Blindsided by Peace?

by Laurie Meadows

19 February 2022 1730 NZDT (18 February 2022 0430 UTC) (updated 25 February 2022)

The mother of all security Treaties

Russia has moved to bring security to all in the 'EuroAtlantic' space. It is in the form of a 'take it or leave it' European Security Treaty.

Now, it is very unusual for a fully formed Treaty to be born without at least months and probably years of negotiation. However, Russia has had nothing but stonewalling, silence, and derision over years of attempting to bring the West to the table to sort out security for all, without exception. No one listened. It's not the first time it has taken the initiative to bring peace for all in Europe.

In 2008, under the Medvedev Presidency, Russia produced a draft European security treaty:
"Based on the results of discussions that have taken place in the last year at various venues, Russia has prepared a draft European Security Treaty. The Russian President has sent this draft to the heads of relevant states and to chief executives of international organisations operating in the Euro-Atlantic region such as NATO, the European Union, the CSTO, the CIS, and the OSCE. Dmitry Medvedev emphasised that Russia is open to any proposals on the subject matter of its initiative and counts on the positive response from its partners and the beginning of a substantial discussion on specific elements of the draft treaty, which text is given below."
It was simply either ignored or rejected.


New security treaties, one for NATO and one for USA

In April 2008 NATO said at Bucharest that the expansion East would now include Georgia and Ukraine. Russia regards such expansions on it's borders as  - literally - existential threats. In August there was a war against Russia in Georgia, with American training and assistance. Russia underscored that Ukraine cannot become part of NATO. The West started pumping "defensive" weapons into Ukraine, and training their military. So-called 'military training' was a revolving door that allowed for a de facto military base. And these bases they expanded to accommodate aircraft capable of delivering guided nuclear bombs to Russia. Russia's concerns were ignored. There had to be an alternative to these provocations.

In December 2021 Russia presented new draft Security Treaties. These are aimed at NATO as an organization, and at the United States in particular. The provisions are short and the language uncompromising. They secure Russia's security while at the same time securing European security.

Unlike the 2008 draft treaty, which is very inclusive of other countries, these two Treaties deal only with US and NATO.

The Russian draft presented to NATO has an extremely important article:
Article 5: The Parties shall not deploy land-based intermediate and short-range missiles in areas allowing them to reach the territory of the other Parties.
Article 5 gives Europe (including Russia) security. It seems a generous move, as it means land based missiles would have to be removed from Russia's isolated Baltic Oblast, Kalingrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania. But Russian surface ships carry missiles, as do it's aircraft. But then so do NATO surface ships and aircraft - and they deploy close to Russia's borders. These facts mean that even if this draft Treaty is signed, there is a lot of work to do. In fact whatever the Treaty, there is still a lot of technical and verification work to do. It needs to be done by experts. But we have been here before, and similar work has been done before.

Even so, in conjunction with other mutual work on reducing nuclear weapon threat, it has real potential. And now the USA has a dilemma. As has NATO. Sign to settle peace, or face 'military-technical measures'. This is diplo-speak for 'if you hold a gun to our head we will hold a gun to your head'. But the Russian gun is faster than the American one. This is creates an extremely unstable setup.


The 2008 Security Treaty says let's talk softly and everyone carry a communal stick


The 2008 Treaty avoided prescriptive language in favor of abiding by the letter and intention of international law, and promoting a spirit of equal cooperation. The Treaty authors were guided by a number of Instruments of International Law, but they have leaned very heavily on the ponderously titled 'Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (1970)'. This declaration came at the end of the cold war, and expresses the almost happy confidence of the General Assembly at that time. A re-affirmation that embrace of the principles of cooperation and good faith was the only ways to a secure future.

"Desiring to promote their relations in the spirit of friendship and cooperation in conformity with international law,

Guided by the principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (1970), Helsinki Final Act of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (1975), as well as provisions of the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes (1982) and Charter for European Security (1999),

Reminding that the use of force or the threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other way inconsistent with the goals and principles of the Charter of the United Nations is inadmissible in their mutual relations, as well as international relations in general,

Acknowledging and supporting the role of the UN Security Council, which bears the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security,

Recognizing the need to join efforts in order to respond effectively to present-day security challenges and threats in the globalized and interdependent world,

Intending to build effective cooperation mechanisms that could be promptly activated with a view to solving issues or differences that might arise, addressing concerns and adequately responding to challenges and threats in the security sphere,"

However, the language is very different in Russia's 2021 draft Treaty 'offer' to USA  :

 Why do I even mention a Treaty that has had its day in the sun, a Treaty that has long since faded into the blackness of night? Because good things return in time. When the sun slips below the horizon it is not gone forever.

