Conflict and Leadership
Three Foundations of Peace in Europe: An Evidence-Based European Security Policy

The European elites have time to look around and make sure from their own experience that an evidence-based policy in the field of international security is possible and even necessary, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov. However, the key question is how to achieve this in the context of the “vacation” from strategic thinking among the European elites?

The paradox of the current situation is that technology is evolving much faster than our understanding of humanity and society. We have learned to mine minerals on asteroids, but we cannot overcome social problems such as depression, xenophobia and armed conflicts. Technologically, we are truly in the 21st century — however, from the point of view of social and international governance, we have not advanced further than the 1970s.

The dominant trend in international politics now is ideologisation, which is the main instrument for maintaining the global dominance of the United States. Depending on the sincerity of the person expounding this ideological line, it can be either manipulation or a demonstration of one’s naivety understanding the international environment. However, international relations require an evidence-based policy based not on emotions and endless flight of thought, but on accurate observations, repeatable experiments and reliable data. In other words, we need strictly-established objective evidence.

Take, for example, the security situation in Europe. Its root causes come down to three strategic constants, each of which is misunderstood.

First. Peace in the European Union was ensured by the military defeat in World War II of two key European military powers — Germany and France — and the further disarmament of Germany. Security for both countries has been provided by the United States of America since the mid-forties. This post-Cold War system has spread to other countries in Europe, including the former Warsaw Pact countries, but not to Russia. Russia could not play the role of a militarily defeated country — France or even more Germany. Russia has retained significant military potential and continued to be one of the main strategic constants on the continent. Its inevitable exclusion from the security system structured around the United States and NATO surely made Russia a key opponent of this system.

Second. The leading countries of Europe, whose security has been provided by the United States since the mid-forties, have had the opportunity to take a vacation from strategic thinking. First of all, this is true for Germany. The elites of European countries have naive illusions about the sources of peace on the continent. They see the reasons for peace first in the formation of the Coal and Steel Union, and active economic and humanitarian contacts between the former warring parties, forgetting that at the beginning of this process was a painful military defeat and the subsequent elimination of key military powers in Europe as a strategic factor. Today, these illusionary elites are declaring a moral crusade to the East, as a European politician aptly pointed out, to build an ideological empire out of the EU. At the same time, they are short-sighted about the problems of the members of the Union, which do not correspond to the wishful standard. Of course, this moralisation does not work from a practical point of view, it often looks ridiculous and, unfortunately, often tragic, as we can see from the Ukrainian crisis.

Third. No policy can change geography. The most important factor determining European security has been the poorly managed consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was not prepared, it happened overnight and, in fact, did not solve any of the deep structural problems that arose in connection with the emergence of a dozen new independent states in the former USSR. Post-Soviet conflicts are the consequence of the disordered disintegration of the Soviet Union, which, in fact, continues to this day. Military crises in the post-Soviet space are episodes of a postponed civil war that could have erupted immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but due to a number of circumstances did not happen. Until these consequences of the collapse are resolved — this concerns both the rights of the population, and strategic infrastructure, and issues of economic interconnection, common values, ideas and history, they will remain one of the important strategic constants of European security.

The bad news is that the European leaders have neither the intellectual nor the moral strength to recognise this circumstance, which means that we are at a strategic impasse. An evidence-based policy cannot lead to an exhaustive result in the form of a deep fundamental settlement of security problems in Europe.

However, the good news is that despite the unsettled security situation, there is no reason for a major war on the continent. Society does not want it. This war will not resolve these contradictions, but will create new problems. At the same time, the main front of international tension is flowing into East Asia; Europe is a fading volcano. The European elites now have time to look around and make sure from their own experience that an evidence-based policy in the field of international security is possible and even necessary. In an ideal world, Europe should become an example of the deep and comprehensive settlement of security problems. However, the key question is how to achieve this in the context of the “vacation” from strategic thinking among the European elites?


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