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Analysis & Opinion
11.12.09 Russia’s New European Security Pact
Introduced by Vladimir Frolov

Contributors: Vladimir Belaeff, Ethan S. Burger, Stephen Blank, Alexander Rahr, Srdja Trifkovic

Last week, the Kremlin published its draft of the European Security Treaty, first proposed in June 2008 as President Dmitry Medvedev’s first major foreign policy initiative. Moscow has been criticized for offering few specifics of this proposal, and thus failed to move its European partners toward a meaningful discussion of its initiative. It has now taken this step by putting forward a draft treaty, consisting of 14 articles. But is it even possible to imagine such a treaty? Would it improve the efficiency of the existing conflict resolution mechanisms in Europe?

President Medvedev has invited proposals from Western countries on how to build a new security treaty. The draft, which would "finally do away with the legacy of the Cold War," has been sent to all relevant leaders. The treaty is “a legal obligation under which no state or international organization in the Euro-Atlantic area can increase its security at the expense of the security of another state or organization.”

It would be open to “all states of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space, from Vancouver to Vladivostok,” as well as members of NATO, the European Union and groupings of former Soviet countries. It would place restrictions on the use of force by signatories and create a new mechanism for conflict resolution. Any security measure taken by a signatory country would have to pay “due regard to the security interests of all other parties.”

The document reaffirms the role of the United Nations Security Council, in which Russia has a veto, as the ultimate arbiter of international conflict. A clause (article 2, paragraph 1) that appears targeted at NATO operations not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, would require signatories to make sure that any military alliances they are members of do not violate the principles of the UN charter.
It would also prohibit signatory countries from allowing third p
arties to use their territory in a way "affecting significantly the security of any other party" to the treaty. The draft treaty envisions that the parties resolve all their security concerns with regard to each other through three types of forum: a) consultations among the parties; b) conference of the parties; c) extraordinary conference of the parties.

But it provides little in the way of help to parties that have been attacked or threatened with being attacked, other than the right to bring that to the attention of the Depositary, which shall immediately convene an Extraordinary Conference of the Parties to decide on necessary collective measures. The Conference’s decisions will be binding on all parties, but they will have to be taken by a unanimous vote, making real conflict resolution somewhat problematic.
Article 7 provides that "every party shall be entitled to consider an armed attack against any other party as an armed attack against itself. In exercising its right of self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, it shall be entitled to render the attacked party, subject to its consent, the necessary assistance, including military, until the UN Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.

This could give Russia justification to use force if one of its allies was attacked, and could require other signatories to help - or require help from - Moscow in a future conflict with, for example, Iran or China. But Russia also offers to undertake not to act unilaterally toward the states of the former Soviet Union and is asking the same of the West.
Is it possible to imagine that this treaty could serve as a viable replacement of or a substitute for the existing security structures, particularly those offering specific security guarantees, like NATO or the Collective Security Treaty? Would it improve the efficiency of the existing conflict resolution mechanisms in Europe? Would it restrict NATO’s ability to operate in Europe? Would it increase Russia’s influence over security decisions in Europe? Will it receive a broader discussion among European and Transatlantic powers, or will it die the quiet death of many other grand plans for European security?

Alexander Rahr, Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin:
The very fact that Russia has not received any positive response for its proposals is shocking and frustrating. Obviously, the West does not take Russia seriously as an equal partner. Neither NATO nor the EU, not even the OSCE, will engage in a dialogue with Russia on how to change the existing Euro-Atlantic architecture in a way that would suit Russia. Moscow will be confronted with the truth which it has tried to ignore so far. The West does not want to create a common security architecture with Russia on Russian conditions. The West is more than happy with the present security arrangements. NATO and the EU will remain the main pillars of the transatlantic architecture, which Russia will not be able to join. Russia would have to subordinate itself to the interests of the West in order to be integrated in this architecture. It will take a few more weeks for Russia to understand the West in this regard, and before a Russian reaction to Western ignorance can follow. But what can Russia do? It cannot force the West to take it more seriously, if the West has a view of Russia that is in such opposition to the perception which Russia has of itself. The problem for Russia is that it can't move away from the West. It needs the West for the sake of its own modernization. China does not want to form an alliance with Russia against the West. Nor can Russia isolate itself from the rest of the world. The non-answer of the West to Russian proposals will definitely have an impact on the mentality of the Russian elites.

Srdja Trifkovic, President, Rockford Institute, Rockford, IL:

Quite apart from its details and nuances, Moscow’s proposal can be taken seriously because it comes after a notable shift in U.S. rhetoric and behavior over the past year. This shift reflects U.S. President Barack Obama’s evolving strategic priorities caused in part by the ongoing crisis in Pakistan and the escalation of fighting in Afghanistan. The two key elements are his U-turn on missile defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic, and the quiet acceptance on both sides of the Atlantic that there will be no NATO expansion along the Black Sea coast anytime soon.