The USA and NATO as an organisation may or may not sign Russia's December 2021 mutual security Treaty. Those who believe diplomacy is the poor child of military potential would say they have to sign - Russia is militarily superior. But USA has enormous resource depth - minerals, energy, education, innovation - and these may cancel military potential; and in any case the US potential is still formidable, even although no longer dominant. Neither you nor I know what the US will do. But the USA has neither time on its side, nor 'friendly' space. That 'friendship' is more fear of trade embargo than anything else. And the balance of trade is shifting, just as the balance of military power already has.

Therefore, it seems to me that Russia will bring the 2008 Treaty back into the light, essentially unchanged. It's easy to 'overread' the comments that diplomats make, but I did wonder if President Putin was giving a hint when talking to the French President Macron on February 8th 2022, when, in discussing Ukraine, he urged President Macon to think about Ukraine's development and relationship with Russia,saying "I urge you to take the high road and think about the historical and strategic prospects for Ukraine’s development, its interaction with Russia, and think about creating stable security conditions for everyone, equal for all participants in international affairs.

Although it was framed in the context of Ukraine, the same phrase appeared in the Russian reply to the US response to Russia's draft security initiative:
"In this respect, it should be noted that, during the news conference following the talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow on February 7, 2022, President Vladimir Putin stressed that we are open to a dialogue and urge everybody to “think about creating stable security conditions for everyone, equal for all participants in international affairs.”" - Russian Foreign Ministry Press Release 17 February, 2022
Update: On February 21, 2022, the Russian President announced the intention to recognise the break-away Eastern Ukrainian Oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states (The People's Republic of Donetsk, and the People's Republic of Lugansk).
"We are well aware of our enormous responsibility when it comes to regional and global stability. Back in 2008, Russia put forth an initiative to conclude a European Security Treaty under which not a single Euro-Atlantic state or international organisation could strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others. However, our proposal was rejected right off the bat on the pretext that Russia should not be allowed to put limits on NATO activities." - President Putin, February 21, 2022
A 'Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Between the Russian Federation and the Lugansk People’s Republic' and an identical (presumably) Treaty with the Donetsk People’s Republic were signed on February 21, 2022.

What's good about the 2008 security treaty?

It is an attractive security Treaty. It does not suborn the UN Charter or Security Council, but supports it.
It is not superior to international law, but is happily subject to it.
Its stated aim is to strengthen security of each other.
Its mechanisms allow prompt and effective reaction.

Many of the 193 countries of the world will become parties in a heartbeat - especially African and Asian countries. Why?

1. The 2008 Treaty is styled as a 'European Security Treatment'. It encompasses:
"all States of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space from Vancouver to Vladivostok as well as by the following international organizations: the European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Collective Security Treaty Organization, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Community of Independent States"
It was designed to deal with the urgent needs of the times. But once the US and NATO are forced to make a decision on bilateral security with Russia - and they have to make a decision right now, they are cornered and can't wriggle out - then it settles the matter, one way or the other. Space then opens up for Russia to offer the world either a 'mother of all security deals' or a whole series of identically worded regional security treaties.

Everybody is treated equally, as the wording is the same.

There is no real delay to implementation. These treaties are designed to come into force with only some countries signing. No one needs to wait for a 'holdout' to come on board. There could be a treaty for Europe, a treaty for Eurasia, for Asia, South East Asia, for Asia Pacific, for the Americas (minus the North), for the Caribbean...Russia could initiate treaties in whatever regional designations that would work best.

2. It is very flexible. Any given regional treaty could overlap with a country that is also in another regional treaty, if that was a practical necessity. After all, the wording is the same.

Article 11 (3) allows for countries that are listed in the preamble to a regional treaty to accede to the treaty at a later date. This allows countries to accede as the political winds in their countries shift.

Equally, countries can withdraw at any time if 'extraordinary circumstances endanger it's supreme interests'. 'Supreme interests' most likely refers to a state preserving its sovereignty. It is only required to do an 'exit statement' of what these dangerous 'extraordinary circumstances' are. (This last is a sop to the United States, whose Presidents regularly misuse statements of some mysterious 'emergency' supposedly endangering the US in order to impose trade embargoes and other restrictions on countries it doesn't like.)

