Towards a Euro-Atlantic Confederation
No. 1 2011 January/March
Hall Gardner

Hall Gardner is Professor and Chair of the Department of International and Comparative Politics, American University of Paris; a Member of the Group of Experts of the EastWest Institute that produced the report: Euro-Atlantic Security: One Vision, Three Paths after the August 2008 Georgia-Russia War.

Practical Steps for the U.S., Russia and Europe to Coordinate Security, Defense and Peacekeeping

Unlike the Cold War, in which U.S.-Soviet relations were more in discord than in collaboration, the post-August 2008 U.S.-NATO-European-Russian relationship will increasingly be characterized by more collaboration than discord. While numerous policy differences and disputes will continue to plague the U.S.-NATO-European-Russian relationship (most importantly for this discussion, issues surrounding NATO enlargement and the Black Sea and the Caucasus), there are nevertheless enough common interests – and common values – to bring these differing centers of power and influence into an entente or alliance relationship. It is still possible for the United States, Europe and Russia to ultimately forge a Euro-Atlantic confederation to implement a more effective and concerted approach to an increasing number of common geo-economic challenges and potential security threats. 

In many ways, the November 2010 Lisbon Summit, which issued NATO’s New Strategic Concept, plus the December 2010 Russia-EU summit, has set the stage for a potential NATO-European-Russia entente, if not ultimately, an alliance. The text of the NATO Strategic Concept and that of the NATO-Russia Council Joint Statement differ slightly in that the latter is much more enthusiastic about the prospects for NATO-Russian cooperation. The NATO-Russia Council Joint Statement does not, for example, mention such negative concerns as the “transparency” of Russian tactical nuclear weaponry or the possibility of additional NATO enlargements that could impact upon Russian defense planning. Yet the NATO Strategic Concept does nevertheless emphasize the need to “enhance the political consultations and practical cooperation with Russia in areas of shared interests, including missile defense, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, counter-piracy and the promotion of wider international security” and to “use the full potential of the NATO-Russia Council for Dialogue and Joint Action with Russia.”

In addition to the promise of strengthened NATO-Russian cooperation at the NATO Lisbon Summit, the European Union, at its own December 2010 Russia-EU summit, has promised to support Russian Federation membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Russia and the EU also plan to enhance trade, investment, technology modernization and energy cooperation, in addition to engaging in cooperation over the “frozen conflicts” between Transnistria and Moldova and in the Caucasus, not to overlook discussions with respect to human rights and law. 

The realization that Russia needs European markets for its energy production, that Russian technological capabilities are lagging behind those of Europe and the United States, that Russia must furthermore diversify its economy in the face of the post-2007 global recession/depression, combined with the fact that a rapidly rising China is competing with Russia for international arms sales and challenging Russian markets in Central Asia and elsewhere – and is additionally feared to be eyeing resource rich Siberia – has helped to press Russia towards a closer relationship with Europe as well as with the United States. The rise of China as a significant political, economic and military power has raised concerns that Russia could soon become a mere junior partner to Beijing, thus leading Moscow to entertain second thoughts about pursuing a closer Sino-Russian relationship. Yet the U.S. and Europe still need to offer Moscow significant incentives in the effort to attract it away from its self-destructive flirtation with China, and in an effort to forge a Euro-Atlantic confederation that will benefit all three parties, but not alienate China.

American and European Union support for Russia’s bid to join the WTO is crucial from the Russian perspective. At the same time, however, Georgia’s threat to veto Russian WTO membership represents one of the possible wild cards that could upset the burgeoning U.S.-European-Russian entente, and thus undermine Russian efforts to climb up from the lowest ranks of the G20. The question of Georgia is likewise one of the geostrategic keys to resolving the impasse over the 1999 Adapted Conventional Forces in Europe (ACFE) Treaty – in addition to reducing military tensions between NATO and Russia – which could potentially result in major reductions in defense expenditure for both NATO member states and Russia. As the question of Georgia is likewise linked to energy transit routes through the Caucasus from the Caspian Sea, how to handle the Georgia question is also key to the development of the entire region. 

