Russia-NATO Update is a new monthly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news on Russia-NATO relations from the Russian and East European media.

On September 22, 2016, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov spoke at the Russian Civic Chamber on military security issues in the context of Russia-NATO relations. In his remarks, Ryabkov stated that Russia proposed to the US the idea of developing a collective sector-based missile defense in Europe.[1] He then added that NATO has officially named itself a “nuclear alliance”, since “its nuclear doctrine provides for the possibility of launching a nuclear first strike on potential opponents.” Ryabkov also said that Russia is “seriously worried” that the United States is planning to deploy its new nuclear aircraft delivered bombs in Europe under the program of upgrading its nuclear arsenal.[2] As the Soviet Union-Russia have frequently done in arms discussions concerning Europe, Ryabkov clearly differentiates between the more constructive Europeans and particularly Germany and the Americans. Below are excerpts from Ryabkov’s remarks:[3]


‘The Ball Is In NATO’s Court Now’

“The military-political situation in Europe and the causes of its deterioration are being discussed in a fairly heated manner at various bilateral and multilateral forums, including the OSCE. The discussion has revealed that our opponents from the United States and NATO, at this stage, are not looking to find common ground. ‘Containing’ Russia is beginning to take on dynamics of its own, and ‘openness to dialogue’ has taken a subordinate role.

“Westerners continue to insist on the need to ‘learn the lessons of the Ukraine crisis and related events’ from the perspective of ‘strengthening’ the OSCE political and military tools. They would like to tighten, primarily, the provisions of the Vienna Document on confidence-building measures that allegedly allow Russia to ‘selectively’ fulfill its obligations, including in relation to the Ukraine crisis.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. (Source:

“We stand by our principled position that it is imperative to overcome the crisis plaguing the regime for conventional arms control in Europe, which should take into account existing political and military realities in Europe. The ball is in NATO’s court now.”[4]

US’ “Circumvention” Of The Russia –NATO Founding Act And The Issue Of “Substantial Combat Forces”

“In addition to a ‘purely defensive’ plan, enshrined in the Warsaw Summit, to deploy, on a continuous rotational basis, four reinforced multinational battalion groups in Poland and the Baltic States, we are aware of US plans to deploy, in Central and Eastern Europe, additional military units near the Russian border. In addition, NATO’s focus on building up its presence on the sea and in the air in the Black Sea region has been confirmed.

“All of that is portrayed as a US initiative to ‘build confidence’ among its European allies, and as a ‘powerful political signal’ about the unity of the alliance, the solidity of transatlantic ties, and the commitment to obligations under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.[5] In practical terms, it would mean an increase in the real presence of NATO troops near our western borders and more weapons and military equipment in European advanced depots. Of course, these plans are peddled as ‘not violating’ NATO obligations under the Founding Act in part related to the non-deployment, on a permanent basis, of ‘substantial combat forces’ on the eastern ‘flank’ of the alliance.

“Even though the specific parameters of what constitutes ‘substantial combat forces’ remain unspecified, it can still be argued that the US plans to establish its permanent rotational presence in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States (units will be rotated, but the materiel will remain in place), if implemented, would mean a circumvention of the Founding Act’s provisions on waiving the obligation of ‘permanent deployment.’

“We continue to remind NATO of the absence of numerical parameters to define ‘substantial combat forces’ and the specific proposals advanced by Russia on this account back in 2008-2009.”

The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) And The Conventional Arms Control in Europe (CAC)

“In the declaration of the NATO Summit in Warsaw (as in Wales in 2014), the allies reaffirmed their determination ‘to preserve, strengthen, and modernize conventional arms control in Europe.’[6]Nevertheless, in the two years since the Wales summit, we have seen no practical steps on the part of NATO. Toward the end of 2014, the alliance more or less finished work on the CAC [Conventional Arms Control in Europe] in Europe, but NATO members decided not to submit their initiatives to ‘non-bloc states,’ including Russia, ‘until the situation around Ukraine normalizes.’ So preparations for possible talks on the issue were suspended. Instead, NATO members, especially recently, continued and even intensified their accusations against us with regard to Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the CFE [the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] and its resulting ‘failure’ to meet its obligations under the Treaty.

“Over a long period, at various international forums and in bilateral contacts, we have repeatedly advocated for a substantial update of the arms control regime in Europe and the need to bring it in line with the current military-political realities on the continent. As is known, this had to do with the fact that the older CFE Treaty became hopelessly outdated and it was impossible to return to it, while its adapted version, which was adopted at the OSCE Istanbul Summit in 1999 and which we had urged our Western partners to ratify for almost eight years, has not come into force.

“One of the signals that the Europeans are once again showing interest in the issue was an article by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, ‘Greater Security in Europe for All: Reviving Arms Control,’ of August 26, 2016.[7] In response, we held consultations in Moscow with a deputy chief for disarmament and arms control in the German government. Naturally, the German vision of the situation that has evolved in the European security sphere considerably differs from the Russian view on a number of aspects, but it seems that the ball is slowly starting to roll.

“We will continue to closely watch the response to the German call from its allies, whose efforts brought the conventional arms control dialogue to an impasse and froze it. For our part, we are always open to discussion of international security and stability issues based on equality and mutual respect for interests.”

‘The US Approach… Is Based On The Desire To Enhance The Transparency Of The Russian Armed Forces’

“In its Warsaw Summit declaration, NATO also declared the ‘importance of modernizing’[8] the 2011 Vienna Document[9] ‘to ensure its continued relevance in the evolving security environment, including through its substantive update in 2016.”[10]

“In this context, NATO members have lately been insisting on a substantive consideration of their proposals that are on the table at the OSCE Forum in Vienna. This refers, in particular, to two ‘packages’: [the one proposed by the] US and [the other by] Germany.

