The ministers of foreign affairs of NATO's 26 countries held an informal meeting on March 5 in Brussels, following the defense ministers' meeting in Cracow on February 19 and 20 (see EDM, February 23, 24). Both preparatory to NATO's April 3 and 4 summit. The Brussels meeting decided to resume full official relations with Russia, effective soon after the summit. NATO had largely suspended political relations and fully suspended military ones in the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008. That event challenged the post-1991 international order and continues to reverberate strongly in Europe and Eurasia, although its implications are not being fully addressed.
The alliance had ruled out "business as usual with Russia" (as the stock phrase went) in August 2008 until Russia abided by the French-brokered armistice in Georgia, withdrew its forces from internationally recognized Georgian territories, and returned to the "status quo ante." Since then, however, Russia has introduced thousands of additional troops into Abkhazia and South Ossetia, is building a network of military bases there, has recognized the "independence" of the two territories, carried out ethnic cleansing of Georgians, and bars United Nations, OSCE, and European Union observers from entering the occupied areas (unless these organizations first recognize the two territories' "independence").