Rogozin's Replacement At NATO Suggests More Diplomatic Approach From Russia
Russia has apparently chosen a new ambassador to NATO, and it appears to augur a change of tone for Russia in Brussels. The previous Kremlin envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, was the leader of a nationalist political party who became a sort of cult hero/villain (depending on your perspective) for his very public disdain for the alliance, which he broadcast frequently on Twitter. The new ambassador, the newspaper Kommersant reports, is Alexander Grushko, now deputy foreign minister with a portfolio that includes NATO and other Euro-Atlantic issues and a background of working in arms control issues. Kommersant says Grushko would be the first career diplomat to hold the NATO post and that the appointment would be welcomed in NATO:
An unnamed NATO official said that the alliance was "pleased that it would be Grushko and nobody else," citing his experience in covering NATO and European issues at the foreign ministry."More to the point, Grushko is a professional specializing in NATO. No need to explain anything to him," said the source, according to Kommersant.
And another story in the paper quotes a Russian expert saying of Grushko, "This is definitely a diplomatic appointment, not a political one."
Grushko has been a frequent interlocutor with American officials, as can be seen from the voluminous number of Wikileaked cables that cite conversations between him and U.S. diplomats. But he still comes off as a strong NATO skeptic, and the tone in the cables suggests no particular warmth in the conversations. Take this cable, from October 2008, just after the Russia-Georgia war:
Grushko expounded on President Medvedev's recent calls for a revised Euro-Atlantic security framework that would move away from blocs. In essence, the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and other Soviet dominated institutions created a security vacuum in Europe filled in large part by the expansion of NATO. Russia was prepared to cooperate with NATO and other transatlantic institutions. However, unchecked NATO enlargement had created dividing lines in Europe and given rise to "anti-Russian policies" in Ukraine and Georgia as well as the "unrealistic" perception in Washington that NATO's reach and appeal was global. He gave no details on how and when Russia would pursue this discussion with the Europeans or the U.S.
He also comes off as a loyal implementer of Kremlin policies, which is confirmed by Kommersant's expert. He will thus be less likely to go off the reservation than Rogozin, who often kept us busy wondering whether his barbed statements were official Kremlin policy or just his opinion, as he did when he threatened to cut off Russia's cooperation with the Northern Distribution Network if the U.S. continued to push ahead with missile defense.
Meanwhile, Rogozin now has a new job, as vice premier of Russia in charge of the defense industry, and special representative to Transnistria, where he appears eager to keep stirring the pot. One recent tweet linked to a story about Moldovan officials expressing concern about his appointment to deal with their breakaway, pro-Russia territory:
“Chisinau is waiting for Moscow’s explanations on Rogozin’s appointment” :)