Nadia Alexandrova-Arbatova

Head of the Department on European Political Studies, Institute for world Economy

and International Relations (IMEMO), Russia Academy of Sciences



The Russian-Georgian conflict over South Ossetia has shown that none of the existing security institutions, called to resolve such conflicts, appeared capable to effectively execute the duties. The UN Security Council was not able to react to the South Caucasus crisis in a constructive and result-oriented way having plunged in futile discussions. The NATO under the pressure of the USA has unequivocally taken the part of Georgia in the conflict. OSCE – the key facilitator of the conflict resolution process– has appeared paralyzed. The European Union (EU), strictly speaking, not being the security organization and not having security space separate from the NATO, has appeared the unique international partner of Russia, which under its own initiative has taken a difficult intermediary mission in the conflict. The very threat of a big conflict around Ukraine, which could become the beginning of a new confrontation in Europe, has revived in the West discussions about President Medvedev’s initiative on a new European security architecture. This initiative was launched in June 2008 and in November 2009 it took a form of the Draft Treaty.


Medvedev proposal as well as the Draft Treaty has caused an ambiguous reaction in the West. Some observers have compared it with the Soviet-like peaceful initiatives: “say something glamorous first, and worry about implementation later.” Other Western politicians and political analysts have regarded this proposal as Moscow’s attempts to drive a wedge between USA and Europe. But in reality it was a message to the West to do the job the international community was supposed to do after the end of the Cold War when the old binary security system was destroyed but nothing was created to replace it. However the Draft treaty has at least two soft spots.


First, it addresses only one of the fundamental contradictions of the post-bipolar era, namely the contradiction between the right of nations to freely choose and join security alliances and the right of nations to oppose the expansion of the security alliances when they are perceived as a threat to national security. But it ignores two other fundamental contradictions – the contradiction between the principle of territorial integrity and the right of nations for self-determination and the contradiction between the right of nations for sovereignty (non-interference in the domestic affairs of the states) and the right of nations for humanitarian intervention. It would be worthwhile to revise the Helsinki Final Act and define what is still topical, what could be changed or amended.


Second, the Draft Treaty does not address the question about a new security architecture itself. The postbipolar architecture of the European security is a chaotic heap of old and new institutes, without clear division of roles and functions between them that assumes rivalry of institutes and leads to a paralysis of all security system. Neither Russia, nor the West wants to destroy the existing security institutions or to build a new one. It looks that the optimal solution can be found within the context of a new distribution of roles and functions between the existing institutions and formats in line with the main directions of the European security – economic and energy security, external security of Europe, internal security, humanitarian and international law aspects of security.


It is obvious that the UN will remain the main international umbrella security institution. As far as the European security is concerned, the OSCE functions in the fields of economic and military security should be given to other institutions which are better suited to perform these missions. The OSCE is to be responsible for the international law and humanitarian problems in close cooperation with the Council of Europe.


The basis for economic and energy security in Europe should be the EU-Russia cooperation, and in a broader context between the EU, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey with the partnership of EuroAsEc when needed. It would be worthwhile to adopt a Single Energy Charter based on the energy interests of producers, consumers and transit countries as well as on the common energy system, which would strengthen security and exclude conflicts in this sphere. Such a system should be built on the long term legally binding basis with common rules of arbitrage. It will be called upon to implement primarily the projects aimed at ending the “arms race through pipelines” and to work out a model of partnership participation in the energy distribution systems of each other and the development of new fields in hard-of-access areas of the mainland or offshore.


Security within European region, first and foremost conflict prevention and conflict resolution in Wider Europe as well as fight with extremism can be assured through cooperation of the EU (in the context of ESDP) with Russia and other CIS states gravitating to EU. Formation of common rapid reaction forces for peace enforcement and peacekeeping would be required for achieving these goals. Aside from this, new international mechanisms of monitoring, arbitrage and intermediary should be created.


The external security of Europe, first and foremost, counter-measures against proliferation of WMD, international terrorism, should be achieved through cooperation of NATO/US and Russia (NATO-Russia Council) with participation of CSTO for resolving security problems in Central Asia and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Far East. This cannot be achieved without radical changes in the NATO-Russia relations, the NATO recognition of CSTO and anew common security strategy.


Of course, such a system won’t appear overnight. Today even in Russia, which has initiated this grand design, there is no broad political consensus on the debated issues, not to mention EU and NATO. However the existing problems do not mean that the goal of new European security architecture cannot be achieved by definition. No doubt, it is always easier to criticize than to make concrete proposals. If the NATO members are concerned about Moscow’s efforts to marginalize the Alliance, they must engage frequently in strategic discussions with Russia on key security challenges and present their own views on the post-bipolar architecture. Their reactive negative position on Russia’s initiative will be viewed in Moscow as just new evidence to the fact that the West does not want to change anything being quite satisfied with the existing security model.

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