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Mark Entin

Doctor of Science, Professor, Head of the Department of European law, MGIMO-University, RIAC Expert

Ekaterina Entina

Dr. of Political Sciences, Head of Black Sea and Mediterranean Studies Centre, Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences; Professor, Higher School of Economics National Research University (HSE University)

On February 9, 2016, the RIAC in partnership with the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation hosted a Roundtable “EU and Russia: Our Differences, Interconnections and the Way Forward”, attended by many leading experts from Russia and the EU countries. The reasons for the profound crisis in Russian-European relations were analyzed. Participants tried to find an explanation as to why the previously created mechanisms for interaction and the accumulated experience of collaboration had failed to prevent the slide into mutual distrust, misunderstanding and hostility. Efforts were made, and not without success, to find bright spots that could somehow take the edge off the current controversy. Forecasts of the future were given, ranging from rather pessimistic to conservative.

On February 9, 2016, the Russian International Affairs Council in partnership with the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation hosted a Roundtable “EU and Russia: Our Differences, Interconnections and the Way Forward,” attended by many leading experts from Russia and the EU countries. The reasons for the profound crisis in Russian-European relations were analyzed. Participants tried to find an explanation as to why the previously created mechanisms for interaction and the accumulated experience of collaboration had failed to prevent the slide into mutual distrust, misunderstanding and hostility. Efforts were made, and not without success, to find bright spots that could somehow take the edge off the current controversy. Forecasts of the future were given, ranging from rather pessimistic to conservative.

Frankly speaking, we did enjoy the discussion. We haven’t heard such intelligent, calm, balanced, and professional speeches for a long time. They were free of preconceptions and there were no attempts to play the blame game or to prove something knowingly controversial or inadmissible. The speeches reflected a sincere desire to overcome the current difficult period in relations between Russia and the EU and its member states. The participants tried to put forward approaches and arguments that could be relied upon, as well as to work out recommendations to build a relationship that might make any recurrence of the current crisis impossible.

Following the discussion, it was agreed to continue cooperation and to analyze in the most thorough and meticulous way the mistakes that have been committed and our discords that are either real or only imagined. There were even suggestions to benefit from the experience of the Russian-Polish and the Russian-Japanese commissions on difficult questions of history. They have made a significant contribution to removing the time-honored prejudices and paving the way for steady progress in establishing an adequate relationship when the time is ripe for political action.

We join this important and responsible work with hope and pleasure. We have a wide range of contacts. We have communicated much with politicians and diplomats who were in the thick of things that shaped to a large extent the development scenario of modern Europe. We would like to begin with an after action review and show why our Western partners have rejected the quite sensible, necessary and farsighted proposals of the Russian leadership, aimed at building a Europe in which all countries and peoples might live safely and comfortably: why these proposals were ignored and what lessons should be learned from their one-sided and wrong interpretation.

However, it seems appropriate to begin with a few words about the priority of the European direction for Russia in promoting its geopolitical project, no matter what happens, and the changes of circumstances notwithstanding.

Erudition test

In your opinion, which departments of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are the largest, the most significant and prestigious? The Secretariat of the Minister and the General Secretariat do not count, since they are the driving belts of the foreign office management. There are two such departments, namely the Department of International Organizations (DIO) and the Department of European Cooperation (DEC). The first is responsible for work in the UN Security Council and all other bodies and structures of the UN, as well as the universal international organizations of the UN family. The second is responsible for cooperation within and with European international organizations of the traditional and integration type. The special status of these Departments is clear proof of the importance attached to international organizations and the system of international relations by Russia.

The importance of multilateral diplomacy for Russia with regard to the UN Security Council, its bodies and structures, international organizations of the United Nations family is a matter of fact and self explanatory. In contrast, the crucial nature of the relationship with European and Euro-Atlantic organizations after all the changes that have occurred in recent years requires elucidation. We shall try to do this confining ourselves to the most compelling considerations.

The imperatives of interaction with European and Euro-Atlantic organizations

In a nutshell, they are as follows. First, the above organizations unite and interlink the US and the EU. NATO in this respect is in a league of its own. Due to the nuclear umbrella as well as to the correlation of forces in the military sphere and political influence, Washington’s domination in the Alliance is not at all surprising. Moreover, the Americans most rigorously make sure that Europeans do not speak with one voice in NATO and remain disunited. These are the rules of the game, set by them.

NATO, however, is not the whole story. Washington is closely monitoring everything that happens in Europe. Britain, the Netherlands, and Eastern Europe (otherwise known by the pejorative name of New Europe) are politically oriented towards Washington, rather than Brussels or Berlin.

The Americans are present even in such an entirely European organization as the Council of Europe, although, apparently, this seems odd enough. Moreover, the Council of Europe was created by the Europeans to be somewhat independent of the US. In the first half of the 1990s, the Council of Europe embarked upon a new course of incorporating all European countries. As Russia’s and Ukraine’s membership loomed on the horizon, Washington asked the Council of Europe countries to allow it to participate in all political mechanisms of cooperation, and was granted permission. Accordingly, as of today, observer status with the Council of Europe has been acquired by the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico. They are obviously a drag on the Council, but still present.

In the near future the linkage between the US and the EU may become a lot stronger. They have already made significant strides in negotiations on the establishment of the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) (others call it the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP). If it were not for the presidential race in the US, the agreement would be just around the corner.

Second, TAFTA will provide the US and the EU with dominance of a qualitatively different nature in the system of global economic relations. The leap forward made by China in the last decade and to a lesser extent by other fast-growing economies has changed the balance of power in the world, although not in a decisive way. The US, the EU and several other OECD countries account for some 50 percent of world GDP, 90 percent of the financial resources of the planet, and 90 percent of the intellectual property, which ensures their continued technological superiority and control over others. Furthermore, China and all other fast-growing economies are still embedded in goods, services and technologies market operations controlled by the US and the EU.

TAFTA is intended to restore the regulatory domination of the US and the EU in the global economy, which has been somewhat weakened by the rapid rise of China. The future Transatlantic Partnership, if and when it takes place, will provide for a further decrease of customs barriers almost to zero and for abandoning other protectionist measures, although they are very low right now. The establishment of agreed-upon approaches to technical standards and technical regulation will force the rest of the world, including Russia and China, to abide by them, another key element of TAFTA.

