The purpose of this essay is to analyze the arguments in favor and against the obsoleteness of the war particularly after the cold war. But before going in detail one needs to understand the concept of war that is advocated by the proponents of the Realist school of thought.
According to the Realists, war is essential for serving its interests as for war is mean to achieve their national interests. The institution of war has evolved with the development of state after the peace of Westphalia which gives state supreme power to exercise within its boundaries without inferring in internal matters of the other states.
According to Clausewitz war is a continuation of politics by other means. The industrialization played a vital role in promoting war by developing new weapons and revolutionizing the institution of war. It was in eighteen century when war becomes a proper institution which is equipped with modern weapons and tactics. Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that war almost always enlarges the mind of a people and raises their character.” Kenneth Waltz defines war as “The ultimate resort of states that can see no other way to have their interests met.” Moreover, War was used as a tool by states to expand its territory and area of influence since ancient times like Athens fight against Spartan to control them.
In the twentieth century, the fascination for war is declining especially after the experience of WWI and almost all the countries of the developed world committed to avoiding war between states. The deterrence was also used by states to prevent war by equipping them with arms to teeth to deal with the aggressive states.  However, this policy failed with the start of WWII but with the start of a cold war between US and USSR did bring stability by changing of international structure from multi-polarity to bi-polarity. Both powers avoided direct confrontation and the world was divided into two blocs. Kenneth Waltz declared Bi-polar system as a most stable system because both powers tried to balance each other power which reduces the chances of war.
Merits of Bi-polarity
Similarly, nuclear weapons also played a significant role in averting war as both powers acquired nuclear weapons. Kenneth Waltz called nuclear weapons as an effective tool to prevent war between US and USSR as the use of nuclear weapons after 1945 become unthinkable for any state due to its destructive ability. According to experts, Bi-polarity proved to be a more balanced system as it would not allow one state to dominate all other states of the world. Bi-polarity created a balance between two potential powers and brings stability at international level as both were equally capable of competing with other. Both states balanced each other power by created two blocs to check each other growing power at global level.
Arguments in favor of Obsoleteness of War
1- Economic Integration
The interdependence of economy is considered as a major development which is preventing the war, especially between states. For Instance, in the case of China and US despite their rivalry, there is less likely chance of war between both the states. War creates instability and disrupts the economy in a negative way by causing inflation. The international economic system has increased the dependence of states irrespective of their size. The economic integration among states is not allowing them for waging war because it is not cost effective for a state. In contemporary world war is undesirable and becoming a burden on the economy of the country.
In the case of China and US relations although they are competing with each other but they would not use war as a tool to increase their influence in the global arena. Since war is not a viable option to pursue their national interests. Similarly, China is suspicious of an American presence in the Asia-Pacific region and their growing ties with its neighboring states. One cannot say that they will be involved in direct confrontation with each other. Since economic interests of the both states are inter-linked and mutually dependent upon each other. China is the biggest trading partner of US and a major importer of Chinese products. In addition, globalization played a vital role in increasing the interdependence between the states by linking all states with the common economic system and its stability is dependent upon the cooperation among all states of the world. Globalization has transformed the world into the global village by inter-linking world trade.
2- Role of international organization
The role of the international organization is significant in preventing war between states by including all states into organizations to resolve their issues by using the dialogue process and building the mutual consent of all the states of the world. International organization provides a platform to resolve the contentious issues by negotiation rather going for war as a mean to sort out their conflictual issues between the states. Moreover, legislation of international organization is very effective in averting war between states as they punished those who are involved in crimes against humanity in the form of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
Furthermore, international organizations are effective in ending conflicts between the states by providing a platform and giving importance to objections of the both parties. International organizations play a mediating role to resolve issues between states by hearing both parties and suggesting ways to sort the contentious issues between any two or more states. In addition, regional organizations have improved the regional integration by dealing the regional problems with regional players. For example, European Union is the most successful organization which has united Europe by resolving their issues internally and consider as a most stable region of the world. The European Union is an effective regional organization which makes it most peaceful part of the world as they sort their issues by discussing with each other.
