International Conference « Common European security after Cold War »
Praha, September 16-17 2016
Concluding Statement by
We have had during one and a half days spent here in Prague a very rich and open debate. May be we part having raised more questions than providing unanimous answers but I think it was also the proof of the quality of the debate which reflected the complexity and the contradictions of the today’s world. May be this was a necessary step for its understanding.
An extremely important aspect of it was reminded in the last panel discussion by the former Director General of UNESCO Mr. Federico Mayor who evoked the extreme urgency to look for the solutions of the challenges we are facing. On most of them we have reached the dangerous border of the point of no return. This situation transforms our world into a kind of a hand grenade ready to explode. With his particular aspect that we do not know who is going to action the mechanism, not excluding that this might be a kamikaze.
Our discussion started naturally with the subject of Europe and new concepts of its security after the end of the Cold War. But quite naturally we were obliged almost immediately to reach to other regions – obviously, Russia, but also China, the Arab world, the USA. It reminded to all of us the important feature of this world which is an interconnected one and obviously an interdependent one, no more separated not only by the oceans but also by the state borders and even former ideological confrontation.
Another characteristic of the new reality is that we are living in the world of transition from the past that we all remember to the yet unknown. We certainly largely owe this historic change to the Founder of the New Political Forum Mikhail Gorbachev who may be himself at the time when he initiated this tectonic move could not foresee all the dramatic consequences that may follow and contradictions that would explode. As a result we are living in a totally new reality in which not only different political cultures and civilizations are obliged to coexist but even different historic times, if not ages, are forced to confront each other and find ways to settle their disputes in the open public place.
By definition this process of transition is naturally an unstable, precarious and dangerous situation that the politicians have to accompany with a lot of caution wisdom and responsibility being obliged to manage sometimes simultaneously numerous crises. Reflecting the instability of the current situation some speakers using formulas borrowed from the past spoke about the danger of return to the previous Cold War or entering in the new Cold War II. Others did not hesitate to warn about the danger of the World War III.
Yet the principle difference between the past and the present and consequently between the previous Cold War and its possible today’s remake is the absence of the ideological justification serving as an alibi for the politicians not be capable to avoid it. The other qualitative difference is the absence of the real strategic threat for any of the sides coming from the other, of a danger, the specter of which, often unjustified, was present in the minds of politicians and of public opinion.
Sometimes in the reaction of politicians to the unprecedented challenges of the new times we observe a kind of nostalgia for the simplicity of the previous black and white world of yesterday. This nostalgia manifests itself on both sides of the world chessboard. In the Western countries many leaders continue to live in the euphoria of final victory over communism which came with the end of Cold War and announced a sort of End of History with the worldwide triumph of liberal democracy of Western type and of the market economy conquering the globe. In Russia we observe the longing for the status of the former great Soviet superpower and the Imperial legacy of the country.
Another object of our analysis – uncertain future of today’s Europe. Having been the number one hostage of the superpower confrontation during the Cold War our continent was supposed to become the first beneficiary of its happy ending. And yet as the last years have shown, Europe proved too timid to profit from the historic chance it was offered to become the independent player on the international scene and missed a possibility to emerge as a new pole of influence in the world politics.
One of the few common points of the analysis we could hear in the debate was the conclusion that Europe as an ambitious and inspiring project is living at present the time of crisis. How to rebuild faith in the future of Europe – a need and hope that is shared by millions of people also outside the European continent? The process of European integration and of enlargement of European Union, that has achieved considerable success, was recently interrupted by the Brexit leaving the whole construction with an uncertain perspective.
May be in order to find the solution for the current crisis it might be reasonable to remind the initial motivations that were at the origin of this project. The first one, right after the end of the second World War was the common determination to avoid its repetition and another bloody conflict on the continent. The slogan shared by millions of people at that time was : “never again!”. Another driving force for the project of a common Europe during the Cold War was the intention of the western Europeans to build a model of a prosperous society on the continental scale profiting from the defensive “umbrella” assured by the US presence and NATO protection against the supposed “Soviet threat”. These motivations worked for a while and produced impressive results but could not serve in the new circumstances of an enlarged Europe with the disappearance of such uniting factor as the outside danger of supposed aggression from the Warsaw pact.
What then could be the new common denominator for a rather heterogeneous European reality? And what design for a new collective security system that would take into account the interests of everybody especially at a time when we observe the reappearance in Europe of the dangerous internal tensions and new conflicts (like the one in Ukraine) with the return of mistrust in the relations between the EU and post Soviet Russia? There are different options mentioned in the debate.
One would be to seek the protection of national borders and national sovereignty – a road shown by the Brexit. The danger of it might signal the return of Europe to the stage of competing nationalisms which had preceded the integration project and was one of the explanations of the disaster of two world wars. Another one, might be the return to the “atlantic” security community and search of the protection of the “big brother” from the other side of the Atlantic ocean and NATO. Finally, the third option could be the building an autonomous system of European defense in the framework of the European Union.
Yet this last project raises new questions, since for the different regions of Europe the definition of their security concerns is different. For the Southern part of Europe, at least at present, the main security problem is represented by the uncontrolled flow of refugees and the danger of importing conflicts, including the phenomena of Islamic radicalism, from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. For the Eastern and Northern Europeans the basic security concern is related to the new “revanchist” ambitions of Russia apparently ready to use force in order to protect its zone of influence on the former Soviet space against the further expansion of NATO.