Third, EU countries account for nearly half of Russia’s foreign trade, which is three times more than that with China. The lion’s share of Russia’s population lives in the European part and feels a closeness to European culture. The entire infrastructure is mainly oriented to the West. Technology and investment come from the West. The multi-vector economic policies, a pivot to the East and the establishment of mutually beneficial relations with Southeast Asia have long been in the pipeline and have no alternative. But the pivot to the East has insurmountable and objective limitations. Hence, interaction with European and Euro-Atlantic organizations and unions will continue to be our most important priority for the foreseeable future, like it or not.

However, during the twenty-five years of Russia’s existence as an independent state, our relationship with the West has failed to be cloudless. It makes no sense to go deep into the history before that. Let’s have a look at the development of the situation immediately after the collapse of the USSR and in the following years, up to the present day. Let’s analyze the balance of power and see what conclusions we can make in relation to the future.

Russia's efforts to realign the system of European and Euro-Atlantic organizations and find its place in it

Unfortunately, the starting positions of Russia’s entry into the new system of international relations were extremely unfavorable. Before its collapse, the Soviet Union managed to dissolve the interstate military-political and economic structures under its command, namely the Warsaw Treaty Organization (formed as a counterbalance to NATO) and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (coordinated division of labor among the socialist countries). At that, facing no competition, the Western structures of a similar nature, including NATO, the EU and the Council of Europe, have not just survived but also established their monopoly position in the changed system of international relations both on the continent and globally.

Having changed the political system, the former allies of the USSR, reoriented to them politically and economically. They were followed by the Baltic countries. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) allowed the countries that emerged on the territory of the former Soviet Union to obtain a civilized divorce. CIS could neither cut short the centrifugal tendencies, nor prevent the collapse of the once common economic mechanism and the subsequent acute economic crisis.

Thus, the Russian leadership faced a situation when it had little choice but to seek its inclusion in the Western system of European and Euro-Atlantic organizations, adapt to it and proclaim a closeness of practiced approaches, values and even basic priorities. Moscow had to establish a relationship with them that would allow it to get more than it could possibly lay claim to, given the changed balance of forces.

However, the euphemism “faced the situation” is just a figure of speech, since Moscow alone was to blame for the risky spot it put itself in. The correlation of forces was extremely disadvantageous for Moscow. The strategic parity between the USSR and the USA and the groups of countries that supported them, which was maintained during the Cold War in all areas, including nuclear missiles, international influence, economy, manufacturing, basic sciences, finance, education system and health, conventional weapons sank into oblivion. Nothing remained of it, except a little piece of dust.

Cooperation between Russia and NATO and counteraction to “NATO-centrism”

NATO towered over the system of European and Euro-Atlantic organizations. It called all the shots and shaped positions on all important political issues. The fact that NATO has been and remains primarily a military bloc, only underscores its special role in the Western world. It is not just an instrument of common security and protection against external threats and of military suppression of a possible enemy. NATO defines the common framework, serves as the touchstone and cements all the other connections.

Therefore, the entirely NATO-centric nature of the Western world reflects pretty well the essence of the latter and its most important parameters. Since Washington determines practically everything in the Alliance and the final say rests with it, the existing pattern sits pretty well with it. The US perceives the expansion of the Alliance, the involvement of third countries in its orbit and extension of the spheres of competence, as promoting the universalization of its favorite pattern and making it the cornerstone of the entire world order.

In the early 1990s, NATO-centrism and the dominance of the Alliance, which claimed to have won the Cold War, appeared to be regarded by the Russian leadership as a fact of life, and the latter even made an unsuccessful attempt to immediately establish the closest possible relationship with it. This is neither a joke nor a myth. According to eyewitnesses, it did take place, no matter how incredible it may sound today.

Russia’s Ambassador to Belgium Nikolai Afanasievsky, who concurrently held the office of our first permanent representative to NATO (1990-1994), having replaced the plate of the USSR with the one of the Russian Federation, said that Russia intended to join NATO. There is little doubt that he did so, following instructions from Moscow. This came as a bombshell. The next day he received contrary directions and announced that Russia did not plan to join the Alliance. It’s seems unlikely that we will come to know, what happened during that shocking night. We can only guess. Be that as it may, Moscow had to look for other options to build relationship with its recent opponent.

Washington and Brussels, however, have always been proactive and led the dance. Guided by their strictly one-sided interests, they decided when to spoil, improve or restore contacts with Moscow. At that, Moscow was assigned the role of an outsider (an external actor) and just one of the partners.

Theу said anything that might caress the ear and reassure the Russian leadership, and made statements to this end. In practice, all Russian claims to a special role, a special relationship, equality and participation in working out and making decisions were consistently ignored. A number of foreign policy projects, launched by Moscow for European construction, failed to stand the test of time. Looking back at the history of our cooperation and confrontation on the continent during the two past decades, they do seem naive. But at that time these initiatives looked quite consistent and well-founded.

Playing fast and loose against attempts to establish a special relationship between Russia and the leading Western democracies

Project One. Moscow proceeded from the fact that the United States and the leading countries of the European Community/European Union were the major actors on the continent. Therefore, the issues of the world order in Europe, maintaining or changing the status quo, the direction of the evolution of multilateral cooperation and the political status of the countries of the former Soviet bloc and the former Soviet Union should be negotiated with them.

The premise seemed appropriate enough, since everything really depended on them in the long run. But it had a major drawback. Yes, it facilitated the task for the Russian diplomacy, since finding common language with the new elites of the former Soviet allies was a tough job. These elites strived to distance themselves from Moscow as far as possible. They wanted guarantees that they would not go toe-to-toe with Russia. They wanted to take advantage of the favorable market conditions to consolidate their power and prevent the return to the past in any form.

In practice, they detested the idea of Russia acting behind their back and determining with others their fate. This was particularly true for the Poles and the Balts. They repeatedly told us about this then, and this policy sparked their protests. It turned them against the Russian leadership and everything Russian. It encouraged them to play against Moscow, and facilitated their organizational, political and legally formalized entry into the western institutional system by the same countries of the West that Moscow expected to share its position.

