Cold War nostalgia in Moscow – Second line of defense
By Richard Weitz
Last Friday, the Russian government released the proposed draft treaties it had presented to NATO and the United States two days earlier, via Deputy Secretary of State Karen Donfried, on a visit to Moscow. The next day, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov spoke with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to explain the documents.
At a press conference on Friday, Russian Deputy Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the West must act urgently on the projects. He insisted that it was an integrated package rather than a list of menu items from which NATO and the United States could choose their preferences.
In content, the documents echo what Putin allegedly told Biden during their video call in late November. The exchange was less successful than the White House had hoped in easing tensions. The texts read as a combination of a wishlist, grievances and red lines, stretching far beyond the current crisis in Ukraine. They aim to give Moscow negotiating leverage now, but can provide a pretext for Russian military aggression later.
For more than a decade, Moscow has been pushing for a legally binding European security treaty that would establish equal and indivisible security across the continent. At the end of the 2010s, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a “European security treaty”, accompanied by a draft “agreement on the basic principles to govern relations between NATO and Russia in the field. of security “.
As for these previous texts, the projects published on Friday call for “an indivisible, equal and undiminished security”. The new documents affirm the peaceful settlement of disputes and the preeminence of the UN Security Council in matters of international security. Additional articles oblige parties not to pursue actions that could endanger the security of other countries or treat other states as adversaries.
As before, neither NATO nor the United States will accept these new projects as they are currently drafted. Russian diplomats are likely to expect rejection, otherwise they would not have made their texts public. This can be useful for propaganda purposes, at home and abroad. NATO governments will reject the texts, perhaps adding a general reaffirmation of their willingness to continue dialogue with Moscow on European security issues.
The wording on threats in the two new draft treaties is too subjective and will necessarily lead to different interpretations in specific applications. NATO’s proposed text stipulates that the parties must not participate in or support actions or create situations which threaten the national security of the other parties.
The text of the treaty with the United States states that the parties “will refrain from deploying their armed forces and armaments … in areas where their deployment could be perceived by the other party as a threat to its national security”. It specifically excludes NATO countries placing their own forces and armaments on the territory of one of the new members who joined the alliance after May 27, 1997, the day of the signing of the Russia-NATO Founding Act,
These prohibitions could cover any action that a party deemed reprehensible. They are also too subjective. For example, while Russian analysts would likely view further NATO expansion as damaging Moscow’s interests, NATO officials would claim that it strengthens Russia’s security by strengthening the security of its neighbors. ‘
Countries can hardly âfail to strengthen their security individually, within international organizations, military alliances or coalitions to the detriment of the security of other Partiesâ, as this is the aim of these national defense efforts as well as alliances like NATO. It also flies in the face of the logic of international policy to require countries “not to take any action, participate or support activities which affect the security of the other Party”. Also, how do you measure “security equality?” “
The demand for Washington to “refrain from supporting organizations, groups or individuals calling for unconstitutional change of power” is also a failure given Western concerns about how Russian authorities are restricting government-backed NGOs. West.
NATO members will also not legally commit to excluding new members. Such a commitment goes against the principles of the alliance. It would be difficult for some member governments to secure national parliamentary ratification of any commitments. Even more implausible is the demand that NATO withdraw all foreign military forces and infrastructure from all countries where there were no alliance members in 1997. These countries include Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic Czech, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The proposed ban on all NATO military activity on the territory of Ukraine and other countries close to western Russia reflects Moscow’s longing for its Cold War sphere of influence in Europe from East, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. This approach has been evident for a century, visible in Stalin’s approach to Hitler Germany, then Churchill and Roosevelt. Some members of the alliance are said to insist on continuing joint training and exercises with the former Soviet republics that have asked for help.
Although NATO has de facto accepted a series of buffer states between Russia and members of the Eastern Alliance, formally accepting such a sphere is politically impossible in Western democracies. That said, Moscow has created an artificial crisis as there is no prospect of Ukraine joining NATO anytime soon due to the alliance’s lack of consensus on the issue.
The demand to end NATO’s nuclear sharing agreement might be acceptable if combined with negotiations to eliminate Russia’s large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons. The proposed ban on “flying heavy bombers equipped with nuclear or non-nuclear weapons” in “areas outside national airspace … from where they can attack targets in the territory of the other party Is one-sided in favor of Russia. Some Russian strategic bombers could launch cruise missiles into Russian airspace that can hit targets in North America. Any ban on the deployment of missiles within INF range must take into account Moscow’s record of cheating on the INF Treaty.
However, US officials have already indicated that parts of the texts could provide a basis for negotiations. One could be the proposal that the parties âexercise restraint in military planning and conduct of exercises to reduce the risk of possible dangerous situationsâ. Calls for a peaceful settlement of disputes, for additional military ‘hotlines’ and to ‘reaffirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’ could also provide a basis for more in-depth management discussions. crises and military doctrines.
NATO does not have the power to negotiate and ratify a collective treaty; all NATO members should ratify any legally binding agreement. Given this challenge, it would make more sense to focus on transparency and confidence-building measures that could improve the stability of the crisis by reducing fears of surprise attacks.
There might also be opportunities to discuss the limits of military deployments and exercises near Russia’s borders if Moscow made reciprocal commitments regarding the borders of European states. The NATO-Russia Council, the New Russian-American Strategic Stability Dialogue and other mechanisms could provide an appropriate framework for the dialogue.
In any case, we are unlikely to see the end of Moscow’s policy of manipulating periodic war alarms. Russian officials value their usefulness in reducing Ukraine’s prospects for NATO entry, pushing for more concessions from the West, and distracting Russian troops who already occupy substantial Ukrainian territory .
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