Prepared for the IISS/CEPS European Security Forum, Brussels, January 14, 2002

A Russia-within-Europe: Working toward a new security arrangement

by Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

At the beginning of the 21st century, the central issue of European security is how, not whether to integrate Russia within Euro-Atlantic institutions. The conditions are now right to move ahead toward that ambitious goal.

September 11, 2001 marked the end of the post-Cold War period. With the new security agenda having moved to the center stage, the Cold War one is not only irrelevant; it is also seen as irrelevant. This opens the way to dismantling the existing, and still formidable, infrastructure of military confrontation.

The second opportunity in a decade to create a Euro-Atlantic security community which would include Russia can now be seized upon for several good reasons.

Putin's decision to side with the West was not made on the spur of the moment. A close analysis demonstrates he had been avoiding confrontation with the U.S. and reaching out to Western Europe ever since coming to office. A combination of narrowly pragmatic, broadly "philosophical" and very personal reasons is responsible for the new strategy – not tactics! – in foreign policy. This course is in full harmony with the main thrust of Putin's economic and social reform program, which can be defined as modernization through Europeanization. As evidenced by a series of post-September developments, including the Russian reaction to the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, the new Kremlin policy line is sustainable domestically and sufficiently protected against adverse international political conditions.

Of course, Russia's rapprochement with Europe is only in the second instance a foreign policy exercise. Its success or failure will primarily depend on the pace and depth of Russia's economic, political and societal transformation. Russia's "entry into Europe" cannot be negotiated with Brussels. It has to be first "made in Russia" itself. A decade after the end of the Soviet Union, there are fewer and fewer illusions among both the elite and the public about a "unique Russian way". The next hurdle to take is to recognize that Russia as a self-contained and self-sustained "pole" (or a traditional great power) is already history.

Faced with the challenge of international terrorism, the United States has moved further away from the Cold War mindset. Russia is not on America's mind, to the extent that Washington can reduce its strategic nuclear forces unilaterally and withdraw from a major arms control pact without fearing Moscow's response. Although a Russian-American alliance can only be situational, and the winding down of the Afghanistan operation would again reduce the importance of Russia in American eyes, there are a number of potential situations in the new strategic environment where Russia's assistance to the U.S. could be invaluable.

Americans have no reason to oppose Russia's rapprochement with Europe, knowing full well that a Moscow attempt at "wedge-driving" between them and the West Europeans would be dramatically counterproductive. A Russia-within-Europe – which she will never be able to dominate – meets core U.S. national security interests. It forecloses even the remote chance of Russia resuming its hegemonic geopolitical posture, and associates the former superpower with America's closest allies. The U.S. may be wary of Russia joining the European caucus on some issues of contention between the Transatlantic allies, and in particular of "eroding NATO from within". On balance, however, these concerns do not outweigh the benefits of Russia's integration. They can be best met by an enlightened American leadership, within a more mature Transatlantic partnership.

The West Europeans have an even more compelling interest than the Americans in securing an organic relationship with Russia. As the European Union becomes more integrated internally and expands eastward, it has to define itself as a political, as well as an economic actor. Thus, it needs a long-term outward-looking strategy, not only an inward-looking one. This strategy should concern itself in particular with the Union's immediate neighborhood, which includes, next to the Balkans and North Africa, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia. Indeed, the EU objectives with respect to each of these various relationships will speak a lot about the way the Union and its member countries view themselves in the 21st century world and about the role they aspire to and are prepared to play.

Exactly because one is necessarily looking for an organic relationship, Europe's problems with Russia are more fundamental, and more difficult to tackle than those of the United States. It can be stressed again and again that the EU enlargement model may work for the Baltics, Central and eventually even South-Eastern Europe, but not for Russia, and this is certainly true. Yet, drawing a permanent borderline between the expanded Union and Russia – and possibly also Ukraine and Belarus – would be marking not only the limit of Europe's expansion but also the limit of its ambitions. However, even if the EU were to opt for a "Europe without Russia", this does not weaken the case for close security cooperation between the two.

The options for security cooperation leading to security integration between Russia and Western Europe are several. One is NATO. The North Atlantic Alliance, to which most of the EU member states, as well as North America belong, will remain the principal Western security mechanism for the foreseeable future. NATO will necessarily evolve, but it will not wither away any time soon. A Russian membership in NATO is not feasible in the near and even medium term. Russia's association with NATO, however, is. Integrating Russia within common councils with the Alliance will serve the main purpose of demilitarizing the Russian-Western (including Russian-Western European) relationship. Collaboration on the new security agenda – from fighting international terrorism and organized crime to dealing with WMD/missile proliferation to peacekeeping – will largely contribute to that.

Obviously, Russia's security relationship with the European Union will cover the areas in which the Union as a unit will be competent. These are mainly soft security issues, which are most relevant for contemporary Europe. At one end of the spectrum, one will deal with environmental and NBC security (including nuclear waste disposal, chemical disarmament, etc.), at the other, the Petersberg tasks. As the European Union admits former Warsaw Pact states and ex-Soviet republics, it will become more concerned about the safety of its immediate eastern neighborhood.