Western powers got an excellent excuse for bargaining with Russia and appealed to the dissenting opinions of the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, which, of course, they could not ignore. It allowed them to use a trick for which Russia had no antidote: prompt them about what to do to spite Moscow. And the Western countries, in turn, would then be able to take a tougher stance and openly ignore Moscow’s interests. And do so in a formally polite, benevolent and impeccable manner.

Saying something like, we’d love to make this decision. We wholeheartedly support it. We are true “friends” of democratic Russia. We believe that without your contribution there can be no genuine peace, no stability and no prosperity. We believe in the future of Europe without dividing lines, etc. But, alas, we cannot take this particular solution. We cannot apply arm-twisting tactics to your former allies, offend them or exercise pressure on them. That would be wrong. So don’t take it amiss.

Frustration of hopes about common Europe and common security space from Vancouver to Vladivostok

Project Two. Neither the authors of perestroika, who seemed to have received firm assurances that NATO would not move eastward, nor the participants of the Belavezha Accords, who placed a stake on unity with the collective West, had ever entertained the idea that the West would betray them. That it would pursue the same anti-Soviet policy, which would now be aimed against the young Russian democracy, and would cynically take advantage of the moment and not just incorporate Moscow’s former allies, but turn them into its antagonists.

They believed that history gave them a chance to overcome the historical East-West confrontation and to build a relationship in Europe and the world as a whole, which would make dreams of the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations come true. It was hoped that the United States, the collective West and Russia would engage together in promoting peace and building the world order for the benefit of all.

All these idealistic views shaped the foreign policy pursued by the first President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin. Its essence comes down to establishing such a European order that has the features as follows:

a) The membership of NATO cannot undergo changes in any form;

b) NATO is transformed from a military bloc, opposed to an abstract external enemy, i.e. Russia, into a predominantly political organization;

c) All the countries of the former socialist bloc cannot join new organizations and they will participate in building a common Europe as neutral or non-aligned states;

d) All the problems of the continent are solved on the basis of the partnership between the collective West and Russia and in order to strengthen this partnership.

It seemed for a while that the picture drawn by the Kremlin was quite attractive. After all, it was meeting all the interests – both common and individual – and eliminated the main problem on the way of the pan-European development, i.e. the eternal conflict between Russia and NATO, Russia and the collective West, and that suited everyone. Indeed, initially, the US and the leading West European countries appeared to be satisfied with the fact that Russia had withdrawn its troops from Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, confirming thereby all its international obligations, etc. They took a break from analyzing the fundamentally new situation in Europe and the world at large.

As is well known, the later development of events took a quite unexpected turn for Russia. Although a quarter of a century has passed since that time, there are no serious research works yet that reveal the considerations that prompted Washington to tip the scales in its favor. Which is strange, isn’t it? After all, the issue is of key importance.

One doesn’t have to be smart as a whip to understand that by giving the go-ahead to the expansion of NATO, which ran counter to the expectations of the Russian leadership that enjoyed strong support of the Americans, the United States itself tightened the knot of complex contradictions in relations with Russia. The US lost in Russia a country that trusted it. Moreover, it dealt a severe blow to pro-Western sentiments in the Russian society and to the liberal wing of its establishment, whom the Americans seemed to prefer to maintain contacts with.

At various forums we have met with representatives of the Old Guard of German politicians from the entourage of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who united the western and the eastern parts of the country, and continued to play an active role in the Russian-German foreign policy dialogue. These representatives had no scruples about telling how much effort they applied to persuade the US administration and President Bill Clinton to agree to the expansion and to let himself be tempted.

At first, NATO was quite content with the simplest forms of establishing contacts with the countries that emerged from the velvet revolutions and the collapse of the Soviet Union. To this end, in 1991 NATO established the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) as a multilateral forum for dialogue and cooperation with NATO’s former Warsaw Pact adversaries. A few years later, namely in 1994, the Alliance launched the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program of practical cooperation that allowed individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries to build up their own relationship with NATO.

Many of their activities seemed to be of minor and peripheral nature, but they were all aimed at achieving interoperability and reforming the armed forces. However, the main unspoken goal came down to training a critical mass of the officer corps and the generals, who would put solidarity with NATO above all.

Later on (in May 1997), to address somewhat more ambitious goals, NATO established the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), which gave the Alliance the opportunity to launch a profound political dialogue and practical cooperation, involving 23 partner states. At the same time, NATO seriously diversified partnership programs, depending on the task solved, and accorded them different statuses.

The first wave of NATO enlargement after the collapse of the Soviet Union (and the fourth in succession) took place in the spring of 1999. It had been preceded, as we have seen, by a relatively long period of preparation. The enlargement included the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, which immediately became known as Central Europe.

Slovakia, which NATO expected to be in the first wave of its enlargement, declined the prospect of membership. Its leadership pursued an independent course and maintained close relations with Russia. It believed that driving non-aligned countries into the Alliance was totally unnecessary. In full conformity with democratic procedures, the leadership was discredited and replaced fast and almost effortlessly.

After that Slovakia hurried to join the Visegrad Four partners and topped the list of the second (the fifth in succession) enlargement wave. The list also included the Baltic states and the countries of South-Eastern Europe, which, for good reason, sparked off another crisis in Russia-US and Russian-NATO relations.

At the same time, Washington and Brussels, as before, were quite liberal in making assurances that everything was being done for the good of Russia, in the interests of Russia, etc., because it only benefited from the fact that it would be surrounded by successful and stable states. Such assurances just set Moscow’s teeth on edge.

Today NATO is picking up the last bits of Europe that are not in the Alliance yet. With regard to Georgia and Ukraine, it uses a standard formula, according to which the door to NATO is open to all, and no one has the right to dictate to others what unions to join. By this nameless “no one” it means uniquely Russia.

The reasons for the NATO expansion at the expense of partnership relations with Russia

The factors that prompted NATO to reject an alternative model of the world order on the continent and the world at large are much more varied and diverse than is often described by politically biased sources. To build their hierarchy is extremely difficult. To reduce everything to the weakness of Russia and NATO’s policy of its ousting from Europe would be nothing other than an exaggeration.