3- Cost of WAR
The cost of war outweighs its benefits for the state as it long-lasting effects on its people. The advancement in modern weapons has increased the destructive abilities of war by causing infrastructure losses for the state. In contemporary world states prefer to avoid war due its interdependence on other states for trade and for proper functioning relations with its neighbors. Similarly, the human cost of war is another factor which is becoming a reason for preventing wars between the states. The use of chemical and biological weapons in modern warfare has increased the number of deaths of humans within the second that is mostly avoided by the countries.
Moreover, the signing of treaties by almost all states of the world to limit the number of conflicts is another factor to discourage countries from using force against any other country. In addition, war drains the economy of a country and creates dissatisfaction at the domestic level. For example, during the Vietnam War US had to stop war due to protests within the country against War due to its effects on their domestic economy. The economic cost of wars in the contemporary world has played a major role in preventing a war between the states. War is not considered as the viable option for states to pursue their national interests.
4-Use of non-military means
The use of non-military means by the states is another major reason towards decline war in 21 century. The states tend to use other means for instance; cyber warfare is widely used by China and US to keep a check on their growing power. The countries in contemporary world avoid using force against other states because it is not cost effective for them. Cyber warfare is not only cost effective for states but also a viable option to pursue their interests without heavy spending on its defence. Moreover, cyber warfare would cause more damage to the rival states without indulging in direct confrontation with the other states.
The hacking incidents in the past few years have increased and hackers usually hacked national websites to the country to get access to countries confidential documents and their assets to expose the ability of the state. Cyber warfare is cost effective mean used by countries to subdue their rival states. The modern technological advancement has increased the role of cyber warfare as all systems of the world are dependent on the digital means. Moreover, computer viruses are also used by almost all states to destroy the confidential projects of their rival states without much effort and violating international laws against the use of force at the global level.
5- Nuclear weapons
Nuclear weapons have also played a significant role in preventing war between states because of its destructive nature and long-lasting effects on the humans and living beings. Nuclear weapons are considered as psychological weapons or political weapons that act as a deterrent to prevent war between the two or more states. The development of nuclear technological has changed the nature warfare to a greater extent by reducing chances of War Between the States. During cold war nuclear weapons prevented the direct confrontation between US and USSR. The use of nuclear weapons by either by US or USSR would ensure mutual destruction of both the states.
The use of nuclear weapons is not an acceptable norm at international due to destructive ability to destroy humans indiscriminately. It is considered as taboo by responsible states and international community because of its negative repercussions on the humanity. They are used prevent War among the States. International norms against the use of nuclear weapons have played the significant role in avoiding conflict between the states and acts as a deterrent to states.
According to some experts, war is not obsolete in the contemporary world rather it has transformed the old warfare. The institution war has become more organized and lethal. The modern technology has revolutionized the nature warfare by equipping states with modern weapons. The decline of war as an institution is not easy to achieve with growing insecurities of the states. States are facing security dilemma and in order to compete with other states every state is increasing their defense budget to ensure their security. Similarly, change in international structure from Uni-polarity to Multi-polarity is another reason why states are investing more to improve their military capacity to compete for more than one power at international level.
Moreover, experts are of the view that nuclear weapons are not preventing war instead they are increasing the military disparities between the states. The countries who acquire nuclear weapons after the 1950s are competing with P-5 by developing Tactical Nuclear weapons. They are also known as mini-nukes basically these low-intensity nuclear weapons which are increasing chances of war among the states. The accidental use of tactical weapons can start a war due to growing distrust among major countries of the world. For example, in a case of India and Pakistan, accidental use of tactical nuclear weapons can initiate a war between these two states.
If we analyzed arguments in favor of the obsoleteness of war are based on logical argumentation and empirical evidence. It would be plausible to say that institution of war is facing a decline due to growing awareness among general public and policy makers. War is not cost-effective and becoming a burden on economies of the countries. Similarly, modern weapon technologies have increased the defence budget rather spending this money to eradicate poverty and violence in the world. Moreover, development of nuclear weapons is also contributed in preventing war because the use of nuclear weapons can kill thousands of people within seconds especially after witnessing the example of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.