The problem is still what to do about NATO, and the Russian proposal offers ambiguous guidance. The alliance has morphed into something it was never intended to be: a vehicle for the attainment of American ideological and geopolitical objectives outside the core area. It is necessary to halt and reverse NATO’s recently invented mission as a self-appointed promoter of democracy and humanitarian intervention and guardian against instability in strange and faraway places.

Bill Clinton’s air war against the Serbs marked a decisive shift in that mutation. The trusty keeper of the gate of 1949 had morphed into a roaming vigilante in 1999. This event had a profound effect on Russian thinking. A decade later, the National Security Strategy approved by President Medvedev last May identified the two gravest threats facing Russia as Ukrainian accession to NATO and predatory Western designs on its energy and other natural resources. The paper explicitly called the United States a major threat to Russian national security.

Such a conclusion was unsurprising. By virtue of its location, Russia controls the crossroads of Eurasia and therefore access to its fabulous natural resource wealth. Washington craves cheap and easy access to that wealth, and under the presidency of George Bush, the United States had developed an ideology to complement such geo-strategic ambitions. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described it succinctly 18 months ago: in U.S. foreign policy there is no distinction between ideals and self-interest. U.S. foreign policy is its values, and America will stop at nothing to ensure that its values prevail. The world is divided into two camps: one is made up of states that share U.S. values; the other of states (implicitly Russia and China) which were consigned to a lesser status because their relations with the United States are rooted more in common interests than in common values. Washington has changed its tone since, and that change appears to be for the better. Obama now has an opportunity to execute a paradigm shift and inaugurate a process in which the East-West Security Pact would be just the first step on a long journey, not its conclusion.

In principle the Russian proposal is not ranged against NATO, but it could help the United States sort out the incoherent mess NATO has become by restoring the alliance’s proper legal mission as defender of the territory of its member states. The proposal’s shortcoming, however, is that it neglects the potential scope in Europe for a robust and independent EU defense capability under the auspices of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP).
To devise a more inclusive European security architecture - one that includes NATO, but more than just NATO - would require the establishment of an organization that would replace the moribund OSCE. A new security architecture embracing the main parts of North America, Russia and Europe, would allow for the collective reallocation of forces so as to counter threats emanating from outside: cross-border terrorism, drug trafficking, sex slavery, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and - most importantly - efforts to export jihad.

These threats, unconventional yet real, are a factor for unity from Vancouver to Vladivostok. That vast region is united above all by the moral, spiritual and intellectual values derived from the Judeo-Christian and Greek tradition, values that are far deeper than any issues which divide it. The real threat to the security of pan-Europa thus defined comes from Jihad, from the deluge of inassimilable immigrants, and from collapsing birthrates. All three are caused by the moral decrepitude and cultural decline, not by any shortage of soldiers and weaponry.

Strategy is the art of winning wars, and grand strategy is the philosophy of maintaining an acceptable peace. In considering Moscow’s proposals in good faith, Western powers would display an aptitude for grand strategy, an inspired grasp of the essential requirements of the moment which has been sadly lacking in Washington for the past two decades.

Ethan S. Burger, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC:
I do not see the need for a formal security treaty of the nature proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. On the other hand, I do see the need to resolve through negotiation various countries' claims with respect to the Arctic region.

Whereas arms control treaties can sometimes be useful, the era of mutual defense or
non-aggression pacts has long since passed.

Treaties tend to be overtaken by events. I doubt a piece of paper will ever compel the national security establishment of a country to limit its options if it believes that doing so would entail significant risks.

Political leaders cannot be certain that their countries' legislative bodies and militaries will take action in a manner consistent with the provisions of a particular document. A country's population will seldom feel morally bound to fight on behalf of another country, unless it itself feels threatened.

Let me cite some examples. The unwillingness of many NATO countries to deploy significant combat forces to Afghanistan; Frances's willingness to allow Germany to first partition and then devour Czechoslovakia; the refusal of the United States to come to the aid of South Vietnam, after North Vietnam violated the Paris "Peace" Accords; and Germany's violation of its 1939 Treaty with the Soviet Union.

I am somewhat amused that the Atlantic Charter was signed at a time when the United States was not officially at war with Germany during World War II. In fact, President Franklin Roosevelt could have faced impeachment for violating the Neutrality Act.

The world has enough treaties, the provisions of which are generally ignored by the signatories. Unless a treaty is in the interest of all the parties, it has no value. Nonetheless, the negotiation process can be beneficial in that it provides an opportunity to gain insight into another state's concerns and possible future behavior.

