The Valdai International Club has hosted an online discussion in connection with the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Final Act of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Helsinki.
The signing of the Helsinki Act is traditionally considered a pivotal point in the development of Europe’s international politics, an event that could create a foundation for an undivided regional security system. According to a commonly recognized point of view, the first and only large-scale Cold War-era agreement between the East and the West secured the easing of tension and eliminated many reasons that could cause a global war on the continent. However, after the OSCE failed to acquire the status of a universal organization in the sphere of regional security and cooperation after the end of the Cold War, division lines in Europe remained intact. Was the Agreement truly meaningful for peace in Europe or was it but an episode of the Cold War and each of the parties involved tried to use it for their own gains?
In the words of Program Director of the Valdai Club Timofei Bordachev, the signing of the Helsinki Final Act is an event of historic importance which is interpreted differently depending on individual preferences. Some people believe that the Helsinki Act should be considered a great achievement for European security. Thei opponents view the document as the start of a strategic defeat of the USSR in the Cold War. “At present, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is experiencing hard times following the activities of our European and American partners, who pursue a joint agenda in Europe, blocking any alternative views”, – the expert said.
Russia’s permanent representative in OSCE Alexander Lukashevich has said that the signing of the Helsinki Accords is the triumph of collective reason. “It is impossible to agree that it was a defeat of the Soviet Union. In spite of the ideological situation of 1975 and preparatory steps, we can say that it was the triumph of Soviet diplomacy. That this organization, originally designed to maintain peace on the continent, transformed before our very eyes into a structure cultivating suspicion and confrontation in Europe, is another matter”, – he said.
The Russian diplomat reminded the participants in the discussion that the United States was the main opponent to the development of the CSCE into a full-blown functional organization. It is the United States, he says, that prevented the principles of equal cooperation in Europe which were put forward at the OSCE summit in Paris in 1990 from taking effect. “Originally, the Helsinki Final Act was drafted without the participation of the USA, or less so, Canada. It was only in the final stage that they resolved to do so, since without global players it would be impossible to build a structure that would be accepted by all European countries” – Lukashevich explained.
The Russian representative referred to US President George Bush Sr., who said as he addressed a news conference after a CSCE summit in Brussels on December 4th 1989: “If today I signal to you, Europeans, that the Cold War is over, then the question arises: what are you, the United States, doing in Europe with your troops?” The US president extended his ideas as he received German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Camp David on February 24th 1990: “CSCE cannot replace NATO as a western deterrent in Europe and a fundamental foundation for the presence of American troops in Europe. If it happens, we will have a real problem.”
“All these positions are well-known, when we remind American and European politicians about them they fall silent. There are no comments, because these statements speak volumes about what has been happening within the OSCE over the past decades”, – Lukashevich underscored.
It was Russia that initiated reformatting the Conference into a full-fledged Organization and creating a matrix of European security with due regard for new challenges and threats. Members of the OSCE assumed mutual commitments on military restraint and institutionalization of the European collective decision-making process. All this was implemented “on paper”, despite resistance from the USA and some members of the EU. They adopted Security Charter and Security Platform, based on cooperation. Interinstitutional cooperation on the basis of a central element. They are trying not to remember about it now.
“The year 2019 marked the jubilee of the European Security Charter. Moscow’s proposal to reaffirm these principles ran into misunderstanding and was dumped without preliminary consideration. Hence, the OSCE principles do not work any more. This is the more so sad given that all participants in the OSCE summit in Astana in 2010 reiterated their intention to take further steps to promote the Helsinki Accords and passed a decision at the head of state and government level to create a single and undivided security system in Europe, Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia on the basis of cooperation and dialogue. Unfortunately, western powers treat all this as an “archive” long put on the shelf. Should the current principles persist, OSCE is in for no good”, – Lukashevich concluded.
Rein Mullerson, Honorary Professor at Tallinn University, believes that the main reason behind the crushed hopes of building a new world order stems from the fact that international forces has lost the balance of strength. At the time unipolarity, which came after the disintegration of the USSR, the USA came to believe in their omnipotence and global might. “Power ruins personality while international is powerless because there is no force behind it”, – the expert said.
Is there a way out of the situation? Rein Mullerson sounds sceptic. “Washington is against the principles of a multipolar world and is in favor of previous positions. This does nothing to promote cooperation”, – the Estonian analyst said.
