Sergei Karaganov, dean of the School of World Economics and International Affairs, National Research University–Higher School of Economics, chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy;
Andrzej Olechowski, former Foreign Minister of Poland;
Horst Teltschik, former Foreign Policy and Security Adviser to Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Nobody seems to be interested in the fate of one Europe anymore.
A severe debt crisis rocked the European Union, hurting several eurozone states. The hotbeds of tensions on the eastern borders of the European Union from Transdniestria to Nagorno-Karabakh have been quelled so far. Apparently, Russia will be largely preoccupied with its own problems and the elections due next year. The U.S. is increasingly focusing on the Asian-Pacific track and its own problems. The ongoing environmental disaster at Japan’s Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant and the related issue of the future of nuclear energy are still in the limelight. The daily reports on dramatic developments in North Africa, the Middle East – in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan – keep the world community in suspense, too. All political players – Europeans, Russians or Americans alike – have not demonstrated much will for action, although they should and could have done so.
Of course, it is the governments’ job to set home and foreign policy priorities. But is it not too obvious that when they do act, almost all European governments give priority to their own momentary domestic policy goals, in a search to win over the electorate in the upcoming elections. Their foreign policies conspicuously lack clear strategic objectives.
Germany underwent a serious transformation two decades ago. Unified and thus much more powerful, Germany assumed a greater responsibility in international affairs. The split of Europe was overcome. The Soviet Union splintered into 15 sovereign states. Europeans had to work out – in a joint peaceful effort – a new model of United Europe. Furthermore, the end of the global confrontation along the West-East axis and of the bipolar system raised the question of what the new world order should look like.
We, the Europeans, had the chance the previous generation could only dream about. When 35 heads of states and governments convened at a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Paris in November 1990, it seemed they had a profound understanding of the emerging opportunity to build a new Europe, and it was then that the One and United Europe slogan was put forward. The forum participants signed the final joint document – The Charter of Paris for a New Europe. It was a means to launch a new era of democracy, peace and unity. The era of confrontation and split had come to an end in Europe, the document said. Relations henceforth would be based on mutual respect and cooperation. The participants worked out common principles for building a new Europe. They planned to develop a mechanism to prevent a recurrence of confrontation, overcome crises and settle conflicts peacefully.
They also set the goal of establishing a pan-European system of peace and security from Vancouver to Vladivostok, and building a common European home which would offer equal security guarantees to each tenant. Nothing but such a system can guarantee a lasting peace, freedom, security and welfare to this continent ravaged by numerous wars and sodden with the blood of millions.
Today, 21 years later, the results are disheartening. The euphoria of the times of the Paris Charter was gone as sober judgment reasserted itself. There are quite explicable reasons behind it. The negative factors were the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the painful transformations of former Communist states, the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Balkan wars, and conflicts on the eastern borders of the European Union and in southern Russia.
Simultaneously, NATO and the European Union enlarged their territory to the borders of the former Soviet Union, spreading the zone of their influence to the regions that used to be the Soviet Union’s turf. Russia viewed and continues to view NATO’s enlargement eastwards as a threat to its security. The dispute about the future of Kosovo and the war with Georgia have undermined mutual trust. Both conflicts have shown that the existing European security organizations were unable to prevent any conflict – either between states or internal ones. As before, the sides tend to mistrust each other. Russia’s apprehensions with respect to NATO and the U.S.A., prompted by national security considerations, might look far-fetched and cause bewilderment, but they must be taken seriously. In the same way, Russia has to be serious with respect to the historically justified concerns of the Baltic States and former Warsaw Pact member-states.
The West’s scant attempts to develop and reconfigure relations with Russia and East European and Central Asian countries have proven to be too indecisive, one-sided or overly superficial. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as the successor to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, lost its influence and came under criticism, above all from Russia, for being used as an instrument of interference in the affairs of its member-states. President Bill Clinton’s Partnership for Peace initiative proclaimed in 1994, has dissipated into separate measures and has had no serious impact.
In the same year, Russia and the European Union concluded a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which expired in 2007. It will remain in force until the parties have drawn and signed a new document. The parties have mapped out objectives for cooperation in four common spaces: (1) economy, (2) freedom, security and justice, (3) external security and (4) research, education and culture. But the results of the 13-year cooperation have proven to be unsatisfactory for both sides. The proposal by European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi to Vladimir Putin to set up a pan-European free trade zone and introduce visa-free travel with Russia found no support in the European Union. The negotiations over Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization which have been going for 18 years, are not finished yet.
There is no need to wait for the next crisis so that all the affected states in North America, the European Union and the rest of Europe realize that everybody is interested in close and friendly cooperation from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
Both the EU and Germany talk about “cooperation with Russia in security,” but these have been empty words. In 1997, Russia and NATO signed a Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security and set up a permanent Russia-NATO Council, which established itself as Russia-NATO Council in May 2002. When the Georgian conflict broke out in 2008, the Russia-NATO Council did not convene even once, and thus showed its insolvency.
