a bitter melon

NATO Russia Council: going through the motions

On Wednesday July 13 the NATO Russia Council convened in the wake of the Warsaw NATO summit. It was "not a meeting of minds":

NATO HQ -- NATO Secretary General welcomes frank and open discussions in NATO-Russia Council (Jul 13, 2016)

The NATO Secretary General underlined that the NATO-Russia Council remains an important forum for dialogue. “There was not a meeting of the minds today. But it was an important opportunity to clarify our positions to each other,” he said.

The meeting then seems to have fared no better than the previous Council meeting in April. Not unexpected, according to Luis Ramirez:

Voice of America -- NATO-Russia Council Session Does Little to Ease Tension (Jul 13, 2016)

With cooperation suspended, analysts expected little progress in resolving the impasse between Russia and NATO, but the meeting was crucial since it followed what Moscow views as a dramatic and provocative change in the alliance’s posture. Russia’s representative at NATO called the measures “excessive.”

How did the NATO Russia Council become this hamstrung? Can it be salvaged? Charles Recknagel provides some historical perspective:

Radio Free Europe -- NATO-Russia Council: From High Hopes To Broken Dreams (Jul 12, 2016)

[W]hen the NATO-Russia Council was established 14 years ago, there was plenty on the table. Among cooperative projects the two sides launched were exchanging information and training for fighting against piracy, drug trafficking, and terrorism, and carrying out search-and-rescue efforts at sea.

Then-NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson welcomed the creation of the council as "a living contradiction of the forces that divided and weakened a continent for two generations." Russian President Vladimir Putin termed it "a good tool to meet our mutual concerns," adding, "We will be looking for new areas of cooperation."

Outside of the NATO-Russia Council, however, Russia and the US seem to have found common ground over Syria:

TASS -- Putin, Kerry express hope for progress in Russian-US talks (Jul 15, 2016)

In conclusion of the part of talks open for the press, Putin said: "President Obama drew my attention to the fact that the Russian Federation helped release one of the American citizens [in Syria]."

"And I’ll tell you that at your behest we’ll keep working in this way, and I really hope that if need be, the American side will reciprocate in efforts and would accommodate our request as well," the Russian president said.

Kerry said in response: "Mr. President, well aware of your request. Let me say that we are all grateful for Russia’s help. You made a difference - the difference - and we’re very grateful for that. And we are indeed aware of your request for reciprocation."