been at odds for several years , and allegations of spying have now pushed their relations to a new low. moscow says is suspending its diplomic mission to the security alliance? so are they on a collision course? this is "inside story." ♪ hello and welcome to the program. i'm hashem ahelbarra. nato and russia have long tried to keep an open channel of
communication, but building trust between the two rivals has always been complicated. they've disagreed on a number of issues from security to intelligence gathering. a recent dispute about spying has led russia to break of diplomatic ties. earlier this month nato expelled , eight members of russia's diplomatic mission to the alliance, saying they were undeclared intelligence officers . moscow denied the allegations and has now suspended its diplomatic mission all together . russia has also recalled its diplomat, a creditor to the nato. the dispute is worsening relations that have been at their lowest point since the end of the cold war. russian foreign minister sergey lavrov says nato is not interested in cooperation nato . >> nato is not interested in equitable dialogue and joint work. if that is the case, we don't see the need to keep returning that changes in the foreseeable
future are possible, because nato has already stated about the impossibility of such changes. hashem: germany's foreign minister heiko mass, says russia's move will pose further serious strain on relations. >> that makes everything even tougher, and things are already difficult. in recent years, germany has repeatedly pushed for dialogue within russia over the past years. we have often convened the nato-russia council to show that we are in dialogue. this will prolong the difficult situation we're in. this frosty period that's been going on for some time and i think that especially within nato where there are military questions and where there are security questions that is anything but helpful. this will put a further serious strain on relations. hashem: several disputes have frayed ties between nato and russia and some have led to sanctions. moscow's annexation of crimea in 2014 marked a major break with
nato and the west. in russia was blamed for the 2018, poisoning of former double agent sergey skripal and his daughter in the u.k.. in response nato cut the size of , russia's observer delegation from 30 to 20. u.s. intelligence agencies have accused russia of interfering in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and in the past year, the poisoning and imprisonment of kremlin critic alexei navalny has further soured relations. russia has accused nato of interfering in its internal affairs and expanding its influence to its borders. ♪ let's bring in our guests. in moscow, dmitry babich, political analyst at rossiya sevodnya, a news agency. in brussels, theresa fallon, director of the center for
russia-europe-asia studies. in sochi, glenn diesen is professor of international relations at the university of southeastern norway. welcome to the program. dmitry, what kind of message is russia trying to send by suspending its diplomatic mission to nato? guest: most of the observers connected to the expulsion of eight russian diplomats members of our mission at nato, a few days ago. but i would point to another very important occasion. the head of the pentagon, the american defense minister, lloyd austin, is now touring georgia and ukraine. he will also visit romania. and he promised during his tour, as he said, he would reassure the countries which are on the frontline of russian aggression. and of course, this was taken very badly in russia, because at
home, the reviewers for over 30 or maybe even over 40, remember that ukraine and georgia were parts of the soviet union. kiev and get alecia are as familiar to russians of my generation as st. petersburg or moscow. so it was taken very badly in russia. i think mr. lavrov and , putin, they weighed all the options. basically nato not only expelled , eight russian bitcoins but they also cut the number of people that we can have in brussels. the maximum is just 10 people. it used to be 30 when nato-russia council was founded more than 20 years ago. so russia decided that just having that 10 people doesn't make sense. so we better express our dissatisfaction. we better send a message of
protest as mr. lavrov, our foreign minister, said yesterday. hashem: so, theresa, this isn't just about a tit-for-tat or the russians b being angry about abt the decisions made by nato recently, demetri says this is about anxiety of the u.s.'s perceived expansion further towards the border of russia. guest: i think this is part of a long trajectory downwards. this is probably the lowest point. we saw this beginning in 2014 with what happened with ukraine so i would say that this has been spiraling down. we have seen expulsions from czech republic all across the central and eastern europe, even the u.k. has been a huge expulsion of russian diplomats. it is a. . it is great if they can keep communication. that is a very key issue.