Despite differences among states they give importance to the process of dialogue to resolve their conflictual issues rather than going for war. The cost of war out weights the benefits of war if we assess the implications of war for humans it would be safe to claim that war cause more problems for people who have to face the consequences of war in the form of loss of their lives and displacement from their respective countries to neighboring areas. It would be plausible say that war between states is obsolete if not within the states. The conflicts within the countries are there but it can be addressed by using dialogue process and giving autonomy to minority groups in the countries.
If we compare and contrast arguments in favor and against of war one can say that war is considered as the only option for states in resolving their issues with other states. The institution of war is facing decline after the conclusion of the two World Wars. War is not used by states to protect their national interests due to its heavy cost in the form of both human and material cost of the war. Globalization has also played significant role limiting the role of War at international level by promoting interdependence among all states of the world. Furthermore, war itself causes more problems rather than resolving contentious issues between the countries.
The increasing economic interdependence among states has decreased chances of war as their economic interests are interlinked. War is expensive for any state since it requires not only man-power but also the economic power to sustain the war for a long time. The countries having viable economies if they start a war consequently it will drain their economy and create issues within their states. The economic integration of regions has paved the way in preventing war between states by bringing stability and prosperity to all states irrespective of their relative power capabilities.
Social constructivism theory is presented by Nicholas Onuf, Alexander Wendt, Emanuel Adler, Friedrich Kratochwil, John Gerard Ruggie and Peter Katzenstein. According to proponents of the social constructivism international structure is socially constructed with interactions of human with each other. States objective goals in the form of security and economic development and subjective goals their international standing are created by their interactions with other actors of the world. States identities and interests are constructed from inter-subjective social structures because global actors interact with each other to formulate their interests by comparing them with other states. The identities and interests of actors are socially constructed by their interaction with each other.
According to constructivists anarchy is not given rather it is socially constructed with interactions of global actors. If all states are interacting in a peaceful manner then it is peaceful and if the country suspects each other intentions then it is conflictual in nature. In simple words, it depends on upon the interactions of the global actors with each other. Constructivist negates realist assumption about anarchy that it is given. It is constructed by an interaction of global actors and it changes the behavior of global actors. The interest of the states keeps on changing with a change in international structure as they are stagnant or permanent.
The international system is not given or present like the solar system. It is constituted by inter-subjective interaction among the people. The international system is constructed with the ideas that are not based on the objective reality. Social Constructivism is based upon the set of ideas, norms of people living in a particular area. According to the constructivists understanding the meanings of ideas and concepts is significant because it is based on interactions human with other by comparing them with each other.
In the case of relations with China and US one can say they experienced ups and downs with the changing nature of their national interests.  During the 1950s, the relations between both the states were conflictual in nature due to American involvement in Korean Peninsula and their support for Nationalist Taiwan. In the 1970s during Nixon Presidency, US tried to normalize their relations by visiting China and accepted People Republic China (PRC) legitimacy using Ping Pong by sending their table tennis team to China. The shift in relations occurred due to changing nature of their national interest and abandons the Nationalists of Taiwan. The US normalized their relations with China to curtail the Russian expansion in the region and increase American area of influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
If we analyzed the relations of the both countries using the Social Constructivists lens one can say China and US have experienced a period of strained relations and normal relations depending upon the nature of interests that are changing with a shift in the international system. It is either peaceful or conflictual in nature. Moreover, in recent past, the increased in economic interdependence has improved their relations with each other due to dependence upon each other for achieving their economic interests. Similarly, China and the USA are competing with other economically due to growing Chinese economy and rise as a major player at international level. China and USA are suspected of each other activities particularly in the Asia-Pacific region due to growing Chinese influence in the region.
The relations between China and US are largely driven by their distinct ideologies and identities. The foreign policy of both of these countries is dependent on their identities which are different from each other. The understanding of their respective identities is essential for making sense of their posture towards each other. States acts according to national interests that are based on their identities. According to Social Constructivism understanding of identities is required to analyze the relations between two states in detail. The role of identities is significant is determining the major policy decisions that are largely dependent upon the ideational factors of the state.
