Russia’s security proposal: The wrong blueprint

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s proposal for a new European Security Treaty has been received with mixed feelings, amid doubts among its detractors over Moscow’s reliability as a partner given its inability to comply with existing agreements, write Daniel Fata and David Kramer, senior fellows at the German Marshall Fund, in a December paper.

“Some argue that the Medvedev proposal represents an important opportunity to engage with Russia on addressing security needs in Europe. Others counter that instead of focusing on the Russian proposal, emphasis should be on revitalising existing security arrangements, not their replacement or total overhaul. 

Sceptics of the Russian proposal, ourselves included, question negotiating a new architecture with Russia when Moscow currently is not in compliance with existing security arrangements, namely, the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and last summer’s Georgia ceasefire agreement. If Russia does not abide by these agreements, on what basis can there be sufficient trust and confidence that Russia will adhere to new arrangements? 

According to the text released by the Kremlin, ‘a Party to the Treaty shall not undertake, participate in, or support any actions or activities affecting significantly security of any other Party or Parties to the Treaty’. Russia is already in violation of this clause through its continued illegal troop presence in Georgia’s separatist regions and forces in the Moldovan separatist area of Transnistria, contrary to the position of the government in Chisinau and the 1999 Istanbul Commitments. 

Russia also uses other methods short of military force that significantly affect the security of its neighbours, including energy cutoffs, cyber attacks, or bans on other countries’ exports. Such tactics and behaviour clearly run counter to existing security arrangements.

Many observers suspected the Russian proposal was designed to marginalise the US on European security matters and drive wedges between and among allies in order to increase Europe’s reliance on Moscow. 

The Russian proposal also reflects the view in Moscow that NATO and EU enlargement poses a threat to Russia, ignores Russian interests in the region, and increases instability. In fact, Russia’s western borders have become more stable and secure since the enlargement of NATO to Central and Eastern Europe. 

To be fair, one should not reflexively dismiss all Russian concerns, for Moscow has a point in observing that existing security institutions have struggled at times to address key issues and to determine their role in the changing security environment. After all, the Georgia-Russia crisis exposed weaknesses in NATO, the EU and the OSCE. However, the solution is not to scrap these organisations but to reform them. 

In addition, NATO members must engage frequently in strategic discussions on key security challenges. This is simply not happening today. Instead, many Allies hesitate to discuss issues such as Iran, missile defence, and Georgia for fear of jangling politically sensitive nerves. 

NATO, the EU, and the OSCE have served and will continue to serve increasingly important roles in managing transatlantic security challenges, but they are certainly not perfect and need to be improved. That is far different from replacing them or subordinating them to a larger superstructure. 

If Moscow were to respect the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and rule of law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes, [then] pan-European and transatlantic security would be greatly improved.”

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