Ukraine

OSZE: Ein erhellender Bericht

DOKUMENTATION: Wie die OSZE 2015 (vergeblich) versuchte, den Konflikt zwischen Russland und EU zu deeskalieren

Dokumentation

Im November 2015 veröffentlichte die Organisation für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung in Europa (OSZE) ihren Bericht mit dem Titel „Back to Diplomacy“. Untertitel: „Final Report and Recommendations of the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a Common Project”. Das Vorwort stellt fest: „Es gab zahlreiche Meinungsverschiedenheiten, und sie zu überwinden war herausfordernd.“

Drei Teilberichte fassen zusammen, wie Russland, der Westen und die Staaten dazwischen die Entwicklung seit dem Fall des Eisernen Vorhangs bis zur Annexion der Krim und der Unterstützung von separatistischen Kräften in der Ostukraine durch Russland sahen. Entstanden sind damals drei Narrative, die sich grundlegend unterscheiden und zeigen, wie gegensätzlich die Beteiligten die Welt interpretiert haben.

Immerhin: Zwar verharrten einige Mitglieder des Panels in ihrer „grundsätzlichen Nichtübereinstimmung”, so räumt der Bericht ein, aber „das Aussprechen der Ansichten hat zu besserem Verständnis aller Perspektiven geführt”.

Die Experten rund um Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, Vorsitzender der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz, fassten das Notwendige in zwei Sätzen zusammen: „Es ist dringlich, einen politischen und diplomatischen Prozess einzuleiten, um die derzeitige Krise zu meistern. Die Vision eines gemeinsamen europäischen Hauses erscheint abseitiger als vor zwei Jahrzehnten, aber wir leben noch immer in einem gemeinsamen Raum und müssen Wege finden, darin gemeinsam zu leben.“

Dazu müsste zuerst dafür gesorgt werden, dass militärische Konfrontation reduziert, der Nato-Russland-Rat wiederbelebt und das Gespräch zwischen den militärischen Konfliktparteien wieder aufgenommen sowie das Minsker Abkommen umgesetzt wird. Abschließend wird der Weg zu einem Gipfeltreffen skizziert.  PHK

Im Folgenden die drei im Bericht wiedergegebenen Views im englischen Original:

 

The View from the West

The Cold War ended with the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe. Numerous European states as well as countries that had been incorporated into the Soviet empire were liberated from Soviet dominion. These states and their tens of millions of citizens now had the freedom to determine their own future, including their alliance memberships. This was not a victory of the West but a victory for freedom and democracy, and was recorded as such in the Charter of Paris in 1990.

In Paris, the Soviet Union and other states from the Euro-Atlantic space came together to welcome a “new era of Democracy, Peace and Unity” in Europe. “Europe whole and free”, the Charter said, “is calling for a new beginning”.

The West had prevailed in a clash of systems and ideas, but it did not try to exploit Russian weakness; instead it made an effort to support and stabilize the complicated transition as the Soviet Union disintegrated. It hoped that Russia too would become a successful democracy and a prosperous economy and would play a part in stabilizing Europe.

The end of the Cold War made possible the creation of a Europe that was whole and free, democratic and at peace. Key to this was the willingness of the countries themselves to take the hard decisions to enable their transformation. Their wish to reaffirm their Western and European identity meant that they wanted to join Western institutions, including NATO and the EU. This gave the West an opportunity to help both in their transition and in supporting stability in Europe.

The enlargement of NATO and the EU did not follow a Western plan to encircle Russia. It came about because large majorities in many of the newly-independent states wanted to return to the democratic family. On the other side the legacy of history meant that many NATO countries felt an obligation to help these states fulfill their legitimate aspirations.

To complement this the West aimed to build a strategic partnership with Russia that would include close cooperation with, if not integration in, these Western institutions. With this in mind, the West proposed the NATO-Russia Founding Act and later the NATO-Russia Council. NATO’s first round of enlargement in 1999 was realized after intensive discussions, including with Russia. Russia has also benefitted from the improved security environment enlargement created: inclusion in NATO meant that the states in Central and Eastern Europe did not have to seek solely national ways of providing for their defense.

EU policy also was to take relations with Russia forward in parallel with those of its other neighbours. The 1999 Common Strategy on Russia preceded the EU’s decision on enlargement; the “four common spaces” initiative was in parallel with the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP); and negotiations for the new bilateral agreement with Russia started before the Eastern Partnership – which was designed to take co-operation beyond the level of co-operation with ENP countries.

