United States C. Company, 2 Battalion, 18 Infantry Regiment, 170 Infantry Brigade Combat Team troops march during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade at the Moscow Red Square, late Tuesday, May 4, 2010.
"A Parade of East-West Opportunities"
Op-Ed, International Relations and Security Network
May 10, 2010
Author: Simon Saradzhyan, Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
On 9 May, soldiers from the US, the UK, France, Poland and a number of former Soviet republics marched down the cobblestones of Moscow's Red Square together with their counterparts from Russia to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the victory in World War II.
That soldiers from these NATO countries and Russia would parade in downtown Moscow is both unprecedented and illustrative of the potential for cooperation between Moscow and the West in the sphere of security and defense.
That potential is based on convergence of their vital interests in that:
- No nuclear weapons or nuclear devices are ever used
- No new nuclear powers emerge
- No sub-state actors acquire nuclear weapons and WMD terrorism is prevented while conventional terrorism is suppressed
- All weapons-usable nuclear material be accounted for and secured to highest standards
- There is no armed conflict or war in Europe/Eurasia
- No failed states emerge in Eurasia
Beyond the security domain, their vital interests will also converge in that:
- Transnational crime and trafficking in Europe/Eurasia is suppressed
- The viability and stability of major world markets, including that of fossil fuel, is ensured
- Integration of Russia into the club of economically developed free market democracies continues
This list, which I have complied, is not finite, and different vertices in the polygon, which Russia and NATO members form, have varying degrees of capabilities and motivation in advancing one or another of these interests.
Still, one cannot help wonder why, 20 years since the end of the ideological divide between West and East, the two have not only failed to form a strategic partnership, but also remain in a stand-off with thousands of nuclear warheads prepared for a quick launch.
In the meantime, new common challenges have emerged for the former Cold War foes, including the rise of non-state actors displaying sustained efforts to acquire WMDs and the possibility of failed states in Southern and Central Asia.
For the host of the 9 May parade, this list of challenges is also complimented by such resilient threats to Russia's national security as the insurgency in the North Caucasus. Elsewhere, the growing disparity between its economically underdeveloped and underpopulated parts of Siberia and the Far East and China is becoming a cause for serious concern in Moscow.
Europe, Russia and the US would be much better prepared to preempt common threats to their security if they acted as members of one alliance or one collective security mechanism.
One way forward to start forging such an alliance is to reform the existing system of collective security in Europe to give Moscow a meaningful say. But the US government has already rejected Russia's proposal for a new European collective security treaty.
Another way forward is accepting Russia into NATO, which would have to be preceded by building trust and resolving all major issues of discontent between the sides, including resolution of the conflicts in the former Soviet Union.
Joint missile defense could help to end the military stand-off between the alliance and Russia and to build trust, the lack of which is especially visible in relations between Russia and a number of former Warsaw Pact countries, albeit the recent rapproachement between Moscow and Warsaw shows that the existing animosities are not irreconcilable.
One option for addressing these countries' concerns over Russia's entry into NATO could be to implement the idea of William Perry and George Shultz to move from consensus decisions to super-majority decisions in the alliance's governing structure. Russia's ascendancy to NATO will also end Russia's own concerns over the membership of former Soviet republics in the alliance. It would also play a useful (but not decisive) role in forging closer economic cooperation with the West to secure its assistance in diversifying and modernizing the Russian economy in what will help to address the disparities with China in the east.
Neither the US nor Europe nor Russia can afford the status quo of the existing European collective security system, whose flaws have been exemplified by the wars in former Yugoslavia and Georgia, at a time when much more serious threats have emerged.
If not addressed together, some of these threats will expand in scale and scope in the next several decades to make the lingering suspicions and lack of institutionalized cooperation between Russia, Europe and the US look absurd and pernicious to future generations.
Simon Saradzhyan is a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. He is the author of several papers on security and terrorism. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).
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