The Power of Strategic Alliances

Dorota Kafara

The geopolitical landscape of the world constantly transforms. International terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapon, cyberattacks or aggressive Russian policy are just some of the current challenges. Considering the latest incidents in the Azov See, the concern about security in Europe and  transatlantic integrity has come back. Alliance of Solidarity or Alliance of Divergencies? How to Maintain the transatlantic integrity?- this is the title of One of the debates held during the 12th Europe-Ukraine Forum in Rzeszow. 

It is in the common interest of the member states to face them together. A number of different opinions can be observed within NATO nowadays. Despite the large differences, can members of the pact still pursue a common and effective security policy? What possible impact on CEE countries can have those disproportions? Below an article from Andreas Umland and Iryna Vereshchuk – leading experts on security issues and Ukraine. Both will take part in the Europe-Ukraine Forum in Rzeszów.

Towards territorial integrity

It is remarkable how strongly some international organizations’ coverage of the East-Central European and South Caucasian post-Soviet space has come to correlate with the region’s states’ territorial integrity. Two large blocs are confronting each other in Eastern Europe: NATO as well as the EU, on the side, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as well as Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), both Moscow-dominated, on the other. Today, exactly those four countries – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (GUAM) – which are not members of either of these two coalitions do not fully control their territories. In contrast, such NATO and EU members with large Russian minorities and restrictive citizenship laws, as Estonia and Latvia, on the one side, or such, by themselves, economically weak CSTO and EEU member countries, as Belarus and Armenia, on the other, have fully preserved their internationally recognized borders.

In Azerbaijan’s Nagorno Karabakh, Moldova’s Transnistria, Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well as Ukraine’s Donets Basin (Donbas), on the contrary, six unrecognized pseudo-states were created, with direct or, in the case of Karabakh, indirect support from the Kremlin. Crimea has been simply annexed by Russia.

Several not relevant Alliances in Eastern Europe

The prospects of a soon further eastern enlargement of the EU and NATO are dim. The UN, OSCE and Council of Europe have, despite clear statements in support of Ukraine and Georgia, also demonstrated their unsuitability for resolving the East European gray zone’s fundamental security problem. The unsuccessful trans- and East European institution-building over the last quarter of a century illustrate the need for the US to get finally involved.

Not only for West but also East European political stability, an engagement of Washington was and remains crucial. 

USA as a key-player in the Eastern Europe

The US, partly, learned its lesson from its earlier successes, and from the disaster of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war. It signed bilateral Strategic Partnership Charters with Ukraine in December 2008, and with Georgia in January 2009. The two Charters announced that the parties will support the integration of Ukraine and Georgia into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, security cooperation, and preparing these countries for candidacy for NATO membership. The two new documents, however, did not send much of a signal to Russia. They remained largely unknown within even the publics of the three signatory states.

What is, against such a background, needed is an expansion of Washington’s current two bilateral Charters into a larger quasi-alliance. A new multilateral Charter should link the US demonstratively with the EU’s three associated Eastern partners Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as, perhaps, with Azerbaijan. This provisional semi-coalition could become a consequential upgrade for the GUAM group formed in 2001.

Towards US-GUAM Charter

A new multilateral US Charter for Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus will, to be sure, not offer nearly as much protection to GUAM, as Article 5 of the Washington Treaty provides for NATO’s members. The US’s assurances in such a document would, most probably, even remain significantly below those given to such countries as South Korea or Israel. Still, a US-GUAM Charter could provide elementary organizational structure to Eastern Europe’s gray zone during the interregnum, until these countries eventually become members of the EU, NATO or/and other relevant international institutions that embed them properly in the international system. Even a very cautiously formulated American Charter for the GUAM countries would have considerable symbolic power, increase East European security, and raise the stakes of further escalation in the post-Soviet space for Moscow.

A US-GUAM Charter following the examples of the Baltic and Adriatic Charters would be a small, but significant step forward in making Eastern Europe more secure. It would usefully parallel and demonstratively support Brussels’s European Neighborhood Policy, in general, and the Eastern Partnership initiative, in particular. While not providing yet a comprehensive solution to the fragile security situation in East-Central Europe and the Southern Caucasus, it would help making gradually Europe’s post-Soviet gray zone less gray.

About authors:

Iryna Vereshchuk is President of Kyiv’s International Centre for Black Sea-Baltic Studies and Consensus Practices which unites several former heads of state and government from various European post-communist countries.

Andreas Umland is Senior Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv, and General Editor of the ibidem­-Verlag book series “Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society” distributed by Columbia University Press.