also this means that the office in moscow, which had three defense attaches, will also be closed. this valuable channel of communication is close. from what i understand people , aren't so concerned because moscow will continue to speak to washington d.c. and not go through nato so they'll have more of a bilateral approach. hashem: glenn, there has never been a case of an easy ride, easy neutral relationship between nato and russia. it has always been a long history marked by ups and downs. what is particular about this moment? glenn, nato had already diminished the value of this mission over a long period of time. it used to have a purpose as far as cooperation and building trust, but over the years, nato has diminished the value of this
mission. it used to have a purpose. nato expelled several from the russian delegation thus reducing their staff in half. there is no indications of relations improving in the foreseeable future. one has to question, what is the point of keeping the mission if the mission itself undermines its own purpose. and if i can quickly add, i would also add that the nato-russia council was supposed to be an instrument for diplomacy also during difficult times. that is when you need to plug. but the first time there was a conflict with the georgian war in 2008, nato temporarily suspended cooperation in the council until relations were back on track. so this kind of behavior from nato has continued over time and it kind of reveals a remarkable mentality in terms of the role of diplomacy. because it is not envisioned as a tool to facilitate a compromise, but rather it's
considered to be a reward if russia is compliant. hashem: all right, i see your point. dmitry, you have been talking about russian concern about what they perceive as a genuine american threat. many would say at the same time that russia's biggest problem is that its mindset has always been fixated around the idea of a nato-e.u. enlargement at the expense of the national security of russia. dmi>> well, just until recently, a very different viewpoint was predominant in russia. you correctly described the current feel for russians, but until 2014, 20 and, the official theory in russia was that we're against nato's expansion, but we welcome the european union's expansion. let me remind you that russia
was against nato expansion in 1999, and this is actually how nato-russia council came about. when mr. yeltsin visited paris in 1997 & the nato-russia relations funding act, basically this idea of the nato-russia council was a compensation for russia. the idea was that nato takes poland, the czech republic and hungary, former members of the soviet bloc, but in return , russia gets enhanced opportunities for dialogue. unfortunately, it proved to be not an equivalent exchange. i would correct a little bit my colleague, glenn. unfortunately it was not only the west that suspended the work of native-russia council. in 11999, when the
western countries attacked yugoslavia, russia suspended all the work with nato for a few months. unfortunately it is a very bad situation when nato-russian relations are the first to suffer whenever there is tension. instead of being the last thing to be removed diplomatically, it is usually the first. hashem: teresa, whenever there is a tension between nato and russia you just need to look a little bit further west to the united states of america and see which way the wind is blowing. under trump, i think there was a sense of ambiguity than under biden and his message about strength in ties with nato. do you think this is something that has emboldened nato to take an aggressive? guest: i don't think nato is taking an aggressive stance towards russia at all. the u.s. attention has been very
clear on the indo-pacific, especially in china. we saw jen stoltenberg. he wants for the new strategy for nato that they must look at both china and russia together. people in europe just want to focus on russia. others see china in the horizon. so this strategy will include china and russia. what is fascinating over the last three days is we saw a russia-china naval exercise in the sea of japan almost to kind of press the message even further that this russia china -china cooperation is taking place. so i think there is concern in europe that the u.s. is focusing on china, so they will also have to strengthen their own defense spending, and this will be difficult in a post-covid-19 taff economy. and it will take time. there's been 30 years of really lack of spending on defense across europe, so there needs to be a real clear understanding that it is not just burden sharing anymore, that there's burden shifting, and that the
europeans have to be more active in their own defense especially in regard to russia and in issues in the mediterranean. hashem: glenn, we keep talking about the row between russia and nato, but at the same time there is this idea that apparently the two failed to agree on an understanding about how to move forward, because now we're talking about georgia, about the ukraine, about the baltic regions, about the high nordic see regions. what is the problem here? are the lines blurred to the point where the russians are looking at every single step by nato or the u.s. to say that this is a red flag? guest: this is kind of the main source of our conflicts in europe. we abandoned the idea of creating a europe with russia. instead we have nato and e.u. expansion to unify the whole continent, but that effectively makes them into revisionist
powers. now the subsequent conflicts are therefore so very predictable. all those divided societies between nato and russia, -- georgia ukraine, belarus, , moldova, all of them must choose between east or west. however, these societies are very divided, they are ripped apart and they become proxy conflicts between the nato states and russia. at least in the cold war, nato was a status quo power. but from '99, it became expansionist and revisionist by giving itself a mandate to use military force and topple governments. it is deemed most, the greatest threat right now to russian security. that is the assumption which the russians are working on. which is also why this partnership with china is so important. they can shield themselves from the sanctions. they don't really need nato anymore. in this biggest project they have now is effectively giving up on integrating with europe and instead, just going east to
what they are calling greater eurasia, and that is working with russia. hashem: because geopolitics is all about perceptions and assumptions. i would like to ask this for a particular reason, because from a russian perspective, there is always concern about military expansion of nato, but others will tell you at the same time that russia's biggest problem it -- it is not going to see political reform further moving towards esports because that would be the biggest challenge facing the russian establishment. guest: i don't think so, because if you ask russians whether they feel jealous of ukrainians with their president, who has transpired, had money in the pandora operation? no. russians are not jealous of ukrainians, not jealous of georgians, with the former president sitting in jail after being accused of putting in jail lots of georgians, when mr.
scheck is -- when mr. sakashvili was in power i mean , show me this so-called superiority over any pro-western governments on the territory of the former soviet union. show me a country that would be much happier than russia. there are no such countries. and what you just mentioned in the conversation with theresa, let me remind you of the figures. the stockholm institute for peace research found that russia's defense spending is just 24% of what nato's european allies spend on their defense so . so europe is four times stronger. the united states budget is 20 times, at least 12 times bigger than the russian one. it is senseless to talk about russian aggression against the countries that have armies 14 times stronger than ours. the same with china.
