Communication links key to Nato-Russia ties

This has been a month that shook the world. The Russian invasion of Georgia changed the dynamics of Washington-Moscow relations and forced politicians and analysts to re-examine how close future ties should be. Moscow has already shown its intention by informing Nato it will break off military cooperation with the West's military alliance. This was in response to Nato's earlier announcement that there could be "no business as usual" as long as Russian forces remained in Georgia.

The consequences and diplomatic fallout from the short war with Georgia is lasting, much longer than the brief military exchanges. It is important to make sure the diplomatic barbs are not allowed to set the agenda for more catastrophic actions, which can occur all too easily if standard communication lines between Nato and Moscow are cut.

The potential for greater escalation is obvious, especially with Nato warships in the Black Sea for what the alliance said were long-planned exercises and routine visits to ports in Romania and Bulgaria. It may be that the trips were planned long before the Georgian invasion, but it is not difficult to envisage a scenario where a naval incident could ignite into something uncontrollable.

Nato and Russia have different global objectives, but it is in times of crisis that the two must establish secure and reliable communications. The Georgian conflict has changed the world order, but it must not be used either as an excuse or catalyst for military action between Moscow and Washington. The scope for misunderstanding is great and the consequences of some hot-headed action by the military of either side are too serious for there not to be a secure line of communication. What is a crisis in the Caucasus must not be allowed escalate into a crisis for the world.

[Source: Gulfnews, Dubai, Are, 22Aug08]

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