Do We Need a New European Security Architecture?

The Auditorium of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs · 27.03.2009 14:30 - 16:00

The question whether Europe and the world need a new transatlantic or global security architecture is back on the international agenda. The principles of sovereignty of states and non-intervention in their internal affairs last defined in the Cold War era should be rethought. These principles should be interpreted in the context of the commitment to respect the code of conduct even within the domestic jurisdiction of the State – the rule of law, democratic governance and respect for human and minority rights. Are relations between states as important as respect for the universal values and the rule-of-law within states in 21st century security systems?

Speaker: Prof. Adam Rotfeld

Professor Rotfeld is Co-Chair of the Polish-Russian Working Group for Difficult Matters and Chairman of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters in New York. He has formerly served as the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2005 and was a Secretary of State from 2002 in 2004. Before this he worked as Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) from 1990 to 2002. Rotfeld is a widely published author, his recent publications include: Where is the World Headed? (2008) and Poland in an Uncertain World (2006).

Comments: Prof. Kari Möttölä, Special Adviser, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Professor Möttölä is a Special Adviser on Security Policy at the Unit for Policy Planning and Research in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. He is engaged in research, analysis and policy planning related to global, European, regional and national security, including the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union and transatlantic relations. Before transferring to the MFA, Möttölä was Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) in 1978-1988.

Dr. Hanna Ojanen, Program Director, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Dr. Ojanen is the Programme Director of the European Union Research Programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. She has published extensively and has been Professor of International Politics at the University of Helsinki and a Visiting Researcher at the WEU Institute for Security Studies.

Chair: Prof. Raimo Väyrynen, Director, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Summary of the Seminar

Chair Professor Raimo Väyrynen opened the proceedings.

Professor Adam Rotfeld raised what he termed as the main question of the day: to what extent does Europe need a new security architecture? As a whole, Professor Rotfeld viewed security as something that does not primarily depend on institutions or great treaties. Rather, he feels that security is brought by the determination of nations to do something well, that will serve their own interests.

Professor Rotfeld started by noting that the recent Russian proposal to develop a new security architecture in Europe was only the latest in a long line of Russian attempts to create pan-European security structures. He continued by stating that at the moment the Russian foreign policy triumvirate consisting of foreign minister Lavrov, prime minister Putin and president Medvedev all think that it is time to build a new security architecture, based on a legally binding agreement involving all relevant actors.

Rotfeld argued that in the period after the end of the cold war, the peak of conceptual thinking about new security architectures occurred in 1992. He relayed an anecdote regarding Lech Walesa, when discussing with Russian president Boris Yeltsin the implications of Polish NATO membership. The conclusion being that in Poland there was more concern about Russian acceptance of Poland’s NATO membership, rather than the actual members’ acceptance of Poland as a member.

According to Dr. Rotfeld, Russia sought to prevent the expansion of the Alliance, and to become the guarantor of peace in “near abroad”, creating a grey zone between Russia and NATO. This approach, as history shows, was not acceptable to NATO leaders or to the newly independent eastern European and former Soviet states.

Using the August 2008 war in Georgia as a jumping off point, Professor Rotfeld proceeded to describe President Medvedev’s proposal for a new European security structure. The five major points of this proposal are consistent with UN, but Dr. Rotfeld also notes that no states can have exclusive responsibility for the maintenance of regional peace.

Professor Rotfeld ended his speech by commenting on Javier Solana’s ‘reply’ to these proposals at the Munich conference. He noted that there are two approaches to creating a new security architecture. The Russian approach is more legalistic and focused on great powers. The European-western approach is more flexible, pragmatic, focused on cooperation.

Professor Rotfeld’s main message was that the main tension at the moment is not so much between states, all conflicts are within states. Rather tension can be found between nation and state on the one hand and society and the international community on the other hand. The EU offers a peaceful form of how to overcome these tensions, not as a perfect or only form, but a so far very successful experiment.

Commentator Kari Möttölä started his comments noting that there were also differences between Europe and Russia in the focus of their security thinking. Russia’s agenda, based on balance of power thinking, is far more focused on broader Europe. In contrast, Europe is far more focused outside of Europe, viewing the most critical security agenda items being global. Professor Möttölä continued by positing that should Russia want to participate in solving a broad range of security related challenges, there was no lack of partners to do so.

Professor Möttölä then argued that Europe should make a real effort to solve the unresolved disputes in Europe and its neighbourhood. The political models on which such resolutions could be based are available and known, only political will is lacking according to Dr. Möttölä. He concluded by stating that for the discussion about European security structures to be relevant, it needs to be based on addressing global issues.

Doctor Hanna Ojanen started her comments by thanking Professor Rotfeld, noting that it was important to understand the broader context, especially Russia’s perspective, when trying to discern what would be truly new.

Dr. Ojanen began her comments by noting that there is no lack of organizations and forums for addressing security related issues, and yet new structures are being created all the time. However, Dr. Ojanen noted that quite often politicians have a tendency to suggest architectures that are focused on the security of their own state.

Regarding the EU, Dr. Ojanen noted that inevitably many of EU’s policies have security implications, while not often being seen as security structures. The EU’s neighbourhood policy is one example of this. Dr. Ojanen also reminded listeners that there have also been instances of security cooperation, without formal structures.

Dr. Ojanen concluded by stating that times it would be very good to create new structures, and mentioned US-EU relations as an example.