NATO’s No-No to Russia

Map of Sochi.

The 2014 Winter Olympic games are upon us. Citizens from all around the globe will flock to host city, Sochi, Russia, and millions of others from around the world will be tuning in on televisions. All can agree the world watches the Olympics, Summer or Winter games, for the spirit of competition and human spirit. Also, for the pride of their respective nations.

In a post-September 11th world however, many terrorist groups target or at least say they will target events like Sochi. Security has been one of the most, if not the most talked about issue leading up into the Sochi Winter Games. This topic has been raised due to an Islamic militant group, the Caucasus Emirate, in Chechnya (Russia’s North Caucasus region) calling for attacks on civilian targets in Russia, including the Sochi Games. In December, the group pulled off two terror attacks within 24 hours in the city of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) bombing a train station and later a trolley, killing 34 civilians. Volgograd is about 600 miles from Sochi.

Where does NATO come in? NATO of course is the intergovernmental military alliance. Today, NATO consists of 29 member nations. NATO has been keen on combating terrorism since it has ISAF troops fighting in Afghanistan along with American soldiers after the attacks of September 11th. Russia is not a member of NATO, but rather a looser affiliate being called a “Partner in Peace”.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, outlined ways on February 1st for a more “genuine and bolder” relationship between NATO and Russia.

However, NATO has claimed that Russia has violated international law with their temporary Sochi games security zone. Russia expanded the zone into Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region. This was done without the consent of the Georgian government. Russia has acknowledged Abkhazia and South Ossetia (2 provinces in Georgia that have separatist movements), as independent states. Georgia and Russia had a brief war in 2008 over these provinces and have had no diplomatic relations since 2008. Georgia does not recognize them as independent. NATO committed to Georgia joining NATO, but that has been on hold since the 2008 war.

NATO stated on the border issue, “NATO is firmly committed to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders”. They also criticized Russia for building a barbed wire border  fence around South Ossetia for the zone, stating, “The building of fences and other obstacles is unacceptable and it is contrary to international law and Russia’s own commitments.” NATO continued saying, “The 21st century is for bridge-building, not fence-building.” Georgia also lashed out at Russia calling it “an illegal action that violates Georgian sovereignty”

What do you think? Are NATO and Georgia right that this extension of the security zone into Georgia’s territory without their consent violates international law and Russia is playing a diplomatic game? Or due to the threats and actions by terrorists, is the Russia government  justified by extending a temporary border into Georgia for the safety of civilians?




Council on Foreign Relations

Image: National Geographic


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