Vladimir Belaeff, President, Global Society Institute, Inc. San Francisco, CA:

In the now distant 1960s, NATO’s purpose was summarized with brutal frankness as follows: “to keep America in Europe, to keep Russia out of Europe and to keep Germany down.” In the 21st century, the United States is experiencing very serious strains from imperial overstretch, the European political and cultural boundaries are in Vladivostok, and Germany, reunited, has achieved a fruitful locus in the concert of nations.

Hence, NATO’s on-going predicament with mission definition. Hence, as well, the need to review and transform the paradigms of European security, with particular attention to threats, about which the world of 50 years ago had only very vague ideas.

The discussion about a new European security framework has been continuing for some time now. Concepts have been documented and even some organizational building has taken place. Therefore, Russia’s proposals of 2008 to 2009 should not be perceived as something new per se, although as Russian concepts they do represent a more understandable, and thus more predictable, strategic vision, based on national interests, like the rest of the world.
In the 20th century, Europe was theater to killings and destruction on an apocalyptic scale. On a per capita and per square kilometer basis, the war destruction and war casualties in Europe, including Russia, was probably the largest of the modern world. This shared experience, still periodically reinforced by the discovery of unexploded ordnance, sustains in Europe an aversion to war which is not experienced by some non-Europeans, for whom war was something remote, harmless to one’s own civilians and often profitable.

In view of the above, the shared European and Russian perception of security and military stability is more likely to create a coalition for peace, rather than a coalition for war. There is a precedent: the Holy Alliance, which succeeded in maintaining peace in Europe for a whole generation, after 25 years of devastation caused by the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of 1790 to 1815. It should be noted that in 1815 it was also the Russian government of Tsar Alexander I who championed the concept of global European security, albeit idealistically and against a degree of skepticism and cynical opposition. In our secular times, one no longer cares to reference the sanctity of alliances, but democratic and humanistic ideals can serve as a suitable substitute for religious morality, for the present.

Because of the shared history mentioned above, the Russian proposal of 2009 should receive a fair hearing in Europe.

There is an asymmetry between war and peace. For peace, the consensus of all participants is essential. For war, the belligerence of only one is sufficient. In 1939 only Adolf Hitler wanted war in Europe - this was enough. The challenge of creating consensus for security is integral to the problem, and the subject of a modern European security framework is no exception. However, the modern context is different, and that is why a new solution is needed. For NATO, the consensus was induced by a perceived external threat, represented by confrontations, like the blockade of West Berlin. Today, the threats to European peace are very different, involving non-state actors and irrational extremists - which is one reason why NATO is structurally antiquated.

How much of the future European security architecture will reflect the Russian proposal of 2009? Because of the consensus process inherent in any security treaty, by the time such an arrangement becomes reality, the architecture will no longer be Russian (or belonging to any particular nation) but a suite of precepts and protocols accepted by a community of nations, in this case the EU and Russia, and possibly others.

Professor Stephen Blank, the U.S. Army War College, Carlyle Barracks, PA:

This draft treaty is so self-serving and hypocritical that it should be rejected as they say in France, tout court. Russia supposedly starts form the precept of recognizing the integrity of all states, but does that include Georgia? Does Moscow forget that it has violated the agreements of last year with President Nicolas Sarkozy? How does this square with the new law on defense, sanctioning military intervention to defend Russians in other countries and which leaves to the president alone the right to decide whether this war should be launched? And these are only a few of the howlers with which this document is replete. The language quoted by Frolov in his introduction is in itself sufficient to show that this is not a treaty for European security, but really for undermining it and giving Moscow a free hand to do as it pleases in the absence of any supererogatory organization that could establish a true balance of power or equilibrium in Europe. Certainly it disregards the sovereignty of other European states and is a naked attempt to undermine NATO, the EU, and the OSCE. It confirms that what Russia wants is above all a free hand, the external analogue of its domestic autocracy and military superiority on the continent. This cannot serve in any way as the basis for a future European security order.

It certainly does not enhance possibilities for conflict resolution in Europe and we can see from Georgia that Russia will not accept any constraints on its behavior as long as it can evade them. Certainly, so toothless a treaty as this offers no such constraints. And accepting this treaty would constrain NATO by giving Russia veto over its activities. In fact, this is merely the latest in a long series of Soviet and Russian proposals for European security going back to Molotov's 1954 note calling for a merger of NATO and the Soviet bloc, and therefore it should, like its forbears, die a quiet or maybe not so quiet death. Perhaps the saddest thing about this is that it confirms that Russia for over a generation has been unable to formulate a coherent idea of what European security should look like other than the Putinist invention that it should have a free hand in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. More than the asymmetry of power vis-?-vis Washington and the West, it is this intellectual failure that has undermined Russia's ability to integrate into Europe; but it also testifies to the political failure to develop a sense of the necessity for Russia of doing so, and the desire of its rulers for unlimited power at home and abroad.
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