Russia-NATO relations have a complicated and unambiguous historical record. Since the very beginning of the bloc's activities in 1949, the USSR strenuously criticised the Alliance's policy for being aggressive with regard to the Soviet Union and its allies. However, in 1954 the USSR came up with a peace initiative to create an all-European collective security system. At that time, the USSR was ready to consider accession to NATO. But NATO's refusal prompted the USSR and its allies in 1955 to set up their own security organisation - the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. Thus, further European history up to the early 1990s consisted in the NATO-the Warsaw Treaty Organisation confrontation within the containment doctrine.
As a result of radical changes in the world in the late 1980s, the relations between Russia and NATO saw a U-turn in the early 1990s shifting from confrontation to co-operation.
On June 22nd, 1994 Russia and NATO signed an agreement on Russia joining the Partnership for Peace program. In 1995 the Russia-NATO individual partnership program was put into operation. Finally on December 10th, 1996 at a NATO Council session, representatives of the bloc and Russia agreed to launch negotiations on the Russia-NATO Fundamental Act.
On May 27th, 1997 the Act was signed by Russia's first President Boris Yeltsin and NATO Secretary General Xavier Solana in Paris.
The agreement is based on the fact that Russia and NATO no longer view each other as enemies and set the main task of overcoming the remaining consequences of the former confrontation and competition, and of enhancing mutual trust and co-operation.
The document's principal goals are mutual transparency in developing and implementing defence policy and military doctrines; preventing conflicts and settling disputes by peaceful means in line with the UN and OSCE principles; consultations and joint participation in peace-keeping operations conducted under the UN Security Council's leadership or under the OSCE's wing.
The Act defines the goals and mechanism for consultations, co-operation, joint decision-making and joint efforts. The document also stresses the need for co-operation with the OSCE within the Partnership for Peace program, and with other international organisations.
In accordance with the Act, the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council was set up with its first session taking place on July 18th in Brussels. The Council is to hold consultations, coordinate activities and make common decisions and harmonised efforts related to security and other issues of mutual concern. The Council's sessions are held on a regular basis at different levels and in different forms. Twice a year, sessions at the foreign and defence ministers' level are to be held, and once a month at the level of ambassadors and permanent NATO representatives.
However, in late March 1999 in view of NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia, Russia's relations with the Alliance were suspended at all levels of co-operation. The relations between Russia and NATO took their final shape in February 2000 after the bloc's Secretary General Robertson visited Moscow for negotiations with President Vladimir Putin.
On May 14th, another summit of the Permanent Joint Council in Reykjavik at the level of foreign ministers ruled that the Council be transformed into a new format of Russia-NATO co-operation, the so-called Council of 20, at the May 28th meeting between the leadership of NATO countries and Russia.