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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Looks to Talks As NATO Litmus Test

Russia, still wary of NATO despite a new security agreement, is looking to the defense alliance to prove its commitment to their new partnership at talks in New York this week.

The first full meeting Friday of the Joint Permanent Council, created under the agreement signed by NATO and Russia last May in Paris, is seen in Moscow as a test of how far NATO is ready to go to create a genuine partnership.

"Russia's expectations are quite high, as I hope are the expectations of the other participants," Valery Nesterushkin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday.

"We naturally hope for constructive, detailed dialogue that will set the tone for the Joint Permanent Council's subsequent actions," he said at a news briefing.

Andrei Piontkovsky, head of Moscow's Center for Strategic Studies, said the council's work would help determine the nature of Russia's relations with NATO.

"Whether the Paris agreement is followed by anything serious or not depends very much on the policies shown at the Joint Permanent Council," he said.

The Founding Act signed in Paris was hailed as the start of a new era in relations between the former Cold War enemies.

It was intended to ease Moscow's fears over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's eastward expansion, a process that began when NATO offered membership to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary at an alliance summit in Madrid in July.

Under the Founding Act, Russia was offered a say but not a veto in some NATO affairs through the creation of the Joint Permanent Council presided over three officials, two of whom represent NATO and one Russia.

Friday's meeting, the council's first full talks at the level of foreign ministers, will focus on the issues such as the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and peacekeeping operations. Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

Just as important for Russia will be the agenda agreed for future meetings and how much NATO is ready to take into consideration Moscow's views.

Anti-NATO rhetoric has eased in Moscow, but it has not died. The opposition communists and nationalists have not been fully reconciled to cooperation with NATO and mistrust remains. Some nationalists have been regularly demonstrating outside the embassies of NATO member states in Moscow.

Military exercises involving NATO and nonmember Ukraine in the Black Sea this summer did nothing to improve the atmosphere and highlighted Russia's sensitivity to the alliance's overtures to former Soviet republics.

Strains in relations are likely if NATO goes ahead with a second wave of expansion to include not just the former Warsaw Pact states of Eastern Europe, but also ex-Soviet republics such as Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

"We will be categorically against this," President Boris Yeltsin said in July of the prospect of NATO membership for the Baltic states.