Brussels is conspicuously absent from critical talks with Moscow By Glenn Diesen, a Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway, and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal. Follow him on Twitter @glenn_diesen.US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, left, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov pose for a photo during the talks on security guarantees on the territory of the US Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland. © Sputnik / Alexey Vitvitsky
The EU has hit out after it was effectively excluded from security talks between Russia and the US. The fate of the world may have once been decided in Western European capitals, but now it seems to be out of their hands.
However, it seems increasingly clear that the bloc only has itself to blame for the fact its members no longer have a seat at the top table, leaving them the subject of discussions, rather than the driver of them.
A US-led Europe
In advance of the talks last week, Washington rhetorically agreed that European security cannot be decided over the heads of the EU and Ukraine, before then simply going ahead with the bilateral US-Russia format. Simply put, Washington cannot do diplomacy with Eurocrats in the room.
The first reason is that the credibility of US security guarantees is juxtaposed with compromise. In 1962, President Kennedy and the Soviet Union reached an agreement to resolve the Cuban missile crisis, which stipulated that the US would remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey in return for the Soviet Union removing its missiles from Cuba. Instead of celebrating the diplomatic efforts that prevented nuclear war, the US conditioned the agreement on it being kept a secret. Kennedy lied to the US public and its foreign allies. For two decades, the US public believed that the crisis had been solved by confronting Moscow in an uncompromising stance, which made the Soviets back down and grant victory to the US.
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Jack Matlock, the last US ambassador to the USSR, argues that the US similarly rewrote history by claiming that the Cold War was “won” by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when in reality it was negotiated to an end in 1989 through compromise. According to Matlock, the consequence of US mythmaking is a national narrative in which peace is achieved by staring down and defeating its adversaries, while compromise is denounced as “appeasement.” Consequently, actual diplomacy and compromise must be done behind closed doors.
The second reason is that the foundation of “alliance solidarity” is always to stand united against the adversary, Russia, which ensures that the bloc can only speak in the language of ultimatums and threats. The main lesson from the NATO-Russia Council was that the 30 member states would agree on a common position before meeting Russia, at which point officials would not be able to alter the existing consensus. This eliminated the possibility for real diplomacy, as the format of negotiating from a “position of strength” merely implied that NATO would pressure or threaten Russia to accept its unilateral decisions. Both Washington and Moscow are aware that diplomacy and compromise can only be successful in a bilateral format.
No seat at the table
The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, criticized the US-Russia format for discussing European security in its absence. Borrell argued that “the EU must be involved in these negotiations” as “European security is our security … It’s about us. This is not simply the case for two states, i.e. America and Russia, or NATO and Russia – even if Moscow imagines it.”
There is a certain irony to this statement, as the reason for this conflict is that the West has for the past 30 years unilaterally altered the foundations of the European security architecture over the head of Russia as the largest state in Europe. Legitimizing unilateralism by dressing up power politics in the language of “democracy” and “values,” Russian security concerns have been ignored for decades and pan-European security agreements based on the principle of “indivisible security” have been violated. (RT)
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