The claim that the EU took over Russia’s markets is un-founded. When Russia adopted free market policies the idea of captive markets became a thing of the past. If Russia lost market share this was a result of the normal operation of open international markets. Russia’s reluctance to modernize its economy may also have played a part.

To further deepen the partnership, Russia was also invited to join the G7. It was questionable whether Russia was ready for membership of a club of major economies who were also democracies. But the West wanted Russia to succeed and believed that in due course it would meet the normal standards for membership.

The process of rebuilding Europe was challenged by the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and the conflicts that emerged in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Addressing the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the unresolved territorial and ethnic disputes in former Soviet countries brought the West into conflict with Russia. In Bosnia, this conflict was overcome through an intensive diplomatic process that included Russia. In the cases of Kosovo and in the unresolved conflicts in former Soviet countries, including in Georgia and Moldova, it was not possible to overcome deep-seated differences.

In Kosovo, the West tried to address the issue in partnership with Russia, seeking a political solution. When this failed and the signs of impending violence against Kosovars and refugee flows grew, the Western countries decided they could not again risk to wait for mass atrocities, as they had done in Bosnia, before they acted. On the question of Kosovo’s status, many diplomatic avenues were pursued. Only after eight years, when it had proved impossible to find a solution acceptable to all parties, did Kosovo declare itself independent (accepting initial limitations on its sovereignty). Most countries of the West decided to recognize it as an independent state, and the majority of the international community has since joined them.

In the cases of the unresolved conflicts in post-Soviet states, the international community had recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. But for more than two decades Russia has now worked to support separatists in these countries, significantly weakening the states concerned.

When popular protests occurred in Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kyrgyzstan (2005) conflict between Russia and the West grew. These so-called colour revolutions were the result of legitimately popular movements, protesting against fraudulent elections and corrupt elites; they led to peaceful transitions of power. But Moscow was increasingly afraid that such changes could spread to Russia, as well as jeopardize its supposed interests in its “near abroad.”

The question of further enlargement of NATO was hotly debated by the Alliance’s member states; they considered the concerns expressed by Russia about its security, yet in 2004 NATO was enlarged again on the demand and insistence of the candidate countries. The new members included former republics of the USSR as well as other Central and Eastern European states. This was consistent with their sovereign right to choose their own alliances.

At the NATO Bucharest Summit in April 2008, the requests of Georgia and Ukraine for Membership Action Plans were rejected. NATO instead decided that Georgia and Ukraine would become members of NATO but did not say how or when. In August 2008, following a series of provocations and escalating exchanges of fire Georgia fell into what, in retrospect, looks like a Russian trap and moved against a town in South Ossetia (this region of Georgia, like neighbouring Abkhazia, had been under control of Russian-backed separatists since the early 1990s). The Georgian army was overwhelmed by a larger Russian force.

After the end of the fighting, in violation of a cease-fire agreement and international law, Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and kept its troops in these regions. Many interpreted these actions as a pre-emptive Russian move against Georgian membership of NATO.

Even so, in early 2009, as one of its first acts the Obama administration pressed the “reset” button with Russia. A period of increased co-operation culminated in the NATO Lisbon summit in 2010, which renewed NATO-Russia relations including an envisaged joint missile defence system, and the New START Treaty (which entered into force in early 2012).

However, from 2012, mostly due to domestic reasons after Putin’s re-election as president, the Russian government chose a more antagonistic course. Russia was growing more authoritarian internally and more assertive in its foreign policy. The West grew increasingly concerned about a Russian leadership that restricted personal freedoms and human rights at home. The countries close to Russia’s border, in particular, warned that this authoritarian turn would shape Moscow’s foreign policy as well. It certainly did in Ukraine.

After months of negotiations and preparations, Ukrainian President Yanukovych had agreed to sign a limited EU Association Agreement at the EU Summit in Vilnius in November of 2013. After being called to Moscow the night before, he reneged on the agreement, which led to mass protests on the Maidan, which the President attempted to contain by violent means.

In February of 2014, several European foreign ministers agreed to witness a compromise agreement, which they hoped would end the crisis. Instead of seeing this pact through, Yanukovych left the country. The ensuing constitutional crisis was resolved by the parliament’s election of an acting president and by well-organized and monitored elections first for a new president, then for parliament.

