Russia’s Proposed New European Security Treaty: A Non-Starter for the U.S. and Europe

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Russia’s Proposed New European Security Treaty: A Non-Starter for the U.S. and Europe

September 16, 2010 27 min read Download Report
Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara

Sally McNamara is a Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs.

Abstract: In several ways, Russia’s proposed new European Security Treaty would undermine European security—the opposite of its stated purpose—not least of all by sharply limiting NATO’s ability to act and to accept new members. Instead of adding to the existing European architecture and treaties, the U.S. and its European allies should work to advance relations with Russia bilaterally and through existing institutions. They should explicitly reject Russia’s sphere-of-influence policy and reaffirm the inviolability of national borders.

Russian leaders claim that existing European security institutions no longer work and that European security is now divisible.[1] One organization in particular—the 60-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—has raised Moscow’s ire. Moscow views the past three rounds of NATO expansion as an American-led post–Cold War containment strategy, and it sees potential enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia as an encroachment on its traditional sphere of influence.

Against this backdrop, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has proposed a new European Security Treaty (EST) to recast Europe’s security architecture. In a June 2008 speech before German leaders, President Medvedev asked Europe’s leaders to turn a new page for Russia to write a new European security narrative.[2]

When Moscow unveiled the text of its proposed legally binding treaty in November 2009, much of it was familiar and agreeable: respect for members’ territorial integrity, conflict prevention, and the inadmissibility of the use and threat of force.[3] However, the details of Russia’s proposals are anything but benign and would likely make Moscow an even more problematic partner for the West than it is at present. The EST would effectively give Moscow a veto over further NATO expansion and would de facto recognize Moscow’s self-proclaimed sphere of privileged interests.

President Barack Obama needs to state clearly that the U.S. will not support negotiation of a new European Security Treaty. Another treaty in an already crowded theater will not create unity where a fundamental gap in values exists. Despite limiting missile defenses in Europe and making deep concessions on the New START Treaty, President Obama has suffered numerous setbacks to his policy of resetting relations with Russia, including Moscow’s foot-dragging on Iranian sanctions and the discovery of a deep-cover Russian spy ring in the U.S.

In the absence of trust and mutual confidence between Russia and the United States and European states, the U.S. and Europe should seek to build a relationship that increases security for all and draws Russia more deeply into the existing European architecture and treaties. This should be done on terms that advance transatlantic interests as well as Moscow’s interests. Washington should also seek Russian cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as counterterrorism and stopping the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States and its allies should also outline five non-negotiable principles to Moscow:

  1. Maintenance of the primacy of NATO in the European security architecture,
  2. Rejection of any changes in existing institutions that would undermine them,
  3. Explicit rejection of Russia’s sphere-of-influence policy,
  4. The inviolability of national borders, and
  5. Continued support for the promotion of democracy and human rights.

The Proposed EST

In June 2008, on his first international visit to Berlin as president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev proposed revising Europe’s security architecture. He called for a major European summit to discuss a new treaty that would address Russia’s continued disaffiliation from Europe and reestablish an indivisible security sphere reaching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Outlining what has now become standard Russian canon, Medvedev stated that Russia has been marginalized by what he views as the West’s military-bloc mentality and that European security is now divisible.

Crucially, Medvedev also stated that Russia is not waiting for a Western institutional embrace, effectively ruling out the occasionally mooted prospect of Russia’s accession to NATO. Medvedev stated that Russia will pursue democratization as it sees fit, not according to Europe’s normative frameworks.[4]

Medvedev also advocated greater economic cooperation between Russia and Europe. A key element of the Putin–Medvedev plan to restore Russia to its supposedly rightful place on the world stage is to diversify the Russian economy away from its current overreliance on energy receipts. This was music to the ears of German exporters, who remain ever hungry for new markets, especially on their eastern doorstep. Targeting the broader European Union (EU) audience as well, Medvedev talked about Russo–European cooperation to address “soft security” challenges of particular importance to Brussels, including illegal immigration, climate change, and energy security.

Many of the basic tenets of the Medvedev proposal, which were finally unveiled in November 2009, are standard principles of European security doctrine: respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, rejection of the use or threat of use of force, the indivisibility of European security, and the advancement of comprehensive arms control.[5] In fact, all of these principles are found in existing European security agreements, including the Charter of Paris (1990), the NATO–Russia Founding Act (1997), and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (1990).[6]

However, the EST would restrict future alliance-making and have implications for existing institutions. Article 2 of the EST would effectively rule out further NATO enlargement without Russia’s consent and potentially limit NATO military exercises and NATO contingency planning.[7] Articles 4 and 6 would render the treaty subject to constant Russian obstructionism by empowering any two parties to the treaty to call endless conferences to settle disputes and conflicts. The EST is unclear on how such disputes and conflicts would be resolved.[8]

Overall, the treaty would prevent NATO from acting independently of Moscow. As Dutch security analyst Marcel de Haas states, “The emphasis on legally binding decisions by the signatories’ conference of the proposed treaty would make any independent Western actions in the realm of security virtually impossible.”[9]

The Medvedev Doctrine. In an address to the Council of Europe in July 1989, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke of a “common European home,” encouraging cooperation in the security, political, and economic spheres.[10] Gorbachev’s concept of a common European home was to be underpinned by common values, unlike Washington’s relationship with Russia today, which is based more on occasionally shared interests.

Medvedev’s proposed EST reflects the Gorbachev concept of security less than it represents a continuation of the Primakov doctrine.[11] Restoring Russia to the club of great powers has been one of the cornerstones of Moscow’s foreign policy since the 1990s, when consensus grew around the Primakov concept that, while weaker than the Soviet Union, Russia is still a great power that could be a leading nation in a multipolar system.[12] The Medvedev doctrine overtly rejects Europe’s normative democratic frameworks and instead wants to reinstate Moscow at the top table of international politics.[13]

Despite a low point in relations with Europe following Russia’s war with Georgia in August 2008, Medvedev continued to push the EST. At Evian, France, in October 2008 and at Helsinki, Finland, in April 2009, he gradually unveiled details of his proposal.

Standing alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy at Evian, Medvedev stated that hard security should be the primary focus of the new treaty. With distinctly anti-American overtones, Medvedev condemned what he regards as the U.S.’s advancement of security at Russia’s expense, calling attention to the war in Iraq, President George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and U.S. plans for missile defense installations in Central and Eastern Europe as examples of American unilateralism.[14]

In Helsinki, Medvedev went further, proposing a new treaty modeled on the Helsinki Final Act that would place the EU, the U.S., and Russia on an equal footing—again underscoring the Primakov vision of a multipolar world order with Russia as a leading power.[15] Although the anti-American rhetoric was significantly toned down in the Helsinki speech, Medvedev’s perspective remained constant: NATO has increased its security at Russia’s expense, and it is now time to restructure the European security order.

Moscow’s Motivations

Although Russia currently experiences more peace and security on its Western borders than at any point in its modern history, Moscow claims that the post–Cold War settlement has not addressed ongoing threats to Russian security. The West was shocked when then-Russian President Vladimir Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” but he was simply encapsulating Moscow’s feelings of humiliation and discomfiture with the post–Cold War settlement.[16]

Russia still sees NATO very much in Cold War terms—as an anti-Russian alliance that projects American power into its backyard. In 2009, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin summarized Moscow’s thinking on NATO: “[W]e’re told by the West that they like NATO and the EU as it is, they suit us fine. Well, they do not suit us. We don’t like it.”[17] Clearly, the EST is intended to address these concerns and create a counterpoint to U.S. influence in Europe.

According Dr. Donald N. Jensen, Medvedev’s proposed EST would achieve four primary goals:

  • Legitimize Moscow’s sphere-of-privileged-interest policy,
  • Reduce American influence in Europe and undermine existing treaties,
  • Eradicate the indivisibility of transatlantic security, and
  • Project greater Russian influence internationally.[18]

It would also achieve the peripheral goal of raising the profile and standing of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). As a signatory to the EST, the CSTO would be given formal recognition in Europe, which has been a long-standing Russian goal.[19] Overall, the treaty would entrench what Robert Kagan describes as Russia’s “great power nationalism”[20]—the notion that Russia has returned to the club of great powers that are responsible for creating and maintaining world order, disregardful of smaller nations.[21]

A significant number of senior diplomats and security analysts have expressed alarm at the Medvedev proposal. Dutch security analyst Marcel Van Herpen states that the EST would destabilize or dilute several existing treaties and alliances.[22] Dividing, undermining, and binding NATO’s hands on future decisions, such as enlargement, appears to be one of Moscow’s primary motivations with the EST.

As a legally binding treaty, the EST would stand alongside the North Atlantic Treaty (1949) and conflict enormously with its provisions. For example, Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty states: “The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty.”[23] However, Article 2 of the EST states: “A Party to the Treaty shall not undertake, participate in or support any actions or activities affecting significantly security of any other Party or Parties to the Treaty.”[24] Under these circumstances, the EST would effectively rule out NATO enlargement without Moscow’s consent.[25]

At the Munich Security Conference in February 2009, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressly rejected Russia’s sphere-of-influence policy: “We will not—will not—recognize any nation having a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances.”[26]

The American Enterprise Institute’s Gary Schmitt argues that the EST would amount to a de facto recognition of Russia’s sphere-of-influence policy and diminish Europe’s influence in its own “near abroad.”[27] Negotiating with Russia over the EST on Russia’s terms would undercut the Obama Administration’s stated policy of not recognizing—either tacitly or explicitly—Moscow’s sphere-of-influence policy. Belgian diplomat Patrick Nopens observes that Russia’s proposal of the EST to overcome the West’s “bloc approach” is deeply ironic given that the EST would likely create two poles, with Europe, the U.S., and NATO at one pole and Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the CSTO at the other.[28]

Does Europe’s Security Architecture Still Provide Security?

The world faces security threats that were largely underappreciated at the turn of the century. Prior to September 11, 2001, Western security analysts consumed themselves with strategies for winning state-on-state wars. However, 9/11 heralded a sea change in security thinking as counterterrorism and counterproliferation strategies became top priorities for Western security agencies. Cyberwarfare presented another relatively new challenge for security planners as nations confronted the prospect of virtual electronic paralysis.

However, the traditional security threats also remain. The Euro-Atlantic community and the world more broadly still face the prospect of conventional warfare, regional conflicts, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide.

None of this says that the existing security architecture cannot cope with new challenges—given enough political will and funding—or that current institutions impair security. In fact, NATO remains as relevant to European security today as it was during the Cold War.[29]

NATO. NATO’s scope for action and geographical reach has expanded greatly to adapt to the changed security environment. The alliance has taken on missions confronting the threats of failed states, ethnic cleansing, humanitarian disaster, and even cyberwarfare. It is currently active on three continents in missions ranging from counterinsurgency to counterpiracy. NATO maintains significant troop deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and the NATO Response Force—NATO’s rapid reaction force—assisted in disaster relief in Pakistan following a devastating earthquake in October 2005.

In May 2008, NATO constituted the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, to conduct research and training in cyberwarfare. At the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in 2009, France fully reintegrated into NATO’s military command structure and assumed command of the Norfolk-based Allied Command Transformation. Suffice to say, NATO is very much alive and well.

NATO was founded not just as a collective defense alliance, but also as a political alliance and an alliance of values. Unless the transatlantic community has decided that neither security nor values matter, there can be no rationale for downgrading NATO.

NATO is not a perfect alliance. It has failings, epitomized by the inequitable burden-sharing among the allies in Afghanistan.[30] However, reforming NATO should address existing and future threats and serve as a vehicle for revitalizing the Russian– transatlantic security relationship.

NATO–Russia Relations in 2010. NATO, like any truly strategic organization, has built-in mechanisms to recognize and address the changing security environment, as it did most recently with new Strategic Concepts in 1991 and 1999. At the upcoming Lisbon summit in November, NATO will agree to its first Strategic Concept of the new millennium. This is an opportunity to reframe the NATO–Russia relationship.[31]

At multiple stages since the fall of the Soviet Union, the alliance has worked with Moscow to build a more cohesive and integrated relationship. In 1994, Russia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace. In May 1997, the NATO–Russia Founding Act was signed, establishing the Permanent Joint Council (PJC), and in 2002, the PJC was upgraded to the NATO–Russia Council (NRC). Under the NRC, Russia and the members of NATO meet as 20 equal partners and reach decisions by consensus, as opposed to the 19 + 1 format of the PJC. Moscow’s diplomatic presence inside NATO was also increased dramatically in 2002 with the appointment of a head of mission with the rank of ambassador.

Yet despite years of building layers of cooperation, Russia continues to see NATO as a hostile bloc rather than as a guarantor of European stability. This must change.

Russia must decide what type of relationship it wants with NATO. Moscow cannot demand upgraded relations on one hand while, on the other hand, its military doctrine continues to identify NATO as a threat. NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept should allow the United States, Russia, and Europe to build a relationship that all parties can support and, importantly, that Central and Eastern Europe do not perceive as operating at their expense.

Since the end of World War II, the transatlantic alliance has been the backbone of American foreign policy, with NATO as its centerpiece. Despite the “reset” of U.S.–Russian relations, President Obama continues to express support for the alliance, stating in Strasbourg in 2009 that “NATO remains the strongest alliance that the world has ever known.”[32] A strong relationship with Russia and an equally strong commitment to a vibrant NATO need not remain mutually inconsistent.

How Washington Should Respond

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that there is no need for another security treaty.[33] Washington has insisted that revisions in Europe’s security arrangements should be discussed in the context of the Corfu Process, a series of negotiations launched by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to analyze European security challenges. The Corfu Process will eventually bear out recommendations on Europe’s security architecture.

While this response falls short of outright rejection, Washington should reject the EST for several reasons and instead attempt to advance relations bilaterally and through existing institutions.

Why Negotiating a New Treaty Is a Non-Starter. The Obama Administration could set out a series of preconditions for future talks on the EST, including withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria, redeployment of Russian troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia behind pre–Georgian War lines, and withdrawal of Russia’s unilateral recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence.[34] President Obama might consider achievement of these goals to be a large policy win for the United States and evidence that Russia can be engaged on a fundamental restructuring of Europe’s security architecture. However, this strategy would be wholly unrealistic.

First, Russia’s primary stated motivation in proposing the EST is that they have been excluded from key decisions that have directly affected Russian security. It is inconceivable that they will pay such a steep price to gain such influence. Moscow’s advocacy of the EST is based on the premise that Russian behavior has been in response to Western failures and American unilateralism. Yet by undoing major foreign policies, such as Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia would acknowledge that Russian policy has been at fault, undermining its case for reorganizing European security architecture in the first place.

Second, the United States and Europe are not dealing with a liberal democratic partner in Russia. While modern-day Russia certainly is not the Soviet Union, neither is it Switzerland. It is difficult to see how a trust-based treaty could work when the negotiations would be based on occasionally shared interests, not on deeply shared values. If Russia were pursuing sustainable liberal democratic reforms, a treaty might be workable. However, liberal democracy will not advance in Russia in a matter of a few years. In the best scenario, liberal democracy will take decades to develop, if it does so at all.[35]

At present, Russia is becoming more authoritarian, and as long as Moscow follows the path of “sovereign democracy” rather than liberal democracy, the parties will not trust each other enough to renegotiate European security comprehensively.

There is a very small chance that President Obama will be tempted to take the leap of faith of negotiating the new EST without preconditions. That would be the worst choice for the interests of the U.S. and its allies. It would permanently freeze existing disputes, creating a status quo that would benefit only Russia.[36] It would also fail to address the different interpretations that Russia and Europe attach to such concepts as territorial integrity.

Russian policy dictates that Moscow will use any means necessary, including force, to protect its 25 million citizens living abroad. Europe, however, sees this policy as a gross violation of a basic tenet of European security policy. On this point, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer argues that Russia is in violation of its own treaty proposals by having unilaterally recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[37] Along with former Pentagon official Dan Fata, Kramer states that Russia’s unwillingness to abide by existing treaty commitments makes it an unreliable partner when negotiating new treaties.[38]

Even the most willing supporters of the new treaty, such as President Sarkozy, have stated that human rights and the observance of democratic values are part and parcel of European security and indistinguishable from “hard” security.[39] For Europe, security is a comprehensive concept that encompasses both the political sphere and the military sphere. With differing priorities and unaligned threat perceptions, Washington should not accept Russia’s proposal to renegotiate Europe’s security architecture. Rather, President Obama should pick up Russia’s proposal and challenge Moscow on the actual strength of its commitment to European security.

An Appropriate Response from Washington. Treaty commitments are only as valuable as the signatories are willing to make them. Washington and its allies need to make clear that, while a new treaty has no place at this time, they can advance better relations with Moscow under certain circumstances.

Specifically, in the absence of trust and confidence, the U.S. and its allies must insist that certain red lines guide their discussions with Moscow:

  • Maintenance of NATO’s primacy in the European security architecture,
  • Rejection of any modification of existing institutions that would harm U.S. or allied security interests,
  • Explicit rejection of Russia’s sphere-of-influence policy,
  • A return to the status quo ante in Georgia, and
  • Continued support for the promotion of democracy and human rights.

By challenging Russia to work meaningfully with the U.S. in opposing the Iranian nuclear weapons program, the United States can test the suspicion that Russia is proposing a new European security architecture merely to undermine existing arrangements. Preventing Iran from joining the club of states with nuclear weapons should be Washington’s and Moscow’s top counterproliferation goal, especially considering the geopolitical earthquake that both can expect to experience if Tehran goes nuclear. However, there is deep suspicion that Moscow is playing an alternate geopolitical game and sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a check on U.S. power, especially in the Persian Gulf.[40]

The Iranian Nuclear Program. Having extended the offer of direct engagement with Tehran only to see it crudely rejected, President Obama has now chosen to sanction Iran to compel its compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to prevent further nuclear enrichment. In August, President Medvedev publicly recognized for the first time that Iran is moving toward a nuclear capability.[41] However, Moscow is sending mixed signals about its relationship with Tehran, including signing an energy road map with Tehran and potentially providing Iran with a key anti-aircraft missile system. President Obama should encourage President Medvedev to keep his commitment to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran in June 2010 after deep U.S. concessions secured Russian cooperation. As part of President Obama’s “reset” of U.S.–Russian relations and to secure Moscow’s support for Iranian sanctions, Obama announced in September 2009 that the U.S. would withdraw from its defense agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to build a “third site” for missile defense, which Moscow had long opposed. However, the sanctions to which Moscow finally agreed were ultimately toothless. Both the U.S. and the EU have since decided to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.[42] Moscow opposed imposing “crippling” U.N. economic sanctions on Tehran, instead pursuing short-term national economic interests.[43]

To get Tehran’s attention, Jim Phillips of The Heritage Foundation argues that sanctions should specifically target the internal security organs of the regime, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Basij militia; foreign investment in Iran; and, most important, imports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran.[44] The weakness of existing U.N. sanctions is their failure to target Tehran’s key economic vulnerability: the massive dependence of internal Iranian oil markets on imports.[45]

Whether Moscow wants to work meaningfully with the U.S. in countering Iran’s nuclear program is still unclear. Under the U.N. sanctions regime, Russia can still sell S-300 missiles to Iran, which would severely undercut the diplomatic efforts and possible military efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Further, Berlin is currently investigating Russian exports of nuclear technologies across German territory to an Iranian company blacklisted by the EU.[46] This comes in the wake of the Arctic Sea debacle, in which rogue Russian agents were suspected of shipping S-300 missiles to Iran.[47]

It is time for President Obama to seriously pressure Moscow for genuine cooperation on the Iranian nuclear question. In the absence of robust Security Council sanctions targeting key Iranian vulnerabilities, Washington should not hesitate to apply targeted sanctions against Russian companies that sell destabilizing weapons to Iran.[48] According to the U.S. government, Iran remains the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, financing Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups.[49] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also called for Israel to be wiped off the map.[50]

If sanctions are to have any hope of success in halting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the U.S., Russia, and Europe must impose “crippling sanctions.” Like Russia, Europe has significant investments at risk in Iran, undermining one of Moscow’s excuses in offering only token assistance in countering the Iranian nuclear threat.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons. As part of a robust commitment to U.S. security and to the security of America’s European allies, President Obama should make a solid commitment to maintain U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.[51] In April 2009, less than three months into his term of office, President Obama laid out the centerpiece of his foreign policy vision: the global eradication of nuclear weapons. This ideological positioning has set off a series of calls from European leaders for America to remove its nuclear arsenal from European soil.[52]

However, premature removal of American nuclear weapons would destabilize the European continent, unacceptably degrade forces that defend Europe, and constitute a major setback for global security and stability. It would also give Moscow a blank check to pursue its sphere-of-privileged-interest policy.

The Russian militarization of Kaliningrad and Moscow’s recent simulation of a nuclear attack on Poland require a NATO response—one that is reinforced by America’s continued nuclear guarantee. America’s nuclear umbrella comports with U.S. obligations under Article V of the Washington treaty and helps to ensure that its allies will not actively seek alternate security insurance, such as building their own nuclear weapons or allying with other nuclear powers.

Strategically, eliminating the U.S. tactical nuclear arsenal in Europe would cripple deterrence and strip away an important pillar of transatlantic security. It would also place Europe’s force posture at a disadvantage. Therefore, in responding to Moscow over the EST, President Obama should restate his commitment to maintaining U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

How NATO Should Respond

The U.S. should also use NATO as a vehicle to engage Russia. Advancing relations with Moscow through NATO as well as bilaterally allows the U.S. to institutionalize relations and to create a more enduring foundation. It also allows Russia to row back from its delusional doctrinal attitude that NATO represents a threat to Moscow.[53]

Several analysts, most recently Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, have suggested that Russia should join NATO.[54] However, Russia is not democratic enough to join NATO, and Moscow would bristle at the idea of following a NATO-dictated membership action plan to enjoy only equal status with other NATO members, such as the Baltic States.[55] Therefore, the NATO–Russia relationship should be upgraded through the NATO–Russia Council by giving the NRC greater diplomatic recognition and institutional muscle.

In December 2009, the NRC launched the Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges to outline areas in which the alliance and Russia could work together as equal partners.[56] These include Afghanistan, counterterrorism, and counterpiracy.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher argues that countering Islamist extremism should be a hallmark of Western–Russian relations.[57] Russia, the United States, and NATO share a deep commitment to countering the threat of Islamist terrorism, having felt the dramatic effects of radical extremists inside their borders. The Beslan massacre in September 2004 and the Moscow Metro bombings in March 2010 were stark reminders of Russia’s vulnerability to regional Islamist terrorist groups. Under the 2008 NATO–Russia Council Action Plan on Terrorism, Russia extended its support for NATO’s mission in Afghanistan by allowing NATO to run a major supply route over Russian territory.[58]

Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) marks another high point for NATO–Russian counterterrorism cooperation, with the Russian frigates Pytliviy and Ladniy patrolling the Mediterranean Sea alongside NATO’s maritime assets. OAE has enabled NATO and Russian military personnel to gain valuable operational and intelligence-sharing experience and to build essential military-to-military relationships.

Establishing more officer-to-officer programs between Moscow and NATO would build further confidence and trust between NATO and Russia. Building on OAE, NATO should fund military-to-military educational opportunities, including dedicated annual programs at the Defense College in Rome and outreach programs by the Mission of the Military Cooperation Department at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany. Increasing the number of civilian and military educational exchanges can only improve the relationship further and deepen cooperation.[59]

How the EU Should Respond

Russia is increasingly paying greater attention to its relationship with Brussels. Russia and the European Community (EC) signed the EC–Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1997.[60] The PCA was negotiated in a spirit of general rapprochement between Brussels and Moscow and was intended to deepen and widen relations economically, politically, and culturally. However, ruling Russian elites are committed to their great-power nation-state model for Russia and have deep reservations about the EU’s norms-based superstate model.

There has been widespread disappointment that the EU–Russian relationship has not advanced significantly, with the arguable exception of a strengthened trading relationship. However, Moscow has still not joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has not yet ratified the Energy Charter Treaty. Moscow’s retreat into authoritarianism and failure to adopt Europe’s normative framework for democratization have further frustrated Brussels.

Russia has also rejected membership in the European Neighbourhood Policy, arguing that it should not be relegated to equivalent status with Georgia and Ukraine. However, Moscow does want concessions from the EU, such as visa-free travel.

At the St. Petersburg summit in May 2003, the EU and Russia attempted to breathe new life into the PCA by creating four “common spaces”: economics; freedom, security, and justice; external security; and research and education. In 2005, they agreed to road maps to put these common spaces into effect.

Negotiations to replace the PCA have been underway since 2008, but they took a turn for the worse when Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008. At an Extraordinary Council meeting in September 2008, the EU called for a thorough review of its relations with Russia. The European Commission delivered its conclusions in November 2008.[61]

The External Security Space. The EU has expressed deep reservations over Russia’s regional policy and Moscow’s failure to respect human rights and freedom of the press. The EU–Russian relationship has not developed into a values-based relationship, and this severely undercuts the PCA’s raison d’être from a European standpoint.

The EU and Russia continue to view the PCA in different ways. Russia views it as a vehicle to talk about European security independently of NATO, but the EU’s primary goal is not necessarily to develop a military-to-military relationship with Moscow. Rather, Brussels wishes to advance a political and “neo-security” relationship with Moscow that prioritizes “security” challenges, such as energy security, climate change, and the fight against poverty.[62]

Brussels must therefore find innovative ways to advance a values-based relationship with its increasingly authoritarian neighbor.

Exposure to the European model and integration between the EU and Russia have not led to greater democratization by Moscow. Unlike the majority of countries in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989, Russia is not seeking EU membership, and Brussels will need to seek alternate methods to establish a closer relationship.

An EU–Russian security relationship must not compromise the EU’s long-standing commitment to promoting liberal democratic values. The EU’s military and foreign policy instruments suffer from a lack of consensus on major foreign policy issues, and Brussels needs to coordinate its response with other institutions that have stakes in European security, especially NATO and the OSCE. Despite the EU’s long-standing ambitions in the defense sphere, Brussels should not allow its centralizing ambitions to undercut NATO’s primacy.

The EU–Russian relationship should also be more clearheaded than previous arrangements. First, the EU should seek to draw Russia more deeply into existing international organizations, notably the OSCE and the NATO–Russia Council. The EU should also work with Russia to seek ratification of the Energy Charter, connecting EU financial and diplomatic support with a growing values-based relationship.

Additionally, the EU should establish a transactional element in its relationship with Russia: for example, by supporting WTO accession in exchange for ratification of the Energy Charter Treaty. Above all, the EU should stress the same two principles that the U.S. and NATO should advance: the primacy of NATO in European security affairs and firm rejection of Moscow’s sphere-of-influence policy.

What the Administration and Congress Need to Do

To ensure the security of the United States and its allies, the Obama Administration and Congress should:

  • Restate the U.S. policy that the U.S. does not support negotiation of a new European Security Treaty. President Obama has personally invested significant diplomatic capital into “resetting” U.S.–Russian relations. He should therefore personally frame Washington’s response to President Medvedev’s proposal, categorically rejecting Moscow’s draft European Security Treaty.
  • Seek greater Russian support for stopping the Iranian nuclear program. To test Moscow’s genuine commitment to increasing transatlantic security, President Obama should challenge Moscow to strengthen sanctions against Tehran and strongly object to any transfer of sensitive arms technologies to Tehran.
  • Draw Russia more deeply into existing European architecture and treaties on terms that advance transatlantic interests. The European Union, European member states, and the United States should prioritize existing institutions and treaties as ways to advance relations with Russia, including recognizing the OSCE as a vital pan-European and Eurasian security framework, supporting the OSCE’s work on human rights and its democracy-promotion mechanisms, strengthening the NATO–Russia Council, expanding joint counterterrorism activities within the NRC, and encouraging Russia to ratify the Energy Charter treaty.
  • Restate the primacy of NATO in European security affairs. The U.S., the EU, and NATO should each reassert the primacy of NATO as the cornerstone of European security in the Corfu Process negotiations. The OSCE should also be strengthened as a European security institution that complements NATO.
  • Categorically reject Russia’s sphere-of-influence policy and support further enlargement of NATO. The U.S. should stress that Russia’s Western neighbors have a place in the Euro-Atlantic family, and President Obama and Congress should make clear that they support NATO membership for all qualifying nations that wish to join. The U.S. should also continue to insist that Russia fulfill its 1999 Istanbul Commitments and withdraw its troops from Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia.
  • Encourage NATO to establish more officer-to-officer programs between Moscow and NATO. NATO should fund military-to-military educational opportunities, including dedicated annual programs at the Defense College in Rome and outreach programs by the Mission of the Military Cooperation Department at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany.
  • Commit to maintaining tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Given the growing threat from rogue states and the need to preserve the solidarity of the NATO alliance, the U.S. should commit to maintaining a robust nuclear deterrent in Europe.


In January, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Washington does not see the need for another security treaty at this time.[63] However, Washington needs to remain vigilant against Moscow’s attempts to dominate the security discussion in Europe. The U.S. and Europe need to maintain the primacy of NATO in Europe’s security architecture and protect the Euro-Atlantic community’s ability to advance relations in the Euro–Russian shared neighborhood.

In an already crowded theater, there is little appetite for spending time and energy to craft another tier of European security rules, especially on the basis of Moscow’s objections to the existing architecture. Building confidence, trust, and transparency between Russia and the U.S. and its NATO allies on key areas of shared interests is the best way to develop a stronger political relationship between Russia and the West.

As Margaret Thatcher has stated, “Whether weak or powerful, an opportunity or a headache, Russia matters.”[64] President Obama has decided to prioritize the advancement of Washington’s relationship with Moscow during his presidency. However, in refashioning U.S.–European–Russian relations, he must skillfully navigate the transatlantic diplomatic labyrinth and ensure that existing institutions, such as NATO and the OSCE, are not undermined.

Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author is grateful to Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., for his guidance and advice and to Aaron Church, an assistant in the Margaret Thatcher Center, for his assistance in preparing this paper.

[1]Dmitry Medvedev, “Speech at Meeting with German Political, Parliamentary and Civil Leaders,” Permanent Mission of Russia to NATO, June 5, 2008, at 31, 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3]President of Russia, “European Security Treaty,” unofficial English translation, November 29, 2009, at (August 31, 2010).

[4]Medvedev, “Speech at Meeting with German Political, Parliamentary and Civil Leaders.”

[5]President of Russia, “European Security Treaty.”

[6]Russia suspended its compliance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in 2007.

[7]President of Russia, “European Security Treaty,” Arts. 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3.

[8] Ibid.,Arts. 4 and 6.

[9]Marcel de Haas, “Medvedev’s Alternative European Security Architecture,” Security and Human Rights, Vol. 21, No. 1 (March 2010), p. 47.

[10]Mikhail Gorbachev, address to the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France, July 6, 1989, p. 9, at (August 31, 2010).

[11]Yevegeny Primakov served as both foreign minister and prime minister of Russia.

[12]Ariel Cohen, “The ‘Primakov Doctrine’: Russia’s Zero-Sum Game with the United States,” Heritage Foundation F.Y.I. No. 167, December 15, 1997.

[13]Angela Stent, “Reluctant Europeans: Three Centuries of Russian Ambivalence Toward the West,” in Robert Legvold, ed., Russian Foreign Policy in the 21st Century & The Shadow of the Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

[14]Dmitry Medvedev, speech at World Policy Conference, Evian, France, October 8, 2008, at (August 31, 2010).

[15]Dmitry Medvedev, “Speech at Helsinki University and Answers to Questions from Audience,” President of Russia, April 20, 2009, at (August 31, 2010).

[16]BBC News, “Putin Deplores Collapse of USSR,” April 25, 2005, at (August 31, 2010).

[17]Dmitry Rogozin, “Russia, NATO, and the Future of European Security,” Chatham House, February 20, 2009, at (August 31, 2010).

[18]Donald N. Jensen, “The US Reconsiders Transatlantic Security,” chap. 3 in Andrew Monaghan, ed., The Indivisibility of Security: Russia and Euro-Atlantic Security, NATO Defense College, December 2009, at (August 31, 2010).

[19]Vladimir Socor, “Medvedev Proposes All-European Security Pact During Berlin Visit,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, June 9, 2008, at[tt_news]=33701 (August 31, 2010).

[20]Robert Kagan, The Return of History and the End of Dreams (New York: Random House, 2008), p. 13.

[21]Stratfor, “The Motives Behind Russia’s Security Proposal,” March 22, 2009.

[22]Marcel H. Van Herpen, “Medvedev’s Proposal for a Pan-European Security Pact,” Cicero Foundation,October 2008, at (August 31, 2010).

[23]The North Atlantic Treaty, Art. 10, April 4, 1949, at (August 31, 2010).

[24]President of Russia, “European Security Treaty,” Art. 2.1.

[25]Volha Charnysh, “Russia Drafts European Security Pact,” Arms Control Today, Vol. 40, No. 1 (January/February 2010), at (August 31, 2010).

[26]Helene Cooper and Nicholas Kulish, “Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Russia Missile Deal,” The New York Times, February 7, 2009, at (July 13, 2010).

[27] Ibid.

[28]Patrick Nopens, “A New Security Architecture for Europe? Russian Proposal and Western Reactions,” Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations Security Policy Brief No. 3, November 2009, p. 4, at (August 31, 2010).

[29]Sally McNamara, “Principles and Proposals for NATO Reform,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2220, December 11, 2008, at

[30]Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, “Mobilizing NATO for Afghanistan and Pakistan: An Assessment of Alliance Capabilities,” 2010, at (August 31, 2010).

[31]Advisory Council on International Affairs, “NATO’s New Strategic Concept,” No. 67, January 2010, at (August 31, 2010).

[32]Barack Obama, remarks at town hall in Strasbourg, France, April 3, 2009, at (August 31, 2010).

[33]RIA Nostovi, “NATO Not a Threat to Russia—Secretary General Rasmussen,” March 12, 2010, at (July 13, 2010).

[34]Van Herpen, “Medvedev’s Proposal for a Pan-European Security Pact.”

[35]Stent, “Reluctant Europeans.”

[36]Jeffrey Mankoff, “Reforming the Euro-Atlantic Security Architecture: An Opportunity for U.S. Leadership,” TheWashington Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 2 (April 2010), pp. 65–83, at 31, 2010).

[37]Charnysh, “Russia Drafts European Security Pact.”

[38]David J. Kramer and Daniel P. Fata, “Why the Medvedev Proposal Is a Non-Starter,” German Marshall Fund of the United States, March 2010, at 31, 2010).

[39]Nicolas Sarkozy, speech at World Policy Conference, Evian, France, October 8, 2008, at 31, 2010).

[40]Ariel Cohen, “Russia’s Iran Policy: A Curveball for Obama,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2359,January 15, 2010, at

[41]BBC News, “‘Iran Nearing Nuclear Bombs’ Russia Warns,” July 12, 2010, at (August 31, 2010).

[42]Andrew Rettman, “EU Diplomat: No Details on Iran Sanctions Until July,” EU Observer, July 17, 2010, at (July 13, 2010).

[43]James Phillips, “Iran Economic Sanctions at the U.N. Security Council: The Incredible Shrinking Resolution,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2853,April 2, 2010, at

[44]James Phillips, Helle C. Dale, and Janice A. Smith, “Ten Practical Steps to Liberty in Iran,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2832, March 11, 2010, at

[45]Kenneth Katzman, “Iran Sanctions,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated June 23, 2010, at (July 14, 2010).

[46]David Crawford, “Germany Probes Russian Shipments to Iran,” TheWall Street Journal, June 12, 2010, at (July 13, 2010).

[47]Chris Irvine, “Arctic Sea Ghost Ship ‘Was Carrying Weapons to Iran,’” Daily Telegraph, September 6, 2009, at (July 13, 2010).

[48]Ariel Cohen, “A Policy Agenda for the U.S.–Russia Congressional Caucus,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2636, October 1, 2009, at

[49]Daniel Benjamin, “Confronting 21st Century Terrorism: Challenges for U.S. Policy,” U.S. Department of State, May 3, 2010, at (July 14, 2010).

[50]Ewen MacAskill and Chris McGreal, “Israel Should Be Wiped Off Map, Says Iran’s President,” The Guardian, October 27, 2005, at (July 14, 2010).

[51]Sally McNamara and Baker Spring, “President Obama Must Not Remove Nuclear Weapons from Europe,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2824, March 4, 2010, at (August 16, 2010).

[52]Ralf Neukirch, “German Foreign Minister Pushes for NATO Nuclear Drawdown,” Der Spiegel, February 25, 2010, at,1518,680174,00.html (August 16, 2010).

[53]RIA Nostovi, “NATO Not a Threat to Russia.”

[54]Charles A. Kupchan, “NATO’s Final Frontier,” Foreign Affairs,Vol. 89, No. 3 (May/June 2010).

[55]Robert E. Hunter and Sergey M. Rogov, “Engaging Russia as Partner and Participant,” RAND Corporation, 2004, p. vii, at (August 31, 2010).

[56]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO and Russia Agree to Move Partnership Forward,” December 4, 2009, at (August 31, 2010).

[57]Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), p. 103.

[58]NATO–Russia Council, “NATO–Russia Council Action Plan on Terrorism 2008 Mid-Year Implementation Report,” July 28, 2008, at (August 31, 2010).

[59]Hunter and Rogov, “Engaging Russia as Partner and Participant,” p. 9.

[60]Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation Establishing a Partnership Between the European Communities and Their Member States, of One Part, and the Russian Federation, of the Other Part, in Official Journal of the European Communities, November 28, 1997, at (August 31, 2010).

[61]Commission of the European Communities, “Review of EU–Russia Relations,” COM(2008) 740 final, November 5, 2008, p. 5, at (August 31, 2010).

[62]Catherine Ashton, remarks at the Munich Security Conference, February 6, 2010, at (August 31, 2010).

[63]Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks on the Future of European Security,” Paris, France, January 29, 2010, at (August 31, 2010).

[64]Thatcher, Statecraft, p. 71.


Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara