By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
At the recent annual OSCE conference in Vienna( 26th- 28th June 2018), Russian Deputy Foreign minister Alexander Grushko gave a speech in which he emphasized the urgent need to make the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, one of the few international organizations, which includes 57 member states, that since its founding has intervened constructively to create platforms of dialogue and preempt major conflicts) to restore confidence and move towards a community that is based on “equal and indivisible security which our leaders agreed upon during the 2010 Astana summit.”
Grushko’s speech is significant in light of the President Trump / President Putin Helsinki summit (16th of July), which underlines again the necessity to create a new global security architecture. According to the judgement of the Andrey Sushentsov, program Director of the Russian Valdai Discussion Forum (a discussion platform for annual strategic dialogue between East and West), “Russia would like to build long–term, equitable, stable and predictable relations with the United States”, rather than have agreements which have a “tactical, situational character” for a period of six months or a year. “Ultimately an important outcome of the Helsinki summit will be the answer to the question: can Russia and the United States work together or not?”
At the OSCE annual security summit in Vienna Russian deputy Foreign Minister Grushko characterized the situation in Europe and the world as very “turbulent” where a game is played without rules. “Today NATO and the EU have made the architecture of security hostage to the crisis in Ukraine – one of many conflicts in Europe. But sanctions and pressure will not settle conflicts or enhance security. Let me recall that after NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, which changed the very paradigm of European security, the European countries still managed to start working for common interests. The Charter for European Security and the adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe demonstrated a political will for cooperation.” Grushko further underlined that “unilateral sanctions, demonization and imposition of the image of an enemy” are aggravating the “confrontation”. Some political forces are using Russo-phobia as the main driver of European and Euro–Atlantic unity that is falling apart for objective reasons while international organizations like the OPCW Secretariat are being assigned attributive functions in violation of the fundamental principle of all regimes of non-proliferation and arms control, the sovereign and exclusive right of states to assess the fulfillment of commitments, while the Hague Organization and the UN Security Council are being undermined. There is also geopolitical competition on the Western Balkans. “Unless we stop these dangerous trends, confrontation can become irreversible. Especially so, when it underlies not only politics, but military planning as well.”
The myth concerning military expenditures
Grushko presented a picture that underlines the “myth”, as he put it, concerning Russia’s rearmament. He pointed to Russia’s defence budget in 2018, being at $ 46 billion which will be reduced in the future, “whereas in NATO countries it amounts to an aggregate sum of $ 1trillion, which is more than half of the total military spending of all the countries in the world. In the United States, it exceeds $700 billion, and its European allies will soon have it at $300 billion. If they comply with the NATO established 2 percent rule, the European allies total defence spending will reach $ 400 billion, with 20%, or about $ 100 billion a year set aside for arms purchases. This begs the question: for what purpose? What enemy or enemies are they going to fight? The US operates about 800 military bases worldwide and is implementing a global missile defence system project with components deployed in Poland and Romania.”
The need for structured dialogue within the OSCE
Directly addressing the chairman of the OSCE (at present the OSCE is chaired by the Italian Guglielmo Picchi) Grushko emphasized that Russia supports any and all attempts to return to a normal depoliticized conversation about security issues, including as part of the OSCE “structured dialogue.” He suggested that it would be imperative to restore cooperation to cover the entire range of new threats and challenges, which include terrorism that swept Europe and North America 2016-2018. This also concerns “drug trafficking” which is closely tied with terrorism, as it proceeds are used to finance terrorist attacks. In Afghanistan, an OSCE partner, Grushko reported, the area of land used to grow drug crops is dangerously expanding. In 2017 it reached a record high of 300.000 hectares.” We are in favor of boosting its capacity on the anti-drug track and are making contribution by implementing the OSCE project to train specialists from Afghanistan and Serbia.
Other challenges where the OSCE could contribute to global efforts is the issue of migration. He mentioned the civil war in Eastern Ukraine where more than 10.000 people have died in four years including 2500 civilians. “Kiev is blocking the Minsk agreements which are the only basis for the settlement… We hope that the OSCE’s efforts in the Contact Group and the Special Monitoring Mission’s onsite activities will contribute to implementing the Minsk Agreements and facilitate a settlement to the internal conflict”. Also in Kosovo, he underlined, the OSCE must maintain its presence in the region given that ethnic tensions continue unabated. In the Transnistrian settlement process in December 2017 progress has been made with the participation of the OSCE. He concluded by stating that he agrees with the position of the Italian chairmanship of the OSCE that it is time to take a comprehensive look at the OSCE’s outreach and its mechanisms. “I would like to reemphasize the importance of restoring confidence and moving towards a community based on equal and indivisible security which our leaders agreed upon during the 2010 Astana summit”. He hoped that the upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council in Milan will help achieve that goal.
German debate about future foreign policy parameters
There is also in German foreign policy and security expert circles a renewed debate about how to define new parameters for a future foreign policy in respect to Russia. This was echoed in the July edition of the Wismar Ostinstitut Newsletter in an article, entitled “How do we want to live with Russia – About the Necessity to have a long term strategy. We need Minsk III”. The article was written by Andreas Steininger and Achim Schramm, two board members of the Institute. The authors look at the deficiency in the non-existing Security architecture of Europe. Taking the Ukraine as an example they judge that there is no strategy how to get out of the impasse. Lack of confidence is one major factor, with the fact that Minsk II is paralyzed, even if the proposal for stationing an international protection force exists which must be developed further. The solution they suggest is a strategy of “step by step approach”: withdrawal of canon by canon, rifle by rifle, to reconstruct confidence in exchange for regional elections granted by Kiev. This demands patience, and a Minsk III agreement.
The need for a new Conference on security and cooperation in Europe
The authors also suggest that one must think about a new conference for security and cooperation in Europe. After the conclusion of the Final Helsinki Act in 1974 and of the Budapest Memorandum 1994, a lot of time has passed while relations have changed fundamentally. The principle of the Final Helsinki Act, they write, is important but one must ensure what the principle of non-interference, respect for human rights and renouncement to violence, mean in terms of Minsk III. They suggest that Ukraine should be offered a neutral status and receive financial and economic assistance from the EU. There should be more security guarantees for the Baltic states while Russia should get institutionally integrated and the lifting of sanctions be offered. There is also the need to extend such security architecture to the field of civilian and economic relations, i.e. offer to Russia and the Eurasian Union “clear economic perspectives of cooperation which go beyond step by step reduction of sanctions”. Like in the German-French friendship agreement, city partnerships and youth exchange programs should be enhanced and more school partnerships initiated. Also there should be a visa free travel for Russian citizens. Since Merkel’s visit in Sochi, where she met president Putin in the month of May, so is the perception, there is feeling that also Western Europe wants to normalize relations with Russia.
Wiesbaden, July 11, 20118