that NATO's open door policy is maintained on this basis. Ending it is not in the interests of NATO or of European stability as a whole. Signalling that the Alliance has reached its outer limits, or ruling out further expansion, would consign those countries left outside NATO to an uncertain future, potentially creating instability on the Alliance's Eastern fringes. Perpetuating this instability is not in the interests of any member of the NATO Alliance.

Georgian membership of NATO

124. NATO and the Georgian Government have agreed a programme of work to prepare the country for membership. Georgia's Annual National Programme priorities include transforming its public and private sector to promote democracy and the rule of law, as well as reforming the security sector, in particular revising Georgia's national security plans following the August 2008 conflict.[213] It is clear that further work is needed before Georgia is ready to join the Alliance.

125. One of the particular areas where further work is needed is in the development of democracy in Georgia. In our previous Report we also concluded that before Georgia joined NATO:

it must demonstrate clearly and unambiguously the strength of its commitment to democracy and further democratic and political reform.[214]

Since the Bucharest Summit, there have been some regressive signs in the development of democracy in Georgia. During our visit to the country, we heard that there were some significant limits on the independence of the media. Human Rights Watch stated that some journalists had alleged Government pressure and attacks, including during the May 2008 elections.[215] Following the opposition demonstrations in Georgia, in April 2009, Human Rights Watch raised concerns about attacks on demonstrators.[216]

126. Once Georgia is able to demonstrate that it has met the performance criteria for joining NATO, there are good arguments in favour of it joining. The process of NATO enlargement has helped to spread democracy and stability across Europe. Granting Georgia membership of NATO could help secure lasting democracy and stability in the country. Yet the events of August 2008 demonstrated the high stakes involved in a decision on whether to grant Georgia membership or not. The security of Georgia may be enhanced by joining NATO, but the security of existing members is unlikely to be enhanced by granting membership to a country that has outstanding territorial disputes. Baroness Taylor commented that, "territorial issues would have to be settled before we could move forward" on Georgian NATO membership.[217]

127. Georgia's unresolved territorial disputes considerably complicate NATO's decision-making on whether to grant Georgia membership or not. On the one hand, Georgia's membership may strengthen democracy and stability within the country and possibly beyond. On the other hand, its unresolved territorial disputes could risk NATO becoming embroiled in a direct conflict with Russia. While Georgia is working towards meeting the performance criteria for membership this issue can be avoided. But it can not be avoided indefinitely. At some point in the future, NATO will need to make a difficult decision on whether to grant Georgia membership in light of the harsh reality of the situation on the ground. It is vital that NATO does not allow Russia to dictate this decision; yet it is also vital that NATO considers the possible consequences arising from allowing a country to join while it has unresolved territorial disputes which it is in Russia's interests to perpetuate in the short term.

128. If NATO does grant Georgia membership it should do so to the whole of Georgia's sovereign territory, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia. To do otherwise would be to recognise Russia's actions in those parts of Georgia as having some legitimacy. This is a very serious issue to which we do not have an answer. Yet the international community must work to address it to produce an answer and, in doing so, reduce the tension between Georgia, Russia and NATO. This will be achievable only with a recognition by Russia that its long-term interests lie in stable and harmonious relations in the South Caucasus region, rather than a relationship of threats and domination.

Ukrainian membership of NATO

129. In our previous Report, we concluded that it was unlikely that Ukraine would be granted MAP status. The reason for our scepticism was that the Ukrainian population "is, at best, seriously divided on joining NATO and, at worst, opposed".[218] Since then this position appears unchanged. Dr Roy Allison told us that Ukrainian public support for joining NATO "has remained consistently low".[219] It is possible that the Ukrainian public's support for NATO may increase over time. During our visit to Brussels, it was suggested that the younger Ukrainian population were much more supportive of NATO. For Ukraine to have a realistic chance of joining NATO, it not only needs to meet the performance criteria for membership, but it needs also to demonstrate that its public are supportive of its membership.