The Russian description of these events as a coup d’état is entirely inaccurate; equally wrong, as the election results proved, were Russian allegations of a takeover by the extreme right. The rhetoric employed by Russia, depicting Ukraine’s youth and reformers as Nazis and murderers, is crude and hate-mongering language, an unacceptable return to the worst practices of a bygone era.

Nothing in the events in Ukraine can justify Russia’s seizure by force of Crimea, in breach of international law, the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and many other agreements. The claim that this was an act of self-determination would be more convincing if Russian forces had not been involved, if the procedures had complied with the Ukrainian constitution and if the referendum had taken place following an open debate and with proper international monitoring. Unlike Kosovo, which Russia cites as a precedent, this declaration of independence did not follow a decade of diplomatic negotiation and deliberation within the international community.

Nor is there any justification at all for Russia’s armed intervention in eastern Ukraine, a further breach of basic principles of international law. This conflict has been sustained by Russian arms and by Russian forces.

Russia made no attempt at all to resolve the issues it may have had about Ukraine, including Crimea, peacefully or legally. It also dealt a blow to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destructions, violating the security guarantees Ukraine received in the Budapest Memorandum for giving up its nuclear weapons. As a result of Russia’s intervention, other countries may think twice before trusting a similar guarantee in the future.

Russia’s policies in Ukraine follow the pattern of its relations with other former Soviet republics, where it has fostered (and then frozen) ethnic conflicts. Putin’s stated conviction that Russia has the right to act to protect Russian-speakers – no matter where they are – potentially sows the seeds of future interventions to protect Russian “kin”. It also violates numerous agreements Russia has signed, as well as the UN Charter.

Russia has decided to give up on any pretense of co-operating with, let alone integrating in, the West. It also has abandoned any pretense of playing by the rules, including respect for the political independence of sovereign states and the principle of not using force to change borders. As a result, Russia’s definition of its security today means insecurity for its neighbours.

Due to its own choices, Russia today is a very different country from the 1990s and the early 2000s. Instead of focusing on domestic modernization, Russia is pursuing a revisionist and unpredictable foreign policy, manufacturing and actively seeking conflicts abroad to control the fate of its neighbours.

 

The view from Moscow

Starting with the negotiations on German unification, the West systematically took advantage of Russia’s weakness. The West never acted in the spirit of the Charter of Paris, in which the indivisibility of security was a key concept. The West never tried to address security with Russia, only without it, or against it. The United States instead seized the opportunity to dominate international affairs especially in Europe.

The “common European home” failed because the West was unwilling to build new, open security architecture – and to fulfil its promises. The West talked of co-operation and expected co-operation from Moscow, but believed in Russia’s perennial aggressiveness or/and weakness.

From the Russian side a crucial contribution was made to eliminate the material legacy of the era of confrontation. Russia had withdrawn its troops and armaments from Germany, Central and Eastern Europe and later from the Baltic countries, fully implemented the CFE Treaty by cutting thousands of conventional armaments and equipment pieces, signed and ratified the Agreement on the Adaptation of the CFE Treaty.

Under the slogan of promoting democratic values east-wards the West continued to expand its institutions at the expense of Russian security interests. It was the main dynamic after the Cold War. Consecutive waves of NATO’s expansion reduced Russia’s security. The EU’s expansion took over Russia’s markets, and as new member states joined Schengen the area of visa free travel for Russian citizens was reduced. In each case, as compensation, Russia was offered a formal junior partnership: the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the NATO-Russia Council were sugar coating for the bitter pill of enlargement; the EU’s idea of partnership is that Russia should adopt its rules.

NATO enlargement was pursued in spite of dozens of assurances to the contrary. For example, NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner said in May 1990, “the very fact that we are ready not to deploy NATO troops beyond the territory of the Federal Republic gives the Soviet Union firm security guarantees.” But they did and do deploy troops all over this area.

NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign against, what was left from Yugoslavia – Serbia, a small defenceless country, for something that it had not yet done, was an atrocity. The West involved Russia in the negotiations, but when there was no agreement it acted unilaterally. The intervention was an open and blatant breach of international and humanitarian law and the first breach of the Helsinki principles in post-war Europe – unfortunately not the last.

Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was another illustration of the hollowness of the “partnership” between the West and Russia. It was a subversion of international law and the OSCE principles. Russia sat at the table, but, in the end, the West made the decisions, and made them against Russian interests and Helsinki principles. Kosovo’s separation from Serbia took place without a referendum.

