Ekaterina Kuznetsova, director of European programs at the Center for Post-Industrial Studies in Moscow, writing in the Moscow Times:
In June 2008 — less than a month after his inauguration — President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a proposal for creating a new Euro-Atlantic security architecture with the implied hope that it would someday replace NATO. After years of spewing belligerent anti-Western rhetoric, the Russian leadership had finally decided to put its own security proposal on the table. Medvedev had also hoped that the initiative would become the centerpiece of his foreign policy. But the project received a lukewarm welcome in European capitals.
The main problem with Medvedev’s idea is that it is a poor replacement for NATO. Although NATO is still trying to define its new post-Cold War identity in clearer terms, the alliance remains on the whole an efficient security structure. For all of its weaknesses, NATO still provides security to its members from Vancouver to Ankara, and its scope of operations expand even further — from Darfur to Afghanistan. That sharply contrasts with Medvedev’s security proposal, which lacks clarity and precision and can’t be viewed seriously as a new architecture for Euro-Atlantic security.
It is surprising that Medvedev ventured so far into the area of global security. He would have been better suited to address Europe on other issues, such as admission to the World Trade Organization, Ukraine gas transit or anti-dumping trade tariffs.
Medvedev bit off more than he could chew. If Russia cannot even provide regional security in its so-called “sphere of privileged interests,” it is clear that Medvedev’s attempt to redesign the global security architecture is overly ambitious and misplaced, to say the least. He is acting like a pole vaulter who after failing five attempts to jump over 3 meters raises the bar to 6 meters on the sixth attempt. Perhaps Medvedev understands this all too well. After all, the issue was not raised during the U.S.-Russia summit.
Security issues are a safe refuge for politicians, particularly for the more conservative members of the ruling elite. As active generals prepare for past wars, retired generals speak in terms of familiar threats and well-known security patterns.
But history teaches us that new, far-reaching security strategies are revised only after a war is fought. The ruins from war serve as a basis for new security institutions based on a new vision. For example, the balance of power system of the pre-Napoleon era was abandoned for the Holy Alliance structure after the defeat of the French. The Versailles system of international relations gave way to a new international organization after it collapsed with the outbreak of World War II.
Another problem in Medvedev’s proposal is that he chose the wrong addressee. The problems of European security are decided in Washington, not in London, Paris or even Brussels. It was a naive decision to address this idea to European leaders, especially since the Kremlin’s military strategy during the Cold War never considered Europe to be a partner on the same level as the Soviet Union.
And it is still premature to grant it equal treatment. Although the combined gross domestic products of the members of the Europe Union is the largest in the world and the EU is a crucial trade partner, the EU — by its own choice — remains weak in terms of military and security power.
Thus, Euro-Atlantic security issues need to be decided on a bilateral basis — between Moscow and Washington. It is therefore strange that Medvedev never approached the U.S. administration with the same proposal and that the topic wasn’t discussed at this week’s summit in Moscow.
As odd as it may seem, during the summit Obama and Medvedev drifted from a broad approach to global nuclear nonproliferation toward a narrower discussion of counteracting attempts by rogue states to obtain nuclear weapons.
Despite all hostilities and confrontations of the Cold War era, it is clear that the pragmatic security approach of the West has prevailed. Russia, however, has not been able to come close to matching the West in terms of offering an alternative security structure, and this weakens its ability to become a major player in international affairs.