NATO's role in defending its members

130. There is a lively debate taking place within NATO about its role in the 21st century. Tension between members who want NATO to focus on its original mission and those who favour NATO having a global expeditionary role. The original role and purpose of the Alliance is enshrined in its founding document, the North Atlantic Treaty, which committed its signatories to:

safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.[220]

A key provision of the treaty is its mutual defence clause, set out in Article 5:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.[221]

131. Since the end of the Cold War, the role and activity of the Alliance has changed considerably. The most apparent example of NATO's global role is its command of the coalition mission in Afghanistan. In our Report, The Future of NATO and European Defence, we stated that, given the global nature of the threats NATO faces, there was no alternative to the Alliance fulfilling a global as well as regional role.[222] At the NATO Summit in April 2009, held at Strasbourg-Kehl, NATO began the process of developing a new Strategic Concept that will define NATO's role in the 21st century.

132. During our visit to Estonia, we met officials and politicians who voiced their concerns about Russia's action in Georgia and the implications for their country. Fears were expressed that NATO's commitment to Article 5 was being watered down by a focus on operations outside Europe. Edward Lucas suggested that it was understandable that Estonia would feel vulnerable given that it has configured its forces in light of NATO's requirements overseas, rather than to defend its own territory.[223] NATO's other north Eastern European members—Latvia, Lithuania and Poland—have also stressed the paramount importance of Article 5. The UK Government has acknowledged their concerns. Baroness Taylor said that the changing expeditionary role of NATO "has caused some countries to be concerned about Article 5 protection. Therefore, I think it is right that we look to reassure them".[224]

133. NATO needs to ensure that a continued commitment to mutual protection—Article 5—is at the heart of the new NATO Strategic Concept. NATO's global role is vital, given the shared challenges its Member States face. Yet this should not come at the expense of the Alliance's commitment towards mutual defence.

134. Central and Eastern European NATO members are understandably concerned about their security. Countries such as Estonia have proved to be valuable allies, particularly in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, and it is right that we reassure them about their security. NATO should take steps to reassure Central and Eastern European NATO members that their security is of vital importance to the Alliance.

135. There are different options for how best to reassure Central and Eastern European NATO members. Options include developing more extensive contingency plans for the possibility of attack, increasing the NATO military presence in Baltic States and setting up an Allied Solidarity Force.

136. NATO has contingency plans for the possibility of military attack on its members. The FCO stated that following the Georgia crisis "some Allies, particularly those bordering Russia, asked that these plans be reviewed".[225] The FCO stated that NATO current contingency plans address:

measures and arrangements for reinforcement, including Alliance political objectives and desired end-state; the missions ands tasks to be performed; planning assumptions; SACEUR's intent; the conduct and phasing of operations; force requirements' C2 arrangements and supporting measures. They are reviewed as required.   In addition, the NATO Response Force has seven generic contingency plans, one for each of its illustrative missions, which could be conducted in support of an Article 5 operation.  The NATO Integrated Air Defence System is also linked to Article 5 and has a supporting contingency plan.[226]

137. However, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance in 2004, NATO did not develop new contingency plans to cover the territory of its new members.[227] In October 2008, it was reported that General James Craddock, NATO's Supreme Commander, asked for political authority to draw up contingency plans for the Baltic States.[228] Oksana Antonenko argued that in light of the August war, NATO should have contingency plans as the Baltic States, "have a very legitimate right to be reassured; otherwise the credibility of the NATO alliance will very much be put in doubt".[229] NATO should update its contingency plans for responding to an armed attack on its members, including ensuring that these plans cover the eventuality of attack on Baltic Member States, and setting out NATO's planned military response.

138. During our visit to Estonia, we learnt about the importance that Estonia attaches to having a NATO military presence within the Baltic area. Estonian officials told us that having a highly visible NATO presence provided important symbolic value as well as acting as a deterrent. The importance of air-policing in the region was particularly stressed. NATO currently polices the airspace of its Baltic Member States. It has agreed to do so until 2018 and it is reported that it may do so well beyond 2020 because the Baltic States are unlikely to be ready to operate appropriate aircraft of their own.[230] The operation is conducted by different NATO members on a four-month rotational basis: four NATO fighters are deployed to fulfil this role.[231] In Estonia, we were also told that NATO exercises and high-level meetings in the region also helped reassure them, as well as demonstrating the value of NATO to their public.