“The US approach (in principle, we could talk about a general NATO approach) is based on the desire to enhance the transparency of the Russian Armed Forces, above all, our various types of military activity, so as to, by modernizing the 2011 Vienna Document, at least partially compensate for the lost opportunities to ‘x-ray’ us that they had before Russia suspended its participation in the CFE Treaty.

“Germany, as the current holder of OSCE chairmanship, has incorporated some Russian ideas from previous years into its initiatives. In addition, it proposes a number of updates to the Vienna Document to improve conditions for the conduct of verification activities and the establishment of military contacts.

“For our part, we are explaining to our OSCE partners that it is futile to count on the modernization of the Vienna Document given NATO’s current policy of confrontation with Russia, and that the bet on ‘containment’ is incompatible with the proposals made by some NATO member countries to ‘modernize’ confidence- and security-building measures. Our Western partners are inclined to work closely with us in this area. However, at the same time, pressure is mounting. On top of the traditional claims, there is now a new one: Russia’s ‘reluctance to participate in the modernization of confidence- and security-building measures in Europe

The Formation Of US Global Missile Defense, Including Its European Segment, Is Obviously A Destabilizing Factor

‘NATO continues building up its missile defense potential in Europe, implementing its Phased Adaptive Approach. We have repeatedly voiced our concern over the deployment of strategic infrastructure elements in the direct vicinity of our borders, which is directly affecting our security interests. The formation of US global missile defense, including its European segment, is obviously a destabilizing factor because at a certain stage the latter may start to negatively affect our strategic deterrent. It has not yet reached this stage but the potential of the US-NATO missile shield will be enhanced. In this context we consider it indicative that Washington and Brussels have not concealed their reluctance to adjust their missile plans despite the adopted agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

“We will continue to carefully monitor developments and demonstrate to the Europeans the inevitable adverse consequences of the US project’s implementation. Russia has always been ready for constructive and respectful dialogue on missile defense issues. We have repeatedly proved this in practice by making proposals on specific forms of cooperation in order to turn this issue from an ‘irritant’ to concerted effort. Thus, we offered to the United States to use information from Russian radars in Gabala [in Azerbaijan] and Armavir [in Russia] and suggested the idea of building collective sector-based missile defense in Europe.

“The United States and other NATO countries were not ready for the honest and equitable cooperation proposed by Russia. We do not see any signs that they are ready to consider the interests of both sides on a reciprocal basis or take measures to enhance international stability, peace and security based on the principle of equal security for all. Importantly, American and other NATO officials crudely distort facts in their statements on the missile defense dialogue. They claim, for one, that Russia allegedly cut off this dialogue on its own. We are disseminating the true version of events via Foreign Ministry channels.

‘We Are Seriously Worried That The United States Is Planning To Deploy Its New Nuclear Air[craft Delivered] Bombs In Europe’

The nuclear factor continues to strongly influence security in Europe. NATO has officially named itself a ‘nuclear alliance.’ Its nuclear doctrine provides for the possibility of launching a nuclear first strike on potential opponents. Its members, including non-nuclear states, are enhancing cooperation on joint nuclear planning and handling US tactical nuclear arms that are deployed in some West European countries, using carrier aircraft, crews and infrastructure of non-nuclear countries. Such ‘joint nuclear missions’ of NATO members are a serious challenge to non-proliferation because they directly contradict the letter and spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“We are seriously worried that the United States is planning to deploy its new nuclear air[craft delivered] bombs in Europe under the program of upgrading its nuclear arsenal. These bombs are less powerful but more precise, which may attest to the intention to use them against military targets in densely populated areas under certain military scenarios. In this way they are ceasing to be ‘political weapons’ and becoming ‘battlefield arms.’ The impression is that the United States is going to return to its nuclear brinkmanship, which was typical during the times of confrontation between blocs.

“Indicatively, all this is being done under the cover of the allegation of ‘Russia’s growing nuclear threat.’ Provisions of our Military Doctrine on using nuclear arms are being openly distorted. The European public is being brainwashed to believe that in the past few years Russia has been revising its views on the place and role of nuclear weapons and putting increasingly greater emphasis on them, which is untrue.

“The deployment of launchers for anti-ballistic missiles in Romania (and potentially in Poland) similar to those that are used on US warships to launch Tomahawk mid-range cruise missiles has become a new element of the situation in Europe. Deployment of such launchers on the ground may be considered a direct violation of the INF Treaty by the United States.”




[1] Under this concept, every country would be responsible for a particular sector and therefore Russia would be responsible for the sector near it. Russian President Dimitry Medvedev proposed the plan at the 2010 NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon., November 23, 2011..

[2] Ryabkov is apparently referring to the B61 Mod 12 aircraft-delivered thermonuclear bomb that is highly accurate but can be configured to carry a yield of as low as 0.3 kilotons. The bomb can be fitted on the new US F-35 stealth fighter. The low yield and high accuracy could increase the temptation of using it as a tactical nuclear weapon against targets that would have been ruled out in the past due to extensive collateral damage. See Dave Majumdar, ” America’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Weapon Passes Critical Test”, National Interest, November 20, 2015.

[3], September 22, 2016.

[4] The sentence refers to an Interfax’s interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (July 1, 2016), in which he said that the “ball” is in Russia’s court in returning to partnership with NATO. See interview with Stoltenberg:

Jens Stoltenberg: Ball is in Russia’s court in returning to partnership with NATO – Interview –


[5] See The Washington Treaty:

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty states the following: “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-defense recognized 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. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

[6] See the Warsaw Summit Communiqué:

[7] See German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s article:

[8] See the Warsaw Summit Communiqué:

[9] See the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence And Security Building Measures:

[10] See the Warsaw Summit Communiqué:


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