The European security and defense architecture and the Russian Federation

Essay 2006 18 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Peace and Conflict Studies, Security


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Post-Cold War Developments and the Marginalisation of Russia

III. Security Cooperation: The Current State of Relations
III A. NATO-Russia Relations
III A 1. NATO-Russia Relations: The Institutional Framework
III A 2. NATO-Russia Relations: An Assessment
III B. EU-Russia Relations
III B 1. EU-Russia Relations: The Institutional Framework
III B 2. EU-Russia Relations: An Assessment
III C. OSCE-Russia Relations

IV. The End of the NATO-Russia Honeymoon?
IV B. The Limited Extent of the Current Cooperation

V. Conclusions

I. Introduction

During his speech at the Security Conference in Munich in February this year, the Russian Defence Minister Ivanov emphasised that there is ‘plenty of work to be done’ concerning the relations between Russia and the European Union (EU) in the fields of security and defence policy.[1] Further, he urged for the deepening of the dialogue between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[2] A successful Europe, according to Ivanov, cannot be built without a close partnership between Russia and the European security institutions.[3]

Ivanov’s speech constitutes an adequate example for efforts of the Russian Federation aimed at getting more involved into European security issues. By examining the completed NATO and EU enlargements in 1999 and 2004, the ambition of Russia to have an influential say in European security questions becomes obvious. Being confronted with enlargement processes that incorporated a former Soviet sphere of influence, the Russian Federation regards itself as being excluded.[4] Both sides, EU/NATO and Russia currently do not consider full Russian accession to these organisations as a possible and desirable policy option in the short- and medium-term.

Therefore, European security institutions are facing the problem of finding a way to cooperate with those states that do not wish or are not allowed to join these institutions.[5] How to fit in the Russian Federation, can thus be regarded as one of the most urgent issues in European security policies. In this context it is important to point to the already existing forms of cooperation between Russia and Western security organisations: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), the Permanent Partnership Council between the EU and Russia, and various bilateral cooperations between Russia and Western European countries constitute a security framework that cannot be considered as being inaccessible for Russia.

In regard to the above-mentioned security institutions, the NRC is currently the most developed framework of Trans-Atlantic/European-Russian cooperation. The Russian Federation regards the NRC as the forum, which meets its strategic desires best. Particularly in contrast to the cooperation with the EU, where according to Ivanov plenty of work is left undone. The NATO alliance has recently surely experienced an upgrade on the side of the Russian administration. Mainly owed to Russia’s siding with the US in its fight against terrorism, security cooperation between the West and Russia within the NRC seems to work surprisingly well. Although urging for a closer cooperation between NATO and Russia, Ivanov expressed himself pleased with the role Russia is playing within the NRC.[6] Obviously, Russia and the West have found a way to cooperate in the field of security.

This essay, however, will argue that the underpinnings of this security cooperation are actually very fragile and are lacking substance. In particular, the lack of a shared set of common aims, interests, and values make it difficult to develop a sustainable security partnership between Europe’s security institutions and Russia. To develop this thesis, the paper will in the first chapter analyse the post cold war developments in the relations between Western security institutions and Russia, emphasising the marginalisation of the Russian Federation. Here, the main patterns and reasons for Russia’s marginalisation will be outlined. The second part will examine the current state of affairs in the mutual relations, focussing on NATO and the EU and their security cooperations with Russia. Mainly, it will be argued that NATO currently constitutes the best forum of cooperation. This is mainly due to the limited extent of cooperation, which is largely aimed at the fight against terrorism.

In the third part, it will be shown why NATO-Russia relations are likely to suffer the same fate as Russia’s relations with the EU and the OSCE in the field of security. In these two organisations, security cooperation presupposes congruence in aims, interests and values. Here, it will be drawn on the findings of the first chapter, arguing that Western security organisations and Russia are qualitatively as far away as ever. By summing up the main arguments, this paper will eventually end with a conclusion.

II. Post-Cold War Developments and the Marginalisation of Russia

This chapter aims to reveal the post cold war developments between the Western security architecture and the Russian Federation. The focus will be put on those developments, mainly in the course of NATO enlargement, that have led to the marginalisation of Russia concerning European security policy. The underlying patterns of Russia’s marginalisation will therefore be exposed.

In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Treaty in 1991/1992, Western organisations found themselves in the position to fill the vacuum, which the former Soviet foe had left. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as the newly independent Baltic states oriented themselves Westwards, urging the West to include these former Soviet satellites in their security architecture. The Euro-Atlantic community was reminded of its commitments that were formulated during the cold war and were aimed at offering the Soviet vassals a helping hand on their road towards freedom and democracy.[7] The two major organisations in Europe, EU and NATO, gradually accepted their historical responsibility. The completed NATO and EU enlargement rounds in 2004 only marked the end of this process. The West’s sphere of prosperity and security was successfully expanded to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, thus satisfying the East’s desire for integration and security. Exemplary for the desire of the former East to become included, is the view of Poland’s Foreign Minister Olechowski in 1994, telling a German newspaper that Poland ‘is not afraid from Russia, but of objective situations that could provoke her to behave in a way threatening to Poland. Such a situation is the security vacuum that now exists in Central Europe’.[8]

What was formerly defined in opposition to the identity and interests of Western actors, the East, became partly incorporated into the Western security community. Only partly, because the major actor of the former East, Russia, was not part of this process of inclusion. Rather, it had to play the role of the old and new ‘other’ against whom the identity and interests of the newly westernised states were constructed.

This paper will build on the assumption that the achieved enlargement processes have created ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ whereby Russia represents the most prominent ‘outsider’.[9]

Particularly NATO enlargement left the Russian Federation excluded from the Western European security community – at a time when Russia did not pose an immediate, material threat for the West. There are several reasons why NATO enlargement was not a decision based on military necessity and relative power positioning: Russia’s own strategic interest, joining the Western community of states and regaining its status of a great power, in the early and mid 1990s further prevented it from adopting threatening steps towards the West and the countries that wanted to become included in the Western institutions.[10] Further, disintegration of the Soviet armed forces and the chronic underfunding of their Russian successors[11] and domestic weakness and the subsequent need for painful transformation of the economic and political system forced Russia to concentrate itself on its internal problems.

It is equally important to address the claim that Russia marginalised itself since the end of the cold war.[12] Indeed, Russia’s domestic developments since the dissolution of the Soviet empire are not in line with several key principles of the Western institutions - be it political or economic.[13] The enduring war in the Chechen Republic e.g. displays since 1994 Russia’s tightrope walk between becoming an internationally respected actor and a country whose military is obviously violating fundamental human rights.[14]

Besides the development in Russia’s troubled Caucasus region, further reasons for Russia’s self-chosen marginalisation can be named. For example, Russia’s harsh and openly hostile rhetoric against NATO enlargement to the Baltic States until 2001[15] reinforced its role as a marginalised actor. Russia was not able to perceive the underlying determinants of NATO enlargement correctly. For example, it did at no point understand the desire of the Baltic States to join NATO. As mentioned above, NATO enlargement was not a military necessity, but rather satisfied the Baltic desire for security. Russia could have regarded it more soberly. Rather, Russia reacted well until 2001 as a strong opponent of enlargement, perceiving this process as being directed against it, and thus distanced itself from the West’s most prominent security organisation.[16] Many misinterpretations and developments could have been avoided if Russia had reacted differently. Further, opposing NATO enlargement was an often-used issue in Russian domestic politics[17] – a fact that boosted the West’s scepticism about Russia’s objectives.


[1] Sergei Ivanov, Speech at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy, February 5, 2006. This speech can be found at: www.securityconference.de (last access: 30.03.06)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Margot Light/J. Löwenhardt/S. White, “Russia and the Dual Expansion of Europe”, in Russia Between East and West, ed. G. Gorodetsky (London: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 61.

[5] S. Neil MacFarlane/Hilary D. Driscoll, „Russia and NATO after the Cold War”, in Almost NATO: Partners and Players in Central and Eastern European Security, ed. Charles Krupnick (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefiedl Publishers, 2002), p. 255.

[6] Sergei Ivanov, “Maturing Partnership”, NATO Review (Winter 2005). This article can be found at: http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2005/issue4/english/special.html (last access: 30.03.06)

[7] Karin Fierke/Antje Wiener., “Constructing institutional interests: EU and NATO enlargement”, in The Politics of European Union Enlargement: Theoretical Approaches, ed. F. Schimmelpfennig & U. Sedelmeier (New York: Routledge, 2005), p.98.

[8] Jonathan. Haslam, “Russia’s Seat at the Table: A Place Denied or a Place Delayed?”, in International Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), p. 121.

[9] Light et al. (2003), p. 61.

[10] Particularly, joining the Group of 7 (G7) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) were main objectives in Russian foreign policy. Accession to the latter still remains a top priority foreign policy goal of the Russian Federation.

[11] S. Neil MacFarlane, „NATO in Russia’s Relations with the West“, in Security Dialogue, Vol. 32 (3), 2001, p. 282.

[12] Marius Vahl (2006). Personal interview. Vahl is a research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels. The interview was held on Thursday, 9 March, 2006 from 3 to 4 pm at the CEPS in Brussels.

[13] Examples are democracy, liberal market institutions and the rule of law

[14] BBC: “Russia forces accused of torture”, BBC News, Friday, 18 November 2005, 19:40 GMT. This article can be found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4450186.stm (last access: 30.03.06).

[15] BBC: „Putin warns against NATO expansion“, BBC News, Friday, 26 January 2001, 11:32 GMT. This article can be found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1137859.stm (last access: 30.03.06).

[16] The Foreign Policy Concept officially phrased Russia’s negative attitudes towards NATO. This document can be found at: http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/doctrine/econcept.htm (last access: 30.03.06)

[17] Light et al. (2003), p. 65.


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European Russian Federation




Title: The European security and defense architecture and the Russian Federation