139. The then Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon. John Hutton MP, proposed the creation of a NATO Allied Solidarity Force (ASF) at a meeting of Defence Ministers in Poland on 19 February 2009. Baroness Taylor told us that the proposed size of the force was 1,500—although earlier press reports stated 3,000.[232] She explained that the proposal was to reassure "those countries that are concerned about being on the border and feel that Article 4 or 5 is important to them".[233] It was suggested that the force would comprise personnel from all NATO members. Group Captain Malcolm Crayford told us that the Allied Solidarity Force proposal was based on "the old ACE Mobile Force (Land) construct that we had in the 1970s and 1980s.[234] That was a potential NATO deployment on the flanks of NATO to reassure NATO Allies."[235] During the evidence session we queried the rationale for establishing an ASF, given the existing role of the NATO Response Force. Since then, the ASF proposal has been discussed by NATO Defence Ministers at meetings on 11-12 June 2009. We have been informed by the MoD that, instead of establishing an ASF, NATO decided to give the NATO Response Force clear responsibilities in relation to Article 4 and 5. These responsibilities would be made visible through planning, training and exercises, and would mirror the intentions behind the UK ASF proposal. We believe that NATO's decision to enhance the remit of the NATO Response Force, rather than creating new structures, is sensible. It is vital that the NATO Response Force is able to reassure Central and Eastern European Member States. NATO should maintain a visible military presence in the Baltic States, including through the use of air-policing and conducting exercises in the region.

NATO cybersecurity and Russia


140. Our interest in cybersecurity in relation to Russia was prompted by media reports that the Russian state sponsored or colluded with cyberattacks on foreign governments, such as Estonia and Georgia. Cybersecurity is however a much wider issue given our increasing dependency on information technology to conduct personal, commercial and state business. Military cybersecurity is one aspect of this wider picture. The use of cyberattacks is increasingly being seen by governments as a legitimate and essential tool of modern warfare alongside conventional means.

141. In Estonia, we learnt about the cyberattacks it suffered in April 2007. Several of Estonia's banks, schools, media networks and government departments were disabled by a sustained attack on their computer networks. The attack was conducted through bombarding Estonia's key websites with requests for information, which overwhelmed the systems. All of the country's banking is conducted online and their parliament is elected through electronic voting.[236] During our visit, it was explained that Estonia was particularly vulnerable to attacks as the country has a high level of internet usage and it has a comparatively narrow bandwidth relative to its internet use. The attacks coincided with a diplomatic row between Russia and Estonia over the Estonian Government's decision to remove a Soviet war memorial from central Tallinn to a military cemetery nearby. The Estonian Government saw the memorial as a symbol of Soviet occupation, while many ethnic Russians living in Estonia saw it as representative of the struggle against Hitler and fascism. The decision to remove the statue sparked riots by Russian youths in central Tallinn, which left one ethnic Russian dead and over 150 people injured.[237]

142. It is still not clear who was responsible for the cyberattacks on Estonia. The Russian Government and the pro-Kremlin state-sponsored group Nashi deny responsibility for the attacks. In March 2009, it was reported that a pro-Kremlin youth had claimed responsibility.[238] The Estonian Government has not blamed the Russian Government directly for being responsible for the attacks, but did publish a list of internet provider addresses where it believed the attacks were coming from that included Russian Government addresses.[239]

143. Georgia also experienced cyberattacks during its military conflict with Russia in August 2008. The Georgian Government stated that these attacks "seriously degraded" its ability "to communicate, and debilitated for long periods both public and private sector websites in Georgia".[240] The cyberattacks on Georgia have been described as an example of electronic warfare becoming a feature of conventional military attacks.[241]

144. Although it is not clear who was responsible for these attacks, what is clear is that they revealed the vulnerability of states to cyberattack. Such attacks have the potential to cause significant damage and disruption to the governance, economy and security of states. If such attacks are instigated and directed by states, it is easy to imagine that the effects would be much worse than if carried out by individual hackers.


145. Governments across the world, multinational bodies such as NATO and the EU, commercial and non-commercial organisations, in fact all of us have a stake in cybersecurity. Many foreign governments, and in particular the US Government, have recognised the scale of the threat posed by cyberattack and are taking robust action. Early in 2009, President Obama commissioned a 60-day review of cybersecurity that made recommendations to ensure that the US Government adopts a cohesive and comprehensive approach in this area.[242] The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has ordered the establishment of a unified cybercommand to improve preparations to conduct offensive and defensive computer warfare.[243] The EU is also taking action on cybersecurity. The European Commission is proposing to impose harsher penalties on people who use the internet to commit crimes. It is also planning to fund cybersecurity projects from a budget of £47 million over the next four years.[244]

146. NATO adopted a policy on cybersecurity in January 2008, which was subsequently endorsed by Member States at the Bucharest Summit. The main tangible result of this policy has been the opening of the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, in May 2008. We visited this Centre and learned about its important work in conducting research and advising NATO.

