|Author: Martin Svárovský|
“RESET” WITH RUSSIA IN SECURITY FIELD AND THE INTEREST OF CEE COUNTRIES
Even though being often labeled as anti-Russian by definition, all Central and Eastern European countries (thereinafter as CEE countries), “new members” of the EU and NATO are interested in having good, realistic and fair relations with Russia based on principles of reciprocity and transparency and mutual benefit. This fact can be clearly proved by the foreign policy strategies of all the above-mentioned countries and also by statements of their representatives during bilateral events as well as at multilateral fora. Given their size, economic strength and limited capacities, they realize their strategic goals mainly by means of their membership in regional organizations, NATO and the EU. That’s why they are also interested in good, realistic and fair relations of the EU and NATO with Russia and welcomed therefore so called “reset” between West and Russia. Prerequisites for such relations are: common interests, good will and mutual trust on both sides. Another important precondition is political and conceptual coherence of EU and NATO foreign policy.
Following article explores to what extent these four preconditions are currently being met in the field of security policy.
Is there a need for new security architecture?
Discussions on security policy during the last two or three years were influenced by two Russian proposals. They were the so called “Medvedev proposal” on new European security architecture and the so called “Lavrov proposal” on relations among NATO-Russia Council members. For CEE countries, both of these proposals were quite problematic. Many of the principles set out in the Russian drafts aimed at limiting the autonomy of decision-making processes in both Euro-Atlantic institutions and the right of a state to join any security alliance according to its own choice.
The first proposal, containing draft “European Security Treaty”, an entirely new legally binding instrument, would in fact grant Russia the right of veto over security matters in Europe. The proposed principles of “indivisibility of security” and of “non-acceptance of strengthening security of one state or an organization at the expense of others”, constituted an essential problem. Acceptance of these principles in a form of legally binding treaty would make it possible for Russia to declare wide range of NATO endeavors as breaching these principles und thus violating “European security”. NATO would be crippled and unable to take any steps (missile defence, military exercises, redeployment or modernization of infrastructure) in favor of strengthening of security of its members – for instance CEE states - without consent of Russia.
The second proposal, a draft of the “Agreement on Basic Principles Governing Relations among NATO – Russia Council Members in Security Sphere” was example of Russian attempt to identify NATO as a place where Russia can tackle the issues that mattered to it, i.e. exclusively in the field of “hard security”. Similarly to the first proposal also proposal of Lavrov suggested adoption of the principles of indivisibility of security and of non-acceptance of strengthening of security of one state at the expense of others. Moreover, it contains proposal of limitation on deployment of “substantial armed forces in Europe”. This would exclude any placement of troops on the territory of new NATO member states. This controversial paragraph of the proposal was addressed only to those countries that were members of Alliance already in 1997 when NATO-Russia Council founding act was signed (sic!!). It was discriminatory and very dangerous at the same time. Divide et impera! In theory, the old members of the Alliance could easily accept those principles because they have already NATO infrastructure and units at their territories and don’t need any new. Thus Lavrov’s proposal was not only to test coherence of the Alliance but Alliance’s solidarity as well. And here comes the crucial point of my thesis: big, economically and militarily strong countries of the West can afford more generous compromises vis-à-vis Russia then their CEE partners.
At the end, after almost two years of debate, the view prevailed in the West that any dialogue on European security must be comprehensive in nature and not weaken the existing institutions, it should be conducted primarily in the OSCE, while addressing the level of fulfillment of current commitments by all parties, and has to tackle the issue of protracted conflicts. The so called “Corfu process”, launched in July 2009 at the OSCE ministerial meeting, set OSCE as a primary forum to discuss the future of European security, including the Russian proposals, in a comprehensive way. In other words neither Medvedev’s nor Lavrov’s proposals were accepted in their intended shape.
We can conclude that none of these proposals brought a desired result to its author, i.e. Russia. I’m of the opinion that these proposals were not a proof of good will. They were rather intended to test grounds of solidarity and coherence of NATO and the EU foreign policy. Fortunately, both organizations endured. See below in the text.
Nevertheless we can find other processes in security field that can be described as genuine manifestation of good will between the West and Russia. The process that led to signature of new START treaty and process that led to the positive outcome of NATO-Russia Council meeting at the NATO summit in Lisbon.
