The V-4 States And Russian Initiative “Helsinki Plus”

By Miroslav Zach

The joint position of the members of the Visegrád Group V-4 promotes their weight and this should be considered within discussion of almost all big issues and problems. The list of big lately actualized European issues includes also Russian initiative on the European Security Treaty (EST), which is also called “Helsinki plus” in Moscow.

In 2008 in Evian D.Medvedev pointed five main principles, on which this treaty can be based. Among them – confirmation of fundamental principles of security and interstate relations within Euro-Atlantic area, non-use of force or inadmissibility of the threat of the use of force within international relations, guarantees of equal security, prohibition on exclusive right of any state and international organization for peacekeeping and maintenance of stability in Europe, establishment of basic parameters of control of armament and discreetness within military development. Many analysts noted immediately, that the main thing is that these principles practically enable independent and sole actions of the USA, i.e. in essence Russian suggestions are called to change the balance of forces to exclude the existence of the dominating force. Let’s specify that the initiative was also full of persistent anti-American rhetoric at the level of Russian Mass Media, experts and politicians. All this predetermined the pessimistic view on the discussion of this issue.

But after the election of B. Obama as the US President and the start of a so-called “reset”, the anti-American element in Russian rhetoric has reduced significantly. The situation began changing. In the end of this April D.Medvedev during his visit to Finland held a speech in Helsinki University where he presented already more extended Russian position on the EST. Moscow suggests to take Helsinki treaties of 1975 as a basis, calling the EST a “Helsinki plus” treaty.

The Kremlin specifies four conceptual blocks of the treaty, formulated from the view point of Russian security interests.

First of all, this is a restraint of NATO possibilities by granting legal force to OSCE documents. In reality it’s performed against North-Atlantic alliance extension. It’s known, that the position of V-4 member-states is exactly the opposite. At the same time, except for limitation of NATO, Russia intends to review also the role of OSCE, which has been criticized for the policy of “double standards” for a long time. First of all, this concerns election observation in CIS countries. Moscow calls these missions as priori engaged. Note, that here on the contrary political interests of the Four are lying within strengthening and promotion of a so-called “third” basket of OSCE, in the framework of which the electoral monitoring is performed.

Russia has already repeatedly blocked the decisions of OSCE, refused to cooperate with election observers, set its own standards of election monitoring. On this ground, by the way, Western Mass Media called “Helsinki minus” instead of “Helsinki plus”.

Secondly, the EST is observed as an instrument of conflict prevention, which as Moscow thinks, can’t handle either the EU or NATO. Still it is the weakest point of Russia’s position, which from the one hand criticizes Kosovo recognition, and from the other hand – recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Naturally we can’t expect the unanimity of V-4 and Russia about these issues.

Thirdly, the treaty is tightly nit with the problem of offensive disarmament.

The fourth, the treaty should be devoted also to the mechanisms of interaction of states and organizations on resistance to new threats and challenges, including the mass destruction weapons proliferation, international terrorism, illegal drugs traffic and other types of trans-boarder organized crime. This is probably, the most promising and the less troublesome sphere of cooperation of Russian with West.

Still Europe and the USA treat all these ideas cautiously, although also more positive than in the beginning of the year. We can predict the position of V-4.

ObamaThe first category of countries is marked with the most unaccepting attitude towards the idea of the EST. Last year this first of all was the USA. Its position has begun changing literally during last months. It has softened. Many people think that B. Obama holds a pause. Harsh position has been already expressed by Great Britain, the countries of Eastern Europe, Baltic States, Georgia and Ukraine.

The position of V-4 can be determined as follows:

During the last century the Alliance (NATO) has transformed perhaps the most explosive relations between France and Germany into the relations of real and sincere partnership. It maintains the peace longer than any other military-political organization. And there is no sense and no conditions to refuse of it. It’s important to keep NATO and the EU, as well as to develop partnership of Russia with these organizations.

The position of V-4 will always be consolidated with the position of the USA and the EU. If Washington decides on the possibility and necessity to discuss Russian initiative, than we shouldn’t exclude also the change of V-4 views. Note, that by this, inside of the “four” there are some traditional disagreements. More restrained, more benevolent position towards Russia is traditionally expressed by Slovakia.

The second category of countries has more careful attitude towards Russian idea, and express the readiness to discuss it, but at the same time being skeptic about the prospects of the adoption of legally binding document. These are traditional partners of Moscow – Italy, Germany and France. Iceland, Finland and Cyprus claimed their readiness to discuss the EST.

At the moment, only Switzerland (which is a non-member of NATO and the EU) supported the initiative of Russia and in addition required to specify in the treaty the neutral status of the states. Foreign Minister of Switzerland in the result of negotiations with his Russian colleague in Bern states: “As for the signing of the European Security Treaty, I’d like to point once again, that Switzerland is a neutral state which is neither a member of NATO nor of the EU. We vote for the signing of the kind of Treaty”. She reminded that Switzerland participates within OSCE and that is why she wishes for this Treaty to be considered within the framework of this organization.

We can note some positive changes for Russia towards the EST project, which took place in the second half this year. The first step within discussion has already been done and the start of discussion took place on Corfu island on 27-28 June this year. And it’s known that despite all difficulties Russia plans to hold the EST Summit in 2010. Next year Kazakhstan will head OSCE and Moscow expects support from Astana. However, there is no absolute guarantee of the kind of position of Kazakhstan, which lately has openly promoted its cooperation with the USA. A working team was established for urgent solution of various issues between the two states. The creation of such a tool of American-Kazakh cooperation is able to incite definite disturbance in the Kremlin. Thus, we can expect the main signs from Washington.

At the same time, lately, they have been perceived more positive in the Kremlin, than used to be. A new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia C. Wallander who is well-known as one of American experts in post-soviet world, said in July of 2009 that “The USA are open for discussion of the issue of promotion of extended architecture of European security, which was raised by President Medvedev”. It’s noteworthy that also some retired American diplomats took more constructive position. Former Vice Secretary of Defense of the USA S. Talbot claimed in the article of Financial Times, that the idea of Medvedev gives a great chance. He specified that its uncertainty has created vacuum and consequently the USA and the EU have a chance to present their own suggestions and views.