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Vitaly Zhurkin

Director Emeritus of the RAS Institute of Europe, RAS Full Member

The Global Strategy of the European Union, including its Foreign and Security Policy dimension, is by any standard an extremely important international document. Future historians will study it - I believe - very attentively, trying to understand and comprehend political realities of the present day Europe. It should and will be analyzed very carefully by all interested parties.

True, as any overreaching and complicated conceptual statement, it is not without shortcomings (100% ideal international documents do not exist). But most of its important elements deserve thorough examination and analysis.

Strong impression is created in the EU Global Strategy by its thoughtful and realistic appraisal of the European Union's capabilities and problems. In a sense, it summarizes long history of the EU and in particular the last decade or two when security and defense dimensions developed on a large scale.

It quite objectively characterizes an extensive modern potential of the European Union and stresses that contemporary security is multidimensional and is based on many factors and elements. At the same time, it recognizes that the EU is not making full use of this potential.

Ideas and proposals on the application of the EU's potential are of particular interest and deserve a careful study. It is obvious that they will be analyzed (and have already been) by many researchers in Europe and beyond.

A very careful and balanced approach is developed in GS to the correlation between military and non-military means in dealing with issues of security (hard and soft power). It is definitely a «new word in the European Union's political thought, which traditionally had been more leaning to the «soft» aspects of this power, though «hard» aspects were not overlooked». It is difficult to predict in what direction the EU military inclinations will develop and what «strategic autonomy», proclaimed in GS, will eventually mean. In any case, it is the problem which will be solved by the Europeans themselves and by nobody else.

Most Russian analysts cannot agree with a one-sided evaluation of Russia's policy in Europe presented in GS. And, naturally, they do and will object against this biased approach. For the sake of objectivity, the position of the other, i.e. Russian side, should have been taken into consideration.

Naturally, most welcome is the proposal in GS about possible cooperation with Russia on the issues of common interest like climate, the Arctic, maritime security, education, research, cross-border cooperation, various exchanges. This list can be continued.

The problems of security are looked upon in GS through the prism of EU interests. It is quite natural. On the other hand, it is a pity that collective all-European problems of security are not dealt with on a larger scale. These problems are mentioned in the Global Strategy, it is true. All the necessary words are there. Still, I think that in comparison to other extremely important issues they do not receive proper attention. The European Union is not the whole Europe. Security agenda in Europe is important for all European nations. The system of all- embracing European institutions, which were developing for many decades, plays indispensable role in creating the climate of security in this part of the world.

Out of many all- European organizations one should be mentioned in particular as exemplary: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is absolutely rightly called in GS (mainly in passing) «a pillar of European security», which «lies at the heart of the European security order». It seems that OSCE deserved much more noticeable place in GS for the European Union's CSDP. Not only because it has helped for many years to strengthen the state of security. But because it was and is the organization of all European states (plus USA and Canada) and especially because the security role of OSCE has grown so visibly and vividly in the 21st century. In a sense it has obtained in modern times a «second wind» and is offering a new hope to all interested in strengthening security in Europe.

One should not forget that the Helsinki European summit of 1975, which «Time» magazine compared with the Vienna congress of 1814-1815, started the process of developing all kinds of multilateral approaches to collective European security. This process continues in our days.

Moreover, OSCE in Europe plays a new and important role in attempts to solve the difficult Ukrainian crisis. After the conclusion of Minsk agreements, which led to termination of the sharp phase of military conflict in the Eastern part of Ukraine, there appeared a need for an organization which could objectively control the process of fragile armistice. All parties appealed to OSCE. Finally, on March 21, 2014 by consensus of all 57 members of OSCE it created a Special monitoring mission (usually simply called «observation group»). This mission without any delay started an extremely complicated work on pacifying the conflict, the number of its members quickly grew.

While working objectively, the Special monitoring mission from time to time hits interests of one or the other side, both of which immediately express displeasure. But this does only stress the objectivity of the Mission and the realistic role of OSCE in attempts to solve the Ukrainian crisis.

OSCE is actively participating in the Contact group, created on the basis of Minsk agreements, and all its subgroups: security, political, economic affairs and humanitarian problems. Representatives of OSCE are trying to help achieve compromises.

This is not by accident than I dwell so much on OSCE's role in attempts to solve this acute crisis. It is necessary to stress the importance of this organization in the process of developing collective all-European security.

In political confrontations, like the one which exists nowadays between European Union and Russia, important role can be played by usually almost invisible sub-regional organizations. Among them are the Arctic Council (mentioned in GS), Council of Barents/Euro-Arctic states, Black Sea Economic Cooperation and others. They play a stabilizing role in various aspects of the West-East relationship, including security problems. Their contribution seems sometimes quite modest. But, in sum, they exert a definitely positive influence on all- European collective security landscape.

