The European Security System and Strategic Competition with Russia
Ambassador Revaz Adamia
Permanent Representative of Georgia to United Nations
Although in my former life during Soviet times I was a biologist, I will not discuss the threats of infectious viruses or bacteria; I would rather discuss man-made threats. First, I believe that we are on the verge of, if we have not already stepped into, a post-post-Cold War era.
What do I mean by that? When the Cold War suddenly was over, the Socialist camp, the Warsaw Pact, collapsed, the Soviet Union dismantled, and the states, which had been (mostly forcefully) trapped in that camp found themselves in an “out of the system” situation. Quite a number of these countries moved quickly and joined the Euro-Atlantic security system, thus bringing security to a new, substantial part of the European continent. Others, however, were not so smart—or had more difficult starting positions—and are still on the way to finding their place on the strategic map of Europe.
Meanwhile, things drastically changed for one major, unique player in the European theater—Russia. Ambassador Akram said that strategic competition between Russia and the United States reemerged, but I would put it in a different manner.
During the workshop, we heard the position of a high-level Russian military official. What we heard was typical, I would say, of a geographically European country that does not consider itself European.
It has always been true that Russia does not consider itself part of Europe, but that fact has become dangerous now for several reasons:
- First, energy prices have allowed Russia to get billions and billions that they intend to spend on the military.
- Second, the rather weak democratic institutions that were there have almost completely disappeared. Thus, transparency has totally disappeared.
- Third, the autocratic approach of President Putin’s rule has now turned from internal governing to the international arena. Recent statements about “Comrade Wolf’s diet” and the Russian intention of taking the same approach are not a joke. We Georgians are experiencing it.
All in all, we are witnessing a new attempt, or a trend, to create a Russian-led multi-state security system that, on this stage at least, is not an enemy of NATO but does consider itself an independent rival system to the Euro-Atlantic community. So, I join with General Mazurkevich in his opinion that discussing modern world security without estimating Russia’s place in it is counterproductive.
I also believe that the quicker the European countries that aspire to enter NATO achieve their goal, the safer the European security system will be while taking these countries out of the area of Russian ambitions. I should also add here that it is not only Russia but all non-democratic systems worldwide, be they in Europe, Asia, or Latin America, that are potential threats to stability and security. That goes to our discussions concerning Iran and North Korea as well as Venezuela.
Minister of Ukraine Tarasyuk raised the issue of protracted conflicts. I totally agree that this is a major threat to the security and development of the European continent. We heard from Ambassador Nuland that being late coming up with solutions to such a complicated problem is always very costly. We also heard that Kosovo is a European problem while the other conflicts that are in the post-Soviet space are Russian affairs. That means that a solution to Kosovo will be found while the Dniester region, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Karabakh will remain frozen—unless much more pressure is put on Russia to allow the unfolding of the regulatory processes that are at the disposal of international organizations such as the U.N. and the OSCE. I do not want you to think that I have a prejudice toward Russia. I am just bringing up some of the ideas that are being discussed behind the scenes. Nobody wants to irritate an elephant bearing nuclear weapons that is already in a china shop.
All of us Europeans, integrated with the Euro-Atlantic structures or not, should decide what we do want. Do we want to be a major player in the economic, political, and security systems of the modern world or do we prefer to be in the shadow of U.S. military strength and enjoy life in modest apartments but with comfortable furniture? The answer to this question will largely define the strategic map of this century. I hope at a future workshop that we will have more answers than the questions and problems we have today.