Several days ago, several European media outlets published an article by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the need to renew the rule-book of European security. The article highlights the need to modernise the Vienna Document 2011(VD11) on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures. Without providing any serious evidence, Mr Stoltenberg writes that Russia has walked away from some of the agreements on rules governing military activities in Europe or uses loopholes to evade their provisions.
In should be noted in this connection that, contrary to what Mr Stoltenberg writes, arms control and confidence- and security-building measures do not operate in a vacuum. These European rules were created under specific political conditions and for specific purposes, above all to end the Cold War and bloc confrontation. However, instead of removing the dividing lines in Europe, our Western partners have created a restricted security architecture based on NATO expansion, which has hindered the development and strengthening of common European institutions.
At the same time, they set themselves to prevent the modernisation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which was based on the realities of the period of confrontation between the Warsaw Treaty and NATO countries. When the Agreement on the Adaptation of the CFE Treaty was drafted at Russia’s insistence, they did their best to prevent it from coming into force. In particular, they refused to speed up ratification in accordance with the Istanbul Commitments. As a result, Russia was as good as forced to suspend its participation in the CFE Treaty.
NATO has recently resumed a policy of containing Russia and further changing the balance of forces in Europe in the alliance’s favour, including in direct proximity to Russia’s borders. This activity is acquiring an unprecedented scale, giving rise to more questions about its compliance with NATO’s pledge under the Russia-NATO Founding Act not to deploy nuclear weapons or station troops in the new member states. In light of this, accusing Russia of amassing forces on the border of Ukraine looks particularly cynical, considering that these accusations have been disproved by Western verification inspections held in Russia under VD11 and the Open Skies Agreement. By making these accusations, the United States and its allies have discredited VD11 as an objective tool for monitoring military activity in the OSCE countries.
These negative trends in the sphere of European security have logically affected some of its elements, in particular arms control and confidence- and security-building measures.
The harder policy of the United States and NATO, the alliance’s growing military presence and activity in Eastern Europe, and stubborn disregard for the objective results of inspections held in Russia run counter to NATO’s proclaimed intention to modernise the system of confidence- and security-building measures. Moreover, the analysis of NATO’s proposals exposes them as yet another attempt to force Russia to accept unbalanced and one-sided decisions that are aimed above all at increasing Russia’s military transparency.
These proposals also have a major flaw – the alliance’s unwillingness to take into account a tight connection between conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures in Europe. Many elements of these two systems are similar, if not the same, and both have a common objective. Considering the dim future of conventional arms control in Europe, the idling CFE, and no new agreements to replace it, a deep reform of the Vienna Document would be unwise. Moreover, it could be interpreted as proof that conventional arms control, which was designed as the main tool of building security and confidence in Europe, has been laid to rest. But perhaps this is the real objective behind the assessments and proposals made by NATO and its Secretary General?
The Russian position is well known. It was not NATO but Russia who pointed out the need for a deep modernisation of the rule-book of European security. It was Russia who proposed signing a European Security Treaty and overhauling the system of conventional arms control in Europe to take new realities into account. The alliance and its members know that Russia is willing to start practical consultations on a new conventional arms control system as soon as NATO indicates its seriousness about the matter and provides proposals. It has not done either yet.
Moreover, NATO has postponed the drafting of a new conventional arms control framework in Europe, or the rule-book of European security as Mr Stoltenberg put it, for an indefinite time. This ball is in NATO’s court, and presenting the situation differently amounts to a wilful distortion of the facts.