In the first years of the 2000s, the international legal order and global stability were further undermined by the United States with few protests from Europe. Russia was also frequently lectured on democracy and the rule of law, while the U.S. was running secret prisons and torturing prisoners. The U.S.-led intervention in Iraq in 2003 was not only another blatant violation of international law but has been one of the causes of the continuing turmoil in the Middle East.

The West has meanwhile continued to pursue regime change there, supporting the popular movements of the “Arab Spring”, with catastrophic results especially in Syria, and occasionally using force, as in Libya.

The unresolved conflicts in the former Soviet Union – the so-called “frozen conflicts” – did not emerge after 1992 because of Russian involvement, but because large parts of the population in those areas wanted to stay with Russia, against the interest of the elites. When the conflicts started, Russia had to intervene to stop the blood-shed. Since then Russia has played a stabilizing role in the region, preventing the outbreak of major wars. Russian actions in Moldova/Transdniestria, and Tajikistan are among the rare examples of effective peacekeeping.

Before the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit, the West did not even pretend to consult Russia, although the promise of NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine was, as President Putin later said, “a direct threat” to Russian security. The war provoked by Georgia later in the year demonstrated the foolishness of the Bucharest decision.

Writing in 2008, former President Mikhail Gorbachev summed up Russia’s view: “Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here’s the independence of Kosovo for you. Here’s the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defences in neighbouring countries. Here’s the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade?”

In spite of this on-going charade, Russia played its part in the “reset”, taking the initiative to prepare a new European Security Treaty, the objective of which was to make the principle of the indivisibility of security legally binding. Russia also proposed creation of a common economic and humanitarian space from Vladivostok to Lisbon. All initiatives came to nothing. Russia’s willingness to co-operate on Libya was exploited by the West, again for its agenda of regime change, ending in profound destabilization, civil war and refugee flow.

The West continued to pursue a “Versailles policy in velvet gloves”, constantly enlarging its sphere of interest and control.

Russia made its views known on all these subjects but no one listened. Instead a negative propaganda campaign was launched against Russia especially in 2012-2013 and Western leaders boycotted the Sochi Olympics. Moscow came to the conclusion that the West was starting a new containment policy. Russia had to pre-empt this and had to teach its partners to respect its vital interests.

All the elements came together in Ukraine: first the promise of NATO membership at the NATO Summit in Bucharest – a threat to Russia, then the attempt by the EU to increase its own economic space at the expense of Russia, and finally the open Western support for the Maidan regime change movement.

The EU’s neighbourhood policies and its Eastern Partnership had created a situation in which several of Russia’s closest neighbours were faced with an artificial choice: either they were with the West, or against it. Only in such an atmosphere of polarization and forced choices could the events that led to the coup d’état against President Yanukovych unfold.

Russia repeatedly expressed understanding for those protestors in Kyiv who demonstrated against corruption, bad government, and poverty. But those who forced the elected president of Ukraine to flee had a different agenda: they wanted to seize power and resorted to terror and murder. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites were behind this coup. And it was openly supported by Western officials.

Russia responded in the only language that gets Western attention.

People all over Ukraine realized what was happening. The people of Crimea overwhelmingly favoured its reunification with Russia in a referendum. Russia, unlike the West in many cases, did not use force in Crimea, only assured that others would not use it. Eastern Ukrainians also made it clear they would not accept the power grab of the new government in Kyiv. Russia is not a party to the conflict, but it has sympathies for the goals of the self-defence forces. The sanctions against Russia are unjustified and counterproductive and another blatant violation of international law as they were imposed without a decision of the UN Security Council.

Russia tried many times to prevent Western expansion but was not listened to. Positive alternatives were ignored and ridiculed. Europe has failed to capitalize on the chance offered by the end of the Cold War – to build a sustainable and fair security and co-operation system.

Western interventions in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, the rupture of Kosovo, poor performance in Afghanistan, and open support for the Arab Spring have damaged the most important principles of international security and stability – namely state sovereignty and non-interference into internal affairs. It is the West’s actions which are threats to international peace and security. The West has irresponsibly destabilized the international system: stable po-litical orders are upended and replaced with nothing but chaos. Russia has not only lost trust in the West’s words, but respect for the West’s competence.

 

The View from the States in-between:
a perspective from Tbilisi

The states between Russia and the West share common historic features, but do not always have the same outlook on current affairs, security issues and even the future. Countries like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have chosen a clear pro-Western policy stance. They are more democratic, have better governance systems and are inclined to join the EU and/or NATO. To them, this is a matter of principle, international law, and people’s choice and cannot be negotiated, or changed, as long as the populations and governments of the three countries have made their decisions.

