Security in the Gulf Area: Russia’s New Initiative

On July 23, 2019, Russia presented the Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf Area, which aims to reduce the threat of war in the region. Andrei Baklanov, deputy chairman of the Association of Russian Diplomats, assistant to the deputy chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, discusses the main difference between the recently-announced concept and previous Russian initiatives. 

With the beginning of the Madrid peace process in 1991, the problem of maintaining peace in the Persian Gulf was considered just one aspect of the greater issue of ensuring regional security throughout the Middle East.

The Persian Gulf countries participated in the multilateral format of the Madrid peace conference, including the ad hoc group on disarmament and regional security.

Since the late 1990s, when the threat of an American invasion of Iraq arose, Russia has repeatedly raised the question of how to establish a sub-regional security system in the Persian Gulf in order to “unplug” Iraq (which lacks unhindered access to Gulf shipping due to neighbouring Kuwait) and to ensure that arrangements are established so that disputes, as they arise, are not resolved through the use of force. 

The United States and its Western allies were hostile to these notions, as they were preparing to invade Iraq, as a prelude to the “democratic reconstruction” of the entire Middle East.

Unfortunately, the countries of the region could not overcome their contradictions, and the Russian plan stalled.

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Expert Opinions

As a result, it was not possible to prevent the unprovoked aggression of the United States and its allies against Iraq, a full-fledged member of the UN, under a false pretext (the supposed “presence” of weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad), which kicked off upheavals in the Persian Gulf nations and throughout the Middle East as a whole.

The war in Iraq led to an unprecedented rise in the power of international terrorist organisations in the region, and, ultimately, the deaths of thousands of people.

In the beginning and middle of the first decade of 21st century, Russia modified its proposals, focusing on the need to combine efforts with other countries to combat terrorism.

Moscow’s current proposal takes into account the realities of the situation in the region and in the world, and is characterized by the following features:

1. First of all, it presumes a phased solution to the problems of peaceful reconstruction of the region – from completing the defeat of ISIS defeat and other forces of international terrorism in order to overcome crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and untangle the dilemma concerning Iran’s nuclear programme. 

 2. The implementation of this proposal should be based on the use of bilateral and multilateral tracks, involving the most authoritative states outside the region, as well as the UN and regional organisations, such as the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

3. A key role in preparing compromise proposals should be played by a task force comprised of recognised experts in the field of regional security, which would determine the geographical framework of the future international diplomacy environment, the circle of participants, the agenda, the level of representation, and the venue of the future forum.

It is important here to avoid personality errors that have repeatedly occurred in the selection of politicians and diplomats as well as representatives of UN agencies who were involved in attempts to untangle crises in the Middle East.

4. Russia’s new proposal clearly indicates the central long-term goal of creating the Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Persian Gulf – OSCPG. 

Such an initiative could serve to “cool” hotheads in the United States and in the West if it gets clear and definitive support from those to whom it is primarily addressed – the countries of the region.

This will be very difficult to do. The United States continues to play a dominant role in fanning up contradictions between the Gulf states, escalating tensions and earning profits from arms deliveries. It is noteworthy that more than half of the total arms supplies to the Gulf countries come from the United States. 

It would be worth reanimating the so-called “track two” – the activities of representatives of the expert community and non-governmental organisations, which, in an informal setting, could brainstorm ideas and submit them for discussion between the official representatives of interested states.

This option proved its effectiveness during the launching of the Madrid peace process in the development of the concept of European security. If a similar round of talks were to be launched, we could attract American and European experts who oppose conflict in the region. 

Today we hope that our successful experience unravelling the most daunting aspects of the Syrian crisis and bringing about the collapse of the Middle East’s most formidable terrorist enterprise, the so-called “Islamic State”, as well as the growth of Russia’s influence in the region can provide support for our proposal. We also look forward to establishing close ties with most of the countries in the region. 

We hope that the countries of the Middle East are convinced now that at one time it was necessary to more energetically support Russia's proposals in order to avoid war and chaos.

We intend to draw their attention to ways in which they can extract themselves from conflicts. Naturally, this work to encourage diplomacy and develop new insights needs to be intensified in order to overcome the alarming trends of recent times, particularly the increasing presence of armed forces from outside the region.

Of course, the key question is whether the region’s politicians are aware of the danger of the situation, and whether they are ready to stop accusing each other and start a dialogue.

Russia is conducting relevant work in this direction and is ready to provide a platform for negotiations between the nations of the Middle East.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.