Due to internal disorder, political instability, weakness of power, failures to effectively reform and a protracted economic crisis, culminating in the 1998 default, Russia left the world political scene in a much more enfeebled condition than many expected. Moreover, being financially dependent on the collective West, Russia’s leaders got their Western counterparts used to the fact that, no matter how fiercely they opposed the decisions imposed on them and persisted in opinion, they would eventually bow to the reality.

Moreover, Moscow did not want to or could not play by the rules that were established at that time. Without this, it could not be perceived as a reliable and predictable partner: the first democratic election under the new constitution handed a victory to Zhirinovsky, and the country’s political spectrum, expectedly, made a sharp swing towards the far-right populism and nationalism.

The fact that the European Union, unlike the United States, almost immediately set a course for making all of Europe, except the CIS, its members had a major impact on the evolution of the situation. Later on, the EU had designs on the CIS as well. Back in 1993, the EU adopted the Copenhagen criteria, compliance with which made a third country eligible to join the integration association.

The EU welcomed new members Austria and Finland – neutral countries, which are known for their traditional special relationship with Russia. The EU signed the so-called European agreement with all the countries of the former Soviet bloc and the Baltic States, opening up their membership prospects.

Washington, of course, was not going to let the EU bring New Europe, its military-industrial complex and military orders into the fold either completely or partially. Such a geostrategic alignment did not suit the US. It believed that preemptive involvement of these countries in NATO activity would arrange everything back in order.

In addition, the United States could not maintain aloofness from the process of reviewing the results of World War II and postwar Europe, launched by Germany. Berlin made other EU members commit a shameless violation of the Helsinki Final Act and agree to the collapse of the Federal Yugoslavia. The ensuing series of Balkan wars were ended by the United States on terms favorable only to Washington and the EU at the cost of Serbia’s profound humiliation and antagonizing Russia.

When the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation was signed in 1997, and the Permanent Joint Council was created as a forum for consultation and cooperation, it seemed that the Russia-NATO interaction would gain momentum. However, NATO’s attack on Serbia and the multi-day bombardment of a defenseless civilian Belgrade cancelled everything out. Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov received information about the beginning of the NATO operation when he was flying on an official trip to the United States. He ordered the plane back to Russia over the Atlantic. All relations between NATO and Russia were frozen.

Establishing the NATO-Russia Council, and the first results of pragmatic cooperation

A new attempt to establish a lasting constructive and layered cooperation was made only a few years later. Moscow restored the constitutional order in Chechnya. Presidential power in the country was consolidated. The new presidents of Russia and the US Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush established a good working relationship. Moscow supported Washington in the fight against international terrorism.

Creating a united front after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the need to rely on Moscow’s help in Afghanistan changed everything. Russia and NATO “indulged in a new affair,” that turned out to be brief as always. On May 28, 2002 the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome established the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). Moscow finally got what it had sought without avail for many years. The NRC offered Moscow an opportunity to meet on an equal footing with member states, since under the NRC, Russia and NATO member states meet as equals “at 29” – instead of in the bilateral “NATO+1” format under the PJC.

The NRC members, acting in their national capacity and in accordance with their collective commitments, were empowered to make joint decisions and bear collective responsibility, individually and jointly, for their implementation. Meetings of the NRC were to be conducted at least once a month at the level of ambassadors and military representatives; twice a year at the level of foreign ministers, defense ministers and chiefs of general staff; and whenever possible at the level of heads of state and government. Preparation of the NRC meetings and overseeing the work of the experts was entrusted to the Preparatory Committee that met at least twice a month. In practical terms, the NRC gave life to 25 working groups and committees to develop cooperation in key areas.

The NRC was established in accordance with the Rome Declaration of 2002 “NATO-Russia Relations: A New Quality,” building on the goals and principles of the 1997 Founding Act, which thus remained the formal basis for bilateral ties. The key areas of cooperation included the fight against terrorism, crisis management, non-proliferation, arms control and confidence-building measures, theatre missile defense, military operations, logistics, military cooperation, defense reform and civil emergencies. In addition, the list of NRC activities, by mutual agreement of its members, could be supplemented by new directions.

In 2004, the NRC launched an action plan to combat terrorism in order to improve overall coordination and strategic cooperation. Within its framework, there was carried out, among other things, a joint preliminary preparation of Russian ships for participation starting from 2006 in the NATO naval antiterrorist operation Active Endeavour to patrol the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and to control navigation.

The major components of cooperation on Afghanistan included air and ground cargo transit through the Russian territory for US and NATO troops, the supply of Russian helicopters to the Afghan government, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. For example, in December 2005, Russia launched a pilot project on education and training of personnel from Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, as well as combatting drug trafficking.

Special attention was paid to the preparation for possible future joint military operations and, accordingly, to efforts for raising the level of interoperability of the armed forces. Much has been done to gain experience of joint search and rescue operations at sea and in the air, and planning of civil services involvement in emergency situations. Research was conducted of theater missile defense (TMD) interoperability of Russia and the NATO countries and joint command and staff exercises were carried out.

The NRC was used to discuss the issues of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the Treaty on Open Skies, confidence-building and security measures, as well as nuclear doctrines and strategy. Observers were invited to participate in field exercises on responding to incidents involving nuclear weapons.

As you can see, in practical terms, cooperation developed rapidly. It was beneficial to the US and NATO, especially in regard to Afghanistan. It was useful to Russia too. However, it did not solve the main problem.

The role of deception and self-deception in the ultimate deterioration of relations between Russia and NATO

In geopolitical terms, cooperation with NATO had a negative and a positive agenda. As to the negative agenda, it was to prevent:

a) The expansion of NATO that dismantles the barrier of neutral and non-aligned states between Russia and the Alliance, puts NATO close to our borders and wipes out a number of countries that Russia could rely upon due to a special relationship;

b) The implementation of US-NATO foreign policy reckless undertakings, affecting Moscow’s interests, such as conquering Iraq, the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya or Bashar al-Assad in Syria;

c) Carrying out of the geostrategic project of NATO-centric world order, in which Russia is assigned a minor subordinate role;

d) Upsetting the strategic parity between Russia and the US, as well as Russia and NATO; creating the American strategic forces with first disarming strike potential against Russia and a global missile defense system that undermines Moscow’s nuclear potential.

Since cooperation between Russia and NATO within the framework of the NRC was confined to minor and specific issues, it just could not address these challenges adequately.