Other countries, like Armenia and Belarus, have made it clear that they do not wish to join Western institutions and that good relations with Russia are their priority. Azerbaijan has chosen a middle position, balancing the West and Russia, pursuing a rather independent foreign-policy course. These positions too need to be respected, even if they are not so much a conscious choice, as a necessity of circumstance.

For these “states in-between”, the end of the Cold War was not the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century, as Putin later argued, but the best thing that could happen to the former Soviet states. They regained their independence after the decades of Soviet domination. Russia has never adjusted to the idea of the demise of the Soviet Union and throughout the last two decades has attempted to reconstruct the lost empire, first through the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), then creating the CSTO and finally launching the idea of the Eurasian Economic Union.

As Russia and Western states engaged in the formation of the post-USSR European security order, former Soviet states engaged in debilitating domestic conflicts, civil wars and ethnic conflicts. As a result the governments were forcefully changed in Azerbaijan and Georgia; and in almost every post-Soviet state the politicians from the Soviet past returned to dominate local politics. The new generation of politicians only came to politics in the beginning of the 2000s as the colour revolutions swept post-Soviet space. The Rose Revolution dramatically changed Georgia as the new pro-Western Government eradicated corruption, implemented painful but necessary economic reforms, strengthened the state structures and increased its independence from Moscow. Its pro-Western foreign policy eventually antagonized Russia, who became the biggest opponent of such democratic transitions and new methods of governance. This clash can be observed throughout the last decade with Moscow supporting old type of governance systems, with rampant corruption and inefficient bureaucracies. Today’s confrontation between Ukraine and Moscow, according to one narrative, is the continuation of the Georgia vs. Russia clash, in which Moscow opposes any type of modernization, growing in-dependence and Western integration of its neighbours.

All post-Soviet countries which are pursuing Western integration are ridden with the conflicts. Occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, breakaway Transdniestria, war-torn Donbas and annexed Crimea hold back Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in their goals of modernization and Western integration. These conflicts are a result of historical and modern processes, local and international events, but most importantly, of Moscow’s interference. Many erupted in the beginning of the 1990s as the Soviet Union fell apart. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Moldova and Georgia became engulfed in domestic conflicts, inspired and supported by Moscow. As a result Tbilisi lost de facto control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Chisinau lost control of Transdniestria. The Russian military presence in these conflict regions and its full support of the breakaway authorities essentially decided the outcome of the conflicts. Russia then used these conflicts to drag Georgia and other states into the CIS.

The role of Russia was never positive in conflict resolution. The West at that time did not consider the resolution of these conflicts a priority, mainly because it was busy with other conflicts – in former Yugoslavia and elsewhere. Therefore, Russia was given the status of a mediator in these conflicts and all peacekeeping operations and negotiating formats were centered around Moscow. As a result conflicts became frozen for the next decade, with the po-tential for explosion, as the states whose territorial integrity was violated were unable to accept the status quo.

The Russia-Georgia war of August 2008 was a logical embodiment of the destructive role that Russia played in the Georgian conflicts. Russia invaded Georgia as a result of a trap it had set up in the first place. Russian troops invaded Georgia directly as Tbilisi engaged in an attack on Tskhinvali, preceded by days of attacks on Georgian villages by South Ossetian irregular forces. The intervention by Russia was a response to the active pro-NATO and pro-EU policy of Georgia. After the April 2008 Bucharest decision that stated that “Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO”, Russia resorted to the use of force to stop the enlargement process. Moreover, Russia occupied the two territories of Georgia and declared them independent states. This was a new paradigm that no one was ready for. At least, Russia could not be called neutral any more: it became a clear party to the conflict.

But it is not just NATO that Russia is concerned about. It is also the EU and its possible enlargement. In short, any Western “encroachment” is problematic for Moscow, even though it is in the vital security interests of neighbouring states to integrate into Western structures. Russian statements denouncing the EU’s Eastern Partnership did not go unnoticed. Nor did its hostile actions. In 2014, Victor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian President of Ukraine decided not to proceed with the Association Agreement with the EU, taking a decision similar to that of his Armenian colleague a few months earlier. As a result the Euromaidan revolution took place and the government was replaced through peaceful protests in Ukraine. Russia intervened openly in the process, discarding the Helsinki principles and directly violating international law. Moscow supported the ousted government, dubbed the new government a military junta, annexed Crimea and launched a military offensive in Donbas. Ukraine resisted and the conflict has dragged on, as the foundations of European security were shattered.

