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It’s up to Europe, really


by Vaska

For the past two years, the European Leadership Network (ELN) has been issuing a steady stream of extremely biased, NATO-propaganda papers by credentialed academics willing to make careers doing such stuff. This is the first time an item of theirs appears that, while still falsely accusing Russia of instigating a game of “dangerous brinkmanship which has resulted in many serious close military encounters between the military forces of Russia and NATO and its partners over the last 15 months,” contains constructive proposals for future NATO-Russia relations.

This report was prepared by ELN’s staff themselves, one of whom, Ian Kearns, is a former Specialist Advisor to the joint House of Commons/House of Lords Committee on National Security Strategy. Significantly, among other measures designed to prevent further escalation of tensions and indeed to defuse them suggested by ELN, the proposals call to limit the kinds of weapons placed along the relevant borders.

Here are the ELN recommendations:

First, it is vitally important to increase NATO – Russia communication with regards to the schedule of exercises. The recent decision by NATO’s Secretary General to pass to Russia a list of major NATO exercises planned for the rest of 2015 is a welcome step in right direction.

Second, both sides should utilize OSCE channels as much as possible, along with the existing catalogue of Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBMs) including, inter alia, in the Vienna Document to increase military predictability. 

Third, politicians on both sides should re-examine the benefits and dangers of intensified exercising in the border areas. If Russia or NATO decides at some point that they want to reduce tensions, showing restraint in terms of size or scenarios used in exercises might be a good place to start. 

Finally, conceptual work on a new treaty introducing reciprocal territorial limitations on deployment of specific categories of weapons, backed by robust inspections, should commence as soon as possible.

Although the ELN addresses Point 3 to “both sides,” it is obviously most relevant to NATO and its member states, who, for the past decade and a half, have been hemming Russia in militarily right up to its borders and provoking perfectly justifiable and rational concerns in Russia about NATO’s real intentions towards it. These concerns and anxieties are all the more justifiable given the fact that NATO has repeatedly rejected Russia’s overtures towards joining the alliance, thereby making it clear that its purpose since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been a specifically anti-Russia one. As a number of NATO member states have a history of imperial ambitions and attempts to conquer Moscow militarily (Poland, France, and Germany, most notably), while others (the UK and the USA) have a 100-plus-year-history of foreign policy towards Russia whose aim has consistently been to “contain” and subvert its development, the recent deterioration of relations between Europe and Russia must indeed be a source of grave concern for the latter.

Let’s hope ELN’s Point 4 is heeded in European capitals, whose political elite are the only ones capable of putting sufficient pressure on Washington – the prime instigator of the Ukrainian crisis and the civil war it has provoked, as well as of the current escalation of tensions — to actually implement it.

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