As for the positive agenda, cooperation was supposed to make Russia and NATO allies, which would bury the hatchet once and for all or at least become predictable and reliable partners. At the same time, the creation of favorable foreign policy conditions was intended to promote the accelerated economic and technological development of the country.

However, the interaction between Russia and NATO in the framework of the NRC did not even remotely resemble genuine cooperation. These goals were articulated only by the critics of Kremlin foreign policy, if at all.

In the grand scheme of things, it turned out that the NRC played the role of a smokescreen behind which the US and NATO continued to carry out their geo-strategic project to the detriment of Russia. This was largely the message of President Putin’s Munich speech in 2007 when he provided an objective and unvarnished insight into what was happening, explaining to everybody that “the emperor wears no clothes.”

The leaders of NATO countries wanted to hear nothing of the kind. The speech made Russia an embarrassing partner for the US and NATO, but did not change anything. The implementation of the geostrategic project aimed now not only at reformatting the space of the former Soviet bloc, but also of Russia’s immediate neighborhood continued.

Finally, the war in the South Caucasus and then the armed conflict in Ukraine put an end to this. Brussels accused Moscow of unleashing both wars. In 2008, it tried to whitewash the actions of Mikhail Saakashvili’s regime, calling it an attempt to restore the territorial integrity of Georgia and to bring South Ossetia back by force of arms. Brussels emphatically denied the outcome of the war, which ended by Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence, and suspended the activity of the NRC.

However, in March 2009, 26 NATO member countries took the political decision to resume it. In any case, Georgia did become part of their geo-strategic project and a dependent territory, and the US and NATO needed a transit to Afghanistan and Russia’s support for their operations, as well as continued cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The volume of cooperation, of course, declined. Charts hanging on the walls of the Alliance headquarters illustrated this vividly. In all other respects, “business as usual” continued, i.e. nothing has dramatically changed, even though the collective West strenuously insisted on the fact that the time reversion was out of the question.

Since the beginning of the sanctions war following the events in Ukraine, NATO’s actions were about the same. First, the Alliance paralyzed the activity of the NRC, regardless of the fact that its raison d’être was exactly to be a communication channel in an emergency. Then it froze all the channels of institutional cooperation, all the dialogues, projects and programs.

This time, however, NATO did not confine itself to a rupture of relations, even total, and went to even greater extremes, including:

a) Returning Russia to the list of potential adversaries, or countries that pose a military threat (and any threat should be countered);

b) Dramatically stepping up exercises: they are carried out in different parts of Europe almost continuously;

c) Making all the member countries from the militant UK to small Luxembourg build up their military spending (before most of the member states palmed NATO off with promises);

d) Deciding to strengthen its military infrastructure closer to our borders and provide military support to the so-called “frontline states” by deploying on their territory additional military equipment and troops (so far on a rotational basis not to violate its international obligations too flagrantly);

e) Putting pressure on the countries that remain outside the bloc, particularly on Montenegro and Serbia, to speed up their accession process;

f) Launching a campaign to demonize all Moscow’s undertakings, and making Russia the corner stone of its military-political course.

NATO faced a severe crisis quite recently. It could not find its “raison d’être,” its reason for existence. In terms of military capability, the US does not really need its European allies, as their military potential is incompatible with the one that the US already has at its disposal. The Alliance tried to demonstrate its relevancy with its mission in Afghanistan, which is far beyond the line of its responsibility, but miserably failed there.

The confrontation with Russia over Ukraine re-energized NATO. Washington again put its European allies where they belong, using the Alliance as its instrument. Having left Russia and the European Union no room for maneuver, the US broke the links between them. Moreover, it revived the decisive role of hard power in world affairs and politics. Speaking generally, Washington legitimized again the NATO-centric model of the European order as the predominating one, and strengthened it.

Was this pace of events a total surprise? The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, the acuteness of the confrontation could hardly be expected. On the other – the expert community had long warned that relations between Russia and NATO were built on sand. And they were not likely to ride out the storm.

On the eve of the Lisbon NATO summit in 2010 and the NRC summit, which was attended by the then President of Russia Medvedev, a group of leading Russian experts prepared a report on Russia-NATO relations on the request of the Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR). It presented a strong case that the Founding Act and the Rome Declaration, on which this relationship was based, did not matter one bit for the EU.

Brussels is perfectly satisfied with the fact that Moscow cherishes these documents and is proud of them. However, they have no legal validity and impose no obligations. They are packed full of beautiful words and general wishes that could be easily brushed off, if need be. The real mechanism of preventive diplomacy and crisis management is not spelled out in them. It depends only on the goodwill of the parties, whether to follow the provisions stipulated in them or not. Following the conflict in Ukraine and around it, the goodwill of Brussels is no longer there. According to forecasts, it is unlikely to appear soon.

Lack of prospects for establishing joint structures between Russia and NATO and the EU for third countries

Project Three. Moscow understood that the collective West openly took advantage of statements allegedly emanating from the former allies of the Soviet Union, that they were afraid of Russia, its ripening revanchist sentiments, return to the past, which substantiated their striving to join the Alliance. However, ignoring them would have been short-sighted. Moscow had to offer a relevant solution.

Moscow proposed that the West and Russia could give the countries that were located between them double security guarantees. It stands to reason that the idea was just as great, as it really removed all security concerns.

But in fact, these statements about concerns were nothing more than an excuse or another smokescreen. Both the collective West and the former Soviet allies needed something else. They stood up for a such a European order, in which Russia’s influence on European affairs would be minimal, while the fragments of the socialist camp and the Soviet Union would be able to enjoy all the benefits that the affiliation with the West provided.

The new elites of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe strived for just one thing, more specifically integrating into the Western order. Washington and Brussels fuelled these sentiments in every possible away, keeping a low profile. Dissenters were removed or replaced. No wonder that the former allies of Moscow rejected the offer offhand, and the leading European countries made a helpless gesture: we cannot force new democracies to do anything and ignore peoples’ demands.

Moscow found itself in such similar situations more than once. Its initiative to conclude a European Security Treaty met the real need to establish crisis management mechanisms, to formalize procedures for preventing crisis escalation and slides into a full-scale conflict and confrontation. This Treaty could make the provisions binding, unlike those of the Founding Act and the situation with the NRC, which, as it turned out, could be brought to closure at any time. Had Russia and NATO worked out such procedures, the situation around Ukraine could have developed in a very different way. The same is true for Georgia.