3. There are no immediate penalties. All disagreements are worked out around the table, by an increasing cascade of conferences.

4. It is not fixated on military security alone. Article 1 says:
"1. A Party to the Treaty shall not undertake, participate in or support any actions or activities affecting significantly security of any other Party or Parties to the Treaty."
Crucially, the word 'security' isn't defined. Think about security between nations, There is security from military violence, security from gangs of armed religious fanatics, security from human and animal diseases sent into your country, security of water supply from major rivers crossing many national boundaries, security of access to food, security of access to medicine and medical treatment (including vaccines), security from toxic wastes dumped into communal littorals - the list goes on.

The list of actions affecting security is endless. The practice of training, arming, and inciting irregular proxy forces (including criminals) to overthrow or destabilise another countries government has been made famous by both the West and some countries in the Middle East and Gulf. But equally important is the fact that most antibiotics are produced in China and India. If either or both decided to restrict supply to other countries would be disastrous to the population. More so if they use the American technique of adding on third party restrictions. Resources are becoming more and more restrained. Mineral resources are unequally distributed on earth. While the EU, under US direction, has famously (and stupidly) ended the purchase of Belorussian potassium fertilizer (a major export) in order to 'punish' it, in future years the boot could be on the other foot. No one wants that.

So this wide-ranging security concept simply stops harmful actions between signatory states, and stops signatories supporting another signatories harmful actions, whether malign or not. This includes, by the way, trade embargos, which the West mis-names 'sanctions'.

Article 2 (3) is very specifically aimed at countries being put in a position that would breach the treaty - preventative diplomacy, if you like.
(3). A Party to the Treaty shall not allow the use of its territory and shall not use the territory of any other Party with the purpose of preparing or carrying out an armed attack against any other Party or Parties to the Treaty or any other actions affecting significantly security of any other Party or Parties to the Treaty.
This article would have helped prevent a lot of the crimes and provocations that have happened in the world over the last few decades.

5. The proposed treaty wording prevents a party already in another security alliance (e.g. NATO) from joining if their obligations in their prior security arrangement clashes with the articles of the treaty (Article 9 (3)).

In a similar vein, no party can take on an International obligation that clashes with the articles of the treaty. No more illegal 'coalitions of the willing'. The treaty strongly supports the United Nations Security Council as the arbiter of world peace.

6. Any member can be neutral. Members of the treaty are not a 'bloc' against anyone,

7. The treaty allows for any signatory to take issue with another over violation (or threat of violation) of the treaty. This is done through calling a consultation to sort out issue 'as soon as possible' with other interested parties. Importantly, any signatory can take part, even if it doesn't affect them. If it can't be sorted out in mutual friendly cooperative consultation, a conference of signatories can be called, as long as two thirds  of signatories agree.

Early mediation prevents problems from growing.

8. But there are tools to deal with aggression.  Article 7 is worth repeating in full:
Article 7

1. In case of an armed attack or a threat of such attack against a Party to the Treaty, immediate actions shall be undertaken in accordance with Article 8 (1) of the Treaty.

2. Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 8 of the Treaty, every Party shall be entitled to consider an armed attack against any other Party an armed attack against itself. In exercising its right of self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, it shall be entitled to render the attacked Party, subject to its consent, the necessary assistance, including the military one, until the UN Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Information on measures taken by Parties to the Treaty in exercise of their right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the UN Security Council.

Let that sink in. "every Party shall be entitled to consider an armed attack against any other Party an armed attack against itself".

Entitled to, but doesn't have to. It leaves the door open for urgent assistance, including military assistance provided the party being attacked consents. Syria, for example, did not consent to the US incursion into it's territory to attack the armed gangs of criminal religious fanatics of ISIS and other gangsters. The US  coalition deliberately drove them out from Iraq and across the desert into Syria. If Syria was a signatory to the treaty, Russia would be entitled to use force to remove the US from Syria (in fact it wouldn't, as it prefers diplomacy, but in future circumstances, well, who knows?).

This is a powerful deterrent to non-signatories intent on aggression.