In addition to this, it is necessary to recall multilateral treaties, signed under the auspice of OSCE, which continue not only to exist but also to work effectively in spite of tense disagreements on other problems. To mention only a couple of examples. The Open Skies Treaty of 2002 is effectively implemented by all sides; observing planes fly without opposition from those who are observed. This activity definitely exercises a stabilizing and pacifying effect on the security situation in Europe.

Another positive example - the Vienna Document of 2011 on Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBMs), which is based on the 1986 Stockholm Document on CSBMs and Disarmament in Europe and a series of previous Vienna Documents on CSBMs, concluded and effectively implemented in the times of the Cold War, including its most difficult days. Today the Vienna Document of 2011 on CSBMs is very diligently implemented by all the parties; observers visit various military installations. And all this activity, usually ignored by mass media, helps to support all-European security climate. The existence and effective implementation of such and other similar agreements is a definite proof of their necessity irrespective of conflicts and lack of common action on other problems.

Elementary prudence recommends to keep lines of communication between conflicting parties open. International political dialogue is a necessary condition of civilized foreign policy interaction. In the climate conducive to understanding and compromises agreements on all-European security are bound to emerge in the interests of all sides.

To return to the substance of the security aspects of GS and CSDP it is necessary to dedicate particular attention to the topic of counterterrorism. The strategy contains important ideas and proposals, which are of substantial interest for the whole international community and should be carefully studied. Several times, although in rather general terms, GS contains the desire to cooperate in fight against international terrorism «with the wider world». It is definitely a very attractive and promising point.

Counterterrorism, struggle against terrorism, naturally should be a highest priority in the foreign and security policy of any state on our planet, any alliance or coalition. There can be disagreements and diverging views on other international problems. But they should not overshadow the necessity of joint approach and joint actions against terrorism. Even serious political conflicts, like the one which exists between the European Union and Russia, should not prevent cooperation in counterterrorism. Terrorism is the enemy of all civilized states and societies, are they in alliance or in competition with each other. Whatever other dimensions of their relations, in their attitude to terrorism only one trend must dominate - search for the ways of strengthening and widening cooperation in the area of counterterrorism.

The part of the Global Strategy, dedicated to the EU approach to international crises and conflicts, deserves a thorough attention. European Union's attitude and policy towards international conflicts are based on the experience of the Common Security and Defense policy in various areas and in particular in Africa. The CSDP operations in Africa (which is mentioned many times in GS) constitute the larger part of its overall activities.

It is worth recalling that Russia cooperated with the EU twice in their African endeavors in Chad and maritime areas adjacent to Somali. The CSDP operation in Chad, started in 2008, included for the first time on cooperative basis the Russian aviation group of helicopters with substantial military personnel. The Russian group acted effectively and received high appraisal by the EU. Later the operation was transformed into the peace mission of the United Nations and ended successfully in 2010.

In 2008 another EU-Russia counterterrorist cooperation started in the other corner of Africa - in the Indian Ocean along the shores of Somalia. It was directed against Somalian pirates, who, by that time, almost destroyed international maritime traffic in the area. «Atalanta» was the first EU naval operation in the framework of CSDP with participation of almost all members of EU. From the very beginning Russia took part in counterterrorist actions, directing a group of naval ships to this North-Western corner of the Indian ocean. Their active cooperation with Atalanta developed very effectively, joint actions were successfully coordinated. The cooperation continued for several years. As a result, the Somalian piracy was eventually destroyed.

In the times of tense disagreements, it is worth remembering about this mutual successful cooperation, which took place not so long ago.

What is particularly attractive in the parts of GS, dedicated to security, is a comprehensive approach to international conflicts, based on theoretical and practical experience of CSDP. This approach is based on a very balanced and careful correlation of three major stages: conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict stabilization. All stages are accurately described and presented as realistic tools of dealing with conflicts.

One of the most acute problems for the European Union is migration. GS deals very attentively with this multidimensional phenomena. CSDP is mentioned as one of «migration-sensitive instruments». It would be interesting to see in the future what other forms of CSDP in the sphere of migration can be developed by the European Union in addition to those which already exist.

In final part of GS the problems of international security and arms control are addressed. It properly expresses strong support for multilateral disarmament, nonproliferation and arms control treaties and regimes. At the same time, it seems that more consistent and in-depth attention to these problems would only increase the importance of the EU Strategy. While speaking about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, it would be worth reminding that in addition to nuclear weapons they include chemical, biological and other means of mass annihilation. More detailed analysis of international security and arms control treaties and agreements would only increase the effectiveness of GS underlining its global ambitions. Avoiding and preventing a large military conflict, European or global, should continue to be the highest priority for all nations irrespective of their disagreements or political contradictions.

In conclusion, it is necessary to stress once more that the new Global Strategy of the European Union is an important international document, which demands careful study and requires adequate reaction.


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