In the context of China and US, the role of the identity cannot be undermined because both give importance to their identities in their relations with each other. The in-depth understanding of the foreign policies of China and US is largely based on their distinct identities. The nature of the relationship between China and US is very complex due to the vital role of their respective identities in their major policy decisions towards each other. China gives importance to its identity in the conduct of their relations with US and rest of the world. In the same way, the US also promotes democracy at the international level that signifies the role of identity in their foreign policy.
To conclude, war is obsolete particularly between the states in the contemporary as no major war is fought between states. The institution war is facing a decline due to its heavy cost paid the people. The countries prefer to use non-military means to increase their sphere of influence rather using force to get their interests. The phenomena of war are not fascinating for young people anymore as it used to be in past. The repercussions of war have far-reaching effects on the humans by disturbing them emotionally and mentally. Moreover, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are another factor which is vital for averting war among the states due to its implications for humans. The countries at international level do not promote war to solve their conflictual issues with each other. The international organizations are effective in ending the war between states by promoting peace and stability. Similarly, the role of effective civil society and epistemic communities cannot be undermined in preventing war at a global level. The epistemic community has played a vital role in stigmatizing the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Lastly, war is not considered by states as an only option to pursue their national interests as it used to be in the 17th and 18th century. Realist school of thought promoted war as tool or Lastly, no doubt war is not considered by states as an only option to pursue their national interests as it used to be in the 17th and 18th century. Realist school of thought promoted war as a tool or mean by states to achieve their national interests. In 21 century the role war is not vital due to increasing in economic interdependence between the states. The economic integration at the regional level is important in ending major conflicts among states of the particular region. War as an institution is not effective at international due to a shift of countries towards non-military means to subdue their rivals rather than indulging them in war or military confrontation with each other.
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Modernization of nuclear weapons continues- number of peacekeepers declines
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) launched the findings of SIPRI Yearbook 2018, which assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security. Key findings include the following: all the nuclear weapon-possessing states are developing new nuclear weapon systems and modernizing their existing systems; and the number of personnel deployed with peace operations worldwide continues to fall while the demand is increasing.
World nuclear forces: reductions remain slow as modernization continues
At the start of 2018 nine states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)—possessed approximately 14 465 nuclear weapons. This marked a decrease from the approximately 14 935 nuclear weapons that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2017.
The decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world is due mainly to Russia and the USA—which together still account for nearly 92 per cent of all nuclear weapons—further reducing their strategic nuclear forces pursuant to the implementation of the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START).
Despite making limited reductions to their nuclear forces, both Russia and the USA have long-term programmes under way to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities. The USA’s most recent Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), published in February 2018, reaffirmed the modernization programmes and approved the development of new nuclear weapons. The NPR also emphasized expanding nuclear options to deter and, if necessary, defeat both nuclear and ‘non-nuclear strategic attacks’.
‘The renewed focus on the strategic importance of nuclear deterrence and capacity is a very worrying trend,’ says Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board. ‘The world needs a clear commitment from the nuclear weapon states to an effective, legally binding process towards nuclear disarmament.’
The nuclear arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states are considerably smaller, but all are either developing or deploying new nuclear weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so. India and Pakistan are both expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles as well as developing new land-, sea- and air-based missile delivery systems. China continues to modernize its nuclear weapon delivery systems and is slowly increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal.
In 2017 North Korea continued to make technical progress in developing its nuclear weapon capabilities, including the test of—what was claimed to be—a thermonuclear weapon, in September. North Korea also demonstrated unexpected rapid progress in the testing of two new types of long-range ballistic missile delivery systems.
‘Despite the clear international interest in nuclear disarmament reflected in the conclusion in 2017 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the modernization programmes under way in the nuclear weapon-possessing states indicate that genuine progress towards nuclear disarmament will remain a distant goal,’ says Shannon Kile, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.
* ‘Deployed warheads’ refers to warheads placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces. ** ‘Other warheads’ refers to stored or reserve warheads and retired warheads awaiting dismantlement.
Total figures include the highest estimate when a range is given. Figures for North Korea are uncertain and are not included in total figures. All estimates are approximate.
