European Security: What Role Can and Should the OSCE, EU and NATO Play?
– The EU faces a number of geopolitical challenges, ranging from the US-China rivalry to the loss of faith in its own enlargement and neighborhood policies. However, it is still a powerful actor in geoeconomics. After the parliamentary elections in Germany and with good chances for the election of a pro-European government in France in 2022, there might be more room for shaping a robust Common Foreign and Security Policy.
– The Summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in June 2021 is a positive signal against the background of the major deterioration in the West-Russia relations. By contrast, the lack of consensus on Russia among the EU members prevents Brussels from implementing its policy of selective engagement with Moscow.
– The absence of dialogue within the OSCE reflects the overall crisis of multilateralism globally. While it will not be resolved without political will of participating states, cooperation in areas of common interest is still possible (flexilateralism), as well as stronger engagement with civil society and expert communities.
– The status of permanent neutrality may become an interesting option for maintaining geopolitical and geoeconomic balance in the Black Sea region. It could also be beneficial to both, the West and Russia. But it is also important to understand that neutrality cannot be an end in itself. It is not a replacement for a robust state strategy. Nevertheless, a discussion can serve as a starting point and a catalyst for a conversation on the future of statehood, national interests of multi-ethnic communities, the role of the countries in the region, and relations with key actors on the international stage.
– The idea of liberal democracy as the ultimate goal of political organization is being increasingly questioned. This will have and already has deep implications for the West’s approach towards autocratic regimes.
– In relation to China, there is a lack of policy coordination among Western partners. Primarily the US and the EU have different interests in relations with China. For the EU, it has been possible to cooperate with Beijing in economic terms, while still criticizing it for human rights abuses.
– Russia-EU relations could gain a positive impetus if both sides understood commonalities in their situations in relation to the changing geopolitical structure and the main systemic conflict within it, namely between China and the US. Neither the EU, nor Russia are ready to be engaged in this competition.
– US and NATO’s twenty-year-long presence in Afghanistan with the intention to carry out a nation-building process and the war on terror have failed completely. This has undermined the US’ as well as NATO’s credibility around the world, putting in question Washington’s role as a security and stability provider in other regions as well.
– Considering the West’s responsibility for the situation in Afghanistan, the West must help as many Afghan people, especially women, as possible. Also, evacuations from Afghanistan to Europe need to be discussed.
The European security system is in deep crisis, facing difficult times, major challenges, and a myriad of hybrid threats: armed or frozen conflicts in the EU’s Eastern and Southern neighborhood, the global migration crisis, systemic terrorism, pervasive cyber threats, and the return of the forgotten conflict with Russia. All these developments are taking place against the backdrop of profound changes in the international order, the rise of Asia, and a redefinition of the global role of the USA.
The downward spiral in the European security architecture is also reflected in the crisis of the OSCE. Because of the spirit of confrontation within the OSCE between Russia and its allies on one hand, and the Western states on the other, the organization’s decision-making mechanisms are far too often paralyzed. The OSCE participating states are hardly able to find the necessary consensus even when it comes to decisions of minor importance.
Furthermore, the undignified withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan demonstrated the limits of this potentially powerful organization. It also made clear – yet for another time – that the EU lacks strategic autonomy and depends on the US’ capabilities and leadership. When Washington acts against European interests – especially on peace and security matters – the EU often fails to find the will and means to pursue its own foreign and security policy.
The third edition of Vienna Peace and Security Talks intended to provide an insight into the interests and motivations of actors central to pan-European security. Such insight is imperative for creating the necessary conditions for the development of a serious critical dialogue. For its part, a critical dialogue at eye level is one of the basic prerequisites for the constructive solution processes to numerous regional and global conflicts and crises.
The conference was held on 20 September 2021. The workshops took place under the Chatham House rule. They were attended by a variety of stakeholders from multilateral institutions, academia, and think tanks. The panel discussion in the evening was open to the public. Its recording can be accessed here. The organizers would like to thank all participants of the conference for their active engagement and valuable inputs.