What does Russia expect from EASI?
In February, the debates about European security became more acute. At the annual Munich Security Conference on February 4-5, a report of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI) “Toward a Euro-Atlantic security community" was presented. EASI experts came to hard political conclusions. According to its experts, at the beginning of the 21st century we can observe a lack of mutual trust and the persistence of the Cold War mentality in the Euro-Atlantic space.
Against this background, the Munich speech of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gains a new dimension. The Russian minister urged NATO countries to start negotiations for signing a “peace pact" for Europe. This document should codify the rules of interaction between all European countries, including the use of force. In winter 2010, NATO countries (first of all, Britain and Poland) froze the talks on the Russian draft of the European Security Treaty. Now Moscow, together with EASI experts, suggests that the ”code of conduct” in Europe is discussed again.
It was not a coincidence that the presentation of the final EASI report occurred at the same time with the Russian foreign minister’s speech. Russia has paid attention to the EASI since its launch in 2009. On the eve of the NATO summit in Tallinn (April 2010), the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially welcomed EASI as a new format for dialogue between Russia and NATO. The EASI is a non-governmental association formed by the Carnegie Foundation (USA), Bosch Foundation (Germany) and the Institute of World Economics and International Relations, RAS (Russia). The EASI report has gained heightened attention in Russian diplomatic circles. It seems that in Moscow there is hope that EASI will have success.
These hopes are based on the creation of a new dialogue about the security issues in the Euro-Atlantic space. In order to build a "Euro-Atlantic security community," the EASI report recommends that Russia and NATO implement a package of measures: from the demilitarization of their relations and the resumption of dialogue on nuclear and conventional weapons to accelerate the joint resolution of "frozen conflicts" and the expansion of cooperation in the Arctic region. But this negotiating agenda was agreed at the Stockholm (1986) and Paris (1990) CSCE summits. This raises the question: Why in the last twenty years have Russia and NATO failed to achieve a breakthrough on any of the issues highlighted by the EASI?
The reason for the stalled dialogue is the growing difficulties faced in the activities of the OSCE. As early as 1990 the CSCE participants signed the Paris Charter, which declared the intention to build a "Europe without political and military blocks." In the 1990s, every OSCE summit adopted declarations on strengthening the European security. But at this time the NATO-Russia conflict grew out of NATO’s eastward expansion and its armed intervention in intrastate conflicts in the Balkans. At the OSCE summit in Istanbul (1999), the theme of "European security" turned into U.S. and EU criticism of the Russian anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya. Since that time, the OSCE has held no summits in the 2000s. The working institution became the annual meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OSCE.
In Russia such trends led to a perception of the OSCE as ineffective. On January 15, 2004 Russia proposed returning to the main objectives of the organization: the creation of an indivisible common European security space. At the OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers summit in Ljubljana (2005), Russia presented a "Roadmap for OSCE reform." The other OSCE members did not support the Russian proposals. In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced on December 5, 2006 that Russia may withdraw from the OSCE. In 2007, the conflict escalated between Russia and some CIS countries, on the one hand, and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of OSCE.
In the early 2010s, the attempt to revive the activities of the OSCE proved unsuccessful. After an eleven-year break, on December 1, 2010 an OSCE summit was held in Astana. The participants of this meeting proposed the formation of a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community, free of dividing lines and zones of conflict with different levels of security. But the Vilnius meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of OSCE (December 5-6, 2011) demonstrated the growing differences between Russia and the United States. The formal reason for these disputes was the Russian State Duma elections of December 4, 2011. In fact, it was about possible OSCE interference in Russia’s domestic processes.
Due to these trends Russia seeks to find an alternative to the OSCE. Moscow does not seek to replace the organization. But in parallel Russia would like to find another negotiating platform that is less bureaucratic and able to solve important practical problems (especially arms control in Europe, including the problem of AMD). Since the 1970s, such issues were discussed at bilateral and multilateral informal meetings of experts, such as the Dartmouth Conference and Bergdorf club. Their achievements were widely used during the détente of the 1970s and the second half of the 1980s. Nowadays the Kremlin is trying to place this dialogue on an institutional foundation.
In this context, the EASI could be a prototype of a future dialogue between Russia, United States and the EU, with Germany playing a leading role. The OSCE should exist as a formal organization, the successor to the Helsinki and Paris process. But in parallel the EASI should be a place where solutions are found to complex negotiating problems. But are the Americans ready to expand the format of the EASI? Otherwise, the EASI risks suffering the same fate as many expert groups set up to discuss (but not solve) key security issues in the Euro-Atlantic space.