Russia and the West

A Security Dilemma in a Multipolar World

27/11/2017 | 18:00 - 20:00 | DGAP Berlin | Invitation only


Category: Russia, International Policy/Relations

Opposing narratives about the constitution of the geopolitical order cause a communication and security dilemma between Russia and the West, international foreign-policy experts said during a public panel discussion in Berlin. The discussion was the last of a series of meetings of the „Strategy Group Russia/Eastern Partnership“, hosted by the DGAP’s Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia. The evening’s key question was what a short- and long-term modus vivendi toward Russia could look like.

“Moscow can feel like an oligarchy in the morning and a democracy in the afternoon, a monarchy for dinner, and a totalitarian state by bedtime” – Jochen Bittner, editor at the German weekly Die Zeit, opened the discussion with this quote by journalist Peter Pomerantsev.

Stefan Meister, head of the DGAP’s Robert Bosch Center, pointed out that this hybrid style of politics as well as differing narratives about developments in the Common Neighborhood led to misunderstandings between Russia and the EU. Whereas Russia was interested in changing the political architecture in Central and Eastern Europe, the West still tried to rely on the agreed terms and conditions: “I don’t think that there is room for compromise at the moment. There are no rules and institutions that both sides accept – that is why the maximum you can get at this point is coexistence,“ Meister stated. 

Dmitry Suslov of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow also warned that “the situation could deteriorate very soon.” Regarding the alarming status of disarmament and arms control between Russia and the West, Suslov underlined that the complete lack of trust in combination with an absence of fear made the situation especially dangerous, calling for mutual deterrence. 

Professor Angela Stent from Georgetown University agreed that the nuclear question was currently the most crucial factor in the relationship between the US and Russia. She stressed that the strained relations between the two countries were rooted in the war in Ukraine and Russia’s violation of the Budapest Memorandum. Stent urged for three major approaches toward Russia: “First, push back where Russia is acting against US interests. Second, engage with Russia where we have common interests. Third, work on long-term strategic stability.”

Hans-Peter Hinrichsen, head of the department on Russia and the countries of the Eastern Partnership at the German foreign office, said that the different perceptions of the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative were one of the causes why relations with Russia were so problematic: “When we created the Eastern Partnership we thought that we would create a win-win situation. We did not take into consideration that Russia would not agree on that perspective.” He also pointed out that Russia was not respecting the Eastern Partnership countries’ sovereignty.

Responding to the argument that Russia had not sufficiently been included in talks, Hinrichsen said: “These are sovereign states. The only thing we can do is talk with Russia if the country wants that. We never forced these countries. They asked us. Sometimes they did not want Russia at the table.” As current elements of Europe’s strategy toward Russia, he listed insisting on the Minsk agreement; strengthening the countries of the Eastern Partnership; resilience against interference from outside; cooperation with Russia in areas where there are mutual interests, and civil society cooperation.

The panelists agreed that in order to avoid escalation, an ongoing exchange at various levels was needed, as well as an early warning mechanism, confidence-building measures, and arms control.

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