ROAR: “Russia and Europe see different threats”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Analysts compare Moscow’s proposals for a new architecture of a security system in Europe to the initiatives of Woodrow Wilson and Charles de Gaulle, but doubt that Europeans and the US will support them.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has presented the draft European security treaty to the 17th Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Athens. President Dmitry Medvedev put forward a new plan in summer 2008. The draft was published by the Kremlin on the eve of the OSCE meeting in Greece.

Medvedev wants the principle of indivisible security to be sealed in international law. It should prevent any state or organization from strengthening their security at the expense of others.

OSCE started a discussion on fundamental security issues at an informal meeting in Corfu in June. The OSCE meeting in Athens “is intended to confirm the stability of the organization’s structure,” Maksim Minaev of the Center for Political Conjuncture said. At the same time, the OSCE is trying to “demonstrate increasing formal attention” to key issues of Euro-Atlantic development, including strengthening security and reforming the organization, the analyst said.

Russia is considering the meeting as a platform “for promoting the initiative on the creation of the new architecture of security in Europe,” Minaev stressed.

Moscow has claimed “the role of the ideologue and one of the senior architects of a new, safer, open and democratic world,” Vedomosti daily said. The Russian initiative concerns “all states of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space,” and reminds the world about former French President Charles de Gaulle’s idea of “Europe from Dublin to Vladivostok,” the paper said.

The daily compared the plan with US President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, in which he put forward, in 1918, his vision of a post-war world. The new security system proposed by Russia may become “another League of Nations, which failed to prevent WWII because of contradictions between its members and the fact that it was not recognized by many countries,” the daily said.

The question is whether the new initiative could be implemented, Vedomosti said. First of all, NATO member states are unlikely to sign the current wording of the Article 9 of the draft treaty which places this pact “above any of the existing international agreements.”

Gazeta daily described Medvedev’s proposals as “a new Helsinki act.” Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of the CIS, told the paper that such comparison is appropriate and stressed that Moscow “prepared a good document.” It demonstrates the “ineffectiveness of the existing mechanisms of the European security and proposes a replacement to them.”

“If the European countries sign this treaty, the OSCE should cease to exist, and nobody will be upset,” he said. But the analyst doubted that the pact would be signed until “the issues of Kosovo, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are resolved.” Now Russia and European Union understand the status quo differently, he explained.

The Kremlin urged the states and such international organizations as the EU, the OSCE, NATO and the CIS to sign the agreement, Novye Izvestia daily said, adding that European leaders were skeptical about it. “In particular, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the new architecture of the European security should be based on NATO,” the paper said. Other politicians in the West also seem to be “satisfied with the current system of security,” the paper added.

“So far there has been no official reaction [to the Russian initiative] from the leading states,” the daily said. Analysts welcome the plan, but stress that “it is only a project,” it added.

It is only the beginning of the road, a preliminary, pilot version, Aleksey Arbatov, director of the Center for International Security of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told the daily. Other states will offer their own versions and criticism, he said. Russia should be ready to remain in the minority at the OSCE, the analyst added.

Arbatov stressed that the wording in the draft saying that nobody can build its own security at the expense of others raises many questions. According to the analyst, the countries that want to join NATO may use it and say: “Do not build your security at our expense and do not prevent us from joining any alliances.”

Meanwhile, Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, said that partners had already reacted to the proposals, and they were “rather interested.” At the same time, he said that they “refrained from comments on specific proposals to study them.”

Representatives of Britain and the US at the OSCE meeting made it clear that Russia’s project “could be discussed,” Kommersant daily said. But it should be treated in the context of the plans of the OSCE member states to reform the organization rather than as a separate initiative, they noted.

Moreover, an anonymous European diplomat told the paper that “nobody will allow Moscow to implement its plan to get the right of veto in solving key Europe’s issues.”

“The lack of a similar understanding of threats is the key point of disagreements between Russia and the European Union,” Mikhail Vinogradov of Petersburg Politics Foundation believes. “For Europe, Russia is itself a threat,” he told Gazeta.

However, the president of the Institute for Strategic Assessments and Analysis, Aleksandr Konovalov, told the same daily that the main problem of the possible treaty is that it is based on the principles of the OSCE, “which has lost its significance.”

“The idea of indivisible security is a leitmotiv of Russia’s foreign policy over the last 20 years, from [former President of the USSR Mikhail] Gorbachev to Medvedev," believes Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine.

The draft pact demonstrates that Moscow “is concerned with the security in its traditional military and political sense – blocs, alliances, balance of forces and interests,” Lukyanov wrote in Kommersant daily. “Such an approach is alien to modern Europe,” he stressed.

Europe now has “a soft security on the agenda – climate, migration, sustainable development, drug trafficking and other issues,” he said. “The Europeans, except the most nervous of Russia’s neighbors, do not see a military threat for themselves,” the analyst said. “Thus, the Western partners do not know how to react to the measures proposed by Moscow, including even such radical ones as the obligation of collective defense (Article 7),” he added.

At the same time, the Western position “is not so inflexible” now as it was two years ago, he said. “Then, Moscow’s efforts were perceived as attempts to undermine the hated NATO. Now a vague feeling is growing in Europe that not everything is well in the security sphere,” the analyst noted.

“And the statements that the current institutions are enough for Europe are becoming less convincing given the obvious difficulties that NATO and the OSCE are experiencing,” Lukyanov said.

First, the parties should “clarify what exactly is important for them in the security sphere and how to combine their concerns,” the analyst stressed. “It is not the fact that the compromise is possible now, but a starting point is necessary for dialogue, and Russia’s project could be such point.”

Sergey Borisov, RT