Alexander Rar, Director of the German-Russian Forum, sounded less categorical. He described the Helsinki Final Act as a re-creation of Yalta Agreements but with an injection of liberal values and without a division into the winners and the losers. If successful, such an approach, based on the “changes through trade” principle, could lead to the formation of a common foundation of legitimate “soft” security in Europe. However, at the end of the 1970s, after the arrival of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, the Cold War resumed with a renewed vigor while the thaw of the second half of the 1980s led to the unilateral dominance of the United States and its allies, who, having taken advantage of the opportunities before them, began to build a system of European security which would serve their needs. All this has disabled the OSCE, which has come to serve as an instrument to control the political processes in countries which aspire to become part of “Greater West”.
In spite of such a sad outcome, it would be a shame if the OSCE disappeared completely. According to A.Rar, the rapidly changing international situation may present the organization with new opportunities. However, a new effective security architecture for entire Europe will require partnership with the Eurasian Economic Union and a real, not verbally declared, implementation of the “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” principle.
Should Russia be part of European balance or is this agenda, along with the OSCE, part of the past? Professor Istomin of the applied analysis department of the Moscow Institute of International Relations says Moscow is consistently pursuing the policy of building an inclusive bloc-free security architecture which would enable Russia to enjoy equal status with western partners. The signing of the Helsinki Final Act helped our country to achieve a lot in this area and create a regular negotiating platform to this end. However, the mere signing of the document was not enough to settle the long outstanding fundamental issues. As for the thaw of the 70s, it became possible thanks to the processes taking place outside Europe, rather than to the Helsinki Conference. At present, the “European” direction is neither the most promising, nor the only possible for Russia. However, the EU and relations with Brussels preserve their value, even though many features of the European system are extremely unpleasant for Moscow, while the legacy of ideological and bloc confrontation has yet to be overcome.
From our partner International Affairs
Nurturing Sino-EU Ties through Multilateralism
Considering the fact that relations between China and the EU are shifting, they will continue since China’s position as a crucial economic powerhouse for the EU cannot be understated, especially as the EU confronts a real and technical economic downturn. In the Eurozone, countries such as the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Germany are experiencing a deceleration in economic growth, which requires immediate consideration. The primary reason for this is the industry-related crisis caused by the collapse of export operations on both domestic and global markets due to a lack of purchasing power.
If this mild downturn becomes a full-blown crisis, the economies of both the European Union and the United States could stagnate. Because of these challenges, the European Union (EU) must strike a fine balance between resolving the current crisis and accommodating U.S. demands. The recent summit of European Union leaders holds great importance as the EU determined its policy towards China. The EU’s economic prospects are highly dependent on developing strong ties with China.
When combined with China’s growing consumer market and massive expenditures in infrastructure, the European Union’s economy has a once-in-a-generation chance to rebound and thrive. The European Union (EU) stands to gain from closer economic connections with China due to the opportunities it presents for increased collaboration, broader trade, and the infusion of much-needed Chinese investment into the EU’s flagging industrial sectors.
Recognizing this undeniable potential, the EU must priorities capitalizing on the benefits of its partnership with China, whilst likewise making sure that the relationship remains mutually beneficial and sustainable. The path towards achieving such equilibrium, however, is fraught with obstacles, mainly due to external pressures from the United States. Notably, the United States has imposed tariffs and trade restrictions on a number of European products, creating financial challenges for European companies. These actions are frequently used as pressure to influence Europe’s approach to China.
The EU is in a precarious position, compelled to navigate an environment where financial goals, geopolitical issues, and common values intersect. Maintaining a delicate equilibrium is essential. The pressure exerted by the United States highlights the necessity for Europe to assert its own interests and independence in international affairs. It is essential that the EU devise an independent and principled strategy that protects its own interests while approaching China with a productive discussion.
European Council President Charles Michel’s recent statement that it is in the EU’s best interest to maintain “stable and constructive” ties with China has, in a sense, confirmed the continuation of EU-China relations. In a latest commentary, Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, pointed to how the EU could modify its policy towards China. However, he advocated for “vigorous engagement” between the EU and Beijing.
Under the weight of US pressure, maintaining a delicate balance in EU-China relations requires careful handling. European leaders will have the opportunity to define the EU’s position on China at the upcoming EU summit, ushering in a future of balanced, constructive, and mutually beneficial engagement. It is essential that European leaders seize this opportunity and set a course that protects their economic interests and fundamental values. In this manner, the EU can promote stability, resilience, and sustainable growth in the face of changing global dynamics.
