European and Russian Policymakers Call for Action To Prevent Nuclear Confrontation

A task force of very prominent European and Russian policymakers issued a paper calling for a new crisis- management mechanism in Europe to stop the current crisis from “pitting nuclear armed adversaries against each other.” Entitled “Crisis Management in Europe in the Context of Events in Ukraine,” it was released on Thursday under the auspices of the European Leadership Network (ELN) in London; the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in Moscow; the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) in Warsaw, and the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) in Ankara.

Among the authors are Malcolm Rifkind, former U.K. Foreign and Defense Secretary; Vyacheslav Trubnikov, former director, Russian Foreign Intelligence; Igor Ivanov, former Russian Foreign Minister; Hervé Morin, former French Defense Minister; and Volker Ruhe, former German Defense Minister (see below).

In their press release announcing the report, the Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe wrote that they believe “the current crisis is putting the security of everyone in Europe at risk and is potentially pitting nuclear armed adversaries against each other in a highly volatile region.”

This paper follows one published in January warning that if greater cooperation between East and West were not pursued immediately, then the situation would degenerate into a “new period of confrontation in Europe.” Now, they write they are sorry to say this has come to pass, and therefore, in this second position paper on Crisis Management in Europe, the task force calls for both sides to:

“Exercise full military and political restraint not only among themselves but also on the part of all of their relevant allies and partners in the wider East and South-East European region. Other frozen conflicts in Georgia, Transdniestria, and Armenia-Azerbaijan exist. Escalations in any of them, triggered by third parties acting independently, as in the case of the recent downing of flight MH17, could deepen and widen the crisis between Russia and the West even if neither side intends it.”

The task force paper then outlines the parameters for a new crisis-management mechanism:

“Embrace increased military-to-military communication, information exchange and transparency measures in the interests of avoiding unintended military engagements between NATO and Russia. There have already been several near misses and action is needed both to reduce their likelihood and increase leadership decision time in a context where thousands of nuclear weapons remain on high alert on both sides.

“Engage in direct dialogue with each other on underlying issues of concern in the NATO-Russia relationship, not least on fundamentally differing interpretations and narratives with regard to the principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act.”

The paper recognizes the security interests of both Russia as well as minorities, and clearly states agreement that Ukraine should not join NATO, and that the only hope for its development is in the concrete cooperation between Europe and Russia. “Given this reality,” they write, “the EU and Russia should continue a quiet dialogue on the future creation of a possible economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” although they add that this could be complementary to “both the idea of a Eurasian Union on the one hand and a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership on the other.”

They call for full support of the efforts of the OSCE and urge that the NATO Russia Council should once again start meeting. This current crisis should be solved, they write, so that cooperation can continue and be more effective in Afghanistan, with the Iranian nuclear program, and for the EU, NATO, and Russia to cooperate on countering radicalism and terrorism in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Given who the signatories are, this paper it cannot be easily dismissed. Other signatories include: Des Browne, former U.K. Defense Secretary; Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Polish Foreign Minister; Paul Quiles, former French Defense Minister; Anatoly Adamishin, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the U.K.; Özdem Sanberk, former Turkish Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs; Alexei Gromyko, acting Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and Tarja Cronberg, former Finnish Member of European Parliament and former Director of the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute.

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