The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 26

Putin’s strategic objectives. He is positioning his nation so that it
cannot truly be part of Europe in the sense of shared values and
shared self-identification.
Challenge to the Post–Cold War Order
The question for the West is how to conduct order-building
diplomacy in the midst of a major crisis stemming from Putin’s
increasingly evident intent to separate eastern Ukraine from the
rest of the nation. His “New Russia” rhetoric has a serious mean-
ing to it. The order that is being challenged is enshrined in the
Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which amounted to a surrogate peace
treaty to end World War II. That document was strengthened by a
series of agreements over the years negotiated within the frame-
work of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
(later the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).
Other agreements that shaped post–Cold War Europe dealt
with the emergence of new sovereign nations after the breakup
of the Soviet Union. One of the most important of these agree-
ments figured in a CSCE summit meeting held in Budapest in
1994. It was the Lisbon Protocol to the Strategic Arms Reduction
Treaty, and it changed the adherents to that agreement from just
the Soviet Union and the United States to Ukraine, Kazakhstan,
Belarus, Russia and the United States.
At Budapest, the three new signatory states formally agreed
to become non–nuclear weapon states and to join the nuclear
nonproliferation treaty in that status. A statement of assur-
ance regarding its territorial integrity within existing frontiers
was presented to Ukraine by the presidents of Russia and the
United States and the prime minister of the United Kingdom,
and also subscribed to separately by China and France. The five
permanent members of the United Nations Security Council
thus became parties to these assurances of Ukraine’s territorial
The provisions of the Helsinki Final Act that upheld territo-
rial integrity and forbade changes in frontiers except by peace-
ful means also applied to the newly independent states of the
former Soviet Union. The Final Act begins with 10 principles, of
which the first two deal with sovereign equality and refraining
from the threat or use of force. The text of the second principle
states: “No consideration may be invoked to serve to warrant
resort to the threat or use of force in contravention of this prin-
This is the order that President Putin has challenged. There
are really only two choices before the members of the Helsinki
accords: accept that an all-European order with common under-
standings no longer exists and act accordingly; or try to reverse
what Putin has done and work to restore the Helsinki consensus.
The former course means a division of the Euro-Atlantic region
into Eastern and Western societies and is the course less likely
to lead to conflict in the near term. This appears to be Putin’s
strategic aim.
The latter is the policy that the Western nations say they are
pursuing. But to succeed, the West must be willing to impose
stronger sanctions and provide military assistance to Ukraine
and possibly other neighbors of Russia if it is to succeed. Clearly,
this policy has its risks; but in an age of globalization, sustaining
the order laid down in the Helsinki Final Act is fundamental to
order-building diplomacy. If carefully calibrated as to the tools
employed and seen as a long-term strategy, it has a very good
chance of success.
The division of Europe into opposing camps would have con-
sequences for relations between the West and Russia long after
Putin leaves the scene. Re-creating the polarized structure of the
Cold War runs against the grain of history, in my view.
Framing the Issues Correctly
The first step in devising guidelines for future U.S. strategy is
to frame the issues correctly. For example, it would be wrong to
think that Russia is the origin of all the problems in the enor-
mously complex mix of ethnic groups that inhabit the regions
around its borders and also within the sprawling country.
True, Moscow is an enabler of separatist movements in eastern
Ukraine, and elsewhere, and seems to find that divide-and-con-
quer policies suit its needs. But it would be simplistic to think
that if Moscow suddenly became cooperative, all would be well.
Because of the emotions and the long histories involved in all
these disputes, it will take time before trust takes root between
central governments and those ethnic groups inclined toward
Putin’s efforts to turn back the clock seem
unlikely to succeed, nomatter how fervently
he evokes nostalgia for Russia’s historical borders.
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