• Position : Consultant, "Global & Regional Security: New ideas for Russia" Program
  • Affiliation : PIR Center
  • Position : Consultant
  • Affiliation : PIR Center
  • Affiliation : Postgraduate Student and Lecturer at the Chair of Modern History and International Relations by the Institute of History and Political Sciences, Tyumen State University
  • Position : Chairman of the Executive Board
  • Affiliation : PIR Center
  • Affiliation : Independent expert
  • Position : Deputy Head of the Representative Office of Rossotrudnichestvo - Russian House in Bishkek
  • Affiliation : Rossotrudnichestvo
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Prospects of conventional arms control in Europe


MOSCOW, MAY 18, 2017. PIR PRESS — “The structured dialogue on current and future challenges and risks to security launched within the OSCE is not yet a negotiation on a regime of conventional arms control in Europe, but an attempt to develop a shared understanding of what could be its foundation in the current conditions. Russia has supported this process, yet it specified that unless NATO drops its deterrence policy there could hardly be any progress,” — Oleg Shakirov, PIR Center consultant.

On April 18, 2017 PIR Center held a seminar as part of its Midweek Brainstorming Sessions on the prospects of conventional arms control in Europe. The keynote speaker was Oleg Shakirov, PIR Center consultant and expert on European security.

The seminar was attended by PIR Center’s Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation Program Director, Andrey Baklitskiy, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Global Issues and International Organizations Studies of the Institute of Contemporary International Studies of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy Yury Belobrov, Chairman of the Executive Board of PIR Center Evgeny Buzhinsky, Senior Expert at CSR Andrey Devyatkov, PIR Center’s Director Albert Zulkharneev, Deputy Director of the Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies Pavel Zolotarev, Head of the delegation of the Russian Federation to the Vienna negotiations on military security and arms control Anton Mazur and other representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Leading Research Associate at the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies Vladimir Rybachenkov, doctoral candidate at the Center for International Security of IMEMO Anton Tuzin, member of the Trialogue Club International, defense attaché of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Moscow Adam Awdziej.

Oleg Shakirov shared his analysis of the current situation in the area of conventional arms control in Europe (CAC), pointing out that today for most states parties to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) numbers of conventional armaments and equipment are below the ceilings under the Treaty. However, the deterioration of relations between Russia and NATO after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine led to an increased scale of military activities in Europe, deployment by the Alliance of additional forces and Russia’s counter-measures and freezing of cooperation in the politico-military sphere. On this backdrop, the 2016 German proposal to relaunch conventional arms control was supported by Russia as well as other key actors in European security, yet for the time being everyone has taken a wait-and-see approach. Consultations on this issue resulted in the launch within the OSCE of the structured dialogue on current and future challenges and risks to security in the OSCE area – an open-ended process that is expected to cover a broad range of subject in politico-military dimension including CAC.

According to the PIR Center consultant, there are two main political differences complicating the dialogue on conventional arms. The first one is the issue of sequencing: NATO assumes that it is possible to have a dialogue on CAC in parallel with deterring Russia, Moscow thinks that deterrence and full-fledged dialogue are incompatible and that the alliance should first abandon its confrontational policy. Second, there is no shared understanding on the future of the CFE: Russian officials repeatedly declared the treaty dead; some countries in particular the United States and Canada consider commitment to the CFE a required condition; others such as Germany and Switzerland do not emphasize this and take a more flexible stance.

Views expressed during the discussion included the following:

- Frank-Walter Steinmeier's initiative to relaunch CAC is understandable as today Germany is the most interested country in a control regime per se. At the same time, there is no single approach within NATO, and the United States is yet to formulate its position. For now, most states including Russia are not in a hurry to put forward their proposals, nor do they hurry each other up.

- The efficiency of the structured dialogue will be higher if it is focused on concrete issues, and vice versa broadening of the scope of issues discussed can lead this process into a gridlock.

- Development of a contemporary arms control regime requires a balance between the need to obtain sufficient volume of information about participating states’ armed forces and ensuring that control mechanisms are minimally intrusive and not cumbersome.

- Introduction of new categories of arms is possible but this will require serious work. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) mentioned in Steinmeier's article are formally already covered by the CFE, however when this issue was raised it became apparent that such interpretation of the treaty did not meet American interests. Contemporary conflicts have also seen active use of sea-launched cruise missiles and deck-based aircraft that are not covered by arms control regimes. Proposals to develop naval confidence-building measures were previously met with U.S. opposition, however technically it is possible to do this. Besides, the Proliferation Security Initiative case shows that provided there is a corresponding goal Americans in principle can accept limits to freedom of navigation.

- It is interesting to discuss how measures for the whole OSCE region and additional measures for sub-regions can be combined. Experience has proven that universal measures are not applicable in conflict zones. Another thing to consider is whether within the CAC regime there should be a common limitation for NATO as a military alliance.

- When viewed not only in the context of Russia – West relations, the CFE is more alive than dead considering intensive inspection activity of other states and compliance with treaty ceilings.

Participants also agreed that a solution of the CAC issue could be included into a broader arrangement on European security as it was intended under the Russian initiative on the European Security Treaty (EST). One participant pointed out that moving towards the EST is more preferable because a relaunch if the CAC process will create dividing lines between Russia and Europe. The foundation of Russian-European relations is economy, hence in the politico-military sphere it is necessary remain committed to the idea that we do not consider each other as adversaries – as was stipulated in particular in the Russia – NATO Founding Act. Russia and Europe should move towards common security issues by addressing problems caused by misunderstanding and information confrontation.