Russia emerged from a confidence-building summit with Nato yesterday by stressing that it was now up to the West to make sure that its relations with Moscow did not run off course.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev saw himself wooed in Lisbon not only by the 28-member Alliance but also personally by Barack Obama – with the US leader initiating what he termed a “very cordial” talk with the Kremlin chief.
But Mr Medvedev made clear at a post-event briefing that he was disappointed with both the timeline that Nato had set for its withdrawal from Afghanistan and with the US Senate’s resistance to a new nuclear arms deal with Russia.
His advisers and the media meanwhile heaped a heavy dose of scepticism on Nato’s official decision to remove the “threat” label from its relations with its Cold War-era foe.
“So Nato says that it is no longer a threat to Russia,” Russia’s Nato pointman Dmitry Rogozin told state TV on Saturday evening.
“This phrase is followed by a period – but this is a virtual period that actually reads like a comma. For it in fact says nothing about whether Nato still perceives Russia itself as a threat.”
But it was Mr Medvedev’s frank comments on Nato’s decision to cede full control to local Afghan forces by 2014 and the US Senate’s hesitance to ratify the New START treaty that spoke the loudest.
“I feel that the situation in Afghanistan is – to put it mildly – still far from calm... The terrorist threats emerging from Afghanistan are also great. So can this be done in the near future? I do not know. But I have my doubts.”
And he was just as blunt about the stalled nuclear arms reduction pact.
“We will act in symmetry to what is happening in the United States,” said Mr Medvedev.
“It would be a shame (if the treaty was not ratified) because in that case the efforts of many people – efforts aimed at securing a general easing of tension and resetting Russia’s relations with the United States... and Nato – would have gone to waste.”
The remarks underlined a new Kremlin confidence and a sense here that Russia was now commanding a position of strength.
The US is in the a tricky position of failing to come through on a nuclear arms deal that Mr Obama has not only promised Russia but made into the centrepiece of the “reset” in relations agreed between the two sides.
Nato meanwhile is wooing Moscow to join a new anti-ballistic missile systems just two years after breaking off all contacts with Russia following its controversial invasion of Georgia.
Kremlin officials have stressed that this rapprochement amounts to a Nato admission that the Russia was justified in going to war with its tiny but pesky neighbour.