Likewise, Moscow’s initiative, launched back in 2003, on the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to Vladivostok allowed for the building of a European order, in which third countries wouldn’t have to make a choice between Russia and the West due to the common rules of the game all over that space.

But all these proposals stemmed from the assumption that Russia would become one of the main parties to these arrangements and an equal and influential participant. And that was exactly this, rather than the Treaty, the common spaces, you name it, that the collective West and the former allies could not live with. Unfortunately, they believe that their best interests are met through the exact opposite. We can now see pretty well what this posture, attitude and policies are fraught with. However, it remains an open question how to reverse the situation.

Failed attempts to make the OSCE an umbrella security organization in the Euro-Atlantic

Project Four. Moscow would like to see Europe as the common heritage of its peoples, consistently democratic and not controlled from one center, friendly to all its peoples, rather than dividing them into friends and foes. All the countries in such Europe would be able to work together on an equal footing, enjoy equal undivided security and equal opportunities. In that Europe the interests of all would be consistently respected and the interests of some would not be put above the interests of others. The decisions would be really common, elaborated together with input from everyone, and not just legitimize someone’s unilateral approach.

In other words, Moscow would like to see Europe free of bloc confrontation and thinking and having left behind everything related to the Cold War. In that Europe all the countries would be primarily members of a single collective security system, and only then of a certain block, while all others become peripheral.

To this end, Moscow worked out a concept of transforming the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe into the central link of the system of European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. In accordance with this, the OSCE was to become an umbrella organization for everybody, and the only one empowered to act on behalf of all countries of Europe, North America, Central Asia and the Caucasus, to take all the required decisions and entrust their enforcement to groups of countries, NATO, the EU and others.

It’s hard to imagine a more holistic alternative to NATO-centrism. Compared to other European and Euro-Atlantic organizations, the OSCE was the most representative in terms of composition: only a part of its members are in the Council of Europe, NATO and the EU. It has been and remains the most inclusive and the most legitimate organization due to the catechism of proper behavior for all countries, which it formulated, and with which they have all agreed and committed themselves to strictly comply. It includes the Helsinki Act, the Charter of Paris and many not so landmark documents, which are now, for some reason, remembered less and less often. The OSCE had and continues to have the most extensive and comprehensive mandate.

NATO is a classic military-political organization. The EU is largely an economic integration union. The Council of Europe is focused on the issues of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The OSCE was empowered to engage in everything, not just security, but human rights, economy, and rule-making too. The three baskets of distributed powers entrusted to it, have always been extremely impressive – at least on paper.

Besides, its security concept had an obvious advantage over others, as it implied comprehensive security that provided all the participating states with an antidote to all threats, including economic, environmental, and other.

Importantly, the OSCE was originally created as a system of collective security, standing above the military-political blocs and designed to bridge the gap between them. It’s worth reminding that military-political alliances guarantee the safety of their members from external danger. They are tailored against a foreign enemy, whoever that might be. Such are NATO and the EU after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The collective security system has a fundamentally different nature. It guarantees all its members protection from threats that could come from any other party (i.e. inside), and lifting these threats to the extent practicable. This makes the essence of the OSCE, as well as of the United Nations.

In fact, the attitude of Russia towards the OSCE has always been far from unambiguous. There are many politicians in this country who believe that the OSCE contributed to the collapse of the USSR by seriously undermining its immunity from hostile ideology and the ability to defend itself. It was also realized in Russia that the OSCE was structurally too weak to provide keen and tough competition to NATO and the EU.

But the rose-colored glasses, through which the Russian political elite preferred to look at the world at that time, were too thick. The belief that “we will be helped from abroad” is too entrenched in our minds.

In addition, and this played a decisive role, there wasn’t left much to choose from. Had Gorbachev come to an agreement on establishing a strong pan-European organization, which would include former opponents, rather than unilaterally dissolve the CMEA and the Warsaw Pact, the situation would have been fundamentally different. But in history, there are no givens.

The OSCE offered an excellent platform for cooperation in good faith and mutually beneficial solutions to any issues of the European agenda that arose. In this regard, it had great potential and could have had a major positive impact on European developments.

However, the OSCE could occupy a central place among European and Euro-Atlantic organizations, only if NATO and the EU made room for it. Clearly, they had no intention to do so.

And what is more, at first they even thought about dissolving it. In their opinion, which they openly shared with Russian diplomats, the OSCE had largely performed its mission. It helped to put an end to the Cold War and to enforce the shared values, the future guardians of which the EU and NATO hastened to declare themselves. The world lived under fundamentally new conditions, when the main pieces on the chessboard of world politics were mostly Western international organizations. They could well take care of all the tasks which the OSCE had been entrusted with. They did not understand the essence of this additional original contribution that the OSCE could make. However, abandoning an existing instrument of foreign policy, which, apart from anything else, had already proved its efficiency, would have been irrational.

Therefore, NATO and the EU strategists, followed by Western leaders, have found another mission for the OSCE. First, to legitimize on an ongoing basis in the pan-European format all the decisions that NATO and the EU would take. Second, to carry out constant monitoring of what is happening in the space of the former Federal Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, and to meddle in the developments there, if the interests of NATO and the EU require so.

It was a geopolitical project of transforming the OSCE from a platform for global cooperation into an instrument of NATO and the EU policy. And it gained a victory over Moscow’s project.

Of course, it would be wrong to perceive this complex issue in a simplistic manner and draw a one-sided picture. However, here are just a few examples to illustrate the findings.

The OSCE, as a coordinator of the international observation of presidential and parliamentary elections, has always assessed them “correctly,” just as Washington and Brussels saw fit. The elections were recognized as free, democratic, without violations and all that, if they met the interests of NATO and the EU and took place in the countries that either were or planned to be their members. When it came to Russia and countries gravitating to it, the assessments were always unfavorable. And the opinion of the OSCE of the coming elections was known in advance.

The OSCE established its first field missions in the Baltic States back in the day: formally, to make them comply with international obligations, including the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, while in fact – to prevent a possible wave of protests from the Russian-speaking population.