147. We also learned that, despite the strategic importance of the centre, it does not receive core NATO funding. Instead, it relies on the sponsorship of individual Member States— Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Italy, the Slovak Republic and Spain. Other NATO centres of excellence are also funded in a similar way. Estonian Government representatives that we met argued that NATO members, including the UK, should show greater support for the Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. We asked the Minister for NATO why the UK Government was not funding the Centre. She said:

there is a limit to what you can do collectively in terms of cybersecurity […] We were asked if we wanted to contribute to the Cyber Defence Centre but we felt that other things we were doing were more important and we should concentrate on those.[245]

148. On 25 June 2009, the Prime Minister launched the UK's first national cybersecurity strategy. The Government announced the creation of a dedicated Office of Cybersecurity, within the Cabinet Office, that will lead on cybersecurity across government. A new multi-agency cybersecurity operations centre in Cheltenham will also be established to provide the coordinated protection of the UK's information technology infrastructure.[246]

149. During our inquiry we were unclear of the exact contribution of the MoD to national cybersecurity. We requested a memorandum to clarify this matter. The MoD describes its contribution to the Government's policy in the following terms:

The MOD provides technical advice and expertise to the civilian agencies responsible for the UK's national information infrastructure. It is closely involved in the cross-Departmental project led by the Cabinet Office to consider the UK's overall approach to cybersecurity and develop a National Cybersecurity Strategy.

As in the case of more traditional forms of attack, the Government would be able to draw on a range of instruments of national power in responding to a cyberattack. Along with technical, legal, political, economic and other instruments, the threat or use of military force is also of course an option in cases of very serious attack.[247]

150. In taking forward work on cybersecurity, we were told during our visit to the Cyber Defence Centre in Estonia that there were significant legal and political issues to be resolved. Rain Ottis, one of the Centre's senior scientists, was reported as saying:

In the absence of a clear legal framework for dealing with cyberattacks, it's very hard to decide whether to treat them as the beginning of armed conflict.[248]

151. The UK, alongside many other countries, faces an increasing threat of cyberattack. Cybersecurity is an issue of increasing significance for the UK and NATO as society becomes increasingly dependent on information and communication technology. The cyberattacks on Estonia and Georgia demonstrate the importance of the UK and NATO developing robust resilience.

152. We welcome the Government's publication of a National Cybersecurity Strategy and the establishment of new offices to coordinate and implement cybersecurity measures. Despite information from the MoD, we are still not clear what the exact role and contribution of the MoD is towards national cybersecurity. In the Government's response to our Report, we recommend the Government to set out more clearly the MoD's current and future work in relation to national cybersecurity. The MoD should also ensure that the importance of cybersecurity is reflected within its planning and resource allocation.

153. Given the importance that the Government now attaches to national cybersecurity, we call on it to explain its decision not to sponsor the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. The UK Government should urge NATO to recognise the security challenge posed by electronic warfare in NATO's new Strategic Concept. NATO should give cybersecurity higher priority within its planning to reflect the growing threat that this poses to its members. NATO should ensure that the work of the Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is fully supported, including financially.

159   The Russian Federation, The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, 12 July 2008, Back

160   Ev 126 Back

161   Q 167 Back

162   Q 120 Back

163   Q 121 Back

164   "Russia's Lavrov drops NATO talks over expulsions", Reuters, 5 May 2009 Back

165   Ev 148, see also Q 167 Back

166   Q 167 Back

167   Q 120 Back

168   Q 120 Back

169   Q 316 Back

170   NATO-Russia Council website, www.nato-russia-council Back

171   Ev 149 Back

172   Ev 149 Back

173   Q 122 Back

174   Q 304 Back

175   Q 304 Back

176   Ev 166 Back

177   Q 166 Back

178   Ev 166 Back

179   Q 303 Back

180   Q 303 Back

181   Q 147 Back

182   Q 27 Back

183   Q 87 Back

184   Q 148 Back

185   Q 148 Back

186   "Kyrgyzstan moves to shut US base", BBC News online, 11 February 2009 Back

187   "Afghanistan Supply Base may Defect to Russia", The Washington Independent, 2 March 2009 Back

