“Equal Right to Security”

In the runup to Baerbock's visit to Moscow, criticism is being voiced on the confrontational approach to Russia. OSCE Charter: Choice of alliance “not at the expense of the security of other states.”

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) – Prior to Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's talks with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, criticism was raised over Berlin and Washington's current confrontational approach to Russia. The West's policy toward Russia, which is “only based on deterrence,” has “been unsuccessful,” according to the political scientist Johannes Varwick in an article published by a leading German journal. Extensive negotiations with Moscow are indispensable. They should include the perspective of Ukraine’s “neutrality” (“Finlandization”). Contrary to claims by politicians and the media, Ukraine’s “free choice of alliance” is not the only applicable principle in international agreements regarding the country's possible NATO accession. Several OSCE documents oblige European states to choose their security arrangements, such as joining a military alliance, “not at the expense of the security of other states.” German media, on the other hand, are advocating a further escalation of the dangerous conflict.

“Security is indivisible”

The “free choice of alliance” that western states are currently claiming for Ukraine, has in fact been explicitly enshrined in numerous international agreements. According to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the participating states at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) have the right to be “a party to treaties of alliance.” In the 1990 Charta of Paris, the signatory states explicitly “recognize the freedom of states to choose their own security arrangements.” This right, however, is embedded in a framework, intended to ensure that the free choice of alliance does not lead to an escalation of conflicts. Thus, the 1994 CSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security states that “security is indivisible.” CSCE participating states should “not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states,” but should “pursue their own security interests in conformity with the common effort to strengthen security and stability in the CSCE area and beyond.” They should “base their mutual security relations upon a co-operative approach.”

“Not at the Expense of Other States”

The inclusion of the free choice of alliance into a comprehensive overall context is also stipulated in the 1999 Charter for European Security. Over the past few days and weeks, it has, at times, been pointed out that in its paragraph 8, the Charta reaffirms “the inherent right of each and every participating state to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance.” However, it was systematically ignored that the same paragraph stipulates that “each participating state will respect the rights of all others in these regards,” and that “each participating state has an equal right to security.” Thus, the Charter for European Security stipulates that the participating states shall “not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states.” No one – including the West – shall claim pre-eminence: “Within the OSCE no state, group of states or organization can have any pre-eminent responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the OSCE area or can consider any part of the OSCE area as its sphere of influence.” Paragraph 9 states that “the security of each participating state is inseparably linked to that of all others.”

“A Fatal Mistake by the West”

Recently the editor-in-chief of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Eiric Gujer criticized the selective – and thus falsifying – manner western powers are laying claim to internationally guaranteed rights. According to Gujer the West “shares the blame” for the current escalation of tensions: The West “ignores a central lesson of European History, according to which a balance of power, seen as fair by the parties involved, is the best prerequisite for stability.”[1] Since the beginning of the 1990s, however, “an imbalance has developed” on the European continent: “The Russian empire has been ... pushed far off into the East.” “From the Russian standpoint, that is not an equilibrium, and certainly not one that is fair,” observed Gujer. In this respect, “the imbalance ... should have been reason for seeking dialogue and thereby defusing the conflict. However; “the assumed winners of history” failed to do so, and instead watched with absolute “indifference at how Moscow’s bitterness was growing over the reapportionment of power in Europe.” This, he said, was a “fatal mistake.” “Moscow is not going to give up.” Gujer calls for “accepting Russia’s having a say and neutrality for Ukraine between the power blocs.” “This would be a realpolitik front straightening.”

Negotiations instead of Escalation

In essence, Johannes Varwick, professor for International Relations at the Martin-Luther-University in Halle-Wittenberg, made a similar pronouncement yesterday (Monday). Varwick wrote in his opinion piece published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “indignation and cliché-like reprobation lead nowhere.” “Realpolitik is now what is needed.”[2] Moscow’s apprehension of being encircled “through the West’s expansion under US leadership,” is not unreasonable. “For years,” Russia has also “made it clear that it sees the western policy as a massive violation of its interests.” He wrote that “blindly rejecting” the Russian proposals to reach a treaty-based solution to the escalating tensions between the West and Moscow, presented in December, was “wrong.” Instead, the “very non-committal talks” held last week should lead to “a high-ranking conference” that “without preconditions, would hold consultations” on a “revitalization of the European security structure.” During these talks “full mutual transparency for military maneuvers” and simultaneously “a reduction of sanctions” should be agreed upon. Varwick refers explicitly to the “’Finlandization’ of Ukraine that means neutrality, no matter how you spell it.”

“Treated as an Adversary”

Unimpressed by any of the criticisms or warnings of a highly dangerous continued escalation, influential German media are agitating for further steps to exacerbate the conflict. Last week, for example, it was declared that the West must “stand united” and “if necessary, impose harsher sanctions” on Russia. [3] On the other hand, an alleged German government’s “snuggle up approach” toward Moscow would be “dangerous.” Whoever speaks today of a “European peaceful order with the inclusion of Russia” is “fantasizing.”[4] Late last week, it was explicitly written that “the NATO countries must go on a confrontation course with the head of the Kremlin Putin,” “Putin must be treated as an adversary – not as a partner.”[5]


For more information on this theme see also Red Lines.


[1] Eric Gujer: Der Westen braucht eine neue Russland-Strategie: Was er im Umgang mit Moskau falsch macht. nzz.ch 14.01.2022.

[2] Johannes Varwick: Der Westen muss Russland eine Brücke bauen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.01.2022.

[3] Matthias Brüggmann: Im Russland-Streit brauchen wir harte Verhandlungen – und notfalls scharfe Sanktionen. handelsblatt.com 11.01.2022.

[4] Paul Ronzheimer: Der Kuschel-Kurs ist gefährlich. bild.de 14.01.2022.

[5] Maximilian Popp: Putin als Gegner behandeln – nicht als Partner. spiegel.de 14.01.2022.

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