At this critical juncture, leaders must engage in exhaustive dialogues that incorporate the many facets of the EU’s relationship with China. The promotion of human rights should be coupled with economic considerations. Considerations such as trade disparities, rights to intellectual property protection, and the development of equitable market practices must be addressed in an open discussion. This strategy will ensure an equitable playing field for EU and Chinese businesses, fostering an environment conducive to healthy competition and long-term economic growth.
The foundation of Sino-EU relations should base on mutual interest and respect, multilateralism, and economic exchanges, and they should be exempt from illicit US interference and pressures. By navigating these complexities and forging a path that safeguards economic interests and fundamental values, the EU can promote stability, resilience, and sustainable growth in the face of changing global dynamics.
China-Germany Win-Win Cooperation
The China-Germany cooperation exemplifies the transformative potential of collaboration based on mutual regard, shared objectives, and complementary strengths. This exceptional partnership has spawned a domino effect that extends beyond bilateral relations, inspiring other nations to pursue similarly mutually beneficial partnerships.
As the world becomes more interconnected, countries can learn from the China-Germany model of cooperation, which fosters economic development, technological advancement, environmental stewardship, and cultural exchange. By adhering to the principles of win-win cooperation, nations can construct a more prosperous, sustainable, and harmonious global community.
China and Germany’s dynamic and mutually beneficial cooperation is a shining example of win-win collaboration on the global stage. Both nations have nurtured strong economic and diplomatic ties over the years, resulting in enormous advances and benefits for their respective societies.
Strong and coordinated global action is needed immediately to combat climate change and advance sustainable development. There is still a lot to be done, but China and Germany have already shown their dedication to environmentally friendly and low-carbon development. By aligning their strategies and exchanging best practices, they can expedite the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.
China’s pledge to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 shows its commitment to a deep low-carbon transformation of its economy and society. Through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) administered by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the German Federal Government supports Sino-German climate change cooperation.
Collaboration in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, the circular economy, and sustainable transportation can lead the way for a greener future, mitigating the effects of climate change and nurturing ecological equilibrium.
China and Germany have established a strong economic partnership that has benefited both countries significantly. Germany’s main commercial partner is China, and vice versa, and this strong bilateral commerce has led to significant economic growth and employment creation. This collaboration has given German businesses access to the sizable Chinese market.
Notably, the exchange of products, services, and knowledge between the two nations has fostered innovation, productivity, and economic resiliency, thereby laying the groundwork for long-term cooperation. This commitment to cooperation has yielded an array of beneficial effects, strengthening the conviction that win-win partnerships can drive progress and prosperity in an interdependent world.
The dynamic economic partnership that has grown between the two nations is one of the pillars of China-Germany cooperation. Germany, known for its scientific prowess, inventiveness, and precision engineering, found a favourable market in China, with its enormous customer base and rapidly expanding economy.
On the other hand, China’s manufacturing expertise and devotion to infrastructure development have presented German businesses with incredible possibilities to expand their operations and enter new markets. Entrepreneurs from both nations could keep pursuing openness, inclusiveness, and win-win cooperation, as well as keep the stability of industrial and supply chains with high-level practical cooperation. This symbiotic relationship has allowed both nations to capitalize on their respective strengths, resulting in economic expansion and job creation for both countries.
China and Germany have also established cooperation in the fields of innovation and research, recognizing that advancements in these fields are crucial agents of economic and societal progress. Through joint research initiatives, academic exchanges, and institution-to-institution collaboration, both nations have been able to pool their intellectual resources, foster innovation, and address global challenges. This cooperation has not only led to revolutionary scientific discoveries, but it has also set the groundwork for future innovations in technology that will benefit all of humanity.
China and Germany have fostered cultural exchange and people-to-people diplomacy in addition to their economic and technological cooperation. By encouraging education exchanges, cultural events, and intercultural dialogue, both countries have built bridges of appreciation, understanding, and friendship. Not only do these interactions enrich the lives of individuals, but they also strengthen the bilateral relationship as a whole. They facilitate dialogue, eliminate preconceived notions, and set the groundwork for mutually beneficial relationships and respect.
By expanding on these accomplishments and upholding a spirit of mutual respect and shared objectives, the China-Germany partnership can continue to advance progress and inspire global collaboration.
The China-Germany model of win-win cooperation provides valuable lessons for nations seeking to forge prosperous partnerships. It emphasizes the significance of mutual respect, trust, and open communication as the foundations for productive collaboration. It also emphasizes the importance of recognizing and capitalizing on balance in strengths and resources, which allows nations to maximize the positive effects of cooperation.