Article 8 allows an armed attack or threat on a party (by anyone) to be met with collective action. 'Collective action' is not defined. All signatories convene to decide on 'collective measures'. If an attack on a party is so severe that it can't speak for itself, any other signatory can request all parties be drawn together in an Extraordinary Conference. As long as 80% of party members attend to decide collective action, as decided by a vote, which must be unanimous. If threats of attack, or the attack itself, is from a party to the treaty, it's voted is discounted.

There is no prescription of what 'necessary measures' include, but you can be sure they will be in line with International law, because, I repeat, the treaty subordinates itself to international law. But the UN Charter allows the right to self defense - and the treaty wording explicitly points this out.

What you will have noticed by now is that this mechanism is very similar to the UN Security Council. I suspect this is deliberate. The Security Council is poorly representative of the real world. There are no permanent members from Africa for example. This mechanism brings democracy to collective responses to insecurity from violence.

And it is much easier to achieve a unanimous decision if members of a given regional treaty are more or less of like mind. This, by the way, is a powerful argument for numerous small treaties..

9. Currently, the Secretariat of the OSCE and the UN are poorly balanced, being biased toward western countries. If a secretariat develops around each regional chapter of these unified agreements it will likely reflect the makeup of the countries in the treaty, in contrast to the UN.

10. Important Institutions such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have become politicized and in some cases no longer true to their original mandate.

There is nothing in the security treaty format that would prevent a conference from deciding to use an extremely closely scrutinized independent lab from analyzing chemical samples taken in full compliance with best practice in preserving evidence. There is nothing stopping such a treaty hiring leading experts, say in ballistics, to analyze evidence in order to establish the truth. In other words, if an organization corrupts its own functioning for political purpose, it can be 'outsourced', and it will lose relevance.


How quickly can a Treaty be signed, sealed, and delivered?

The 2008 draft Treaty provided for the Treaty to enter into force 10 days after 25 countries have signed up and ratified it.

Today, Russia, as the originator, may change the time needed to bring any given treaty into force.

Changing the number of draft signatories required before the treaty comes into force also changes the speed with which a treaty can come into force. If there are a number of regional treaties (my conjecture), they can be prioritized. Then there is time to deal with more tranquil regions later.

Other treaties, say a EuroAtlantic one, encompassing maybe not the full 61 countries, but Europe and China (recalling Russia is a European country as well as a Eurasian country) may be a priority. Even if only a handful of the countries listed in a EuroAtlantic treaty as 'candidates' sign up straight away this could be enough - depending on the number of founding signatories required. But this handful would include the most consequential countries - Russia and China. The number of signatories required could be dropped to two...which means the treaty could come into force almost immediately.

Later, 'troublespots' can be dealt with. A regional grouping of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon could form a regional treaty. Such a treaty could include strategically important countries listed but not yet acceded. Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, for example.

This pacing creates a 'breathing space' for Russia, in particular. The burden of putting out geopolitical fires and being the mediating 'meat in the sandwich' will be somewhat removed. Parties can sort out their problems at an early stage. The Russian President will not have to endure more 11 hour sessions pulling Azerbaijan and Armenia away from each others throats. The legacy of the breakup of the Soviet Union - borders that are in some cases are still not properly defined will hopefully be resolved peacefully. And if not, treaty parties can act quickly to apply pressure to the parties, without having to wait for the UN Security Council, and without the risk of peace-actions being vetoes for geopolitical reasons.


The treaty doesn't cover internal struggles

Consider if Russia, Belarus, China, and a few Central Eurasians had joined in a treaty based on the 2008 treaty. How would it affect the current struggle in Ukraine? As far as I can see, it wouldn't. There is a Security Council Resolution requiring Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreement. The resolution has never been cancelled.

It is up to Ukraine to consult with the rebelling regions and find a path to implement autonomy. Autonomous regions in Europe are hardly new. There are 12 autonomous regions in Europe alone, and more in the rest of the world.

But if Ukraine attacks Russia, China and Belarus would be entitled to regard that attack as an attack on themselves.


Summary

If such treaties or treaty comes to pass, the United Nations will be rendered more effective than it currently is. That has to be welcome.

If this treaty rises like the sun at dawn it will be a potent blow, a blow against warmongers, a blow against manipulators, a blow against propagandists, and a blow against the self-privileged blood-sucking soulless parasites that infest our world.

If this, or something like it, is in Russia's plans, no one has seen it coming. We will have been blindsided by peace.

Index of articles on security