Nevertheless, the possibility of bringing Russia into a new system of Euro-Atlantic security that could address the security and development concerns of East-European states, Ukraine, as well as Georgia, in a positive way might not be as difficult to implement in practice as might be presumed, despite the evident geostrategic and geo-economic tensions. What is needed is a new “strategic vision” that goes beyond NATO’s “strategic concept” and that seeks to develop the full potential of Eastern Europe, the Black Sea and the Caucasus to the benefit of these regions – while concurrently aligning the collective political-economic, as well as the defense, capabilities of the U.S., Europe and Russia to more effectively meet the emerging challenges and threats of the 21st century.


My proposal is the following: The formation of at least three International Centers for the Coordination of Security, Defense and Conflict Mediation/Peacekeeping in Kaliningrad, Cyprus, and Sevastopol. Each Coordination Center would work under the auspices of the NATO-Russian Council and would help to implement confidence building measures and coordinate security and defense activities in each region. These Centers could provide joint NATO-Russian protection for energy transit routes and facilities, for example, and take measures to defend against acts of terrorism. They would likewise help to provide the security architecture for conflict resolution and peacekeeping and assist development projects and post-conflict reconstruction where necessary. 

Each Center would consequently work with the OSCE, the UN, the European Union, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Black Sea Economic Community (BSEC), and other international regimes where appropriate. This is not to overlook the need to effectively coordinate actions with numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that can provide added value – in accord with what NATO calls its “comprehensive” approach. In other words, although these International Centers would be primarily concerned with coordinating issues related to security and defense, they would also need to be engaged in the social and political aspects of development and reconstruction. 

Sevastopol. An International Center for the Coordination of Security, Defense and Conflict Mediation/ Peacekeeping in Sevastopol in partnership with Kiev would seek to coordinate relations between NATO, the European Union and Russia in the larger Black Sea/Caucasus region in the creation of a new “regional security and development community” for the region. In addition to the joint NATO-Russian protection of energy transit routes, pipelines and facilities, this key Center would also seek out joint measures to counter the trafficking of arms, drugs, humans, among other illicit activities, including acts of terrorism. It would likewise be responsible for joint NATO-Russian Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems as well as Partnership for Peace (PfP) peacekeeping in the so-called “frozen conflicts” in the Black Sea/Caucasus Area. 

A Center in Sevastopol would help strengthen the security role of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) with Russian, European, and American support in the creation of a new Black Sea/Caucasian Confederation in the longer term. 

Such an International Center in partnership with Kiev would also assist the implementation of a revised version of the Turkish proposal for a “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” but with additional Russian, European, and American security assurances. The implementation of this project would involve the deployment of PfP peacekeepers in a Dayton-like agreement within the not-entirely “frozen conflicts” in the Caucasus and Transnistria, among other possible areas, under a general OSCE mandate for a transitional period. 

Kaliningrad. A Center in Kaliningrad would seek to coordinate relations between Russia, Germany and the Baltic/North Sea regions. In addition to engaging in joint NATO-Russian protection of energy transit routes, pipelines and facilities, this Center would likewise be responsible for establishing confidence and security building measures between NATO and CSTO members and help to find ways to bring Kaliningrad and Russia closer to the European Union. This Center could likewise operate joint Ballistic Missile Defense systems, if deemed appropriate for that region. Most importantly, this Center would oversee conventional and tactical nuclear weapons reductions/eliminations once agreements can be negotiated in working with the OSCE. 

The main task of an International Center in Kaliningrad would be to “soften the edges” between new NATO members, as well as the expanding EU Eastern Partnership (including former Soviet bloc states of  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), with respect to Russia and CSTO members. As in the case for Sevastopol, one could also implement a system of BMD/TMD cooperation in Kaliningrad under the direction of the NATO-Russia Council. Such an International Center could also engage in overseeing nuclear and conventional arms reductions/elimination under a finalized ACFE treaty, including tactical nuclear weaponry. To accomplish this, greater transparency is essential, involving open exchange of military data, mutual inspections, and mutual observation of military activities and exercises.

Here, a Cooperative Airspace Initiative has already been developed, with its NATO Coordination Center located in Warsaw; yet additional confidence building measures could also be taken. PfP forces (involving troops of differing countries acceptable to all sides) could be deployed in the Baltic States, for example, or in other disputed areas or conflict areas throughout Eastern Europe, once again under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council. 

