This article examines the US-Russia relationship and its consequences for NATO. It also explores “European alternatives” to address the lack of US leadership vis-à-vis Russia.
A strong US leadership role in relations with Russia, including in NATO, cannot be expected as long as internal infghting in Washington about any foreign policy strategy continues. Therefore, NATO-Russia relations will most probably be hampered for quite some time by a lack of US leadership, although this should not imply any lack of initiative from European NATO members.
The EU or leading member states, such as Germany, cannot offer a realistic alternative to US leadership in hard security matters. Therefore, a more fundamental dialogue with Russia on the European security architecture — and what that entails in terms of arms control — and most confdence and security building measures will have to wait. However, the EU can play an important role particularly in the soft security sphere or in economic/energy security matters, as long as it is able to keep its own act together and stay united in its policies towards Russia.
As a credible partner the EU would be able to explore both short-term and longer-term options for security dialogue with Russia, including on some confdence and security building measures, prevention of military incidents, cooperation on Arctic issues and possibly on counter-terrorism and managing migration. In developing such policies the EU should continue to strive for close cooperation and dialogue with NATO and NATO partners.