The Eastern Dimension of America's New European Allies
Authored by Mr. Janusz Bugajski.
Without a realistic prospect for NATO and EU accession, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Georgia will become sources of domestic and regional instability and objects of Russia’s neo-imperialist ambitions that will undermine American and European strategic interests. The new members of NATO and the EU have sought to develop credible policies for consolidating democratic reforms among their eastern neighbors, enhancing their prospects for inclusion in NATO and the EU, and containing a resurgent and assertive Russia. The new European democracies have also endeavored to more closely involve Washington in the process of Euro-Atlantic enlargement as a more effective Eastern Dimension jointly pursued by the U.S., NATO, and the EU would significantly consolidate trans-Atlantic security.
This monograph provides a set of recommendations to the United States, NATO allies, and EU institutions in promoting a more consequential Eastern Dimension. Above all, the U.S. administration needs to clearly make the argument that progress toward stable states and secure democracies in a widening Europe and an expanding trans-Atlantic community that encompasses the Black Sea zone is in America’s national interests and serves its strategic goals. The eventual inclusion of all East European states that are currently situated outside NATO and the creation of a wider Alliance would help expand and consolidate democratic systems, open up new markets, stabilize Washington’s new allies, and increase the number of potential U.S. partners.
Russia is not a reliable partner for Washington as it has its own ambitions to restore its regional dominance and to undercut the U.S. policy of democratic expansion. Contingencies for a potentially unstable post-Putin era also need to be drawn up as we cannot assume that Putinism has created a stable authoritarian system. Russia confronts several looming crises: demographic ethnic, religious, economic, social, and political, especially if power struggles become manifest between the new Kremlin oligarchs and security chiefs who have gained control over large sectors of the economy. Although the United States has few tools to influence Russia’s internal development, it can deploy its economic, diplomatic, and military capabilities to contain any instabilities emanating from Russia that could challenge the security of neighboring countries.
NATO Allies must be prepared for a long and arduous struggle if they want to ensure that Moscow’s neighbors become America’s and Europe’s partners with closer political, economic, and security ties. In particular, a sustained package of incentives and assistance must be provided for Ukraine to consolidate the advantages of democratic reform. Targeted assistance is necessary for the Belarusian opposition and elements of the establishment that may seek an alternative to the Lukashenka regime. A more activist policy can be pursued to reintegrate the divided Moldovan and Georgian states, promote democratization, combat criminal networks, and give both countries the prospect of a U.S. alliance.
NATO itself should devise a more coherent, consensual, and long-range approach toward the aspirant states in Eastern Europe in terms of future Alliance membership. As NATO takes on a global role in such areas as peace enforcement, humanitarian support, and state stabilization countries that fulfill the general criteria for inclusion, including democratic rule and security sector reform, need to obtain a membership track.
NATO must be prepared to provide peacekeeping forces and other units in the “frozen conflicts” in Moldova (Transnistria) and Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), while Chisinau and Tbilisi need to formulate concrete proposals for Alliance participation in peacekeeping operations. They can also engage in democratization programs, civil society building, security sector reform, demilitarization, demobilization, and antiproliferation in former conflict zones. NATO can also plan for the creation of a joint peacekeeping contingent under the auspices of the GUAM organization (comprised of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) that would help raise its visibility and practical value. The contingent could serve alongside NATO and U.S. units in various conflict or reconstruction zones.
The EU can be instrumental in establishing a fund to support democratic movements in the authoritarian states of the post-communist world, including Belarus and Russia. Before he was elected Estonia’s President in October 2006, the vice chairman of the European Parliament Toomas Hendrik Ilves made such a recommendation together with British, Polish, Hungarian, and Czech Europarliamentarians. The idea would be to bypass current EU regulations that only allow funds to be donated to movements approved by each country’s government. Because the fund cannot be created within the framework of the EU due to the opposition of the older members, the new EU entrants need to take the initiative. The European Liberty Fund has been proposed as the name of the new initiative, which would work through alternative mechanisms to support the democratic opposition.
The EU should adopt a more prominent role in resolving the separatist standoffs in Moldova and Georgia. This would include the application of sanctions and incentives where necessary to advance solutions. The EU can also enhance its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) Action Plan with Moldova and Georgia to include the issue of state reintegration. The South Caucasus and Moldovan conflicts need to be raised in senior discussions by EU representatives with neighboring powers, particularly during EU-Russia Summits and other high-level meetings.
A more coherent EU policy needs to be devised toward Russia, working together with the United States and NATO. Specifically, this would need to include diplomatic pressure on Moscow to cease supporting the Lukashenka dictatorship in Belarus; requirements to withdraw military contingents and weaponry from the Transnistrian region of Moldova in line with Moscow’s commitments at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Istanbul Summit in November 1999; and placing the Kaliningrad region on the Baltic coast, which borders Poland and Lithuania, on the EU’s neighborhood agenda to prevent it from becoming a source of instability, criminality, and environmental catastrophe for the Baltic region.
It is important for the United States and the EU to coordinate their energy policies as a common strategic security interest. Russian control over energy routes from the Caspian region will undermine American interests throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe by giving Moscow strong political leverage over these states. A trans-Atlantic energy security strategy can direct more substantial investment toward alternative routes from the Caspian basin while NATO and EU members can pool their resources during a crisis. This will lessen dependence, instability, and potential future conflicts with Russia.
It is also important for the Central-East European capitals to better coordinate and support each other in EU and NATO institutions in devising and pursuing policies of engagement with Eastern neighbors and policies of realism toward Russia. This would engender a more effective Eastern Dimension to trans-Atlantic security.
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