NATO officials had feared "an unnecessary increase in NATO-Russia tensions," and wanted no public discussions of their contingency plans to defend Baltic states from Russian attack, according to the latest diplomatic memo released from WikiLeaks.
Now that the plans are public, tensions have increased.
The plans to defend the Baltics represent a crack in the more cooperative front put forward in recent years between the former Cold War rivals.
Although NATO's core task is to defend its members, the alliance had not prepared detailed military plans for the defense of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since they joined in 2004, reports the Associated Press. After Russia's lightning victory in the 2008 war with Georgia, the three began pressing for a greater U.S. and NATO presence.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was meeting with top EU officials on Tuesday in Brussels, where he was expected to sign an agreement helping clear the way for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization next year, reports the AP.
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Russia already cooperates closely with NATO in the Afghan war, and in counter-narcotics and maritime anti-piracy operations, reports the AP. Medvedev attended the alliance's summit last month in Lisbon, Portugal, where NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen emphasized that NATO and Russia pose no threat to each other.
At that meeting, the alliance adopted its new official doctrine, which states that NATO-Russia cooperation is of crucial importance since it contributes to creating "a common space of peace, stability and security."
Still, the diplomatic cables show NATO struggling to fulfill its goal of cooperation with Russia and its promise to defend and keep safe its member states.
"Washington believes that increased public attention on the issue could complicate our efforts to achieve that goal" of better U.S.-Russia relations, the cable states. "We need to make that point clearly to our Baltic Allies and Poland, while also underscoring that we take their request for NATO contingency planning seriously and support steps to address their concerns."
Paul Teesalu, security director in the Estonian foreign ministry, described the defense plan as an "early Christmas present." He said such discussions should be conducted out of the public eye, saying that Estonia is looking for, "solidarity, not visibility."
The plan, code-named Eagle Guardian, provides for a number of NATO units to defend Poland and the Baltics in case of attack, the Associated press reports. It also identifies ports in Poland and Germany that alliance naval forces would use in case of war.
Russian diplomats in Brussels said the leaks did not come as a surprise, the AP reports.
A diplomat who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said Moscow had been informed of developments by their colleagues at NATO and through press reports in Poland.