if you look at the u.s. capacity in the pacific, of course, it is much greater than china's. and of course, russia and china are cooperating for a very simple reason, because nato mentions both russia and china as enemies, not just as threats, but as enemies. just read the recent interviews of mr. stoltenberg, his message is, "contain russia and strong with china." this is not a peaceful message. hashem: ok. theresa, if nato itself was established to contain what was perceived as a genuine threat by the soviet union , things have dramatically changed over the last few decades to the point where people are saying that nato should rebrand itself and understand that this is a new world order. and you don't need to keep using the mantra of russia as being a geopolitical threat. guest: i think people should
really examine what nato stands for now. we have many partners in asia, some of the biggest contributors -- apparent, south korea, -- japan, south korea and australia, they are all partners of nato. we are living in a geopolitical hero. i think with this cyber warfare, hybrid warfare, dissemination of this information, the world is much smaller and it is a geopolitical -- we need more geopolitical taking in europe. i looked at the address of the head of the european commission, which said she would make it a european geopolitical commission. she mentioned geopolitics once and that was in regard to covet -- regards to covid. i think there is a lack of looking at the bigger picture. the more that russia and china coordinate and work together the more europeans really have to see that russia and china are in
the same basket. and i think with the next nato strategy, we will see that. jens stoltenberg has been hinting very loudly that this is what is going to be in it. and after, when president biden was in brussels and they signed the new nato communique, it became quite clear that china, which was only mentioned once before, appeared many times in the documents. hashem: which is giving many people the indication that perhaps this could dominate the trajectory of nato for the years to come. that glenn, at the same time, if nato was saying that terrorism is the biggest threat to global security shifted, that towards cybersecurity, is this new row an indication that there is a problem in russia and nato relations, where russia will still top the priority as the biggest geopolitical threat or challenge for nato well well it
depends because nato consists of many states and i agree with what my colleague there in brussels referred to earlier , that these countries have different interests. so the baltic states, poland, they will remain very anti-russian. they will want to make sure nato keeps this mission. meanwhile in the united states, they would like to focus more on china. it depends. i think there might be some shift in thinking, yes, it is said that the e.u. is sorry -- the europeans are now becoming more aware that russia and china are in the same basket. but there are many recognizing, especially france and germany, that it is nato's own aggressive policies toward russia which is causing china to align themselves closer with
russia as well. there is a security dilemma and sometimes less is more. i don't think the problem with the nato is they too soft on russia. there has never been an actual policy on how russia could fit into europe. just a quick note on the u.s., the u.s. doesn't actually like -- doesn't a single partner with russia in the world. if we are too close to turkey, it is a problem. if we are too close to germany, it is a problem. there is not a single partner russia has in the world which the u.s. would not like to split up a little bit. this is not a stable world order. hashem: what does it mean for issues like afghanistan, for example, which is now becoming a big story, or syria? if you have the russians and nato not on the same page, this could have huge ramifications on those particular issues. guest: nothing good will come
from this, am sure about this. unfortunately, there is almost no soul-searching in nato about afghanistan. we saw mr. stoltenberg recently gave an interview to a spanish newspaper, and he did not say a single word of regret or self-criticism about it. he said "we did everything right. we defended the western world from terrorism emanating from afghanistan." and, of course, the afghan problem could only be solved with cooperation between russia and the west. i have been working in the press for 30 years, so i know that russia suggested cooperation with the united states and it'll, when they entered afghanistan in 2001. russia helped the united states to defeat the taliban. the taliban was defeated by american and russian allies.
but the united states dismissed russia help and said they would do everything themselves. same in syria. the syrian problem can only be settd by russia, turkey, iran and the west. hashem: their original players who have been playing a bigger role in those regions. now, theresa when it comes toa the u.s. threat perceptions, will this lead to a new focus on china as perhaps the biggest challenge facing nato in the upcoming years? guest: i think that is clear. they have been saying for quite some time that china is the biggest challenge. russia should be worried about china's weapons systems because they share a huge border. so although russia and china cooperate, it is a marriage of convenience because there are also tensions in that relationship.
right now they are not talking about it, but china has felt that russia took advantage of them in the past and took over siberian territory. so there are boundary issues with russia and china. and what we're seeing now in belarus is a barometer of what is going on. because china's belt and road initiative, the rail link, would go through belarus, and that is about 85% of the rail trade that they've been pushing through to europe. and because of russian actions in belarus, this is kind of causing problems for the chinese. they are supposed to have this frenemy relationship, but we're seeing that it would be more difficult for china to send railcars through belarus because of what is happening between -- hashem: i wish i had time so we could continue this interesting debate about russia, nato, and the ever-changing political and geopolitical landscape for the time being. dmitry babich, theresa fallon, glenn diesen, i really appreciate your insight. thank you. looking forward to talking to
you in the near future. and thank you too for watching. you can see the program again anytime by visiting our website aljazeera.com. for further discussion go to our facebook page that's facebook.com/aj. you can also join the conversation on twitter. i am hashem. from the entire team here in doha, bye for now. ♪ @aóovv =súsúsdk
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