After some time of negotiations, Russia and the U.S. signed the “new START Treaty” last year in Prague. After ratification it entered into force on February 5, 2011. The treaty limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, nearly two-thirds less than the original START treaty. It also limits the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to 800 in total. The treaty will last ten years, with an option to be renewed for up to five years upon an agreement of both parties. The new START helps to maintain strategic balance in today’s security environment at lesser levels as well as it supports non-proliferation efforts. The Treaty is an important manifestation that the U.S. and Russia are able to tackle global security issues and reach agreement thereon. Thus it is one of the encouraging results of the “reset” and a significant contribution to building up more stable and secure international environment and to enhancing mutual trust. Moreover, this agreement on strategic nuclear arms opens up the floor to the discussion on reduction of another type of nuclear arms, i.e. tactical nuclear weapons
NRC in Lisbon
In November 2010 in Lisbon, heads of states and governments gathered on the occasion of the NATO Summit also in the format of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) .They stated that there is “new stage of cooperation towards a true strategic partnership”. NRC, among others, strongly supported the revitalization and modernization of the conventional arms control regime in Europe and the continuation of dialog on disarmament. NRC leaders also endorsed the Joint Review of 21st century Common Security Challenges. They agreed on joint ballistic threat assessment and on continuation of dialog in this area. NRC committed itself to resume the Theatre Missile Defense Cooperation and heads of states tasked NRC to develop a comprehensive Joint Analysis of the future framework for missile defense cooperation. Both sides also declared the will to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism.
So we see here a whole range of potential fields of cooperation suggested by heads of states of NATO and Russia in their joint statement. This encouraging result was praised by world media.
Sustainability of positive spirit
Both above mentioned processes documented that there was not only good will but there were common interests too. However, the question of paramount importance is to what extend this “positive Prague and Lisbon spirit“ can be sustainable. I would be rather skeptical or at least cautious in this regard. There is a couple of examples that even coincident interests are not sufficient if there is different motivation and different approach. Let’s take the three following examples of issues addressed in the above mentioned NRC statement.
1. Missile defence (MD)
The Lisbon summit declared MD as one of the basic missions of the Alliance and decided to work out NATO’s territorial missile defence system. At the same time, NATO's cooperation with Russia in the field of missile defence was encouraged. (Leaders gathered in Lisbon in NRC format also decided to “restart” NATO – Russia cooperation in theatre missile defence.)
Despite this promising language, so positively reflected in world media, one can assume that there is some misunderstanding. President Obama spoke in Lisbon about two separate but cooperating systems (not merged) and this is also a clear redline for CEE NATO members. We are speaking here on ways how Russian assets may be linked to the future NATO missile defense architecture. But president Medvedev spoke in Lisbon about one integrated missile defence system for the entire Euro Atlantic space. This is a fundamental difference. This misunderstanding negatively affects current NATO-Russia dialog on the framework for cooperation on missile defense as such and it may have negative effect on cooperation in the area of theatre missile defense as well. Preparations of NATO missile defence architecture are moving forward at expert level whereas NATO-Russia talks on missile defence cooperation are not. Thus the symbolically important achievement from Lisbon NRC summit is at stake.
2. CFE Treaty
A viable conventional arms control regime is crucial for European security. So revitalization and modernization of the regime – as stated in the NRC statement – is another issue of high and symbolic importance. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) was signed in 1990 by 22 states and it placed limits on five categories by treaty limited equipment of two groups of states, 16 members of NATO and 6 former Warsaw Pact countries. Amid growing distrust in NATO-Russia relations Russia announced “suspension” of the implementation of the CFE treaty in 2007. Russia argued by NATO reluctance to ratify the Adapted CFE Treaty from 1999 until Russia fulfills its pledges concerning troops in Moldova and Georgia. Since then, in order to overcome the deadlock, a group of 36 CFE and NATO countries decided to launch negotiation with the aim at modernizing the conventional arms control in Europe. Despite huge endeavors this commitment has not brought satisfactory results yet. There are more problems and reasons for that, e.g. like pending consensus on verification, transparency, exchange of information or shape of so called flank-limits. One major problem constitutes Russian reluctance to accept the principle of “host nation consent”. This principle means that one country’s troops cannot be placed in any other country without its approval. The reason of the Russian stance on this is quite obvious: Russian troops in Moldova and in Georgia. Negotiations in the “36 format” still go on but “revitalization and modernization of the conventional arms control regime in Europe” as indicated in the NRC Lisbon statement is still pending.
