By George Niculescu,
Director of Programs, Centre for East European and Asian Studies Bucharest,
Affiliated Expert, European Geopolitical Forum Brussels
Historically, the roots of the phrase "Euro-Atlantic security" stem from the revolutionary shift towards cooperative relations between NATO and its former adversaries from the Warsaw Treaty Organization promoted through the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and the Partnership for Peace (PfP). From an institutional point of view, since 1997, the Euro- Atlantic security is tightly linked with the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) which has been created jointly by the NATO members and PfP countries (including Russia, Ukraine, and the other independent republics emerging from the dissolution of the former Soviet Union) as a forum enabling an "expanded political dimension of partnership and practical cooperation under the PfP" [Basic Document of the EAPC]. The EAPC was meant to complement the respective activities of the OSCE, the European Union, and the Council of Europe.
Recently, a number of former high level policy makers, diplomats, generals and business leaders from Russia, North America and Europe have come up with a proposal to build an inclusive, undivided, functioning Euro-Atlantic Security Community (EASC), presented in a report ("Towards a Euro-Atlantic Security Community") developed in the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI), and published, in early February 2012, by the CARNEGIE Endowment for International Peace on its website. What are the pros and cons of this new approach to the "Euro-Atlantic security"?
First of all, it should be noted that the EASI report is NOT aiming at proposing a new Euro- Atlantic security architecture. On the contrary, it is specifically avoiding to shift international debate in that direction in order to prevent the emergence of potential hindrances to Euro- Atlantic security cooperation, including divisive discussions on the enlargement of existing alliances (to be seen in both directions Eastward, for NATO, or Westward and Southward, for the CSTO), on the creation of new institutions (i.e. the EU-Russia Strategic Council), and on new European security treaties (alluding to president Medvedev's proposal). It is rather proposing a revival of the cooperative security approach which had been underlying the creation of the EAPC by NATO and its PfP Partners in the 1990's, while establishing key roles for the European Union, the United States and Russia who should be acting together to transform relations among states and societies in the Euro-Atlantic area. NATO would be placed in the shadow of the three major regional actors, though its potential contribution to the EASC is not excluded. Overcoming the mistrust between Russia and the United States enabling the transformation and demilitarization of their strategic relations, and the historical reconciliation between states whose lingering enmities are plaguing many parts of the Euro-Atlantic region were offered as examples for such a transformation. Russia and its neighbours, Turkey and Armenia, Moldova and Transnistria (notwithstanding the absence of international recognition of this breakaway region of Moldova!), and the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus were specifically referred as examples of expected historical reconciliations. Making better use of existing institutions, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and of the potential of civil society were regarded as essential features of the new EASC.
EASI identified three major target areas for cooperative approaches to Euro-Atlantic security: military security; human security and economic security (the parallel with the OSCE baskets is obvious).
In the area of military security, building "a dynamic confidence-building process to lengthen warning and decision making time in both of Europe's military spheres-conventional and nuclear" [EASI report] is a key priority. However, the report pays lip service to the prospects of changing the status and composition of the peace-keeping forces deployed on the territory of internationally recognized states (such as Moldova or Georgia) without explicit international mandates. In addition, strengthening the Euro-Atlantic dialogue on cyber security was also deemed as relevant to the new approach to military security. Cooperative Missile Defence could also offer "an avenue to the larger goal of transforming the very nature of security relations between Russia and the US/NATO" [EASI report], while its failure may spoil the whole concept of building an inclusive EASC, and the future of US-Russia relations in particular.
Under the human security headline, historical reconciliation and the resolution of the protracted conflicts are the main intertwined priorities of the EASC. Protracted conflicts make it harder to achieve historical reconciliation, while in the absence of the latter one could hardly expect achieving conflict resolution. Building upon the example of the latest Russian- Polish reconciliation, relations between Russia and the Baltic states were held as a promising opportunity. On the other hand, the report is highlighting the potential of protracted regional conflicts to poison domestic politics in the affected societies, to prevent regional economic development, and to pose serious risks of escalation into a larger scale war. In addition, "the existing crisis management mechanisms (the Geneva peace process, the Minsk Group, or"5+2") haven't yielded the expected outcomes, and this might have rather a lot to do with the lack of regional strategic leadership" [see The Changing Dynamics of the Wider Black Sea in Regional Security and External Relations]. The EASC is actually suggesting an option for filling in this gap. Therefore, it calls on Russia, the United States and Europe to re- energize conflict resolution in the Euro-Atlantic area by developing new means to strengthen diplomacy, and by supplementing traditional negotiations through contributions of the civil society, and efforts to build up public support for peaceful conflict resolution, under the umbrella of the OSCE. However, the report maintains a certain ambiguity regarding whether or not the Russo-Georgian conflict on Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be addressed in this context.
The economic security dimension of the EASC was (simplistically) equated with energy security of Russian gas supply to Europe, and with energy and environmental security in the Arctic. The security of the Russian gas supply to Europe should be strengthened mainly within the EU-Russia cooperation frameworks, with possible contributions of other relevant actors. At the same time, the security of the Arctic (with energy, climate change, and political-military dimensions) was expected to help building the foundation for the EASC.
In spite of the apparent inconsistencies among the international security agendas of the United States, European powers, and Russia, the EASI report might be a blueprint for a renewed cooperative security approach in the Euro-Atlantic area. This new approach should be built upon a willingness for compromise aiming at building mutual respect and concern for the security of the others, elimination of the fear of military threats, and cooperation in meeting new security and economic challenges. Such an approach might be instrumental in the context of current limitations on what the European Union could actually do in the region, vanishing US interest for the Euro-Atlantic area, and of Russian resurgence on the territory of the former Soviet Union [see "The Next Stage of Russia's Resurgence"].
Current domestic instability in Russia could be raising the risk that Vladimir Putin would start his new presidential mandate with a focus on regaining exclusive strategic leadership in that area, as a way to gain political support from the ultra-nationalist opposition. Given the current geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East and Northern Africa, in the aftermath of the Arab spring, a cooperative approach is vital to the integrity, peace and security of the Euro- Atlantic area. Most critical is the South Caucasus region, which "twenty years after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, [...] is facing the prospects of another geopolitical vacuum" ["The Unresolved Conflicts In The South Caucasus: Implications For European And Eurasian Integration”]
Some critics point at EASI as biased in favour of the OSCE (see “Euro-Atlantic Security Community: Another Grand Design with Russia?", in Eurasian Daily Monitor, vol 9, issue 29, 10 February 2012), while NATO and EU interests would not be represented balanced enough against those of Russia. This might be true, although this should be hardly unexpected from a potential compromise with a resurgent Russia which the West doesn't seem ready to confront in the international arena.
The EASC concept might have some other flaws as well, including a minor role assigned to Turkey, an emerging regional power in the South Eastern flank of the Euro-Atlantic area (stretching from the Greater/Wider Black Sea through the Caspian Sea up to Central Asia). One should remember that "The more countries like Turkey find themselves ignored or (worse) isolated by Western powers, the more they are likely to employ the brazen diplomatic tools that they have available to pursue their objectives" [see "The Changing Dynamics of the Wider Black Sea in Regional Security and External Relations"]. It is therefore highly unlikely that Turkey would leave unsanctioned this apparent overlook of the authors of the report. Other members of NATO, including those who are not members of the EU, might also feel a bit disappointed with the rather marginal role of the North Atlantic Alliance in this potential blueprint for a renewed Euro-Atlantic security deal.
Another weakness of the new EASC concept consists in the lack of any reference to the need to review the structure and missions of the peace-keeping forces in the Euro-Atlantic area.
As the Balkans wars clearly proved in the 1990s this is a key issue for conflicts resolution. Solely by using political, diplomatic, media, and civil society means is unlikely to see progress in settling the protracted conflicts in Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, or, indeed, in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Joint EU-Russia crisis management operations and economic incentives, in particular in the shape of energy or other major regional infrastructure projects in the South Caucasus, may also have a key role in addressing the peaceful resolution of protracted conflicts.
The economic security dimension of the EASC would also need substantial beef up. Adding Caspian gas and oil supply to Europe, Critical Infrastructure Protection, disaster risk reduction, disaster relief and recovery, as well as tackling organized crime and terrorism might have also been appropriate and useful.
Whether or not the EASI report will be taken seriously in the capitals from the Euro-Atlantic area, and trigger some formal negotiations and joint actions remains to be seen. However, in spite of its current flaws (which might actually stem from diverging positions), the EASC may be adjusted to a possible blueprint for a renewed cooperative security approach in the Euro-Atlantic area. As such, in the run up to the NATO summit in Chicago, in May 2012, it should be further debated by politicians, diplomats, security experts, as well as by scholars and the civil society across the Euro-Atlantic area. These debates should eventually lead to outlining a more clear response to a question lingering since the Georgian-Russian war in August 2008: whither the Euro-Atlantic security? The EASI report proposes one answer to this question, as imperfect and incomplete as it could be. But what are the better options?
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