J.Borneman. The dilemma for the West: the trenches or attack?


Starting with some general remarks.

The world seems to be in disorder. We see national borders and international rules challenged by force. We see turmoil in our neighborhoods.

To the east, Russia's actions in Ukraine are in breach of international law challenging the post-Cold War peace order. Russia’s actions have severely damaged trust. Russia’s actions pose a major challenge to Euro-Atlantic security.

To the south, borders are disappearing, states are fragile. ISIS or ISIL and other extremist groups across North Africa and the Middle East, are spreading violence and instability at the risk of exporting terrorism to our streets as we have seen in France last Friday.

In the Mediterranean the uncontrolled and illegal flow of immigration from North-Africa and the Middle-East to Europe is challenging European security and solidarity as well. Crossing the Mediterranean Sea very often by desperate journeys relying on people-smugglers is first of all a humanitarian issue but it also has a security dimension.

The same is true in regards to last year’s Ebola Crisis in Central Africa as well as the crisis in the South-China Sea. All these crises have two things in common:

Firstly, they are evolving at the same time and it looks like we have to understand that crises will be more and more part of a globalized world. The question is no longer if there is another crisis, the question is more when will it occur and are we prepared to react adequately We cannot isolate any crisis to a local or regional conflict only, every crisis will impact our stability and security wherever it might occur.

Secondly, they are threatening our political order, the stability of our countries and the solidarity between states which are all together questioning our solidarity and our capability to react.

Having said this, the question is: what is our answer? Is it a dilemma for the West – as it is written in the program of your conference – with a black or white solution “trench or assault” only? I don’t think this would be the right answer. US-Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter said last week in Berlin “the “Play-Book” of the Cold War does not apply to the new challenges of the 21st Century. This requires a new “Play-Book”. But we don’t have this new Play Book yet”.

First of all, I believe and I am sure there is a broad consensus here around the table: there is no isolated solution. This is especially true with regards to the military option. What is needed is to use the full spectrum of instruments of international crisis management in which the military element has to play its role but not always as the decisive one.

And it is also true that no one can, will or should meet all these challenges alone. We must act together. This is the reason why I believe strongly in the necessity of a comprehensive approach, in which UN, OSCE, NATO and EU but also nations have to accept their responsibility, cooperate closely and act accordingly.

This has been easily said but the real world looks much more difficult as recent examples have demonstrated. We are far away from having a real comprehensive approach in crisis management implemented nationally but also internationally.

What does this mean for the crisis you are confronted with? Let me briefly mention six points.

First, I believe that the Russian/Ukraine Crisis is not a simple summer-thunderstorm that came up in the evening of a hot day and disappears overnight so that the next morning the sun is shining again. To the contrary: it’s a game changer which fundamentally challenges the post-Cold War peace order in Europe, by the way, an order which we have created together with Russia in the 90s. Russia’s transition from a promising westernized nation into an aggressive authoritarian regional power aiming to establish a new “Empire” with the right to control the “near-abroad” including the use of military means has created a new situation in Europe. But there is no right to build an Empire and there is no right for a near-abroad. So the first thing to do is to reach a consensus in the West that we do not accept this. My understanding is that we still have this consensus in NATO and in EU. That’s the good news.

Second. I am convinced that we have to live for a longer period with the situation of a confrontation between “the West” and Russia. Not a new Cold War, but a situation which does not allow to come back to business as usual as long as Russia is not coming back to the agreed rules. NATO does not threaten Russia, but NATO has to take into account the security situation of Member States in the region. In this context NATO has taken adequate decisions to reassure Members and to adapt structures to meet Art 5 obligations. I am sure you are aware of these decisions the NATO-Wales Summit has achieved and the status of implementation (Defense Ministers Meeting last week).

Third. There is a consensus that there is no military solution. Not for Ukraine (it is unrealistic that Ukraine can win a war with Russia) and not for NATO (it is also unrealistic to reach a consensus for an active engagement of the Alliance in the conflict). UNSC in New York and the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels cannot play their role due to the blockade of Moscow to stop violence in eastern Ukraine. The OSCE seems to be the only international organization who has some potential to play an active role. The upcoming German Presidency of the OSCE offers maybe possibilities for my country to use a multinational forum for initiatives.

Fourth. Minsk has shown that there is a possibility to reach a political agreement once there is the necessary political will to do so. But we see that this is not a guarantee for implementation. And there is always space for bilateral diplomatic activities, like the US-initiative for a new round of consultations Nuland/Karasin.

Fifth: to stabilize Ukraine requires i.e. sustainable, well equipped and trained security forces. This is an area where NATO and EU can play an important role. We have heard in the previous panel what NATO and EU are already doing in cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities. I will not reiterate what has already been said by colleagues from Brussels. But I know from my previous experience in Berlin and Brussels how close we have cooperated over the last decades. Ukraine was not only one of strongest troop-contributing non-NATO country in various NATO’s operations but also a strong partner in the context of security sector reform. We can build on this, we can do more and we have the necessary instruments and consultation to do it. In addition, nations can of course provide support on a bilateral basis and as I know several nations have started respective programs.

And finally, Sixth. The perspective of Membership in NATO and EU. It is the right of each sovereign country to decide on its own how and in what context she wants to organize her security. No-one has the right to intervene. Besides the fact that a decision is currently not on the agenda, you have the instruments available (NATO-Ukraine Commission, NATO-EU Association Agreement) to move forward. The perspective of an active participation in multinational formations can itself have a positive effect of stabilization. To achieve this, a national consensus is necessary as well as the political will to meet the necessary standards. This is first of all a political challenge for you and your partners.

With this let me close my introductory remarks in this Panel. Thank you very much for your attention. I am ready to listen to your comments or to answer your questions that you may wish to raise.

01.02.2016 21:24:00