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Yearender: U.S., Russia, EU powers play with European security

12-15-2010 08:14 BJT

by Xinhua Writer Zhang Wei

BRUSSELS, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- In 2010, the United States, Russia, and big European powers including France and Germany have continued their triangular game on European defense. Amid easing tensions, they have started limited engagement and cooperation, but their strategic differences remain.


NATO, comprised of the United States, Canada and major European countries, has a key role to play in European defense. The alliance approved its new strategic concept for the next decade at the Lisbon Summit in November, and stressed that "NATO poses no threat to Russia. On the contrary: we want to see a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia."

The mission statement listed setting up an anti-missile shield in Europe as "a core element" of NATO's collective defense while seeking to engage Russia in cooperation.

NATO's goodwill gesture drew positive responses from Russia. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who attended the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon, agreed to explore the possibility of cooperation with NATO in the network of radar bases and interceptor missiles.

On Afghanistan, Russia agreed to broaden NATO's transit via its territory and step up training of Afghan anti-drug officials.

According to NATO and top Russian officials, NATO-Russian ties, which suffered a major setback due to the war between Russia and Georgia, have been "reset" about one year after the United States and Russia reset their relations.


Though the tension between Russia and the West has eased, analysts say NATO and Russia are far from building up mutual trust as their cooperation on security is still limited and unstable.

At the strategic level, Russia still wants to change NATO's dominance over the security architecture in Europe.

In November last year, Medvedev submitted a "Draft Treaty on European Security," saying it would "finally get rid of the legacy of the Cold War" by making signatories commit not to attack each other or take actions that would "significantly" affect the security of other parties.

However, the draft has been coldly received by the West and international organizations.

NATO and Russia are also deeply divided over the alliance's eastward expansion and Georgia. Within NATO, some member states, particularly Eastern European countries, are wary of developing ties with Russia.

NATO's anti-missile shield covering Europe may become a fresh source of contention between the two sides.

On Nov. 30, Medvedev warned in his state-of-the-nation address that if talks with NATO on missile defense failed within a decade, "a new round of arms race will start," and Russia will "have to adopt decisions on the deployment of new strategic weapons."

In addition, NATO-Russian relations to a great extent are affected by U.S.-Russian ties. In April, the two countries signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Prague on nuclear disarmament, which is seen as a "cornerstone" for their ties.

The Obama administration has been pushing for the treaty's passage in the Senate by the end of the year. However, Republicans in the U.S. Congress have threatened to hold up the ratification of the treaty, which could be a new damper on ties between Moscow and Washington.


Even within NATO, the United States and its European allies, especially France and Germany, are divided on European defense issues.

Earlier this year, German-led countries publicly demanded the United States withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, triggering a heated argument within the alliance.

In the end, the dispute was resolved in a balanced way. NATO says in its strategic concept that it sticks to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, but "as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance."

At the level of the European Union (EU), Paris and Berlin have been pushing for the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), in a bid to reduce reliance on the United States to defend Europe.

However, since the Lisbon Treaty came into force in December last year, the CSDP has failed to become a priority of the EU.

In a bid to balance the excessive influence of the United States, France and Germany are seeking to involve Russia in European defense, while keeping sound economic and trade ties with Moscow.

At a trilateral summit on Oct. 19 in Deauville, France, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Medvedev called on the EU to launch a "modernization partnership" with Russia and to embark on "institutional and operational cooperation between Russia and the EU" on European security.

The three leaders also pledged to "jointly work on security issues in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian zones."

Analysts say that Russia also wants to take advantage of the rifts among NATO member states to boost its influence.

What's more, while the United States, Russia, France and Germany are playing with European defense, other European countries are also maneuvering to promote their own interests, which further complicates the European defense issue.

Editor:Zhang Jingya |Source: Xinhua

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