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Ivan Timofeev

PhD in Political Science, RIAC Director of Programs, RIAC Member, Head of "Contemporary State" program at Valdai Discussion Club

The new Global EU Strategy is a landmark event. It formalizes an attempt to transform the European Union into the independent center of world politics and further growth of its responsibility in international security matters. In case of its successful implementation, the EU will attain a greater potential and political weight. Russia in this new strategy is an opponent to the European Union on a number of fundamental issues.

The new Global EU Strategy is a landmark event. It formalizes an attempt to transform the European Union into the independent center of world politics and further growth of its responsibility in international security matters. In case of its successful implementation, the EU will attain a greater potential and political weight. The EU will become a new qualitative political player, cooperating closely with NATO and solving a wide range of security issues - from conventional deterrence to new challenges and threats. Among them are migration, cyber security, energy, sustainability of states in transition, etc. The EU's role in the formation of a new security system in Europe will increase.

Russia in this new strategy is an opponent to the European Union on a number of fundamental issues. Possible cooperation is limited to a narrow number of topics. Russia is considered as an alien element in the European security system, a troublemaker, which infringes the order that emerged after the Cold War. Deterrence is the key element of policy toward Russia. Unfortunately, Russia itself keeps a reserved attitude towards the EU.

Certainly, both the EU and Russia leave some gaps for partnership (so-called selective engagement). The concept of selective engagement is still very amorphous. Neither Brussels nor Moscow seem to have a clear understanding of what issues need to be included into the list of partnership destinations. And even if such a list is drawn up and functions on both sides, the selective tactical cooperation does not guarantee the cumulative result. There is no answer to the question - what exactly we want, where and how do we go? In other words, the selective engagement does not have the strategic vision. This vision will be substituted by mutual deterrence and the perception of each other as a strategic threat.

Such situation is detrimental for both Russia and the EU. Firstly, it can hardly solve all the problems that caused the current situation in relations between Moscow and Brussels. Secondly, the divided Europe will undermine our efforts to counter the growing number of threats and challenges. Meanwhile, for Russia the majority of challenges defined in the Global Strategy of the EU, are as important as for the European Union. Violation of the European order harms Russia. The country has long been a target by radical Islamists. Russia is also vulnerable in the digital environment, as vulnerable are its neighbors in the West and in the East. Influx of refugees and migrants is everyday experience for Russia, although now with less intensity than in Western Europe. Finally, Russia is losing from the statesmanship crises in the neighboring countries and regions.

What to do in this situation? First of all, it is necessary to maintain lines of partnership where both parties are interested in. It is necessary to avoid the selective engagement shrinkage to purely nominal and secondary issues. On the contrary, the list of common topics for selective engagement should grow, as well as the depth of their elaboration. The overall objective is to turn the selective engagement into a greater engagement, where the cooperation on a narrow list of issues will become a self-sustaining system.

However, in an increasing political role of the EU this approach will be clearly inadequate, even in case of success. It is necessary to start a strategic dialogue on the future of the European security, understood in a broadest sense. And also we need a dialogue on the EU and Russia's place in this system, their interactions in its creation and development process.

Such strategic dialogue will be extremely difficult in the current conditions. But if Russia and the EU are able to achieve results in this direction, this will consolidate the European Union's role as a new center of international relations with the ability to take responsibility for the security issues. Russia also will be able to assume the role of a partner in the creation of a new security system, avoiding the marginalization and its role as the common enemy.

At the beginning the agenda of the strategic dialogue on security issues between the EU and Russia could include the following questions:

First. Overall assessment of existing threats and challenges, as well as the principles on which the European security should be based. The Helsinki Final Act remains relevant. But it appeared in fundamentally different conditions. It was a response to the threat of a large-scale conflict in Europe between the two military blocs. The current situation is absolutely different. Threats and security issues became much more complex. So the Helsinki principles should be adapted to new realities. They need to be converted into a modern strategic document, which would be perceived by all the forces in Europe as a prescription for actions and not as a rhetorical exercise. Obviously, the discussion of the Helsinki principles will require a new debate on the OSCE reform. The very fact of the EU new political role will inevitably require such a reform. The United States and other interested parties should be partners in such dialogue.

Second. The dialogue on new approaches to the conventional arms control. This idea was expressed in a recent article by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and requires urgent attention, despite the restrained attitude both in Moscow and in several European capitals. The collapse of the adapted CFE Treaty has undermined fundamental principles of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. Without a transparent regime of the conventional arms control the NATO's eastward expansion inevitably caused contradictions with Russia. The problem has not been solved so far. Careful analysis of mistakes, parameters of the future regime and steps for its development are required. The EU could be a significant partner in the discussion over the new regime. And the success of the initiative would strengthen the new role of the EU and would remove security dilemma in its relations with Russia. This would create the preconditions for systemic solutions of the Ukrainian crisis beyond Minsk agreements.

Third. Creation of a coordinated system to counter radical Islamism and terrorism. Today, this issue is assessed in the logic of a tactical interaction among many "new challenges". There is a large number of other issues, where the cooperation with the EU is possible and necessary. However, the severity and complexity of the threat from radical Islam require a separate interaction and working out of joint mechanisms - from countering the Islamist propaganda to concrete humanitarian and special operations.

These three issues are enough to launch a strategic dialogue between Russia and the EU in the field of security. Subsequently, the list of questions could be expanded. Furthermore, such a dialogue can and should be conducted in parallel with the selective engagement and its transition to greater engagement.

The overall aim of these measures - security issues in Russia-EU relations, including the EU partners, their joint participation in the construction of a new equal and indivisible security system in Europe, coordinated partnership to counter common challenges.

First in published in Valdai Discussion Club.

Ivan Timofeev leads the program “Contemporary State” at Valdai Discussion Club. Also he has been a Director of Programs at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) since 2011.

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
 
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