Number of peacekeepers falls globally, despite increasing demand
There were 63 multilateral peace operations active during 2017 (one more than in 2016): 25 operations were deployed in Africa, 18 in Europe, 9 in the Middle East, 6 in Asia and Oceania, and 5 in the Americas.
The total number of personnel deployed in multilateral peace operations decreased by 4.5 per cent during 2017, from 152 822 to 145 911. Nearly three-quarters of all personnel were based in Africa. The decrease in the number of personnel is explained by the fall, by 7.6 per cent, in deployments by the United Nations, whereas the number of personnel in non-UN operations increased by 2.3 per cent to 47 557.
Although the UN clearly remains the principal actor in peace operations, African actors are claiming an increasing role in African peace and security matters. This is reflected in the establishment in February 2017 of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) Joint Force (Force Conjointe des Etats du G5 Sahel, FC-G5S).
UN peacekeeping reform remained high on the international agenda in 2017. However, these discussions were overshadowed by two other significant developments during the year: the greater insecurity of personnel deployed in UN peace operations; and the efforts—particularly by the US administration—to drastically reduce the UN peacekeeping budget.
In 2017, UN missions witnessed a dramatic escalation in fatalities linked to hostile acts—in both absolute terms (from 34 in 2016 to 61 in 2017) and as a ratio of the number of uniformed personnel deployed (from 0.31 to 0.61 per 1000 uniformed personnel). Whereas in preceding years most fatalities occurred in the UN mission in Mali, in 2017 the UN operations in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo also faced substantial losses.
‘An independent review into the security of peacekeepers released in 2017 (2017 Cruz Report), suggested that UN peacekeeping operations should adopt a more robust and less risk-averse force posture,’ says Timo Smit, Researcher with the SIPRI Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme. ‘However, this raises the question, which was not addressed by the Cruz Report, as to how the UN should generate sufficient forces that are both willing and capable of adopting such a posture.’
In 2017, UN peace operations—like African peace operations—could no longer be certain of predictable and sustainable funding. The budget cuts and related troop reductions meant that the UN had to rethink its strategy in many operations. ‘Is it realistic to expect the UN to continue to do more with less, and is it worth taking the risk?’ says Dr Jair van der Lijn, Director of SIPRI’s Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme.
‘A number of finance-contributing countries hoped that budget cuts might be used pragmatically to strengthen peacekeeping reform. However, the actual effects of resource reduction on some operations might put peacekeepers at further risk and leave populations more vulnerable,’ says Van der Lijn.
NSG Expansion for Non-NPT States: India and Pakistan’s Case
The ascent of the NSG as one of the critical and influentialcartel groups promoting the cause of non-proliferation intends to urge India to become part of it by passing the chronicled reality that the NSG was created against the Indian nuclear weapons tests. The Great Powers possessing nuclear weapons have already given certain exemptions to India in terms of trading in the field of nuclear technology transfer. However, these special exemptions by the NSG members are not consistent with the purported arrangements of the NSG that does not permit a state unless it is party to the NPT.
Albeit Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was made against the Indian atomic test, it is astonishing to note that even the NSG’s revised guidelines of June 2013 did not name India specifically, whose nuclear weapon test wound up in the creation of NSG.
NSG works on the consensus by following the two prominent sets of its normative posture. Firstly, it is responsible to strictly follow the guidelines for nuclear exports. Secondly, it also relates to nuclear related exports. It is imperative to note that the first set of NSG’s guidelines deals with elements such as a) nuclear materials, b) nuclear reactors and equipments, c) non- nuclear materials for reactors, d) plants and equipments for the reprocessing, enrichment and conversion of nuclear material and, e) nuclear technology for each of the above nuclear export elements. Whilst, the second set of NSG guidelines largely deals with nuclear export related materials such as fuel cycle and nuclear explosive for industrial purposes only. Both of these two sets of NSG guidelines are consistent with the provisions of internationally binding treaties in the field of nuclear non-proliferation such as the NPT and many other.
Since the NSG rises up as one of the important cartel groups in the field of non-proliferation, it is not free from the critical issues it confronts. For instance, the Indo-US nuclear deal and the NSG’s nuclear exemptions to India has become a critical issue for the NSG in terms of sustaining its credibility. This indicates that NSG may drift away from the provisions it sets and undermine its own set of guidelines.
