Russia Drafts European Security Pact

Volha Charnysh

A Russian proposal for a new European security treaty has drawn support from some former Soviet states, but Western government leaders and others have reacted coolly to the plan.

The text of the draft treaty was published Nov. 29 on the Kremlin’s official Web site, which said the pact would “finally do away with the Cold War legacy.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent the draft to the heads of state and international organizations in the Euro-Atlantic region. The proposal came ahead of the Dec. 1-2 ministerial council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Athens, as well as the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. Russia had initially threatened to cancel the NATO meeting over what it said was the alliance’s refusal to consider the draft.

Speaking on Russian television Dec. 1, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said some alliance members were trying to block Moscow’s proposals. The proposals are “suffering from Cold War psychology,” he said. He warned that making decisions “without taking Russia’s interests and opinions into account won’t work.”

At the OSCE meeting, several delegates agreed on the need to improve European security, but few mentioned the Russian proposal. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Dec. 17 the alliance was prepared to discuss the draft but he saw no need for a new agreement. He noted that a security framework already existed in the form of the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, the Charter for European Security of 1999, and the Rome Declaration of 2002.

In the statement on its Web site, the Kremlin said the new European security treaty would be based on the principle that no nation or organization is “entitled to strengthen its own security at the cost of other nations or organizations.” The draft would enable signatories to object to actions by others and call a summit if they considered their security under threat.

According to Article 2 of the draft, parties to the treaty would have to ensure that decisions within the framework of organizations and alliances to which they belong “do not affect significantly security of any Party or Parties to the Treaty” and do not conflict with the new treaty, international law, or decisions of the UN Security Council. Article 3 of the draft treaty says that the parties are entitled to request “information on any significant legislative, administrative or organizational measures” taken by another party if the measures “in the opinion of the Requesting Party, might affect its security.”

Using language that is somewhat similar to the NATO treaty’s, the proposed treaty says that a party would be “entitled to consider an armed attack against any other party an armed attack against itself,” although the parties are not obligated to respond to attacks on fellow members. The draft calls for the UN Security Council, in which Russia holds veto power, to “bear primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.”

The treaty would be open for signature by states “from Vancouver to Vladivostok,” as well as by NATO, the European Union, the OSCE, and the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, which all are members of the CSTO, expressed support for the Russian initiative in a joint statement with Russia issued two weeks before the meeting.

Rasmussen said the OSCE was the most appropriate forum to discuss the draft treaty. In his statement at the OSCE meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the initiative was “designed to harness the potential of States and international organizations to create a truly indivisible space of equal security for all the States of the Euro-Atlantic region.”

Questions Raised

Speaking at the OSCE meeting Dec. 1, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the Russian proposal omitted the issues of arms control, human rights, and the Georgian-Russian conflict. His comments were seconded by Ian Cliff Obe, head of the British delegation, who also stressed the need for “a resolution of the crisis” of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Russia suspended its implementation of the treaty in December 2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

At the OSCE meeting, Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze questioned “the need to redraft” European security “in accordance to the whims of one revisionist power.”

U.S. Department of State spokesman Ian Kelly said Dec. 1 that Washington was studying Medvedev’s draft “carefully.” Any proposal “must build on the existing body of commitments” and structures such as the OSCE and NATO, which “have helped to ensure security in Europe,” he said.

The draft comes 18 months after Medvedev first raised the issue of European security at a June 2008 meeting in Berlin, saying “Europe’s problems won’t be solved until its unity is established, an organic wholeness of all its integral parts, including Russia.” NATO later suspended all joint activities with Moscow in response to Russia’s conflict with Georgia.

Medvedev, Lavrov, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have continued to reiterate the need for a new security framework. In an April 20 speech at HelsinkiUniversity, Medvedev said the draft should be seen as a “Helsinki plus” treaty, “born out of the Helsinki process, but adapted to the end of ideological confrontation and the emergence of new subjects of international law.” The Helsinki Accords, signed by 35 countries, were the final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975.

According to the State Department’s Web site, that treaty “had a far-reaching effect on the Cold War and U.S.-Soviet relations.” The Helsinki process, which included review meetings, “led to greater cooperation between Eastern and Western Europe,” according to the Web site.

Experts See Problems

In a Dec. 23 interview, Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, described the draft treaty as “very ambiguous.” It is unclear what actions would be considered under Article 2 to have a significant effect on a party’s security, he said. Moscow would probably see NATO enlargement as one such action, while NATO would not accept the notion of a Russian say over alliance decisions, he said. If the Russian draft were accepted without changes, it would trigger “dozens of disputes as to meaning,” Pifer said.

Differences of opinion would arise not just between Russia and the West, but also between Russia and Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and others, Pifer said. But the West likely “won’t say no” to dialogue and “even in Washington there is agreement that you cannot just ignore Russia on this question,” he said.

Pifer suggested the West should consider how it could turn the Russian proposal to the advantage of Western interests. “If the West were clever, for example, it might tie its readiness to discuss the Russian proposal” to solving the impasse on the CFE Treaty or at least a restoration of the treaty’s transparency and confidence-building measures, Pifer added.

David J. Kramer, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, described the Russian proposal as “anticlimactic” in a Dec. 17 interview. Kramer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and later assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, said the main problem with the Russian proposal was that Moscow would be itself violating it. He pointed to Russia’s suspension of the CFE Treaty and invasion of Georgia and said that energy cutoffs, cyberattacks, and export bans affected security in the region as much as military actions. Russia’s attempts to produce disagreements between Western allies will not work, he said.

Gary J. Schmitt, a resident scholar and director of advanced strategic studies at the American Enterprise Institute and former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a Dec. 16 e-mail that the draft treaty would have committed the United States and its allies to avoiding any new ties to states that Moscow considers to be in its sphere of influence. According to Schmitt, the proposal is “especially problematic in light of recent Russian behavior in occupied Georgia, in the recent military exercises aimed at Poland, in the new laws passed by the Duma authorizing military interventions to protect Russians and Russian-speaking peoples in surrounding states, and in the new authorities the Russian president is seeking enabling him to use the Russian military on his own authority.”

When Lavrov presented the draft treaty Dec. 4 at the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels, he also tabled a working paper proposing an agreement between Russia and NATO not to station military infrastructure in the alliance’s new member states in eastern Europe, according to The Moscow Times. Most of those states, which have joined in three waves of enlargement since 1999, are former Warsaw Pact or Soviet countries.

The draft treaty was released as Kazakhstan was about to assume chairmanship of the OSCE Jan. 1. The Kazakh government will be in charge of preparing a 2010 OSCE security summit, which could become a forum for discussing Medvedev’s initiative. Kazakhstan fully supports Russia’s proposal, Kairat Abusseitov, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, said Dec. 9. “This is one of the priority tasks of our chairmanship, to try to work to ensure that talks are launched on the important theme of a new security architecture and to ensure that they produce results,” he said. He made the comments at a London conference, “Towards a New European Security Architecture?”