Somewhat similar to the Franco-German brigade that was established in 1987-1989 to restore confidence and defense cooperation between the historic enemies, France and Germany, these PfP forces would provide deterrence and greater reassurance that East-European states would not be threatened by Russia, or by other regional powers. Moscow itself would, in turn, be reassured that East-European states backed by NATO would not be able to engage in actions that threaten the national interests of Russia or other states in the region. In effect, such PfP deployments under the NATO-Russia Council would make NATO guarantees more credible than in the present situation in which NATO has promised not to forward deploy “substantial combat forces” or nuclear weaponry. For its part, Russia would not be able to threaten the deployment of tactical nuclear weaponry or somehow pressure NATO members. Both sides would furthermore commit themselves to radical conventional and nuclear arms reductions in Europe and western Russia, if not the elimination of tactical nuclear weaponry altogether.

Cyprus. The creation of an International Center for the Coordination of Security, Defense and Conflict Mediation/Peacekeeping in Cyprus (most likely under a general UN mandate) would represent a means to help reconcile Greek and Turkish Cypriots and engage in peacekeeping on Cyprus (if still deemed necessary). It would help oversee security throughout the Euro-Mediterranean, as well as the wider Middle East (linked to Gulf Security). It could also help achieve a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians (as well as between Israel and Syria and between Israel and Lebanon) – assuming a diplomatic settlement can eventually be found to that significant conflict. 

In political terms, this Center would work to improve the NATO-European Union-Turkish and Russian defense and security relationship. This Center would also oversee PfP forces that could be deployed under a general UN mandate to help prevent renewed conflict between Israel and a new Palestine – assuming a diplomatic settlement can eventually be reached. 

Such an approach would likewise help bring Turkey into a new relationship with the European Union (particularly if Turkey can join the European Defense Agency as an associate member) – in addition to assisting the socio-economic and political development of a new Palestine, with Turkey as a key actor (and major economic player) linking the Black Sea, Caucasus, Euro-Mediterranean and Gulf state regions. Symbolically, Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation backed by the deployment of NATO PfP forces from countries acceptable to both sides – and that would work in cooperation with both Palestinian and Israeli defense forces – would weaken the appeal of pan-Islamic groups in the propaganda war in the “global war on terrorism” – while helping to reduce the Iranian presence in the region.

Given the radical changes taking place throughout the “greater Middle East,” involving popular opposition to differing authoritarian regimes, coupled with overlapping Israeli-Iranian-Saudi geopolitical rivalries, such a Center would be of major importance in helping to coordinate aid and assistance to develop and stabilize the new democracies in Tunisia and Egypt, while at the same time helping to ameliorate what could become a major refugee crisis, assuming the economies of the region do not pick up steam shortly. In addition to finding ways to mediate between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Israel and Palestinians, such a Center could address the ongoing civil war in Libya by helping to protect refugees and by coordinating aid and assistance – particularly if the UN Security Council calls for the enforcement of economic sanctions, an arms embargo, or possibly in the aftermath of the imposition of a “no-fly zone” over Libyan territory.

For purposes of brevity, I will focus primarily on the Black Sea and Caucasus.


The possible diplomatic resolution of the not-so-frozen conflicts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia with respect to Georgia and Transnistria with respect to Moldova could also help lead to general accord over the 1999 Adapted Conventional Forces in Europe (ACFE) treaty. UN, OSCE and European Union efforts to mediate these conflicts, followed by efforts to develop and reconstruct these conflict zones, could additionally assist the prospects for a reduction of conventional forces, if not an elimination of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and western Russia.

The major dilemma is that it has thus far been impossible to establish a general accord over the 1999 ACFE Treaty. Moscow began to oppose the ACFE treaty after NATO expanded in 2004 to a number of East-European states that have not yet ratified the ACFE and has likewise argued that there should not be any linkage established between the ratification of the ACFE treaty and Russian military withdrawals from Georgia and Moldova (in accord with paragraph 19 and Annex 14 of the legally non-binding Istanbul commitments of 1999). Moscow has argued, in part, that these states are not NATO members and thus are not relevant to the ACFE issue. Yet should the ACFE accord eventually collapse altogether, after Russia “suspended” its compliance in 2007, there will be no way to verify conventional forces on both sides. The situation consequently risks initiating a new conventional arms rivalry, particularly in the so-called “flanking regions” of the Caucasus, if not the Baltic region as well. 

In an effort to break the logjam over the ACFE issue, among others, the European Union has focused on the dispute between the Russian-backed Transnistria and Moldova in its talks with Russia on European security. Here, it might be possible to find an arrangement between Transnistria and Moldova based on what can be called asymmetrical federalism. Such an option could better balance disputes between Russia and Ukraine, on the one hand, and Moldova/Romania, on the other, given strong pan-Romanian sentiment in Moldova.