In the panel discussions we assisted to the debate on the subject: which of the two structures – NATO or European Union – could provide more efficient security protection for the EU members. Though the source of the danger from which the continent should be protected was not mentioned it was obvious: Russia. And yet nobody had the idea of trying to imagine a system of security not against, but with Russia. Going back to the times – again I have to mention Gorbachev and his project of a Common European Home – when after the fall of the Berlin wall the Europeans were relieved of the feeling of fear and the notion of the outside threat.
In the meantime we have discovered new challenges and dangers that reflect the complex reality of the globalized world. Most of them could be answered by common solutions that would be easier to find with Russia than without it or against it. It concerns first of all the challenges related to the terrorist violence, the fight against the Islamic radicalism, as well as the solution of migration and refugees issues related to the Syrian crisis. But also such global problems like the climate change, the devastation of environment, the guarantees of just access to food, water and energy, as well as the fight against poverty and retarded development of vast regions of the world.
There are various ways to deal with these problems that come to the surface of the international politics. One simplistic way would be to think that the prosperity and security of the privileged “golden billion”, representing mostly the Western world, would be to use its economic power, its technological advance and military superiority to try prolong the Western domination over the world or protect the borders of the West by going to fight its potential enemies on the other continents by sending there, arms, troops, warships and planes.
Yet as Martin Luther King has said in one of his speeches during the American war in Vietnam, “the bombs that we drop in the countryside of Indochina will sooner or later explode in the streets of American cities”. We should not be surprised to discover that the bombs that the American, French (or Russian) planes are dropping in the deserts of Syria, Irak or Afghanistan may create “human bombs” that commit terrorist actions in Europe or in the USA.
At the same time I would disagree with those who say that these problems are mostly problems of the Western world and not Russia. Russia has its part of responsibility in their creation and aggravation. (Let us not forget that not only the Western military actions in Irak and Libya but also the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 has provoked the rise of the Islamic fundamentalism in this part of the globe). And just as the Western European capitals, Russian cities (and Russian passenger planes like the one exploded over Sinai ) may become targets of terrorist attacks since the population of Russia counts about 20% of Muslims.
Ruslan Grinberg was right when he reminded to us the situation of years of the Cold War when the world was in fact composed of three different worlds: the “first” – Western, the “second” – socialist and the “third” – the one of developing countries. As a result of the end of Cold War the “second” world has disappeared and the “first” remained face to face with the “third” which in turn has split between the developed and developing countries. Such situation especially at a time when there is no more block discipline that was keeping the numerous international conflicts under the common control of the two superpowers, sharpens the existing economic and social contrasts and lets free the explosive energy of existing contradictions.
In this situation a lot may depend on the strategic choice that will be made by the present Russia, meaning not only its leadership but Russian society as well. The paradox of Russia is that it combines the features of the “first” – developed- world, thanks to its history, culture and tradition, with the aspects of the “third” world – both from the economic and political point of view. For the time being Russia has not made its definite choice. It tries to maintain the political ambiguity trying to play on various “tables” – from the Western (ready to restore its strategic complicity with its privileged partner of the period of Cold War – the USA), to the Eastern ( eager to develop strategic antiWestern partnership with China).
President Milos Zeman was right when he reminded in his message to our conference that Russia traditionally combines the aspects of Europe and Asia and not only because of its geographic Eurasian duplicity. He invited the Europeans to help Russia to confirm its historic European identity and help it to join the rest of Europe while keeping all the originality of its civilization. I think that assisting Russia in making this choice will serve the interests of everybody – both in Europe and in Russia itself. Since it is the both the confirmation of Russia’s organic part of European civilization and at the same time the only realistic perspective for its modernization and catching up with the modern world.
One of the ways to achieve it would be to take lessons from the experience of the last decades after the end of the Cold War. For the West that should mean to avoid treating Russia as a defeated power in the third (Cold) war and to take into account its security concerns. For Russia in turn that would mean to stop considering the breakup of the Soviet empire as its historic setback while it came as a result of the voluntary liberation of the Russian society from its own oppressive and undemocratic regime.
To conclude I would just repeat that our very rich debate not only produced a number of very interesting ideas and proposals but has formulated new questions. In order to continue our common search of answers to them I would like to remind you that the New Policy Forum, is ready to offer to you and our other potential partners a possibility to continue this dialogue and debate. One of the subjects proposed by President Gorbachev in his opening address to the conference was the exploration of ways and methods to rebuild confidence on the political level between different parts of Europe and reflect on the possible common architecture of European security. The Scientific Committee of the New Policy Forum will be ready to convene a meeting of an international working group which would try to formulate new ideas on this subject.
Finally allow me on behalf of the President of our Forum, Mikhail Gorbachev and of all the participants to thank heartily our Czech hosts, the “Iron Curtain” Foundation and their sponsors as well as numerous volunteers and benevolent activists for allowing the New Policy Forum to organize successfully this important event in Prague which has proved to be an extremely “right place at a right time” in the present complex European political context.