3. Disarmament – the case of tactical nuclear weapons
There is no doubt that disarmament has also potential to represent a trust building measure between the West and Russia. The new START and the NRC Lisbon conclusions both prepared ground for further disarmament efforts. The U.S. Senate resolution adopted within the ratification process of the new START encouraged the U.S. administration to open disarmament talks with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons (thereinafter as TNW). Within this context, the political debate on further reductions of NATO TNW stationed in Europe is a higly topical issue at the moment.
It is a prevailing opinion among Allies – fully shared by all CEE countries – that any decision concerning the future of TNW in Europe should take into account the presence of American tactical nuclear weapons placed in Europe under NATO arrangements and the commitment to collective defence. According to this approach, NATO as an alliance should not benefit from any unilateral actions in this field. as an important symbol of the transatlantic link
Decisions on the future of tactical nuclear weapons also have to take into account the regional security context, meaning the balance between Russia and NATO. Any further reductions on the part of NATO must be mirrored by reciprocal steps by Russia. This approach was confirmed in Lisbon where Allies stated that the Alliance will need to keep its nuclear deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist.
Despite the fact that the attitude to the question of TNW may slightly differ from one country to another, there is clear consensus that these weapons should be included in broader disarmament agenda.
Where is the problem then? Well, there are several of them. The first is a huge disbalance between NATO and Russia. NATO substantially reduced its TNW after the collapse of Warsaw Pact, whereas Russia did not. Today NATO has “only” about 200 TNW in Europe. Estimations of TNW on the Russian side are from 2000 to 5000. Russia also still puts emphasis on its nuclear arsenal outweighing thus its relative conventional weakness.
Another major obstacle is the Russian approach to NATO. It seems to me that in reality Russia doesn’t see NATO as a genuine alliance per se. It still inclines to see NATO merely as a prolonged hand of the United States. Based on this perception, Russia doesn’t consider the above-mentioned two hundreds NATO TNW stationed in Europe as a NATO infrastructure but rather as an U.S. asset. That is why the leading Russian politicians and generals claim that the “U.S. has to do the first move i.e. to withdraw its TNW” from Europe and only then the question of the future of all TNW in Europe can be discussed. This approach is apparently in breach with any logic of disarmament that is to be based on negotiations and mutually coordinated steps. So we have here we another sign of a lack of mutual trust.
Before disarmament in the field of TNW brings some results and thus it serves as a confidence building measure, we have indeed a very long way ahead of us. I estimate this process to be far more difficult than START.
To sum up, we have positive spirit set by the new START and the Lisbon NRC but important agendas like missile defence, conventional armed forces regime or disarmament are rather at stalemate.
As already indicated, big problem is a lack of trust. For the author of this article it is difficult to assume what is the reason for such lack of trust towards West on the Russian side. This is a question for Russian analysts. One cannot exclude that there are certain tangible reasons for that. From the perspective of the CEE states, the (mis)trust towards Russia is based upon several reasons. Apart from already mentioned divergences (i.e. security architecture in Europe, MD, CFE-treaty, disarmament) one cannot omit negative signs like Russian military doctrine, military exercises, and purchase of offensive weapons or Russia threatening Poland with deployment of Iscander missile system in Kaliningrad to neutralize missile defence system in Europe if necessary. (A month ago, similar threats were repeated by the Spokesman of the Russian MFA A. K. Lukashevich).
How can we build trust if newly amended Russian law on defence enables Russian president to decide on deployment of troops abroad in order to protect Russian minorities? How can we build trust if Russia executes military exercises like “Zapad” and “Lagoda” with highly controversial scenario? From Italy's Iveco or the new German Type 212A or Type 214 conventional submarines? How can we build trust if there are still Russian troops in foreign countries like Georgia or Moldova without consent of their governments breaching thus the cornerstone of conventional arms control regime in Europe? How should we read purchase of French Mistral-class warships, declared as an offensive platform for Russian armored vehicles and helicopters? How to read other planned remarkable acquisitions like French future infantry soldier system FELIN developed by Sagem; wheeled armored vehicles
How can we build trust if Russia doesn’t meet its commitments with respect to Georgia, as mediated by the European Union on August 12 and September 8, 2008? How to build trust when new Russian military doctrine, published in February 2010, declared NATO open-door-policy to be the main security threat to Russia?
