Asia plays host to a large number of international forums, such as the EAS, ASEAN, ASEM, APEC, and SCO, which address critical issues, but there is no continent-wide organization focused on regional security, such as the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS) in America, or the African Union (AU).
Speaking at the IV meeting of the Astana Club on Nov. 13, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, proposed to create an Asian organization for security and cooperation. He claims that the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) could be used as a platform to launch the process. His idea includes the creation of a security zone throughout all of Eurasia and the introduction of a dialog between the CICA and the OSCE. A CICA-OSCE summit could take place in Astana in 2020 to mark the 45th anniversary of the Helsinki Act.
Kazakhstan hosted the OSCE summit in 2010. The fourth CICA summit, held in Shanghai in 2014, demonstrated that the group had the potential to become something much more than just a platform for dialog. It could generate new global initiatives. It was then that the term the Organization of Security and Development in Asia (OSDA) was used for the first time.
The recent EU-Asia meeting in May demonstrated this momentum, as the need to jointly tackle security issues is growing stronger. In theory, ASEAN could join the effort to expand the shared security zone. The new organization in Asia could become a kind of competitor for the OSCE, which has failed at a number of its missions, including the management of the conflict in Ukraine. Relevant bilateral military alliances would become more transparent and be incorporated into this new regional security system.
The idea proposed by Kazakhstan to create the OSDA, or the Asian OSCE, has been floating around for some time. The Asian continent is facing a myriad of security challenges. Chapter VIII of the UN Charter encourages the creation of “regional arrangements or agencies,” as appropriate initial actors seek to defuse tensions and resolve conflicts prior to the intervention of the Security Council. Article 52(2) of the UN Charter states that regional arrangements or agencies should “make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or such regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council.”
In recent years, Russia has been working to advance a multilateral dialog on the prospects for creating an Asian security architecture. Consultations on the issue initiated by Russia were launched in 2013 as part of the East Asia summits. It has actively supported the CICA in its institution-building efforts. Moscow has participated in the ASEAN-led security dialogs and cooperation mechanisms. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Singapore to take part in the Nov. 13-14 Russia-ASEAN summit.
Speaking at the fifth Meeting on interaction and measures of trust in Asia (MIMTA), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that the Asian continent needed its own platform to address international problems. Addressing the Russia-ASEAN summit held in Sochi in May 2016, President Putin made a pitch for launching the Greater Eurasia project (the Greater Eurasian Partnership), aimed at creating a shared zone in Asia that would include security cooperation and eventually encompass the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the countries involved in the integration of the China’s One Belt One Road initiative. According to him, the SCO could cement this construction. The implementation of the initiatives mentioned above could also be a practical step toward creating the unified trade and security zone “from Lisbon to Vladivostok” that Russia has proposed.
Events in Afghanistan and North Korea, the tensions between India and Pakistan and between India and China, the situation in the South China Sea, the emerging arms race, and the militarization of the region could all be placed on the agenda of the new organization, were it to be set up. The US cannot be shut out, but it should not become a dominant actor bringing its weight to bear on others. No US “exceptionalism” should be allowed to play a part or to influence the proceedings under the auspices of this new Asian security organization.
2018 is the year the OSCE marked its 45th anniversary and its experience should be taken into account. The Helsinki Act has played a very positive role, but the organization has failed to become a truly effective mechanism for ensuring security in Europe. The treaties concluded within the OSCE framework, such as the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), are either dead, or about to go belly up like the Open Skies Treaty. The NATO expansion has not added to the enhancement of European security. The organization has failed to prevent the tensions that are running high in Europe at present. Double standards are permitted, attempts to produce color revolutions are staged, and sanctions battles have not been prevented. The use of sanctions as an instrument of foreign policy has not been countered, or even condemned, by the OSCE, which flies in the face of the provisions and spirit of the Helsinki Act. The sad lessons of the OSCE should be kept in mind when the architecture of this new Asian security organization is discussed. It should be an alliance based on equality and transparency that is able to effectively handle problems in a multipolar world while keeping the so-called “Western influence” at bay.