Firstly, I will underline some nuances in the (two) “no” answers. Vice President of the European Parliament, Ioan Mircea Pascu, considers that the resumption of the dialogue with Russia is “premature”, as triggering it necessarily will imply the recognition of what Russia has succeeded to do up to now ( foremost annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Eastern Ukraine ). NATO should not “blinking first”, concludes Pascu. He argues his position writing that if the dialogue with Russia is pursued on other foreign policy dimensions as the Iranian or Syrian files, “the suspension of dialogue with Russia has been in response to the aggressive path adopted by Russia in respect to its neighbor, Ukraine. The illegal annexation of Crimea and the subsequent military destabilization of eastern Ukraine, both directly and indirectly, through the moral and material support to the separatists are acts challenging the very fiber of the current international and European legal order and security architecture.” Implicitly, Pascu asserted that any resumption of the dialogue should be in connection with the substantial change in Russia’s behavior . His companion for “no”, Renatas Norkus , director, Transatlantic Cooperation and Security Policy Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, uses the same line of demonstration being explicit : “It was only right that in response to the annexation of Crimea and Russia's illegal actions in Ukraine the Alliance discontinued the practical cooperation of the NATO-Russia Council. Until Russia's intent and policies change, NRC cooperation should not resume.” But he added something which is important to be kept in mind whenever that kind of questions are on the table: . “Any possible way ahead with Russia should not be at the cost of our principles, values and security of our neighbors and partners, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova” and that “ any resumption of meaningful dialogue with Moscow, which obviously will not be the same as it was, depends on Russia’s behavior”. For both Pascu and Norkus I will dare to use the label “non-revisionist” regarding their attitude towards the actual European security order , ” that we have worked so hard to build”( Norkus ).
Secondly, concerning the “qualified yes”, Ambassador Giancarlo Aragona, former Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), listed the following reasons for resuming the dialogue : “We ought to remember that even in the most difficult periods of East-West confrontation the Alliance never relied exclusively on deterrence and military measures. We should therefore consider whether NATO should not attempt to resume a dialogue with Russia.” ( why not today ? -he asks compared to the stance during the Cold War); due to the fact that the European order (“unstable and open to challenges” ) “has exacerbated the feeling of encirclement which has recurred historically in the country's social memory and allowed ultra-nationalistic forces to dominate the public discourse”/…/ We should rise to the challenge of these difficult and perilous times and reflect upon an achievable and realistic European order where our interests are fully safeguarded, each country is free to pursue its sovereign choices without being intimidated, but in which Russia also feels reasonably reassured.” ; “Russia thought, or rather hoped in the context of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, that all the institutions built to reflect the East- West confrontation would be dismantled to make room for a new inclusive system of equals. Both of these were unrealistic expectations. “ The scope of that dialogue , in which NATO Allies and Russia are asked to work together to tackle with common challenges , is “to build a Euro Atlantic architecture where tensions are managed and no country feels that its fundamental interests or security are threatened” To be more clear, the Ambassador considers that a new Euro Atlantic architecture ( a rebuilt one ) probably will be “the most effective instrument to direct Russian policies in a constructive direction, containing, if not eliminating, the nationalistic and expansionist tendencies partly inevitable in a country with Russia's history and, I may add, its dimension and power.” To summarize : firstly establishing together with Russia a new security architecture of Europe ( the scope of resumption of dialogue ) and after that having hopes that Moscow will not behave again as in the recent past ( 2008 and 2014-2015 ). This could be easily considered as a revisionist position towards the actual continental ( Euro Atlantic ) order.
