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For more than a year, Russia has been floating the concept of a new European security treaty, which would seek to overhaul Euro-Atlantic security with a legally binding document. The Kremlin has been blunt in its assessment that existing organisations – NATO and the OSCE – are redundant and ineffective. On November 29, it finally unveiled a draft version of the strategy, ahead of an OSCE summit and the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since the war with Georgia in August 2008 (Kremlin,ru, November 29).

The reaction from the West has been cautious. NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted that “NATO will remain our framework for Euro-Atlantic security” (Bloomberg, December 4). The OSCE summit was also rather uninterested. Although both Brussels and Washington have politely agreed to study the proposal, neither have any intention of seriously debating this with Moscow. The assumption is that the Russian strategy is designed to veto NATO’s expansion and supplant both the Alliance and the OSCE.

NATO’s concern is understandable, given the strategy’s first article: “Any security measures taken by a Party…including in the framework of any international organization, military alliance or coalition, shall be implemented with due regard to security interests of all other Parties.”

In other words, NATO offers of membership – which contains a clause that an attack on one member is considered an attack on another – must take into account Moscow concerns. More bluntly: don’t let Georgia or Ukraine into NATO. Subsequent articles of the Russian strategy make this clear.

Another article which has been flagged up by commentators is the statement that no party must allow its territory to be used for an attack or "any other actions significantly affecting (the) security of any other Party" (AFP, November 29). The ambiguous nature of the term ‘significant’ could leave the door open for Russia to block Washington from deploying Patriot missiles or other ballistic missile defence elements in eastern Europe. Or, indeed, for Russia to veto NATO expansion.

The list of proposed signatories is interesting. The strategy includes the usual formulation of all states ‘from Vancouver to Vladivostok’, thus making it not strictly a ‘European’ security strategy, as well as big organisations such as the EU, OSCE, and NATO. The draft also includes the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Eurasian military bloc dominated by Russia (Eurasia Daily Monitor, December 4). The CSTO’s inclusion suggests that Moscow is trying to bring the bloc to the ‘big table’ of Euro-Atlantic organisations. This is in line with President Medvedev’s earlier attempts to bring the CSTO into line with NATO, despite the poor state of most post-Soviet militaries and continued disputes about the extent of the alliance’s mandate.

Moscow’s intentions with this treaty are obvious. NATO excludes Russia, and so cannot be considered an all-inclusive forum for European security. For Moscow NATO is a Cold War relic, created in opposition to the Soviet Union and still viewed as an attempt to contain Russian influence (even though exasperated NATO officials continue to insist that the Alliance’s priorities lie elsewhere, particularly in Afghanistan).

Although most reaction has been suspicious of the proposal, the Kremlin may actually have a point. It is odd that Euro-Atlantic security is primarily entrusted to an alliance which was founded to defend against Russia, and which Moscow continues to see as a threat. Meanwhile, the OSCE has signally failed in its mission of “bringing comprehensive and co-operative security” to the Euro-Atlantic area, as the Georgia war showed.

Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin made the point in a typically blunt fashion: "Shutting themselves into a little Western house, shuttering the windows, and believing they live in a state of security won't work…Trying to make decisions with such sectarian methods, without taking Russia's interests and opinions into account, won't work."

The OSCE and NATO both acknowledge the need to redraft the architecture of European security, and it seems counter-productive to attempt to do so without including Russia, no matter how unpalatable that may be to some. Moscow’s existence is a fact, and its cooperation is vital, not least in Afghanistan. Keen to demonstrate this, Mr Rogozin warned that Russian cooperation over transit of military supplies to Afghanistan could be jeopardised by a failure to discuss the European security treaty (RFE/RL, December 3).

None of this is to deny that Russia’s proposal is driven by self-interest, or that replacing NATO is desirable – it isn’t. However, Russia’s role in European security needs to be reassessed, as does the failure of both NATO and the OSCE to prevent the existence of conflicts. Europe and the US could rebuff the draft treaty by offering to open serious NATO membership consultations with Moscow, or by re-engineering the OSCE to be more effective in addressing regional security issues. This would put the Kremlin on the back foot and test how serious it is about overhauling Euro-Atlantic stability.

A suspicious attitude also clouds the fact that Russia is, at least, making the effort to work with Europe and the US on security issues. Approaching the subject through a legal avenue is better than threatening to point nuclear missiles at Poland or using gas supplies to blackmail the EU, as Russia has done over the last year or two.

We should acknowledge that, by even trying to start a discussion on the European security treaty, the Kremlin has begun moving back to a process of engagement and dialogue. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Moscow’s policies, this is essential.

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