About us   Editorial Board   Advisory Board   Subscribe   Contact us  
 


CAUCASUS UPDATE

In this section, we publish the weekly analysis of the major events taking place in the Caucasus and beyond. The Caucasus Update is written by our Senior Editor Alexander Jackson. Click here to subscribe.

Joe Biden and European Security, CU Issue 71, May 13, 2010

Last week US Vice-President Joe Biden headed to Europe to meet with top European decision-makers. First up was Belgium to meet NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, followed by a speech to the European Parliament and dinner with the 28 members of NATO’s top body, the North Atlantic Council (Foreignpolicy.com, May 5).

Biden’s visit was primarily intended to reassure Europeans about America’s continuing commitment to the alliance with the Old World. It is hardly a secret that, after the initial euphoria produced by Barack Obama’s election, Europe has felt somewhat neglected by the US. The Vice-President sought to shore up the transatlantic relationship and cement European support for key US policy priorities, although no formal proposals or declarations emerged.

The other, more subtle purpose of the trip was to emphasise the Obama Administration’s commitment to a better relationship with Russia. The ‘reset’ has had mixed success, and Mr Biden outlined some proposals to improve ties with Russia as it relates to European security. In this regard, the most interesting ideas to emerge from the trip were contained in an op-ed by Mr Biden published in the International Herald Tribune (IHT, May 6).

Seeking to engage with Russia as well as reassure European states, the Vice-President underlined the “indivisibility of security” in Europe, which is by now diplomatic shorthand for a quid pro quo with Russia: we will include you in security consultations if you abandon your insistence on a sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union.

More specifically, Mr Biden outlined four key points. Firstly, he reiterated America’s commitment to transparency about military forces, particularly nuclear forces. On May 3 the Pentagon announced that it had 5,113 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, as part of an attempt to improve information-sharing on nuclear weapons (Reuters, May 3). Mr Biden made it clear that he expects Russia to do the same, following the ‘new START’ treaty on arms reduction signed in April.

Secondly, he called for “reciprocal limitations on the size and location of conventional forces”, which should be relevant to the present, not the past. This is in line with NATO’s own determination to revive and revise the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which regulates military build-ups (NY Times, April 29).

The pact was suspended in 2007 by Russia, and was dealt a further blow after the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. The Russian protectorates of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (with substantial, unmonitored Russian military garrisons) remain legally recognised as Georgian territory. This makes Russian arguments to remove the Caucasus from the CFE’s equipment ceilings politically unacceptable for NATO members. especially since Russian troop withdrawals from Georgia and Moldova were key to an adapted version of the treaty.

Reviving the CFE would almost certainly founder on these issues, and its progress would also be dependent on non-conventional weapons such as US tactical nuclear warheads in Europe and Washington’s missile-defence shield. Nonetheless, Mr Biden’s implicit reference suggests that resurrecting the treaty is set to become an important topic in the US-Russia relationship. If successful, a new CFE Treaty could have serious positive implications for security in the Caucasus.

Thirdly, Vice-President Biden insisted that Europe and the US must focus on conflicts outside the European space. This seems to be a veiled prod to encourage Europeans to take on more of the ‘heavy lifting’ in NATO, rather than keeping them ensconced on the continent.

Mr Biden’s fourth point was his most interesting. He called for a “more effective conflict-prevention, conflict-management, and crisis-resolution mechanism to defuse crises before they escalate”, such as in the Russia-Georgia war. Specifically, he backed the establishment of an OSCE Crisis Prevention Mechanism which would defuse tensions and, in times of crisis, empower the OSCE to provide humanitarian assistance, monitoring, and diplomatic support for a ceasefire. It would also allow special representatives to be dispatched in case of serious energy disruptions.

This would be a significant addition to the OSCE’s capability. Mr Biden’s suggestion may be a direct response to the chaos in Kyrgyzstan, which unsettled Washington’s military transit centre in the country, and which the OSCE was manifestly unable to prevent or reduce. It also reflects more general criticism of the organisation’s inability to tackle regional flashpoints in recent years.

Yet it is unclear how this Mechanism would function. The OSCE works on a consensus model, and Russia’s veto power was the reason for the termination of its monitoring mission in Georgia in 2009. It seems unlikely that, in the event of a new war, Moscow would permit the OSCE to push for a ceasefire and redeploy observers. The same holds true in other post-Soviet flashpoints – in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, in Moldova, and in Central Asia. Equally, ‘energy representatives’ would have a hard time getting a mandate to mediate in Russia’s periodic ‘gas wars’ with its neighbours.

Fully-fledged reform of the OSCE would probably only emerge from a much broader ‘grand bargain’ between Washington and Moscow on European security issues: missile-defence, the CFE Treaty, NATO enlargement, and Russian policy towards its former Soviet dominions.

This will clearly not be easy. Mr Biden’s ideas are a welcome step in the right direction, and revamping the OSCE is certainly a topic to watch out for in the months ahead. Forging a more functional security system in Europe will be a long process, but the Vice-President’s visit is a sign of quiet reassurance that Washington remains committed to that goal.



"Joe Biden and European Security, CU Issue 71, May 13, 2010" | 0 comments
The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.
PREVIOUS ISSUES

  Caspian Compromise Backfires for Russia and Iran, CU Issue 83, November 24, 2010
  Turkey in a Tight Spot on Missile Defense, CU Issue 82, November 11, 2010
  The OSCE and Kyrgyzstan’s Election, CU Issue 81, October 30, 2010
  Unblocking the US-Azerbaijan Relationship, CU Issue 80, October 07, 2010
  Nabucco Pipeline: Quo Vadis?, CU Issue 79, September 30, 2010
  Russia tightens its grip in the South Caucasus, CU Issue 78, August 23, 2010
  Armenian Politics: Rigidity Versus Flexibility, CU Issue 77, August 10, 2010
  Russia and Georgia: Ready To Talk?, CU Issue 76, July 21, 2010
  Can the US walk and chew gum at the same time?, CU Issue 75, July 9, 2010
  The Kyrgyzstan Crisis – A Qualified Success for Turkish Diplomacy?, CU Issue 74, June 24, 2010
  Brussels downgrades the Caucasus, CU Issue 73, June 07, 2010
  NATO’s New Strategic Concept and the Caspian Region, CU Issue 72, June 01, 2010
  Joe Biden and European Security, CU Issue 71, May 13, 2010
  Behind the US-Azerbaijan row, CU Issue 70, May 6, 2010
  Turkey and Iran: The risks of failure, CU Issue 69, April 30, 2010
  Kazakhstan, the OSCE, and the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, CU Issue 68, April 19, 2010
  The Implications of the Moscow Bombings, CU Issue 67, April 12, 2010
  Iran Manoeuvres for a role in Karabakh, CU Issue 66, April 5, 2010
  The EU and Abkhazia: Between a rock and a hard place, CU Issue 65, March 16, 2010
  Fallout from the US ‘Genocide’ vote, CU Issue 64, March 9, 2010
  Ukraine's elections and future of GUAM, CU Issue 63, February 10, 2010
  Less Democracy, More Security: Kazakhstan and the OSCE, CU Issue 62, January 18, 2010
  Tackling the North Caucasus Insurgency: Development or Rhetoric?, CU Issue 61, January 11, 2010
  The Caspian Region in 2010, CU Issue 60, January 4, 2010
  The Caspian Region in 2010, CU Issue 59, December 31, 2009
  The Turkmenistan-China Pipeline Changes the Energy Balance, CU Issue 58, December 21, 2009
  Russia’s European Security Treaty, CU Issue 57, December 7, 2009
  The ‘Kidnapping War’ in Georgia and its Implications, CU Issue 56, December 3, 2009
  Azerbaijan Shifts its Energy Priorities, CU Issue 55, November 23, 2009
  The South Caucasian States and Afghanistan, CU Issue 54, November 11, 2009
  Is Turkey turning East?, CU Issue 53, November 2, 2009
  What is Russia’s Gameplan for Iran?, CU Issue 52, October 26, 2009
  Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Where Next?, CU Issue 51, October 19, 2009
  The Armenians of Georgia: A New Flashpoint in the Caucasus?, CU Issue 50, October 12, 2009
  Turkey’s EU Membership: Will The ‘Armenian Opening’ Help?, CU Issue 49, October 5, 2009
  The Missile Defence Shift: Implications for the Caucasus, CU Issue 48, September 22, 2009
  Rising Tensions in the Black Sea , CU Issue 47, September 14, 2009
  Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan: The Clock Is Ticking, CU Issue 46, September 7, 2009
  The Battle of the Bases in Central Asia, CU Issue 45, August 31, 2009
  Russia, Israel, and the S-300s, CU Issue 44, August 24, 2009
  The motivations behind Turkey's 'Kurdish Initiative', CU Issue 43, August 17, 2009
  The Implications of the Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan Dispute, CU Issue 42, August 10, 2009
  What has changed since the August war?, CU Issue 41, August 3, 2009
  The Internal Dynamics of Armenia’s Karabakh Policy, CU Issue 40, July 20, 2009
  Gazprom’s Baku Triumph, CU Issue 39, July 06, 2009
  Ingushetia: The New Chechnya?, CU Issue 38, June 29, 2009
  Georgias Economy - A Matter for Diplomats, CU Issue 37, June 22, 2009
  ‘Progress’ In The Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process, CU Issue 36, June 08, 2009
  Iran's Azerbaijanis and the presidential election, CU Issue 35, June 01, 2009
  Nabucco and South Stream - The Race Heats Up, CU Issue 34, May 25, 2009
  China and Central Asia, CU Issue 33, May 19, 2009
  Russia, Georgia, and NATO - A Bad Week, CU Issue 32, May 11, 2009
  The Obama Administration’s Emerging Caucasus Policy, CU Issue 31, April 27, 2009
  Integration and Division in the Caspian Sea, CU Issue 30, April 20, 2009
  The Turkish-Armenian Rapprochement - Implications for the South Caucasus, CU Issue 29, April 13, 2009
  Turkey's local elections and Armenian issue, CU Issue 28, April 6, 2009
  Is There Life Left In The Nabucco Project?, CU Issue 27, March 30, 2009
  Problems and Prospects for Russian Military Reform, CU Issue 26, March 23, 2009
  Russia and Georgia: Not back to war, CU Issue 25, March 16, 2009
  Armenia: Heading towards crisis?, CU Issue 24, March 9, 2009
  Drug trafficking in the Caucasus, CU Issue 23, February 23, 2009
  Russian-led military block: A real counterweight to NATO?, CU Issue 22, February 16, 2009
  Are the International Missions in Georgia still relevant?, CU Issue 21, February 9, 2009
  Israel and Azerbaijan: Baku’s Balancing Act, CU Issue 20, February 2, 2009
  The North Caucasus in 2009: A Bleak Forecast, CU Issue 19, January 26, 2009
  The Military Balance in Nagorno-Karabakh, CU Issue 18, January 19, 2009
  Russia, Iran, and Barack Obama in 2009, Part II, CU Issue 17, January 12, 2009
  Looking forward to 2009 in the Caucasus and beyond, Part I, CU Issue 16, January 5, 2009
  The opportunities and the risks of NATO’s new supply routes, CU Issue 15, December 22, 2008
  The Black Sea Ambitions of Armenia, CU Issue 14, December 15, 2008
  Another Small Step for Nabucco, CU Issue 13, December 8, 2008
  Will Saakashvili survive politically?, CU Issue 12, December 1, 2008
  The latest fashion: conflict mediation, CU Issue 11, November 24, 2008
  The Baku Energy Summit, CU Issue 10, November 17, 2008
  Obama and the Caucasus, CU Issue 9, November 10, 2008
  Kazakhstan's oil options, CU Issue 8, November 3, 2008
  Is the Minsk Group being sidelined?, CU Issue 7, October 27, 2008
  Gas and oil developments in the Caspian region, CU Issue 6, October 20, 2008
  Where next for the Georgian peace process?, CU Issue 5, October 8, 2008
  Unrest in the North Caucasus, CU Issue 4, September 29, 2008
  Saakashvili's future, CU Issue 3, September 22, 2008
  Iran after the Georgian War, CU Issue 2, September 15, 2008
  Football diplomacy, CU Issue 1, September 8, 2008
       
 
  © 2006-2010 CRIA
  All rights reserved

Editorial Board
Advisory Board
Our Authors

Back Issues
Caucasus Update
Current Issue

Contact Us
Subscribe
Join us on Facebook