NATO's General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen was ready to propose new cooperation between NATO and the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) -- until the U.S. intervened to thwart Rasmussen's initiative. That's the suggestion of a U.S. State Department cable, released by WikiLeaks via the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
The cable, from September 10, 2009, is apparently the result of an inside source at Rasmussen's office who was feeding the U.S. intelligence. The source said that at an upcoming speech in Brussels, Rasmussen was to propose formal engagement with the CSTO. The U.S., however, argued that doing so would legitimize "a waning organization" that "has proven ineffective in most areas of activity." And it would strengthen Russia's hold over Central Asia, the State Department argued:
NATO Secretary General Rasmussen may be planning to take improved NATO-Russia relations to a new level by proposing that NATO engage with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The SecGen recently indicated that he has an "open mind" to such a course of action, has been in contact with the head of the CSTO, and plans to make a speech on NATO-Russia relations that would go beyond most Allies comfort zones....
We maintain that while NATO strives to enhance its engagement with Russia, including cooperation that could lead to practical results such as greater Russian assistance to Afghanistan, it would be counterproductive for NATO to engage with the CSTO, an organization initiated by Moscow to counter potential NATO and U.S. influence in the former Soviet space. To date, the CSTO has proven ineffective in most areas of activity and has been politically divided. NATO engagement with the CSTO could enhance the legitimacy of what may be a waning organization, contributing to a bloc-on-bloc dynamic reminiscent of the Cold War. Instead, we should focus our efforts on improving the U.S. relationship with Russia bilaterally and through NATO.
In addition, validation of the CSTO could further strengthen Moscows influence over our Central Asian and other partners in NATOs EAPC [Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council]. All the members of the CSTO are in the EAPC, which we believe is the proper venue in which to engage them.
Another cable, a few days later, from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the U.S.'s ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, lays out some specific talking points that Daalder was to bring up with Rasmussen:
-- In your speech at the Carnegie Europe Center on September 18, we strongly urge you not to get ahead of Allies deliberations by announcing new NATO-Russia initiatives that have yet to be formally considered by the Alliance.
-- In this vein, it would be premature to announce that NATO will begin official contacts with the CSTO. NATO has yet to formally discuss, let alone agree to, engagement with the CSTO. This will certainly require extensive review in many Allied capitals. Washington is currently reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of CSTO engagement in order to contribute to an informed debate when Allies do in fact begin discussions on this policy.
The intervention appears to have worked: In his speech, Rasmussen didn't even bring up the CSTO. And what have we heard lately about NATO-CSTO cooperation? Not much...