TWQ: Reforming the Euro-Atlantic Security Architecture: An Opportunity for U.S. Leadership - Spring 2010

  • Apr 1, 2010

    For the past year and a half, President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia has been pressing the United States and its European allies to open negotiations on a treaty establishing a new Euro-Atlantic security architecture. After enunciating a series of broad aims in mid-2008, the Russian leadership did not initially provide much detail about its idea for a new security agreement. Without a clearer sense of Moscow’s aims, officials in many countries came to view the idea in a poor light, seeing it as a clumsy attempt to undermine existing European and Euro-Atlantic security institutions as well as weaken Europe’s ability to pursue a unified policy toward Russia. Although Moscow finally released a draft treaty proposal in late November 2009, the Russian draft did little to allay these concerns. Russia’s continued intervention in affairs of its neighbors, manipulation of energy supplies, and failure to abide by existing agreements have all made Washington and its allies wary of Moscow’s proposal.

    Nonetheless, the underlying concept of a new security framework encompassing the United States, EU, and Russia is an attractive one, insofar as it offers hope of ameliorating Russia’s post—Cold War estrangement from the West, while reducing the likelihood of conflict across the unstable post-Soviet space between the borders of the EU and Russia. Between the lingering effects of the economic crisis and the emergence of global threats from terrorism to climate change, both Russia and the Western powers also have powerful incentives to reduce the confrontations that have mounted between them over the past decade or so.

    The basic logic underlying the Russian proposal for a new security architecture is sound, even if many of the specific suggestions Moscow has put forward remain disappointing. In part because of the inadequacy of existing European institutions, such as NATO and the EU as vehicles for integrating Russia, a new Euro-Atlantic framework could help address  these fundamental sources of insecurity and develop a way to engage common security threats with Moscow, rather than relying on the distant and retreating vision of assimilating Russia into Western values and institutions. As long as it does not disrupt existing institutions, such  a limited security pact would be in the interest of the United States and the EU, as well as Russia.