Implications for European and International Security

© Sergey Vaganov, picture alliance

The crisis in and around Ukraine has exposed and simultaneously expanded the deficits of the Euro-Atlantic security order. By annexing Crimea and destabilising eastern Ukraine, Moscow has thrown into question the fundamental principles agreed with the other OSCE members: territorial integrity, national sovereignty and non-violence. The already frayed trust between the European Union and NATO on the one side and Russia on the other has been further eroded. The Atlantic Alliance responded with military reassurance measures for its eastern members, while Russia continues to expand capabilities in its Western Military District. The security dilemma is further exacerbated by years of deadlock in conventional arms control and failure to address the special challenges of hybrid warfare. Nuclear disarmament now also faces growing difficulties. Already under President Barack Obama Washington accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. And President Donald Trump’s new administration shows little interest in further strategic nuclear disarmament.

Non-military means are also increasingly relevant in the conflict between Russia and the EU/NATO. The Kremlin’s threat perception has changed since the “colour revolutions” and the 2011/12 mass protests in Russia itself. The focus is no longer solely on the “hard power” of the United States and NATO, but increasingly also the EU’s “soft” capabilities. Through its instruments of association and free trade agreements, the EU is ultimately seeking a deeper and more sustainable process of social and political change in the post-Soviet partner states that would be the case through mere NATO membership. Russia in turn has expanded its ability to exert pressure on Western states through non-military means, including cyber-attacks, “hack and leak” of compromising material, mobilisation of ethnic minorities, ties to left-wing and right-wing movements, and stepping up of intelligence activities.

The crisis in and around Ukraine also highlights the institutional weaknesses of the Euro-Atlantic security order, specifically a lack of organisations that are both inclusive in their membership and effective in conflict regulation and crisis management. Neither the OSCE nor the NATO-Russia Council have been able to fulfil these expectations. The question of security for the countries in the space between Russia and EU/NATO remains urgent and unanswered.

The tensions between Russia and the West also adversely affect global security. Although Russia shares interests with the members of NATO and the EU – for example in stabilising Afghanistan, containing the Iranian nuclear programme and fighting Islamist terrorism – they hesitate to translate the need for cooperation into joint action. The same applies to the search for joint solutions in regional conflicts (Syria, North Korea).


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SWP Comment 2015/C 22, April 2015, 4 Pages
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