See Part I
With all the anniversaries related to security issues that were celebrated in 2015 – the 200th anniversary of the Congress of Vienna, 70 years since the creation of the UN and the IMF; and the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act – European security remains to be a very iffy structure.
The deterioration of Russia-West relations could have been predicted long before the conflict in Ukraine. Moscow was signaling its dissatisfaction with the state of things for a long time. The unipolar model of the world and international order, that guarantees prosperity and security only for selected few, was unacceptable for Moscow.
The EU’s European Neighborhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership gave rise to Russia’s concern. The OSCE and Russia-NATO Council, as well as other European security structures, have made an important contribution to make détente possible at certain periods of history. But, by and large, they have failed to live up to expectations.
Today Europe has become the center stage of the new phase of the arms race Russia and the West appear to have entered. The US BMD elements installed in Romania and Poland are a good example. If the plans to deploy Aegis-Ashore in Poland go through in 2018, Russia would respond by deploying its own Iskander missile defence system in the Kaliningrad Region. This is a «back-to-the past» situation reminiscent of the European missile crisis of the mid-1980s. Unlike now, back then channels of communication and reasonable mechanisms for contingencies existed. The current situation is more dangerous than the crisis 30 years ago. With NATO rapid reaction forces deployed «temporarily» in the vicinity of Russian borders and the CFE treaty no longer in force, the situation is inflammable with risks unaddressed at any forum. And this is mainly a European problem.
The prime European interest is to prevent the escalation of military tensions with Russia and to restore a dialogue on security issues. At this time both – Russia and Europe – face common challenges, such as international terrorism, political extremism, cybercrime and the threat of technogenic disasters. The only way to respond to the threats is to establish an appropriate international regime that includes Russia and its Western partners.
The both are united by the desire to avoid further destabilization of global politics and prevent the current trend towards chaos and anarchy in the international system from growing stronger. Three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are located in Europe. For decades, all-European structures for security have served as a model for other regions and continents.
Europe and Russia are in the same boat facing the threat coming from the Middle East while the United States is losing interest in European stability with its focus on the formation of a new geopolitical macro-bloc based on US global reach and plans to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). No doubt the US is a European close ally, but it has its own agenda globally. It has security concerns elsewhere on the globe; the rise of China is one of them. After the Iraq and Afghanistan wars an average American wants no headaches related to what’s happening overseas. New entanglements abroad are unpopular, even if it’s the European allies who need help.
The United Kingdom’s 2015 House of Lords report on the EU’s relationship with Russia concludes that «a serious dialogue on issues of shared interest, such as a common economic space and a shared security architecture, as well as cultural cooperation and educational exchanges could have a positive effect and alleviate the adversarial mindset on both sides».
This line of thought has its own history with the European Security Treaty offered in 2008 by then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and the OSCE «Corfu Process» initiated in 2009 swept under the rug. Russia has not only signaled its concern, Moscow has also come up with specific proposals, based on principles of common and indivisible security and mutual benefits. Russia insisted on two principles: to negotiate taking into account each other’s security interests and talk with mutual respect.
Russia acted constructively, however, European leaders failed to meet it half way. Russian proposals on development of the European security architecture were ignored by European bureaucratic system. The introduction of European sanctions against Moscow has brought no results. At the same time, the European citizens are the ones who have to pay for the sanctions while the US suffers no damage.
The recent efforts of Russia and France in the fight against terrorism as a response to the Paris attacks have demonstrated again that Russia and Europe have great potential for cooperation. Retired German Colonel Wolfgang Richter, a security expert of the German Foundation «Science and Politics», noted: «I would not call it a new Entente, but something incredible has definitely happened. Despite differences in approaches to the Ukrainian conflict, Russia and the West have worked out common solutions to global issues concerning security – the Iranian nuclear program, chemical weapons in Syria, North Korea. Now, there will be an intensive cooperation in reflection of the dangers of global terrorism».
The November 2015 Paris terror acts proved that the West and Russia share similar security interests and de facto need each other. In strategic terms, the event was a turning point. Those European states that have already faced everyday terrorist threat at their homes agree to unite their efforts with Russia at least in one sphere – the fight against terrorism. Broad international coalition including Russia seems much more effective than without it.
The European Union should acknowledge the urgent necessity to cooperate with Russia, politically and militarily and break the existing impasse in EU-Russia relations. It also sends a clear message that, in a broader sense, Russia is a EU’s partner, rather than a rival.
Europe and Russia need to urgently address the shared security concerns, such as the OSCE development, talks about a new agreement on conventional arms control and confidence building measures in Europe, the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, the fight against terrorism, and migration policy among other things. None of the global concerns threatens the US directly. In contrast, Europeans face an array of imminent security threats along with the debt crises, the burning unsolved immigration problems, and high level of youth unemployment which fuels anti-globalization, anti-EU, and anti-foreigner populist sentiment. Sweden’s former Prime Minister Carl Bildt said that Europe appears to be surrounded by a ring of fire.
This is the wrong time for Europe to make Russia a foe instead of a partner. It’s not just about being good neighbors. Europe, as we know it today, is under threat.
The conclusion of Iran deal required considerable cooperation among European and Russian negotiators. The EU and Russia managed to bridge deep differences and acted as a team to achieve the desired result.
The OSCE may be the right instrument for the job. The Germany’s 2016 Chairmanship of the OSCE offers chances for strong leadership to get quick results. The European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group has already called for an OSCE Summit in 2016, which could be used to reinvigorate a dialogue with Russia. The idea of an out-of-turn OSCE summit may well be supported by the Netherlands’ EU Presidency in the first half of 2016, if policy-makers in Berlin and Hague choose to embrace such a step. Europe should resolve its own security dilemmas. Then it will be able to join the United States on equal terms in providing security at the global level.