However, there can be certain plausible options that the NSG may undertake to restore and enhance further its normative posture and credibility as one of the rising cartels in the field of international non-proliferation like the NPT would recognize both India and Pakistan as nuclear weapons states before they think of joining the NSG. Presumably, as India and Pakistan enhance their nuclear maturity, the NPT and NSG could eventually recognize these nuclear weapons states with the ultimate motive to strengthen the non-proliferation regime
It is also encouraging that the NSG could expand its membership by inducting more states that may include those states which are either Party to the NPT or those who have not yet joined the NPT. If in case India is embraced before Pakistan, it could have critical consequences for regional arms race and increased over reliance on nuclear weapons in the South Asia. Alternatively, the NSG could relax its provisions unanimously agreeing that it could eventually pave the way for both India and Pakistan to join the NSG. However, both would remain legitimate and responsible nuclear weapons states by following the essential parameters of the international non-proliferation regime including that of the additional protocol of the IAEA. Furthermore, the NSG might adopt tostrictlystand by its provisions without showing any flexibility by not allowing both India and Pakistan to become part of the NSG unless they fully satisfy the guidelines of the NSG particularly joining of the NPT.
In a nutshell, this may not be favorable to the NSG as this would show NSG too rigid, discriminatory, and limited by not increasing its membership. Plausibly, expanding its membership and promoting the cause of non-proliferation, the NSG could enhance its credibility in the field of non-proliferation by making both India and Pakistan obligatory to the essential parameters of the non-proliferation.
NATO–Russia Council: What Are the Outcomes?
The principal outcome of the NATO–Russia Council (NRC) held on May 31, 2018 is that it actually took place. The Council had been planned for the eve of the next NATO summit scheduled for July 11–12, 2018. Therefore, both parties have clear reasons and motives to get together and discuss mutual interests and concerns within this specific context.
In terms of practical outcomes, the Council offered few. The agenda generally repeats the limited range of issues from the six previous meetings at the ambassadorial level. Agreeing to meet with NATO, Russia sends the alliance a positive signal that the country is ready to maintain political and diplomatic contacts within the Council and discuss mutual concerns even in the current “reduced” regime, and that it is also ready to pursue the dialogue, search for opportunities to return to a dialogue on particular issues and carry out work in the areas of mutual interest.
Unlike the previous sessions of the Council, the results of these recent meetings were not made public. The websites of official agencies ran only short communiques. Today, Russia has taken a serious and well-thought-out step by not abandoning the dialogue proposed by NATO. At the same time, however, we expect the Council meeting to contribute to practical progress, to help achieve a productive dialogue and to restore a practical agenda.
The principal outcome of the NATO–Russia Council held on May 31, 2018 is that it actually took place. While it was NATO that proposed holding the consultations, it was unclear what the real agenda would be and what practical outcomes were to be expected. And these are the key issues. Russia continues to emphasize the need for tangible results, particularly in the current political crisis. On the other hand, it is also noteworthy that the Council was planned for the eve of the next NATO summit, which is scheduled for July 11–12, 2018. Therefore, both parties have clear reasons and motives to get together and discuss mutual interests and concerns within this specific context. Despite the apparent stalemate in the NRC, the opportunity to compare notes in the run-up to the most important event on the NATO calendar, which will be attended by heads of state and government, should not be squandered. The Russian side largely took these very circumstances into account.
In terms of practical outcomes, the Council offered few. The agenda generally repeats the limited range of issues from the six previous meetings at the ambassadorial level. Although the participants of the NRC round table did not plan to discuss anything new, they naturally took the new realities and the military and political situation into account. The emphasis at the previous NATO–Russia Council was on the WEST 2017 joint strategic military exercise between the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus. This time, in discussing transparency, reducing risks and tensions and preventing military incidents, Russia was primarily interested in the upcoming large-scale Trident Juncture 2018 exercise.