Despite above listed difficulties, the issues like missile defence or CFE-Treaty do represent a realistic chance for cooperation. If Russia accepts the concept of two separate missile defence systems (i.e. Russian assets linked to a future NATO missile defence architecture) it would be very substantial and tangible contribution to cooperation between the West and Russia. Through exchange of information and coordination of operations between the two systems both sides could create one functioning defence shield against missile threats, representing today a security concern throughout the world. If Russia accepts basic principle of conventional arms control in Europe it will increase transparency on both sides. CFE regime is not only about limitation, it poses a system of transparent exchange of information on conventional forces.
Unfortunately, this considerable potential for cooperation doesn’t seem to be used to its full extent.
Because of the tendency of Russia to connect everything to everything, there is a danger that the deadlock in missile defence or CFE-Treaty would block the progress in all other issues. This fact can create serious problem. The closer we will be to the next NATO summit in 2012 the closer we will be to the time of stock-taking. The outcome of this stock-taking may indicate that in reality, there has been only a little progress since last the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon in 2010 and the chance given by the “positive Prague and Lisbon spirit” has not been exploited. This might increase a tendency of the United States and some European Allies like Germany, Italy, France or Spain to push for more tangible result of “reset with Russia”. As I stated at the beginning, the CEE countries do share the desire to have such results. Therefore they should be rather a cooperative and not blocking element. But very important precondition for such cooperative approach is assurance. The results of “reset with Russia” must not be detrimental to CEE countries’ strategic interests.
As for real cooperation, the West and Russia can disagree and still work together in areas where their interests coincide without a necessity to change the institutional framework. Nevertheless, we have to be absolutely clear: CEE countries with their relative weakness, geographical position and historic experience can not afford to sacrifice their own security or their values just for the sake of good relations between the West and Russia.
As for assurance on declaratory level, CEE countries were assured in Lisbon in a very convincing manner. If assurance in this regard will not sustain or will not be reflected in reality (in implementation of Lisbon decisions) the CEE countries would need to block further West-Russia rapprochement. Such situation would not contribute to a good spirit not only in the relationship between Russia and NATO or the EU but inside these organizations.
For continuation of assurance provided by the outcome of the discussion on security architecture in Europe and the outcome of the new NATO Strategic Concept, cohesion and mutual solidarity among Allies (be it NATO members or EU members) is necessary. EU and NATO have to be fully autonomous in their decision making in security field. The desire of CEE states for cohesion and solidarity was demonstrated by a non-paper signed in 2009 by Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which called for an enhanced and regular discussion on Russia within NATO. This applies still today.
 For purpose of this text the term “CEE countries“ is used for recent members of NATO and EU, i.e. Visegrad Group countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia. The term “West“ in this text will be used for all NATO and EU members.  This issue was addressed also by NATO Declaration from Lisbon. The Alliance in Lisbon also called on Russia to reverse its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states.  Examples of collaboration represent for instance cooperation on Afghanistan that facilitates the flow of soldiers and supplies or the most stringent sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea for their pursuit of nuclear weapons.
 Тactical nuclear weapons have lower yield and shorter range than strategic nuclear weapons and are designed to be used on battlefield for military situations. This is as opposed to strategic nuclear weapons designed to menace large populations, to damage the enemy's ability to wage war, or for general deterrence. .
 NATO-Russia Council /NRC/ was set up in 2002 as a main NATO platform of dialogue on security issues and cooperation with Russia. The agenda of NRC is based on the founding act of NATO-Russia Council from 1997 together with the Rome declaration from 2002.
 This issue was addressed also by NATO Declaration from Lisbon. The Alliance in Lisbon also called on Russia to reverse its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states.
 Examples of collaboration represent for instance cooperation on Afghanistan that facilitates the flow of soldiers and supplies or the most stringent sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea for their pursuit of nuclear weapons.