The other two “yes” are clearly regarding the scope of the resumption of the dialogue with Russia. For Pierre Vimont, Former Executive Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the title itself of his opinion is resuming the main idea: “ Keeping Ukraine in mind when planning dialogue with Russia”. His logic is simple. Because “a close scrutiny of Russia's policy in Ukraine, in particular the constant and substantial financial and military support given to the Donbas militia, drives the point that Moscow is not ready to let the Ukrainian government go ahead on its own. On the contrary, it seems eager to keep a foot in the door in Ukraine if only to prevent any evolution that could jeopardize Russian interests” , such a situation imposes only two options to US and European allies , “ either go for a full-fledged confrontation with Russia or aim for some form of dialogue.” Such a dialogue should be “prudent” and conditional ( respect for the Minsk 2 agreement ; the West to establish the agenda, for example firstly “ discussion about improving the hotline arrangements looks like a first priority. Gradually, other issues could be proposed on conventional armaments in Europe or nuclear weapons where the discussions with Moscow have mostly disappeared.”; observing if Russia is reciprocating in pursuing the dialogue). Success is not what primarily the West should consider, the first objective being to “ alleviate some of the tension on the ground, propose progressively a way out of the deadlock where Ukraine stands today and help to rebuild some confidence with Russian authorities.” The position expressed by P. Vimont is very interesting and subtle: he says that at least for not let the Donbass conflict to burn is an important reason for resuming the dialogue with Russia- in his words: “some form of prudent dialogue with Russia with clear considerations” . As a stand in the matter , Mr. Vimont is close to the position of Mr. Pascu , which I have considered as a clear “no”. The difference between them being that Mr. Pascu is expressis verbis anti-revisionist towards the Euro Atlantic order or Mr. Vimont does not tackle with that issue which is of paramount importance in any dialogue with Russia after the annexation of Crimea and the events after.
The second full “yes” belongs to Klaus Wittmann, former Bundeswehr general, Senior Fellow Aspen Institute Germany. He argues that Moscow, but also Brussels need “new thinking “in foreign policy.
For Moscow that “new thinking” means: “NATO clichés and stereotypes from the Cold War period should be overcome and not instrumentalised for domestic purposes.”; “understand that worries arise in neighboring countries if it insists on a privileged sphere of influence, its proclaimed ‘obligation’ to ‘protect Russians wherever they live’ to the extent of ethnic imperialism, and tinkers with historic revisionism” ; “The sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the post-Soviet states have to be recognized/…/Respect for the obligations, rules and institutions according to the 1990 Paris Charter is the basis of cooperative security in Europe” ; “to actively promote solutions for so-called ‘frozen conflicts’“; ”Nineteenth-century geopolitical categories should be set aside.”
On the part of the West, NATO “should be self-critically acknowledged” that : Russia has not been understood psychologically after the end of the Cold War and ; “ The NATO accession ambitions of Ukraine and Georgia were also not handled smartly “; “The West underestimated also the significance of Kosovo’s recognition for Moscow, even if the analogy with the annexation of Crimea construed by Putin is flawed.”;“The NATO-Russia Council was insufficiently used and developed, and NATO put it on ice during the Georgia war in 2008” ; “ the zero-sum thinking condemned above is not unfamiliar to the Western side either”. Among the measures proposed for such a dialogue , the respondent considers that “President Medvedev’s 2008/2009 proposal for a comprehensive European security treaty, although dubious in substance, should have been actively responded to by NATO as a starting point for an intensive dialogue with the exploration of common interests and a firm presentation of Western principles.” Under the assessment that it was a failure “The Alliance policy of stabilization and inclusion of Central and Eastern Europe in parallel with upholding close NATO-Russia partnership”, such a” new thinking” in the West’s foreign and security orientation one day will prevail. The respondent accepts that probably not during the Putin’s era because “His/Putin’s/ set of motives /…/may be too strong to allow any compromise”.
To conclude: for the respondents belonging to the European states situated in the vicinity of Russia the resumption of the dialogue with Moscow should be linked with the change of its behavior and respect for the existing Euro Atlantic order ( a clear condition to begin any dialogue ); the others ( belonging to the international institutions and Germany ) are moving between a conditional resumption of dialogue ( international institutions ) and a kind of accepting the Moscow’s revisionist stance ( Germany ) via a “new thinking” shared by both parts. If the “no” expressed by two of the respondents are understandable being an expression of an acute feeling of danger in the face of Russia’s recent behavior and the perils of any change of the existing Euro Atlantic order , if the other two “yes“ (“ qualified” and “conditional” ) are also intelligible , the third “yes” , at least being seen from the geographical point which is Bucharest , seems to be , even taking the Charter of Paris as a base , as a promise that Russia would win something from his latest moves ( annexation of Crimea, destabilization of Donbass and even “results” of the Georgian War in August 2008 ) .
See: Dialogue with Russia: New Thinking Required in Moscow and… Brussels-http://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/?utm_source=ELN+Newsletter&utm_campaign=afe80fcda4-Impact+of+Sanctions&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8e6b30e571-afe80fcda4-105750865&mc_cid=afe80fcda4&mc_eid=eee388145e
Mihail E. Ionescu
July 4, 2015