188   "US defies Russian attempt to kick it out of base vital to war on terrorism", The Daily Telegraph, 24 June 2009 Back

189   Q 314 Back

190   NATO Summit Bucharest, press release, 4 April 2008, Back

191   Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexei Borodavkin, Interview with the Interfax News Agency about Assistance from Russia for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, 25 March 2009 Back

192   Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexei Borodavkin, Interview with the Interfax News Agency about Assistance from Russia for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, 25 March 2009 Back

193   Ev 149 Back

194   Q 178 Back

195   Q 309 Back

196   The Russian Federation, The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, 12 July 2008, Back

197   Q 250 Back

198   NATO, Membership Action Plan, press release, 24 April 1999 Back

199   NATO, NATO Handbook, 8 October 2002, Back

200   Bucharest Summit Declaration, Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Bucharest, 3 April 2008, para 23 Back

201   Q 343 Back

202   "Join NATO and we will target missiles at Kiev", The Guardian, 12 February 2009 Back

203   Julianne Smith, The NATO-Russia Relationship: Defining Moment or Déjà vu?, Centre for Strategic Studies, November 2008  Back

204   Dr Jonathan Eyal, Who Lost Russia? An Enquiry into the failure of the Russian-Western Partnership, RUSI, Whitehall Paper 71, April 2009, p 73 Back

205   Q 211 Back

206   Ev 99 Back

207   Ev 127 Back

208   Q 43 Back

209   Q 48 Back

210   The Nixon Centre and the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, The Right Direction for US Policy toward Russia, A report from the Commission on US Policy toward Russia, p 9 Back

211   Q 46 Back

212   Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2007-08, The future of NATO and European Defence, HC 111, paras 199-200 Back

213 Back

214   Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2007-08, The future of NATO and European Defence, HC 111, para 189 Back

215   Human Rights Watch, Concerns and Recommendations on Georgia, 22 April 2009 Back

216   Human Rights Watch, Justice is not negotiable, 11 May 2009 Back

217   Q 342 Back

218   Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2007-08, The future of NATO and European Defence, HC 111, para 195 Back

219   Q 135 Back

220   North Atlantic Treaty, 4 April 1949, Back

221   North Atlantic Treaty, 4 April 1949, Back

222   Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2007-08, The future of NATO and European Defence, HC 111, para 41 Back

223   Q 2 Back

224   Q 323 Back

225   Ev 132 Back

226   Ev 132 Back

227   "NATO commander seeks defense plans for Baltic states", Radio Free Europe, 7 October 2008, Back

228   "NATO to draw up plans to defend ex-Soviet bloc members from Russia", The Telegraph, 7 October 2008 Back

229   Q 162 Back

230   "Longer NATO Air Role Likely for Balitcs", Defense News, 1 June 2009, p 16 Back

231   "Allied Air Component Command Headquarters Ramstein-News Release",NATO, 1 May 2009 Back

232   Q 322 Back

233   Q 322 Back

234   Afternote provided by the MoD: This construct was intended to demonstrate NATO's political will during an Article 4/5 crisis.It was rapidly deployable to NATO's 'flank countries', and had the aim of putting large numbers of NATO flags on the ground to show resolve and to underpin the Article 5 commitment. Back

235   Q 340 Back

236   "Cyber raiders hitting Estonia", BBC News online, 17 May 2007 Back

237   "Estonia hit by Moscow cyber war", BBC News online, 17 May 2007 Back

238   "Kremlin Loyalist says launched cyberattack", Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, 12 March 2009, Back

239   "Cyber raiders hitting Estonia", BBC News online, 17 May 2007 Back

240   Ev 106 Back

241   Cornish, P, Hughes, R, Livingstone, D, Cyberspace and the National Security of the United Kingdom, A Chatham House Report, March 2009, p 4 Back

242   Hatherway, Melissa, CyberSecurity Chief at the National Security Council, "CyberSpace Policy Review", 29 May 2009 Back

243   "Gates creates Cyber-Defense Command", The Washington Post, 24 June 2009 Back

244   "Brussels plans to impose tough penalties for internet crimes", The Financial Times, 15 June 2009 Back

245   Q 350 Back

246   Cabinet Office website, accessed 25 June 2009 Back

247   Ev 170 Back

248   "The fog of Cyberwar", Newsweek, 27 April 2009, p 51 Back

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Prepared 10 July 2009