The OSCE Minsk Group to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was established at the initiative of France, not Russia, as some historians continue to insist. Later on, it was pushed into the background, being virtually replaced by the institute of co-chairmanship in the Minsk Group consisting of Russia, France, and the US. However, France reserved the right to a special political presence in the region.

The activity of the OSCE Working Group in Chechnya has been assessed ambiguously. Under the pressure of avalanche-like criticism about the disproportionate and unselective use of armed forces and flagrant violations of human rights, Moscow was forced to create it. (Incidentally, where were all these guardians of justice of the EU and NATO, when Kiev sent its regular army, mercenaries and ultra-right paramilitary groups to subdue the Donbass? Or when Ankara broke the truce with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and started a military-police operation in the areas of Turkey populated by Kurds and outside its borders as well, just as it did in the early 1980s, and for which it continues to pay compensation, in compliance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights?)

The Working Group has assumed the role of intermediary in relations between Moscow and the authorities of the breakaway republic. In reality, voluntarily or not, it became almost the only instrument of legitimization of the Khasavyurt Accord. Moscow decided against extending its mandate when its odious role became openly intolerant.

From year to year the OSCE at its annual regular meetings of the Ministerial Council, and at summits that take place at much longer intervals, made by consensus policy statements reflecting agreed upon positions on various issues of the European and international issues, as well as a certain set of commitments. By a strange coincidence, the addressees of these commitments were almost always countries which were not members of NATO or the EU. Naturally, the final documents were a compromise, but since they concerned primarily the developments on the territory of former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, the frozen conflicts, and other issues that affected the vital interests of Russia, it turned out that only Moscow had to compromise.

Time after time Russia was forced to make more and more concessions. The latter varied from an obligation to immediately withdraw its troops from the Baltic States to the middle of nowhere, regardless of the fact that no conditions for it had been created, the issues of ownership of the remaining property had not been solved, and no cross obligations (e.g. permanent neutrality, etc.) had been taken, to the commitments to relinquish the right to maintain even a symbolic presence of troops in Transnistria, which Chisinau continues to boast with even today.

In addition, the Warsaw Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the field missions accounted for a large part of the OSCE’s practical activity. The OSCE takes decisions by consensus, and, in theory, unacceptable decisions that disturb the balance of interests can always be blocked. But this does not refer to specific actions of theses OSCE structures. Moscow could not monitor their activities.

Russia’s initiatives to transform the OSCE from a process (which suited Washington perfectly well) into a normal international organization with a charter, clear regulation of the powers delegated to the presiding country, Secretary General, the ODIHR and other OSCE structures, have been torpedoed on a regular basis.

Member states of NATO and the EU declined to ratify the revised Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the current version of which, for obvious reasons, had lost relevance and touch with reality.

Over the course of time, Russia at some point started to lose interest in the OSCE and together with a group of other states began to issue declarations calling for making the OSCE activity balanced, unselective and non-discriminatory, to redirect it back to addressing common problems of the continent and common challenges. Things came to such a pitch that Moscow began to question the expediency of further participation in the OSCE. Even such reputable and respected journals as Russia in Global Politics published articles substantiating the need to remain in the organization and use its potential for advancing our interests.

Luckily, the “hotheads” failed to prevail. The potential of the OSCE proved to be relevant in connection with the conflict in Ukraine and around it. The special monitoring mission of the OSCE contributes greatly to the search for a settlement. It serves as an effective deterrent, preventing, in a way, the spread of blatant disinformation.

Fortunately, at that time Switzerland held the OSCE Chairmanship, and Bern did a lot to give the Normandy format and all the interested parties a real instrument of influence on the situation.

In 2016, Germany holds the Chairmanship of the OSCE. Given its authority in the European and world affairs and increased ambitions, the country is expected to achieve tangible results in improving the efficiency of the Organization. Russia is also interested in this.

Greater Europe as an alternative to NATO-centrism and Larger Europe

Project Five. Russia’s accession to the Council of Europe afforded an unprecedented opportunity to build a common democratic Europe of equal peoples and without dividing lines, free of bloc thinking, conflict and confrontation, of the crippling legacy of the Cold War. The Council of Europe is a high-profile international organization of the classic type, rightfully considered the “continent’s conscience” and which served as a kind of prototype for the launching of a European integration project.

In contrast to NATO and the EU, the CE followed the path of uniting all countries, entirely or partially located in Europe and linked with the European tradition by their culture and history. It was the only Western international organization, which managed to become truly pan-European. Incidentally, Russia’s status there is a privileged one, as it is one of its major contributors: on the eve of February 28, Moscow and Strasbourg marked the 20th anniversary of the Russian Federation’s accession to the Council of Europe.

Its statutory purpose is to promote greater unity among the countries and peoples on the basis of common values of human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law. In terms of its competence, it is an organization of universal jurisdiction. It is empowered to deal with all issues of the European agenda, except the military sphere: from the cultural heritage and social solidarity to legal cooperation and criminalization of assistance to terrorists.

Its crown jewels include the European Convention on Human Rights, the Strasbourg court, helping countries to ensure their compliance with it, the European Social Charter (Revised), the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and other international instruments (during the two decades of its membership Russia joined 66 of them) and monitoring mechanisms. Member countries value the CE for the fact that the legal achievements and gains of the Organization become part of their domestic law and, accordingly, an essential component of their internal legal order, which brings them closer together and united into a single whole.

Having embarked on the path of becoming a pan-European organization, the Council of Europe has adopted a number of very useful, fruitful and promising ideas. Democratic security is one of them. It implies that the creation of state-legal institutions at the national level in accordance with the uniform understanding of the regulations protecting human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law, as well as mutual assistance at the international level to this end, make a significant contribution to strengthening peace, political stability and sustainable development on the continent.

Another promising idea is that of Greater Europe. Its essence seems to be quite simple. Europe equally belongs to all the countries and peoples in it. They all have equal rights to participate in its formation and improvement. They all make their contribution to its promotion as a common space of shared ideas, ideals, values and aspirations. It consists of overlapping, interrelated and complementary legal, humanitarian, cultural, social and other spaces.

But this message is a far cry from NATO’s and the EU’s claims to primacy and monocentrism. NATO and the EU aspire be the only oracles, judges and prosecutors for all, to dictate to others why, what and how to do.

