Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Building Mutual Security in the Euro-Atlantic Region

Source: ISIS Europe archive

Source: ISIS Europe archive

by Jacob Steiner

Over the past year and a half, experts and researchers from around the Euro-Atlantic region have been working together through a Track II dialogue to recommend a proposal for building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.  The finished product, titled Building Mutual Security in the Euro-Atlantic Region, was presented by its co-chairs at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) on 12 September 2013 in Brussels.  The following are their main recommendations to build mutual security in the region:

  1. A new dialogue on building mutual security must address core security issues through a dynamic process that directly addresses key divides.
  2. Political leaders must mandate the dialogue.
  3. Core principles should guide the new dialogue on building mutual security.
  4. The dialogue could support specific steps that would not require new legally binding treaties but could help facilitate treaties where necessary.
  5. Priorities will be essential for making progress.
  6. A new Euro-Atlantic Security Forum could be established to implement many of the specific steps proposed in this report and further ongoing discussions.

The event kicked off with moderator Ian Lesser of the GMF giving brief introductions of the co-chairs of the proposal, followed by each of the co-chairs giving their thoughts on the proposal and its importance in the Euro-Atlantic region.

First to speak was former US Senator Sam Nunn, who currently is the co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.  Nunn began by tying in Syria with Euro-Atlantic security, stating that if Russia, the US, and Europe had a forum a year or two ago, they would not necessarily be dealing with as many problems in the war-torn Middle Eastern country. He then pointed towards the fact that there exists a “corrosive lack of trust” in the region that “derails cooperation.” How does this proposal start to build that trust? Nunn claims that the first two steps of their recommendations are the most important, that these states need to create a new dynamic process of dialogue mandated by political leaders.

Up next was Dr. Igor Ivanov,  professor at Moscow State Institute for International Relations and  former minister of foreign affairs from 1998 to 2004 and secretary of the Security Council from 2004-2007 for the Russian Federation.  Dr. Ivanov spoke about the region’s “unfinished business from the Cold War” pointing to the fact that countries in the Euro-Atlantic have not addressed many of the issues leftover from the 20th century. Further, he stated that it is much easier to destroy trust than to build it and that for trust to prosper these countries need to avoid their outdated dogma.  Finally, he asserted that in the past, many have simply given up on mutual security in the region, but “disappointments and frustrations should not be justification for doing nothing.”

Last, but certainly not least was Lord Browne of Ladyton, former secretary of state for Defense and secretary of state for Scotland.  Trying to address topics not already covered, Browne delved right into the nuclear issue.  He indicated that 95% of global nuclear weapons and materials lie in the Euro-Atlantic region and emphasized states’ responsibility to disarm and dismantle those weapons for a safer region overall.  Also, he hinted that NATO and similar regional institutions were outdated, as they currently have “no effective security strategy for the Euro-Atlantic region.” However, he claimed that the proposal provides the political steps that can build cooperation and trust and that the main reason as to why it will succeed is that it is not a forced dialogue.

Overall, their plan is a bold one. It calls for a great amount of disarmament and cooperation, which has not been seen often in the region, over the next fifteen years. While the plan addresses many issues that cause tension in the region, there still exists the underlying issue that each co-chair was sure to mention multiple times: trust.  So how do we build that trust? Through political mandates, certainly, but even more importantly, through the public. If the public can support a plan this bold, then perhaps they can elect the leaders bold enough to implement it. Even though this may not happen tomorrow, we can hope that it will come to fruition in the coming years to provide for a safer Euro-Atlantic region.

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