The Eurasian Zeitenwende: Germany and Japan at the Crossroads
Russia’s decision to invade in Ukraine in February of last year has been nothing short of a critical juncture in recent history—sending reverberations across the entirety of Eurasia. Seldom have events on one end of the continent been so consequential on the other. Russia’s invasion has shattered the prime directive underpinning the long peace after the Great Wars—the inviolable right to sovereignty has been shattered, as mass armed aggression has reared its head once again. Nowhere is this sweeping change felt than in Berlin and Tokyo—to capitals separated by over 12,453 kilometers of land and sea.
German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz spoke to the Bundestag just three days after Russia’s invasion, on the ‘historic turning point’, the Zeitenwende this moment presented. Not a year later, on December 16, after much negotiation Japan finally released their first National Security Strategy in almost a decade. Ukraine provided for both governments the impetus to shed decades of consensus on defense policy. Berlin and Tokyo were once partners in the greatest conflict wrought on mankind, and today they are once again on the same page—but this time arming in the name of global peace.
The postwar consensus
With 1945 came the crashing down of the German and Japanese imperial ambitions that underwrote the explosions of violence from 1914 to 1945. The first half of the twentieth century saw successive orders predicated the passing of power; the imperialist order long preceded the turn of the century, and came crashing with the First World War. From there, a brief liberal interlude of the Washington Conference was doomed to fail given Anglo-American isolationism, and from that chaos was born—a return to imperialism. With these passing orders, German and Japanese leaders debated and sought to reinvent themselves in response to changing tides across the globe.
In fact, twice in the last century, during Twenty-five Years Crisis, Wilhelmine and Nazi imperialism exploded in the European theater. For the Japanese, a slow roll to imperial domination in Asia began much before the war and exploded in the 1930s. This imperial flame was extinguished almost as soon as it was ignited—bringing with it the deaths of millions through genocide and war, and the destruction of much of the world’s industrial capacity. In the wake of it, a similar thinking overtook both Berlin and Tokyo. In the wake of the horrors of war, both peoples came to a similar conclusion that militarism ought be eschewed—with Japan going as far as enshrining its anti-militarist urge in the constitution’s article 9. Though it must be noted, the Germans accepted their guilt—the Japanese continue to engage in denialism and apologia.
For decades, under the guise of guilt in Germany, and occupation-enforced constitutional limits for Japan, both countries eschewed providing for their own national defense needs—instead relying on the all-powerful U.S. security guarantee.
A new look in a new environment
This change that has occurred here has happened within the context of what Dr. Kent Calder described in The New Continentalism: Energy and Twenty-First Century Geopolitics, and Supercontinent: the Logic of Eurasian Integration, as ‘proto-continentalism’—the modern stirrings of transcontinental integration. The continent was transformed by China’s Four Modernizations, the Oil Shock, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union—all requiring readjustments on the continent. Continental integration followed the integration and modernization within China, the Oil Shock highlighted the need for energy-driven interconnection, and the collapse of the Soviet Union meant no more Cold War political antagonisms. These changes meant that there were suddenly lower costs for trade across the continent—one rife with great complementaries. Like some geographic providence, the world’s largest energy producers in the Middle East, sat between the world’s biggest consumers in Europe and Asia.
Of course, this integration isn’t just relegated to the economic realm—but also the defense sector. Whereas integration was predicated by the near-collapse of mass interstate conflict, the War in Ukraine would seem to threaten just that. But in fact, integration ensures the costs associated with this conflict are felt from one end of the continent to the other. This inherently ties the most far-flung countries on matters of defense—exactly what ties Berlin and Tokyo, and their similar responses to the war in Ukraine. This integration doesn’t just tie Berlin and Tokyo, but also Seoul and Warsaw, both of which have seen deepened defense cooperation not limited to the production of South Korean tanks and artillery in Poland. Furthermore, Japan has sought out increased cooperation with NATO.
The mutually-reinforcing loop
Russia’s invasion has been an unmitigated tragedy for the people of Ukraine—but a boon for solidarity in the ‘Western’ security architecture, including the West’s numerous Asian allies and partners, and Eurasian integration writ large. In fact, the mutual economic ties that have fostered closer defense ties across the region, will continue to reinforce each other. Integration between these partners, across various sectors is the greatest mitigator of future conflict—an idea that underpins the great postwar peace, and one that will continue to endure.
Today, Germany and Japan, once imperial menaces to the international system, now make a proactive contribution to global peace—in deciding to behave like normal countries, and arm amidst a threatening global environment. Their contribution to the peace is in the solidification of transcontinental defense ties—ones predicated on deep economic integration.
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