A summary of two decades of relations is deplorable and disappointing. Although the Cold War ended, one is tempted to say it has given way to the “Cold Peace.” It seems many in the West and in the East, contented with living under the slogan “Business as usual,” have reconciled themselves to this kind of situation. Economic relations keep developing. Bilateral political meetings have been more or less regular and quite friendly. President Dmitry Medvedev has been increasingly often a participant in or a guest at multi-party top level meetings, such as G8 or G20 forums devoted to economic issues, the tripartite meeting in Deauville or NATO’s summit in Lisbon in November 2010. But essentially, the relations have not changed much. They lack the crucial element, namely a strategic vision of the prospects for these relations.
It is particularly regrettable because in the past two year efforts have been launched to facilitate more flexibility on both sides. The starting point would be Barack Obama’s decision to begin to develop U.S.-Russian relations from scratch. The first visible success in the efforts to improve these relations was the signing by Presidents Medvedev and Obama of a New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in April 2010, which envisioned further cuts in the deployed nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles. The sides agreed to cooperate in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and with respect to Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. More than 17 bilateral working groups were set up within the framework of the U.S.-Russian presidential commission. All these accords have lent a new impetus s to the development of U.S-Russia relations.
Also, the United States and NATO showed readiness to work towards developing a common antimissile defense system together with Russia as an equal partner. If the project is implemented, Europe, and, perhaps, the whole world may see the beginning of a new era of security. Developing joint air defense systems provides for intensive cooperation, stronger contacts and greater transparency in relations between all member-states, as well as their consent to allow checks into veracity of the information they supply. Simultaneously, they may begin the long-overdue disarmament and arms control talks and coordinate further concrete moves.
Another significant breakthrough, which should not be underestimated, is an obvious improvement in Russian-Polish relations. The gestures of reconciliation from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk in April 2010, together with the deep sympathy for the Poles shown by Russian citizens after the Smolensk plane crash, came as a start for the normalization of relations and offered an opportunity to establish truly good relations. These relations may work as a key to a peaceful development of entire Europe and to creating a pan-European security system.
Regrettably, other major European partners seem to be frozen in inaction. Germany seems to be obsessed by addressing its own problems. France and Great Britain are busy handling Libya. Italy and Spain are focused on domestic problems. The European Commission has been negotiating with Russia within 30 working groups over the new Russia-EU partnership and cooperation agreement for four-odd years. But the public is not involved in the discussion, and nobody knows the objectives or content of the talks. Nor do we have any idea of the initiatives certain EU members might bring forward at the current talks. Apparently, the negotiators lack a common strategic vision.
What should be done?
Russia’s full-fledged membership in the European Union cannot be an objective at these talks. Both sides are aware of it. During his presidency, Vladimir Putin noted: “Russia sees itself as a natural integral part of the European family, both in spirit and its historical and cultural tradition… When I think about our relations from a long-term perspective, I do not see the fields which would be closed for equitable strategic partnership, based on common aspirations and values.”
The parties should negotiate a special status for Russia, a variety of privileged partnership or strategic associated membership, i.e. the status Switzerland or Norway secured for themselves. They influence European politics and gain from legal, political and economic decisions taken by the EU member-states. It would be Moscow’s sovereign decision on how far it could go in bringing its national legislation closer to European legislation or even embracing it. It would imply a strategy towards gaining a capability for integration without integration as such. Russia would have new opportunities opened for modernization, while the EU would acquire an important partner in Europe. At the same time, both NATO and Russia would be able to defend their common interests with greater efficiency in the changing world, in cooperation and competition with new centers of power.
Russia’s joining the World Trade Organization would be the next move. Its WTO membership is long overdue with almost two decades of talks. In bilateral formats, both the U.S. and the EU have removed all the obstacles to Russia’s accession to the WTO. Now both players – the U.S. and the EU – should take care to eliminate the last hindrances. In the meantime, they might begin to work towards achieving the next objective, namely a joint European free trade zone or “harmonious economic community from Lisbon to Vancouver,” as Vladimir Putin offered in November 2010. It implies full freedom of movement of not only goods and services, but people in the first place. The proposal to create a European energy community based on clear rules and joint ownership and management would be an additional important factor.
These moves would help build confidence. Mutual confidence remains the key capital, the crucial condition for intensifying relations between all European states. The reconciliation of the arch enemies achieved in Western Europe after World War II and in Central Europe after the peaceful revolution of 1989-1990, should also involve Eastern Europe. Political declarations are insufficient for it. One has to make practical steps and new reality step by step, using confidence-building measures. Forming a new European security system should begin with small moves. Rivalry and even strife can be successfully overcome with cooperation and integration. To this end, we should create an comprehensive strategic development model, and set an objective before ourselves, be it a Common European Home, One and Free Europe or an Alliance of Europe.
It foremost concerns security. In principle, a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU should include external security. The parties might reach important accords in this field. Making headway in settling “frozen conflicts” could be particularly useful in strengthening confidence. It would allow for a quick settlement of the Transdniestria conflict. The first steps in this direction have already been made. Similarly, the parties might settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The conflicts around Georgia and Kosovo can probably be settled only within the framework of a new pan-European security system.
