Russian President Dmitry Medvedev used his visit to Berlin on June 5 for proposing an all-European security pact with Russia’s participation, inherently in opposition to NATO (Interfax, Itar-Tass, June 5, 6). The Kremlin apparently hopes that the evolving Russo-German “special relationship” could turn Germany into a sound chamber for Russian proposals of this sort.
The proposal itself looks like an updated variation on Soviet-era initiatives on the same theme. The primary targets of such overtures in Europe today, however, are no longer left-leaning opposition groups, but rather business interests and establishment political figures.
Addressing his audience of nearly 1,000 German businessmen and politicians, Medvedev called on European countries to start working out an all-European security pact. An all-European summit should be called to kick-start the process. All of Europe’s states would be called upon to participate, “each acting in its own national capacity. Any ideas about alliances and groups of states would be left outside the door.” The implication is that NATO and European Union member countries must not, at least not officially, coordinate their positions in the negotiations, if the process goes ahead.
Once approved, the pact would be legally binding, in the form of a second edition of the OSCE’s 1976 Helsinki Final Act. The Kremlin wants a new pact to be approved at an all-European summit. The participant states would form an all-European organization, resembling the OSCE in some ways. Medvedev labeled the would-be pact as a “regional pact,” a hint that Russia would attempt to exclude the United States. The resulting pact and organization should, in the sense of the UN Charter, “conclusively clarify the role of the use of force in the Euro-Atlantic community.” This obscure language implies that NATO decisions would require approval from outside the alliance.
Medvedev hinted at a grandiose make-work project for the moribund OSCE as a basis for the proposed pan-European security system. He suggested that “the OSCE should turn into a fully-fledged regional structure” and criticized “those who are preventing it from doing so.” He stopped short of naming the United States but did blame NATO by name for blocking the OSCE’s development along those lines.
Furthermore, “existing organizations in the Euro-Atlantic space could also become signatory parties to the pact,” though not to the would-be pan-European organization. The reference to existing organizations almost certainly means NATO and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). According to Medvedev’s proposal, the two alliances would not participate in the negotiations to work out a pact and a new European organization. These would be reserved for states acting strictly in their national capacities; but once the process is concluded, the “existing” alliances would be invited to sign the pact.
Such a procedure would in effect be inviting NATO to subject itself to external vetoes and other constraints, “legally binding” ones, according to Medvedev. Additionally, the proposal would imply official international recognition of the CSTO, a goal that Moscow has failed to attain thus far. It could also become a parallel to, or substitute for, a treaty that Moscow would like to conclude between NATO and the CSTO, so as to confer a semblance of legitimacy on the latter.
Medvedev in his speech accused NATO of resisting such “pan-European” security concepts and called for marginalizing the alliance: “I am convinced that Atlanticism as a single basis for security has exhausted itself. We must at the present time discuss [the concept of] a single Euro-Atlantic space from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Life itself dictates such a basis for action.” Yet he stopped short of confrontational rhetoric. While warning that NATO’s enlargement would “undermine, damage [Russia’s] relations with the Alliance for a long time to come,” he added, “There will be no confrontation, although the price will be high.” Without hinting at what that price might be, Medvedev cautioned NATO to take a “time-out” from any decisions on enlargement.
Crudely appealing to the concept of “national interest,” Medvedev urged all would-be participants in such a pact “to be guided by that which is called ‘naked national interests,’ un-distorted by any ideological considerations.” Apparently the Kremlin has registered, and exploits, the growing resort to “national-interest” arguments in Germany and other European countries (Hungary’s Socialist government is another example) to justify special bilateral relationships with Russia. The “ideological considerations,” which Moscow would ban from the debate, evidently means the suppression of democracy by Kremlin authoritarianism.
That strong caveat notwithstanding, Medvedev insisted in another part of the speech that Russia’s political identity was fully European. On that purported basis he urged Europe to develop an “identity that would organically unite all of its integral parts, including the Russian Federation.” Such an appeal seems calculated to dovetail with, and reinforce, not so much European as specifically German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and German business ideas about an “interlocking” (Verflechtung) of institutions and economies with those of Russia.
The Russian president’s initiative came as a surprise to German observers. Whether it had been cleared in advance with the German government or, for that matter, with the OSCE’s Finnish Chairmanship, are open questions. Most of the German press did not catch the proposal for comments in the weekend issues and apparently lost interest afterward.
This initiative reflects continuity with Medvedev’s predecessor Vladimir Putin and indeed his Soviet predecessors’ attempts to insert Russia as a participant in Euro-Atlantic decision-making, dilute NATO’s role, build up the OSCE (where Russia wields veto power) as a European security actor, and promote such initiatives bilaterally with selected European governments (Interfax, Itar-Tass, June 5, 6).