Does a new treaty on European security have a future?

Does a new treaty on European security have a future?

Vladimir Ryzhkov for RIA Novosti

At a recent UN General Assembly in New York, President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated last year's proposal to draft and sign a comprehensive treaty on European security.

In the last few years, Russia has been frustrated by the international organizations in which it holds membership. They have been near idle, as with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), or have reduced their activities to what Moscow considers interference in the internal affairs of Russia and other countries. The Council of Europe and, again, the OSCE have been monitoring elections, human rights, freedom of speech, etc.

These actions have been accompanied by NATO's eastward expansion, deployment of new weapons and renunciation of commitments under the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) (for instance, the recently abandoned U.S. plan to deploy missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic). In Moscow's opinion, these are attempts to guarantee one's own security at the expense of Russia and other countries.

Russia cannot accept NATO's claims to play the role of all but the only guarantor of security in Europe, the OSCE's reluctance to do anything regarding the first and second "baskets", or the unilateral policy of the United States, which has ignored not only the UN Security Council, but often even its own allies in Europe in the last few years.

Medvedev urged all concerned parties to draft and sign a legally binding treaty based on the principle of indivisibility of security, which would secure, in part, a commitment "not to guarantee one's own security at the expense of others." At a forum on international security in Evian, France, he suggested that the parties of the proposed treaty should assume the following commitments:

- reaffirm basic principles of security and interstate relations in the Euro-Atlantic space;

- consider the use of force or its threat in international relations unacceptable;

- provide guarantees of equal security for all;

- not to allow any state or international organization to have an exclusive right to the maintenance of peace and security in Europe;

- establish basic parameters for arms control and reasonable sufficiency in the military strength.

These general principles suggest that Moscow wants the United States and the West in general to give it legal guarantees on the following:

- cessation of NATO's expansion towards Russia's borders, primarily, Ukraine and Georgia's non-admission;

- renunciation of the deployment of new military hardware and facilities in Europe, imposition of ceilings on armaments, which can be changed only by agreement between the parties;

- legal and practical delimitation of the zones of responsibility (or spheres of influence) between major security organizations in Greater Europe - NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), OSCE and probably the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO);

- limitation of U.S. unilateral activity in the region, including in those countries which Moscow considers its "sphere of vital interests."

Speaking about the format of the new treaty, Medvedev suggested OSCE modernization, vesting it with new authority. He believes it should concentrate on the first "basket". In this case, as a pan-European organization, which includes Russia, OSCE could break NATO's emerging monopoly, and pursue a uniform security policy in the entire region. In other words, Medvedev suggested a Helsinki-plus agreement.

However, there are doubts that this most meaningful Russian initiative in the last few years will find enough supporters and be carried out, for a variety of reasons.

First, many countries do not share Moscow's opinion on the inadequacies of the existing security system. To the contrary, it fully suits the majority (not only the United States, but most of the European countries). Statements to this effect have already been made by the U.S., EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and by other high-ranking officials. They suggest more active use of existing mechanisms, such as the NATO-Russia Council, OSCE, and a permanent dialogue between Russia and the European Union.

Second, it does not seem worthwhile to establish a new organization, when members of the existing ones violate their commitments (recognition of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia's failure to comply with its commitments in the Council of Europe, NATO's unilateral actions, etc.)

The main problem is not the structure of these organizations but the lack of trust and mutual understanding between their participants. This often blocks decision-making in the UN Security Council, paralyzes the OSCE, and the NATO-Russia Council, and obstructs dialogue between Russia and the EU and in the Council of Europe. Any new organization could also be paralyzed in much the same manner.

Conclusion of a new treaty requires a consensus between all states of the Euro-Atlantic region. Would it be signed by Serbia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan without revising the decisions to recognize Kosovo, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, or without settling the Nagorno-Karabakh issue? Are such a revision and such settlement possible? Without these countries, and another dozen states with unsettled grievances, how would a proposed new treaty be comprehensive?

The new security treaty is unlikely to materialize. At the same time, the discussion of its proposed provisions may be useful in specifying the positions of the parties, in their consideration in practical policy, in enhancing the effectiveness of the existing organizations and formats of cooperation, and in establishing cooperation between international organizations that never cooperated before (for example, NATO, the CSTO, and the SCO). Such debates could facilitate an elaboration of a much needed spirit of trust and mutual understanding. Dialogue between Russia and the EU can play a key role in this process. In 2003, they agreed to build a common security space. It is essential to seal this agreement in the new Russia-EU Treaty, which is now being drafted by Moscow and Brussels.

Vladimir Ryzhkov is a member of the presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, professor of the Higher School of Economics.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of Trend .

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