The next step is to initiate real dialogue with Georgia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On the one hand, Washington has publically stated its support for the territorial integrity of Georgia, and has forged a new U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission. On the other, it has also continued talks in Geneva, along with the European Union, UN, and OSCE, with representatives of Russia, Georgia and the “separatist regimes.” 

Here, new thinking is required that re-defines the concept of “independence.” The dispute between the maintenance of Georgia’s territorial integrity versus South Ossetian and Abkhazian demands for the right of self-determination and “independence” is not resolvable within the present context involving separate “nation-states.” (Many demands of new states to be “independent” are simply unsustainable and result in financial dependency upon more developed states. Claims to national independence can also result in the breakup of fairly stable countries into what has been called “matryoshka nationalism”.)

By engaging in new thinking, it may be possible to resolve this issue by revising the Turkish proposal for a “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” – and in the effort to forge a larger confederation for the entire Caucasus. Such a Confederation can be envisioned that would permit Abkhazia and South Ossetia, among other enclaves in the region, to obtain greater “autonomy” or “relative independence” and thus to establish new confederal relationships vis-È-vis Georgia and in relationship to all other states and peoples of the region. This approach – in seeking to establish a loose confederation of all Caucasian states – could also permit Russia to devolve its military presence through the deployment of PfP peacekeepers of differing nationalities in close cooperation with the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE in key strategic positions in the Caucasus, both south and north, but without eliminating Russian influence altogether. This approach could also help convince Georgia not to attempt to reassert control over the breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – and not to block Russian membership in the WTO. 

Once again, this proposal does not represent a new form of geopolitical “containment” of Russia, but a way to provide the necessary joint security architecture in order to stabilize the Caucasus and then open up its tremendous economic, resource and human potential for the benefit of the entire region, if not the world. The U.S., Europe and Russia consequently need to consider the security and development needs for the Black Sea/Caucasus region as a whole through overlapping security assurances that can be reinforced by PfP peacekeepers, for example, under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council, in key areas of dispute. 


There can be no “national” solution to the Caucasus in that a number of ethnic disputes and irredentist claims overlap presently demarcated territorial state borders. Moreover, the membership of these states in either NATO or in the CSTO is not panacea either, in that membership in these separate military camps and command structures, even if these camps can be aligned, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has suggested, would not work to better integrate the entire Caucasus region. 

The dilemma raised here is that NATO has thus far sustained its promises made at the April 2008 Bucharest summit for Georgia and/or Ukraine to enter NATO as traditional full members with Article V security guarantees. The 2010 NATO Strategic Concept, in fact, states that NATO will continue to develop “partnerships with Ukraine and Georgia within the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions, based on the NATO decision at the Bucharest summit 2008, and taking into account the Euro-Atlantic orientation or aspiration of each of the countries” (italics mine). The Strategic Concept likewise appears to keep the door open to the enlargement of NATO membership: “The door to NATO membership remains fully open to all European democracies which share the values of our Alliance.” In July 2010, Kiev, however, officially and controversially declared itself “neutral” and opposed to membership in any alliance. 

The problem raised here is that should NATO expand its membership in the traditional sense of the term to Georgia or to a presently “neutral” Ukraine – and without a solid joint security agreement with Russia – it would permit NATO to be able to unilaterally project its force capabilities into the Black Sea and Caucasus regions. Thus, instead of attempting to integrate Georgia and/or Ukraine back into NATO’s integrated command structure, the U.S./NATO and Russia (plus the European Union where feasible) should work together to help build security from the ground up – in fostering an ultimately self-reliant and self-sustaining “regional security and development community.” 

By contrast with the traditional NATO approach to “full membership,” an International Center in Sevastopol under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council could consequently help better “balance” relations in the Black Sea region. Such an International Center would prevent the region from being potentially divided into an either NATO or Russian/CSTO “sphere of influence” or else a Russian-Turkish energy and trade “condominium.” These latter scenarios could be prevented by fostering greater multilateral economic and development cooperation (including joint U.S.-European-Russian energy projects) and in seeking out joint measures of security cooperation in the defense of energy pipelines and transit routes, for example, through multilateral Black Sea naval cooperation. 