The Kaliningrad enclave is a case in point. In view of the Union enlargement dynamic, one cannot afford, either in Moscow or in Brussels, not to deal with it. It is also a test case for EU-Russian cooperation, including in the security field. Kaliningrad also calls for a measure of EU-NATO-Russia coordination.

Another place for such trilateral collaboration can be the Balkans. To the extent the U.S. turns the peacekeeping operation in the region largely to its European allies, and the EU endows itself with a military capability of its own, to serve in crisis areas, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia may evolve into a long-term European responsibility. When the Russians will be dealing with NATO there, they will be dealing increasingly with the Europeans.

The peace settlement of the conflict in Moldova, where Russia is currently reducing its peacekeeping/arsenal guard duty military presence and where Ukraine and the OSCE play a limited role, may be an opportunity to expand geographically the EU-Russian cooperation in peacekeeping.

Other potential loci for Russian-EU peacekeeping lie in the Caucasus. Having (correctly) acquiesced in a U.S. and European presence in Central Asia which is likely to outlast the American anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, Moscow should be more open in the future to having its European partners shoulder some of the burden of peacekeeping in Abkhazia. Another potential deployment area for EU peacekeepers is Nagorno-Karabakh, but this calls for an agreement between the parties to the conflict which is not yet in sight. South Ossetia is the easiest case by comparison, but it may yet continue under the present arrangement.

As to Chechnya, a foreign military involvement there will remain unacceptable for Russia. Humanitarian assistance and human rights monitoring are the two elements of Western (mainly European) involvement. When a political settlement is finally reached, complete with a working model for self-government and based on Russian-Chechen and Chechen-Chechen reconciliation, the necessity economic rehabilitation of the war-ravaged republic and the North Caucasus as a whole would call for EU involvement on the ground.

This should not be regarded as sheer charity. Bordering on the Moslem world (from North Africa to the Balkans to the Caucasus to Central Asia) and containing significant Moslem minorities within its borders – whether as several ancient ethnic homelands or as millions of mostly recent immigrants – both Europe and Russia have to deal with the factor of Islamic activism, including radicalism and extremism. Already now, European and Russian forces are based in Tajikistan with a view to combatting extremism in the region. Moreover, the Europeans make up the bulk of the international peacekeeping force in the neighboring Afghanistan. (Russia's decision not to send its own forces to Kabul is again correct: too little time has passed since the Soviet intervention in that country).

What is often overlooked in Russia is that close cooperation of the kind outlined above would require a major overhaul of the Russian military system. In its present form and quality, this system allows for very limited and often mutually frustrating cooperation. From the Russian national perspective, demilitarizing the country's relations with the West creates the conditions and provides the incentives for a genuine military reform which would produce a system geared to current and future risks and threats, rather than those of the past. Exchanges of various kinds with the European militaries – at NATO, EU and bilateral levels – can be instrumental in bringing about the necessary changes.

Another area facing drastic restructuring is the Russian defense industry. In the last decade, it was virtually kept in the "Asian ghetto" as far as arms trade was concerned. This is unhealthy, especially from the strategic point of view. Allowing the Russian producers to compete in a non-discriminatory environment in Europe, and cooperating with them in modernizing Soviet-era equipment still held by several European nations, some of them NATO members, is a serious engagement proposal. Looking ahead into the long-term future, Russia can hardly remain self-sufficient in all required weapons systems. For its part, Europe could substantially enhance its defense industrial capacity by means of joint ventures and various forms of integration with Russia.

Military and industrial cooperation logically calls for close political cooperation. On most international issues, Russia's position comes close to those of EU member states. This is a good basis for joint action in a variety of regional and functional areas, from the Middle East and Central Asia to non-proliferation and arms control.

There is no single forum for Russian-European security relations. Some issues – mostly hard security stuff or global in nature as dealing with the proliferation challenge and developing missile defenses are best handled within NATO. The British-proposed formula of a NATO-Russia council "at 20" is most promising and should be developed into a working mechanism. The best model for that council is NATO itself.

The current EU-Russian relationship includes 6-monthly summits between the Russian president and the European presidency and the Commission. These could be elevated to an EU-Russia council, to oversee the implementation of decisions made at the top level. To the extent common foreign/security/defense policies and structures take shape within the EU, establishing a practice of regular consultations between them and their Russian counterparts becomes necessary. Russia should strive for an observer status in the relevant EU bodies, and be prepared to open its own government bureaucracy for permanent liaison links with Brussels.

This is an ambitious outline. It requires vision at the very top, able and enlightened leadership at the political level and a professional and responsive government bureaucracy, as well as a modern-thinking security community. The element in shortest supply is the people to fill the relevant positions. In Russia's case, this would amount to nothing less than a bureaucratic revolution to sustain the emerging revolution in foreign and security policy thinking.

To energize the official Russian foreign and security policy community, an influx of new blood is badly needed. Some managerial talents could be lured to come, even on secondment, from the business community. More importantly, a new generation of diplomats and military officers has to replace what still remains, largely, a Soviet elite.