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Center for Strategic Decision Research


Russian Perspectives on the Development of European Security

His Excellency Sergei Ivanovich Kislyak
Russian Ambassador to NATO

It is a distinct pleasure for me to share with you Russian perceptions of European security: how it will evolve, what the pitfalls are for Russia, and how we visualize the relationship between Russia and NATO. The subject of military-decision making is topical for us all. The way decisions are made in the U.S., Europe and Russia will effect the construction of the general European security architecture. Will the process be developing toward a further reliance on force as the main instrument of diplomacy—on military domination? Or, will the mechanisms be built in a way that will promote stability for all countries in the region, irrespective of whether they are members or not of military alliances? For Russia, this is one of the basic issues that needs to be addressed in the context of our relations with NATO. I heard Minister Scharping emphasize the point that security needs to be comprehensive and inclusive, that national views are inadequate, and I welcome that. May I remind you that building security for all, regardless of participation in alliances, is precisely the goal that was set out in the OSCE documents. I hope we are all committed to this same goal.


Europe is a unique continent for Russia. The overwhelming majority of Russians live in Europe. The most destructive wars of the last centuries came to us from Europe. It was in Europe that Russia took great efforts, together with others, to set up many new post-war settlements and structures. It was also here that perhaps the most promising and democratic outlines for cooperation were elaborated in the sphere of security following the U.N. Charter. As we speak in Berlin today, ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, one question arises: are events in Europe evolving in the way that was planned a decade ago?

At the time of German reunification, Europe was undergoing a major shift from Cold War to cooperation on the basis of common basic values and readiness to meet new challenges together. There was an understanding that the future of European security would evolve to include every nation of Europe. There were promises that the military alliance, at least, would not expand. There was a feeling that the military block would be transformed into more of a political structure rather than a military power. Does everything look today as we imagined at the time of German reunification? I will leave that question for each and everyone present here to answer for themselves.


The interdependency of Europe, Russia and NATO is clear, and major decisions taken by NATO and the EU that influence the situation in the security field cannot leave Russia indifferent. European institutions, especially those involving security, are all undergoing major transformations. One institution, the Western European Union, will virtually disappear as a result of the reshaping of the political-military landscape. Another institution, the European Union, is moving toward increased integration in the political-military field and seeking to take on more responsibility in conducting peace support operations. For the first time, neutral countries are engaged in integrated military planning. The third institution, NATO, is trying to expand the area of its military responsibility.

A new, rather dangerous feature today is the willingness of some to diminish the significance of the sovereign state as a basic element of international relations in favor of concepts like humanitarian intervention that are used to justify unilateral force actions and circumvention of the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, the basic values of democracy and human rights are sometimes approached with a double standard. Currently, a number of geographical areas of tension persist, including those close to Russian borders. In other areas, political-military rivalries between regional powers still exist. The problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery is becoming more acute. The threat of international terrorism, aggressive separatism, ethnic and religious intolerance, and organized crime has sharply increased.

I am confident we all share common relief that the Cold War is behind us, and we hope it is behind us for good. Openness and transparency are on the increase, and we are now looking for joint solutions to problems on the basis of common values. But new challenges are not easy. A new world order taking into account the interests of all states in the region is required. We have a view of how to deal with these issues. We also advanced a concept for peace in the 21st century in Cologne. We believe in the importance of a multi-polar world, rather than a world governed by the domination of one country or a single power center. However, multi-polarity does not mean the existence of separate competing poles. Instead, powers should be linked together by the norms and principles of international law. The closer these powers are, the more stable and predictable the world will be.


The European system of security should be all-inclusive and encompass the entire Euro-Atlantic area. It should also operate in a way that will cover the whole complex of interdependent problems—from security to human rights, ecological and economic challenges. The system should include mechanisms for a necessary range of measures such as peacekeeping, rehabilitation, protection of rights, rule of law, freedom of individuals, market economy and social solidarity. The basis of relations between states included in such a system should be the norms and principles of international law set out, above all, in the U.N. Charter and arms control agreements. None of the existing European or Euro-Atlantic structures or institutions can take upon themselves the entire responsibility for the entire spectrum of problems on the Continent. The OSCE, however, seems to be the most suitable organization for addressing this task.

Russia/European Union Relations

There was a Russian-European Union Summit in Moscow recently. The summit was very reflective of the state of affairs and continuing development of our relations with the EU. The documents agreed upon there envisage the broadening of dialogue and cooperation between Russia and the EU. The meetings were substantive and productive, and it was important to us that these discussions did not display “block” mentalities. Together, Russia and the EU will have to combat more vigorously transnational threats, including extremism, terrorism, organized crime, illicit drug trafficking, people trading, weapons smuggling and money laundering. Such cooperation is important for all Europeans including Russians.

We follow closely and positively the development of the defense dimension of the EU. We consider the possibility for interaction with the EU’s defense dimension in issues such as the strengthening of international peace, security and stability, as well as early warning, prevention of conflicts, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. However, the interactions must take place under the principles of the U.N. Charter and with the recognition of the main responsibility of the U.N. Security Council. But certainly, we have not yet received the full picture of what these new EU political-military policies will be, and we are looking forward to further dialogue.

Russia/NATO Relations

NATO is an important factor in European security, but not the only one. Yet it operates on the continent on which we all live and, for this reason, we approach the NATO issue quite seriously. In the past our approach has been through the eyes of the Cold War, but we are now trying to build constructive interaction. NATO and Russia should act on the basis of international law and recognize the central role of the U.N. Security Council when making any decisions on the use of force. For Russia, this is an issue of paramount importance.

Russia-NATO relations are developing with difficulties. We candidly say to our partners in the Alliance that we lack confidence in the reliability and predictability of NATO as a partner. For us, crucial questions still need to be answered such as: To what extent is NATO prepared to observe norms of international law set out in the U.N.? To what extent is NATO prepared to accept the sovereignty of states? And to what extent will it abide by its own commitments—including the agreements it made with us?

Take events in Kovoso, for example. Bombing Yugoslavia not only failed to solve the problem of inter-ethnic conflict, but it raised many questions with regards to the future. And with the prospect of a possible further enlargement of NATO, the basic question we may ask ourselves is how predictable security to the west of our border will be? We need to factor in these questions and uncertainties into our own concepts of security and military doctrine. An additional problem area concerns the possibility that NATO will act outside the strict legal norms of the U.N. Charter, as can be inferred from the Strategic Alliance document approved at the Washington Summit. We must seriously take into account in our national decision making process the fact that certain groups of states continue to proceed from the premise that they have the right to act outside of the limits of their own national defense and outside of the norms of international law. We believe that we all end up losing as a result of this. Russia and NATO today do not stand closer together than they were in the initial period of the implementation of the Founding Act.


The current NATO-Russia relationship is developing step-by-step. This process will permit us to clarify how the Alliance intends to respect international law, how commitments and norms that we all adhere to can be turned into concrete steps and military programs, and whether we have the common will to work towards a real working partnership. Our partnership will only succeed if we can share this common will and if we consistently seek to breach our differences, harmonize our approaches, and bear in mind each other’s interests and concerns. On the basis of equality, Russia is prepared to continue to work with the Alliance in earnest for the restoration of trust and dialogue. Equality, however, does not necessarily mean that we put forth claims for the right to veto the Alliance’s decisions. Yet the more NATO and Russia act on the basis of agreement and harmonized approaches, the more benefits there will be for both parties, leading to what Ambassador Vershbow called a “win-win” situation.


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