Thus we have come to the crucial point in our reflections: What kind of conception and the key objective of a new European security system from Vancouver to Vladivostok, as formulated by the Charter of Paris for a New Europe in 1990, should we have? The attempt to revive the OSCE process by 56 member-states at the summit in Astana in December 2010, the first in the past 11 years, was a failure. It showed that there is no objective, no will and no courage to live not just for today’s sake, let alone do something at all.
So what can be done? There are three ways. The current talks over a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU can and must result in security accords and outline the opportunities for cooperation in this field, too. Since both sides have long been talking about a “strategic partnership,” it has to be fleshed out.
The second way, which is parallel to the first one, is to further intensity cooperation between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In its recent new strategic concept, NATO states that the alliance, despite all the differences between its member-states in certain issues, is confident that security interests of Russia and NATO closely link and interlace. NATO is not a threat to Russia and visa versa, Russia does not pose any threat to NATO members. Russia-NATO cooperation is strategic, as it contributes to the formation of a common space of peace, stability and security.
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeatedly proposed, Russia-NATO Council should continue to evolve. A long-term goal would be Russia’s phased accession to the alliance. Like France, Russia could first become a member of NATO’s political body. Back in the early 1990s, President Bill Clinton suggested to President Boris Yeltsin – both in writing and by word – that Russia gain NATO membership. However, this offer proved to be premature for both sides. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorksi does not rule out Russia’s membership in NATO. This idea should not be taken off the agenda.
The third way is to conclude a legally binding treaty on a comprehensive European security system from Vancouver to Vladivostok. President Medvedev reiterated the proposal in June 2008, making it a topic of political discussion. Russia has specified this proposal since. The OSCE could still be an acceptable floor for reaching this objective. This organization already comprises all the states that are to become part of this process. Russia regards the OSCE as an obsolete body, but a new life could be breathed into it, and its political prestige can be raised provided all the participants wish it. But they lack political will and creative approach in the issue, too. All they voice are apprehensions, such as “NATO might weaken or get replaced by another organization” which will erode the feeling of collective responsibility in the alliance. They also fear the appearance of numerous organizations without clear-cut objectives. Of course, the contradictions between the imaginary developments and reality can only be resolved through effective political institutions, but this must not be used as an excuse for inaction.
Russians offer a new treaty on establishing an Alliance of Europe, which would include not only the EU countries and Russia, but also Turkey and Ukraine. In this event, these countries could decide on their future strategic guidelines and overcome their current geopolitical uncertainties.
There are two issues today that remain unresolved
First, there are social and political differences between Western and Eastern partners, which are an obstacle to close and trusting cooperation. Developing democracy, rule-of-the-law states and a market economy was part and parcel of the accord reached by the participants in the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Paris in 1990. We understand the difficulties faced by the states that have embarked upon the road of such reforms. Lecturing them with one’s index finger raised often yields an opposite effect; such approaches are rejected and viewed as interference in internal affairs. A rapprochement can be successful only when Russian society and its elite have real motivation, if they are confident that they will be partners in a new Europe with common values, and become an integral part of the pan-European security architecture in close relationship with the European Union. Poland’s example shows that adopting the European integration model along EU lines accelerates transformation and modernization of the former Communist state. A rapprochement between the EU and Russia could not only enhance Russia’s chances to speed up modernization and overcome the deficit of democracy; Russia could also strengthen its international role and enhance its attractiveness as a political and economic partner.
But the EU member-states also have to perform their moral duty. They should voice their resolve once again and begin to interact towards bringing together all the European nations. This will cut the ground from the politicians who doubt pan-European prospects and stake on individualization, rivalry and conflicts. The European project is incomplete without Russia and East European states, as the continent will remain politically split and economically defective.
The second issue is who will act as the motive force of the process. What governments will assume the role of leaders?
The process obviously lacks the motive force. But in October 2010, President Dmitry Medvedev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed in Deauville to cooperate in economic and security issues. They considered inviting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski or Prime Minister Donald Tusk, and include Russia in the Weimar Triangle.
Germany and Poland take different views of Russia. If they come out together, they will be able to convince other European partners. The better German-Polish relations are, the less tension there is in Russian-Polish relations. For Germany and Poland, relations with Russia and Eastern Europe should be a priority. These states, together with France, must mobilize the EU in order to green-light the initiatives this article names. Of course, they have to cooperate with Russia, East European partners and the U.S. at the same time. It is these three states that should become the motive force of the process, without turning the job over to the European Commission, or hoping that the U.S. would take up guidance of the process.
We should not wait till the next crisis make all the states it will affect in North America, the European Union and the rest of Europe realize that everybody is interested in close and friendly cooperation from Vancouver to Vladivostok. It is the only way to guarantee lasting peace, security, freedom and welfare for all. The way along this track has long been determined and responsible politicians should embark upon it. The new European security architecture from Vancouver to Vladivostok could become not only a unique historical achievement of the member-states; it would be the cornerstone in maintaining peace in the whole world.
//Russia in Global Affairs, №4 October/December, 2011. Originally published in Russian in Rosssiiskaya Gazeta (federal issue), No. 5583, September 16, 2011. And it was also simultaneously published in Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza and Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeiting