Post-Soviet Eastern European countries need temporary coalition with Washington

Author : Andreas Umland

Source : Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Four Eastern European countries, former Soviet republics, which do not yet belong to any defensive alliance are too weak to stand alone against the neo-imperial claims of Russia. A multilateral defense structure could temporarily help them
23:21, 30 October 2018

112 Agency

It is surprising how accurately the zones of influence of international organizations in the Eastern European and South Caucasian post-Soviet space correlate with the territorial integrity of the states of this region. At present, there are two large blocs in Eastern Europe: NATO and the EU on the one hand, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) on the other. Four countries that are not part of any of these unions, namely Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (abbreviated as GUAM), do not fully control their territories.

Vague prospects

In contrast, NATO and EU member countries with large Russian minorities and restrictive citizenship laws, such as Estonia and Latvia, as well as some economically weak CSTO and EAEU member states, for example, Belarus and Armenia - they were able to maintain their internationally recognized borders. But in Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, Transnistria in Moldova, South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, as well as in the Donets Basin (Donbas) in Ukraine, six quasi-states were created with direct or indirect help of the Kremlin. Crimea, which belonged to Ukraine, was simply annexed.

The prospects for an early expansion of the EU and NATO to the east are vague. The UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe, despite clear statements in support of Ukraine and Georgia, made in recent years, have demonstrated their inability to solve the fundamental security problem that determines the situation in the gray zone of Eastern Europe. Various unsuccessful attempts to create common Eastern European security structures undertaken in the past twenty-five years have shown that in the end, only US involvement in the process can get things moving. The active participation of Washington is crucial for the political stability of not only Western, but also Eastern Europe.

This is demonstrated, for example, by the Baltic and Adriatic Charters, signed by the United States and various post-communist countries in 1998 and, respectively, in 2003. Thanks to this temporary alliance with the United States, in the framework of the Baltic Charter, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined NATO in 2004. In the west of the Balkan Peninsula, the US-initiated Adriatic Charter had a very positive effect on the situation which took place twenty years ago. In 2009, Croatia, a state that had not existed two decades ago, and Albania, one of the most brutal dictatorships of Europe, became members of NATO. In 2017, Montenegro, which was bombarded by NATO aircraft twenty years ago as part of Serbia, became the 29th member of NATO. At present, accession of Macedonia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, is also being prepared.

Transitional Coalition

The United States learned its lessons from these successes, as well as from the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. It signed bilateral charters on strategic partnership - in December 2008 with Ukraine and in January 2009 with Georgia. These agreements support Kyiv and Tbilisi in integrating into Euro-Atlantic structures, security cooperation, as well as in preparing these countries for NATO membership. So far, these bilateral charters could be expanded into the multilateral quasi-alliance of all non-affiliated Eastern European states and the United States by analogy with the Baltic and Adriatic Charters. During a transitional period of further expansion of the EU and NATO to the east, this US-GUAM Charter could give an elementary organizational structure to the gray zone of Eastern Europe.

Such a temporary coalition of the GUAM and Washington, guided by the Baltic and Adriatic charters, could help to survive the period until the states of the gray zone become full-fledged members of leading international organizations and join the international system. Even a carefully worded American charter with the GUAM countries would have great symbolic significance. It would strengthen the architecture of Eastern European security, and would also increase the risk for Moscow to encounter resistance if it decides to contribute to the growth of tension in the post-Soviet gray zone.

Read original article at Neue Zürcher Zeitung

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