As a result of these two major developments in 2008 and 2014 nobody should have any illusion about Russia’s true motivations in its immediate neighbourhood. The biggest threat to the security and well-being of its neighbours is Moscow’s aggressive policy and its inability to accept independent neighbours. Therefore, as long as Russia is viewed in the West as a part of the solution, and not the problem, these problems will persist and the security of Russia’s neighbours will be further undermined.

Some of Russia’s neighbours accept Russia as a dominant partner which has a serious stake in their economy and provides security through the CSTO and the presence of its military bases. The big question is whether such Russian presence limits the independence of these countries in the foreign policy choices. Armenia and Belarus, Russia’s two main partners in the Eastern Partnership, accept a strategic partnership with Moscow, but also try to diversify their economic, trade, and security policies. The West often does not understand that for these states foreign policy choices are about survival and power maximization, and they are therefore unable to resist strong Russian pressure. Trade embargoes, the threat of sanctions and politically motivated trade-related decisions have been felt throughout Russia’s neighbourhood, from Riga to Tbilisi.

Many states in this group believe that the EU and NATO have not always used their instruments vis-à-vis them prudently. EU and NATO policies have been those of words and not of deeds. The membership perspective of Georgia and Ukraine in NATO is blocked by reluctant partners, who are unwilling to risk Russia’s anger if these states become members of NATO. For this reason not even Membership Action Plans are given to Georgia and Moldova. When in need, neither Georgia, nor Ukraine received military assistance. With such ambiguous policies, the role and credibility of NATO in Armenia, Azerbaijan or Belarus is very limited and support for membership is split in Ukraine. Georgia remains the only country with high support for NATO membership. The biggest problem seems to be that NATO members are unwilling and unready to discuss the options: how could Georgia and Ukraine join, and what could be done to accommodate Russia’s interests if these countries became members. Therefore the discussion is postponed from Summit to Summit, as Russia becomes stronger and more assertive.

A similar lack of credibility applies to the EU. All Eastern Partnership states have declared their willingness to develop closer relations with the EU. But the EU’s strategy towards this region has not been that of enlargement, based on conditionality, but rather a slow socialization, without the promise of membership benefits. Association Agreements, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements and Visa Liberalization Action Plans are the three serious instruments that contribute significantly to the reforms of the Eastern Partnership countries. But short of the promise of membership, the reforms are likely to be successful only to the certain point. This demotivates some countries in the neighbourhood from pursuing active Europeanization, especially since the process is linked to high standards of human rights protection. The EU is often criticized by some states in the Eastern Partnership for being too vocal on the issue of human rights and democracy, but not having anything to offer to these states in return.

Existing security institutions and regimes in Europe are no longer efficient. The OSCE is ineffective because of Russia’s veto power; the EU and NATO are inaccessible. All agreed security regimes, like CFE, are now effectively defunct. The Adapted CFE Treaty agreed in Istanbul in 1999 was a cornerstone for arms control in the OSCE area. Because of insistence of the US and NATO, Russia agreed to withdraw its military installations from the neighbouring states. Georgia and Moldova requested Russia to withdraw the forces, while Armenia wanted to maintain the military presence. Nevertheless, Russia never fully withdrew, particularly from the conflict regions. This led to the crisis of the OSCE, the unwillingness of Western states to ratify the Treaty, then Russia’s decision to declare a moratorium on the treaty implementation, and finally the death of CFE.

The OSCE was an organization that these “states in-between” hoped to benefit from. Indeed, as a forum for exchanging information, the OSCE is valuable, but its role has become insignificant in the last decade, with the exception of the SMM in Ukraine. Therefore, the states between Russia and the West believe that they need to be better represented in the security discussions between the West and Russia.

Finally, there is an overwhelming mood of concern among Russia’s neighbours who also border the EU and NATO. They are always concerned that if something major happens in the global arena, like the “reset policy” or conflicts in Syria or Afghanistan, an informal deal will be “struck” between Russia and the West about the “fate” of Russia’s near abroad. This cannot be tolerated. It should be a matter of principle for Western Europe and the United States, not to abandon Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in their quest to integrate into the EU and NATO. As the Baltic states and Central and Eastern European countries managed to slip away from Russia’s grip, these countries hope to do so, too.