The proposed establishment of an International Center in Sevastopol should not necessarily be excluded from consideration by either Moscow or Kiev – despite the controversial extension of the lease of Sevastopol to Russia’s Black Sea fleet for 25 years, until 2042. The purpose of such an International Center in Sevastopol would be to implement a “cooperative-collective” security approach to the region that seeks to protect both “vital” Russian and Ukrainian interests (including Ukrainian “neutrality”), while at the same time looking for new forms of regional and international cooperation in which NATO, the European Union and Russia all participate. Moscow would still play a key role in protecting its vital interests in the region (such as protecting its key energy transit port at Novorossiysk), but many of the security and defense activities in the region could take place as joint NATO-Russian (and European Union) efforts.


An International Center in Sevastopol in cooperation with Kiev could help coordinate Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) in case of threats to Europe and Russia from Iran or other countries. Without a diplomatic resolution to the dispute (such as that attempted by Turkey and Brazil, among other UN and international efforts), there is a major risk that the Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear energy program could result in the further spread of nuclear weaponry and missile capabilities throughout much of the region (in addition to the already existing Israeli nuclear weapons capacity) – as a major high tech arms rivalry is already in the making in the region. 

In 2007, as one possible option to bring the U.S., NATO and Russia into closer defense cooperation, Moscow had proposed the deployment of a joint U.S.-Russian BMD system  in Armavir, in Krasnodar Krai on Russia’s Black Sea coast, near the key energy transit port of Novorossiysk and close to the Sochi resort area. It seems that this proposal could be revived in new circumstances, under the umbrella of an International Center in Sevastopol. Here, Washington and Moscow would need to carefully calibrate their diplomatic outreach to Iran as they concurrently develop a joint BMD system and other defensive capabilities, so as not to provoke a conflict that could embroil the entire region. 


The U.S. and Europeans need to take Russian President Medvedev’s calls for a new Euro-Atlantic treaty seriously by offering practical initiatives to strengthen Russian participation in Euro-Atlantic security. Strengthening the role of the NATO-Russia Council and the Partnership for Peace, as advocated by the New NATO Strategic Concept, is the key. At the same time, there is a risk that hardline members of the U.S. Senate could block measures President Obama has been taking to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations after their failed attempt to postpone the ratification of New START in late 2010. On the one hand, the U.S., Europe and Russia need to consider security and development within the Euro-Atlantic community as a whole, to prevent further conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia or between Moldova and Transnistria, or else between CSTO-ally Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, among other scenarios. On the other hand, the U.S., Europe and Russia also need to find new concerted approaches to disputes and conflicts outside the Euro-Atlantic area, with regard to Iran, Afghanistan, the wider Middle East, the Euro-Mediterranean  (now including Libya) and the Gulf region – in areas where the U.S., Europe and Russia have common interests. U.S./NATO-Russian policy coordination with the CSTO  and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is crucial in the effort to prevent a possible Taliban victory in Afghanistan that could  destabilize  much of the region. From this perspective, the fact that a U.S.-European-Russian entente is in the vital interests of all three parties should help to override hardline anti-Russian views in the U.S. Senate.

The proposed establishment of at least three International Centers for the Coordination of Security, Defense and Conflict Mediation/Peacekeeping in Sevastopol, Kaliningrad and Cyprus under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council and in cooperation with the UN, OSCE and European Union, among other international organizations and NGOs, would lead to more productive U.S., European and Russian political-economic and strategic cooperation in attempting to reconstruct and develop a number of conflict zones throughout the Euro-Atlantic region, thus “transforming” a number of so-called “frozen conflicts” on the periphery of Europe in a more positive direction for the benefit of all, while likewise seeking to coordinate aid and development assistance for the ongoing socio-political revolutions in the Euro-Mediterranean and wider Middle East regions.

These three International Centers would assist American-Russian-European interactions on a range of issues, including the joint protection of energy pipelines and transit routes, while also defending against potential threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area, such as acts of terrorism or threats from ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and seeking to manage the ongoing civil war in Libya as well as a potential refugee crisis in the Euro-Mediterranean, for example. And finally, unleashing the tremendous energy and market potential of the Black Sea, Caucasus and Caspian Sea regions could ultimately help fuel an American, European and Russian confederation that could more effectively confront the challenges posed by the rise of China, India, Iran, among other emergent powers and potential threats – in the effort to transcend this very dangerous period of financial crisis and geo-economic rivalry.