Clearly, this will be a major exercise with the participation of up to 45,000 people, including representatives of partner countries. And Russia is understandably interested in the relation of the military activity to the declared functions of containing Russia. At the time, it is apparent that a sufficiently substantive discussion of the issues of reducing military threats and risks and developing joint steps in that direction cannot be considered without stepping up the inter-military dialogue, and that dialogue still does not work in the NATO–Russia Council format. Contacts have been established between NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Russia’s Chief of the General Staff, but that is not enough. It is obvious that discussing Risk Reduction – the problems of cutting risks, preventing and neutralizing military threats – requires a systemic dialogue, not only between military leaders, but also between specialized military experts. NATO does not agree to this: since April 1, 2014, all practical contacts have been cut, and practical cooperation and interaction have been blocked.
Agreeing to meet with NATO, Russia sends the alliance a positive signal that the country is ready to maintain political and diplomatic contacts within the NRC and discuss mutual concerns even in the current “reduced” regime, and that it is also ready to pursue the dialogue, search for opportunities to return to a dialogue on particular issues and carry out work in the areas of mutual interest.
It is not easy to confirm such sentiments in current conditions, particularly since seven diplomats from the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO were stripped of their accreditation in March 2018. Russia does not merely view this as an unhelpful step; it sees it as narrowing the options for dialogue. But Moscow nevertheless agreed to the Council meeting, thus putting the ball in NATO’s court. Moving away from diplomatic parlance, this is a gift from the Russian side, since NATO will need to report on the second track of its relations with Russia at the July summit: balancing “effective containment” with “successful dialogue.” This task had become all the more pressing for the Alliance in the run-up to the summit. Its headquarters would like to demonstrate that the adopted formula had been productive, and Moscow did not want to exacerbate relations and give grounds for more anti-Russia rhetoric. Jens Stoltenberg can now quite responsibly report at the July summit that the dialogue is developing, without focusing attention on the difficulties and its practical ineffectiveness. Yet, if Russia sends such a signal and “gives a gift” to NATO before the summit, then NATO should consider the issue of how to pragmatically develop the dialogue with Russia in the future. Of course, it is also a very important test for Russia. NATO’s future policy will be clearer after the summit: whether the alliance will use the very fact that the NATO–Russia Council took place as a propaganda tool for reporting on the successes of its policy regarding Russia, since the latter is prepared to maintain a dialogue. Conversely, Russia’s signal could be interpreted differently, and NATO may consider and discuss the prospects and contents of its future dialogue with Russia in a pragmatic and consistent manner.
Agreeing to meet with NATO, Russia sends the alliance a positive signal.
Another nuance that is also a fairly important circumstance is the fact that the results of the Council’s meeting were not made public. Communiques on the websites of NATO and the Russian mission were very brief. They stated the agenda and briefly listed the issues under discussion. Moreover, the parties abstained from talking to journalists, and that makes the current Council different from its previous sessions, which were invariably followed by political commentary – including comments from the NATO Secretary General on the alliance’s website and answers to questions from the media. Now there is nothing of the sort, and this reticence means that the situation is unclear, and we should look at how NATO will react in the future and what discussions surrounding the Russian question at the summit will mean.
The topic of Russia at the upcoming summit is especially important against the background of events that may have an unfavourable impact on the general atmosphere of the summit. For example, the major complications in Euro-Atlantic relations, with Trump trying to stress the rather unpopular tenet of the “Old Europe” and showcase the successes of New Europe, which follows Washington’s politics and policies. Trump believes that “Old Europe,” primarily Germany, which has rather unsuccessfully laid claim to European leadership, is moving in the “wrong” direction.” This context is highly unfavourable for the summit itself, and possibly for Russia–Europe relations. A number of specific events, such as the attack perpetrated by the United States, the United Kingdom and France against military facilities in Syria, the publication of U.S. plans to deploy permanent military bases in Poland, etc., could also have a negative effect. This is all very serious and should be taken into account by both NATO and Russia. Today, Russia has made a serious, well-thought-out step by not abandoning the dialogue proposed by NATO. At the same time, however, we expect the Council meeting to contribute to tangible progress, help achieve a productive dialogue and restore a practical agenda.
First published in our partner RIAC
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