This message denies the concept of concentric circles, the doubtful honor of which belongs to the most successful European Commission President Jacques Delors, who spared no effort to put it into practice. He has argued that the center of the European project, the center of it all, is the nucleus composed of the EU member states. Around are the countries, which are on the way to the EU membership. Then there are countries gravitating towards the EU, but whose membership is unlikely. Later on, Brussels at the suggestion of Sweden, Great Britain, Poland and the Baltic countries devised for them the concept of Eastern Partnership, and then a special type of association with a free trade area plus. All other countries make up the outer circle: it is necessary to maintain a good relationship with them, so that they do not hamper the establishment of this world order.

This message opposes the ideology of Larger Europe that provides for creating the European order the way Brussels sees fit, on its conditions and according to its blueprint.

In contrast to other concepts, the advantages of Greater Europe are easily visible to the unaided eye. The concept is imbued with a philosophy of inclusiveness, egalitarianism and equal participation. It leaves no room for dividing lines in Europe by definition, and cannot be directed against anyone else.

It is no wonder that the Russian expert community and experts, involved in the work of the Valdai International Discussion Club and the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), were far from recreating the wheel, when they substantiated their proposals for establishing a union of the unions, uniting Russia, the European Union and European third countries in a broader integration project, or integration of integrations. Naturally, they have taken advantage of the wealth of ideological knowledge about Greater Europe. After all, these ideas are not something abstract, speculative, and unprofessional. They have been put forward by a well-respected pan-European organization of high moral authority that is a member of the family of European and Euro-Atlantic organizations, and has accumulated considerable experience of practical work on bringing internal structures and policies of its members closer.

It would seem that that we have at our disposal a perfect tool for building the Europe of our dreams both ideologically and organizationally. According to our diplomats, at the turn of the 1990s, members of the US and the EU official delegations fiercely debated for hours about the place of the Council of Europe in the list of European and Euro-Atlantic organizations. The EU representatives unanimously put the CE at the top of the list.

However, almost from the very beginning of NATO’s and the EU’s efforts to take the dominant position in the European architecture, the Council of Europe was pushed to the margins of political processes on the continent. NATO members were ready to tolerate the CE only on the backseat and as a subcontractor. Reaching their purposes through the OSCE was much easier for NATO and the EU countries. The CE had always worked professionally and thoroughly, while the Alliance and the European Union were after prompt and politically biased reaction.

The European Union delivered the CE a deadly stab in the back. On the one hand, it began to deal with matters that for decades had been the prerogative of the Council of Europe, and made its members somewhat independent of the CE’s control mechanisms. Step by step, it extended its jurisdiction into areas in which the Council of Europe had reigned before, and created parallel structures.

Using entirely classical methods of interstate interaction, the Council of Europe had done a lot for cooperation among law enforcement authorities of its member states, their courts, prosecutor’s offices, anti-drug and anti-corruption agencies, etc., as well as its regulation across the continent.

The EU made the formation of the space of freedom, security and justice a pillar of its activities, no less important than the establishment and functioning of the common market. Thanks to the Amsterdam Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty it carried out its partial first and then complete “communitirization,” i.e. it made this formation part of the mechanisms of the supranational construction. The EU used the set of multilateral international conventions developed by the Council of Europe as a starting point for adopting its own guidelines and regulations. Of course, they were more advanced and far-reaching.

The EU encroached upon even the holy of holies of the Council of Europe, its greatest achievement, namely the European system of human rights protection. It established its own Agency for Fundamental Rights. It adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which, in a way, reiterates the European Convention on Human Rights, but implies a much broader sphere of regulation. For some time it had been just a political document, but the Lisbon Treaty made it binding. At that, the EU failed to become a signatory to the European Convention, although the Lisbon Treaty has a special provision obligating to do so. It had taken the CE and the EU several years to prepare a corresponding agreement, but the EU Court found it contrary to the founding treaties of the integration association.

On the other hand, the EU managed to involve the Council of Europe in helping a certain number of the European countries to prepare for future membership in the European Union and to embark on implementing massive programs for new members, which carried out their state-legal construction capitalizing on the CU’s extensive experience.

Of course, preparation for accession to the EU, and a decade later for the challenges of the Eastern Partnership had nothing to do with the true goals of the Organization. However, it fitted well with its mandate, let alone the fact that the European Commission and the EU member states paid handsomely for these services.

At that, nobody seemed to notice that the Organization did not have enough money to cover the expenses of its principal activity and it had to cut back on other projects and programs. This minor activity year after year required huge human resources, who had not produced any added value for a long time.

A couple of years were more that enough to spend up implementing the programs described above, confining the activity to showing what and how should be done, and then to transfer this work entirely to local governmental, non-governmental and voluntary agencies and involve in it international non-governmental organizations as well.

Confining itself to these activities only was tantamount to making the past its priority, to escaping new challenges, to shunning away from the problems faced by the continent. These include cooperation in the fight against new forms of terrorism and organized crime, migration, aging population, the social impact of the new industrial revolution, the Internet and all the ensuing evils, etc., losing the initiative in the field of standard-setting that has always been the pet subject and advantage of the Council of Europe.

Alas, this scenario came true. In addition, some of the EU countries led a massive attack against the multidimensional functioning of the Council and offered it to concentrate exclusively on the problems of the triad: human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law. Russia and several other states have been always confronted this offensive, but could not impede its advance often enough.

A once peaceful and “family-type” Organization, in which everybody was of kin and deserved respect, the Council of Europe began to turn into a platform for recriminations, accusations and insults. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has displayed particular intolerance and one-sidedness. The previous culture of searching for what unites, rather than divides, delicate conduct of affairs, placing a stake on working out agreed approaches, has been lost. It’s really a pity.

Yet, the Council of Europe remains an important, intelligent, and professional tool that can and should be used to overcome the current impasse in the pan-European cooperation, as well as acquire in the future a fundamentally new foundation, consistent with the objectives and ideals of building a Greater Europe. Provided that it’s not too late, and is still possible.

However, it is the relationship between Russia and the European Union that has become the biggest disappointment and conceptual failure. We shall discuss it along with an alternative Russian geopolitical project in our next editorial.

First published in All Europe magazine

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