Presentation by Ambassador Chizhov at the 11th Berlin Security Conference

Berlin, 28 November 2012

As strategic partners and the two most impressive centres of power on the European continent, Russia and the European Union bear primary responsibility for maintaining regional security in the Wider Europe. This logic lies at the heart of the Russia-EU Roadmap towards a Common Space of External Security agreed at the Russia-EU summit in Moscow in May 2005. Overall this approach has over the past years yielded significant results. Nevertheless, the ambitious potential of our cooperation in the key military-political sphere is being utilized at a surprisingly slow pace, glaringly lagging behind the dynamics of our bilateral trade and investment ties as well as EU’s own institutional evolution.

The current global economic realities, however convoluted and compounding they may be, could actually herald “a moment of truth”, testing the true ability of Russia and the EU to transform their joint military-political efforts into a long-term efficiently structured cooperation.

I would like to briefly highlight some arguments to support my case for enhanced Russia-EU cooperation in this area.

First and foremost, as mentioned by previous speakers, the protracted Eurozone sovereign debt crisis continues to exert considerable budgetary and financial limitations on the evolution of the EU CSDP. With this in mind as well as in the larger context of the dawning US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region the EU appears to be in need of economically viable cooperative solutions that can ensure the autonomy of its crisis management potential from a military-technological viewpoint. Otherwise the EU may find it increasingly difficult to back up its claim to the role of a capable independent player on the global crisis management market.

Secondly, the expansion of the financial crisis has coincided with a dramatic geopolitical upheaval along Europe’s southern periphery, resulting in an escalation and regional proliferation of dangerous transnational threats and challenges. As two neighbouring “exporters of regional security”, Russia and the EU should be vitally interested in jointly stabilizing our common southern rim.

Thirdly, the Russia-EU Partnership for Modernisation, launched in 2010, is objectively pushing us towards closer convergence in the technological field. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for the Partnership to include a specialized branch of cooperation in the areas of development, production or procurement of promising models of military hardware, predominantly those based on cutting-edge innovative technologies.

In my opinion, there is no sound alternative to progressing towards a genuine Russia-EU partnership in the area of CSDP. Let’s take, for instance, the concept of “pooling and sharing” of EU defence assets introduced in 2010. On the one hand, this is largely an internal EU tool for boosting member states’ multinational military-technological cooperation. On the other hand, we see no reason why Russia should be kept outside this initiative. As far as we understand, third countries’ participation in “pooling and sharing” activities is in principle allowed, albeit on the basis of bilateral agreements and on a limited scope. Moreover, the set of projects comprising the concept largely corresponds to potential fields of Russia-EU cooperation discussed in 2009 between the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of Russia (FSMTC) and the European Defence Agency (EDA). What I have in mind, in particular, are the joint development of a heavy transport helicopter, strategic airlift for EU forces (along the lines of the SALIS mechanism) as well as deployment of an integrated European maritime surveillance system. Back in 2009 Russia also proposed to engage in upgrade and maintenance as well as pilot training for Soviet- and Russian-made helicopters. Even the possibility of setting up a regional network of support facilities for servicing Russian helicopters was discussed.

I would like to once again emphasize that most of these initiatives are in one way or another reflected in the EU “pooling and sharing” concept. And by the way, we are not inherently opposed to other ideas expressed by our EU partners on different occasions, such as standardizing certain types of armaments and military equipment. Why should we not consider collaborating in assembly, repair and upgrade of USSR-licensed military equipment, destruction of munitions as well as joint design of new models of armoured vehicles?

It’s high time for the Russian FSMTC and the EDA to finally translate their cooperation into practical action. Including Russian experts into the relevant EDA working groups remains a key prerequisite for determining the specific parameters of possible interaction. In the long term a full-fledged administrative agreement on military-technical cooperation between the FSMTC and the EDA would enable us to engage directly within the “pooling and sharing” projects.

Since the turn of the century Russia and the EU have acquired certain practical experience of joint activities in the area of crisis management. This cooperation, however, is doomed to remain essentially episodic unless it is firmly rooted within a legal setting. Expert discussions on concluding a Russia-EU crisis management framework agreement have been dragging on for almost three years and yet we are not much further along than when we started.

We remain convinced that the principle of equality, agreed by both sides back in 2008, remains key to our joint success. In our view, the future agreement should not a priori be narrowed down to just a single option, namely Russia’s participation in EU-led operations. On the contrary, it should catalogue a broad range of joint mission configurations, thus allowing Russia and the EU to select in each case the one that fits the geographic area and the specific nature of an unfolding crisis. By the way, our EU partners up to a point did not object to such an approach. In 2003 the EU actually indicated its interest in participating in a Russian-led peace-guaranteeing operation in Transdniestria, foreseen by the Kozak Memorandum (Memorandum on the Basic Principles of the State Structure of a Unified State), which ultimately did not fly for well-known reasons. The scope for negotiating a Russia-EU framework agreement on crisis management is still there and should be used prudently and without prejudice.

Another element missing in the Russia-EU context are next-generation bilateral dialogue mechanisms that would allow us to adopt joint decisions, including in the area of crisis management, as well as execute strategic oversight at the stage of their practical implementation. I would like to remind the audience that the establishment of such a mechanism has already been attempted. I am referring to the initiative proposed by Germany in June 2010 in Meseberg to institute a Russia-EU Committee on Foreign Policy and Security at Ministerial level. We expect the EU to finally comprehend the strategic significance of this non-trivial issue.

Finally, we should not underestimate the humanitarian and symbolic value of Russia-EU interaction in the area of civil protection, preventing and responding to natural and man-made disasters. We hope that the forthcoming conclusion of the revised Administrative agreement between the Russian Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) and the Directorate-General of the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) will generate closer coordination of efforts by our civil protection teams.

Summing up, we need to find ways to overcome obstacles currently blocking some venues of Russia-EU pol-mil cooperation (of which there are unfortunately quite a few). Setting ambitious long-term objectives is a priority. The Russia-EU military-to-military working group established in 2010 has proven to be a useful platform for these discussions. We look forward to further increasing its substantive workload.

In conclusion, coming back to the original topic of our discussion, I would like to reiterate that Russia’s potential role in mitigating EU defence shortfalls, resulting from a streamlined EU CSDP, would be justified in financial terms. It would allow to avoid excessive duplication of efforts and could well become an important driver of economic growth in the aftermath of the Eurozone crisis.

As a final point, I wish to highlight the notable psychological aspect of establishing an equitable and mutually beneficial Russia-EU partnership in the military-technical field. What is at stake is finally dispensing with the legacy of the East-West divide by bridging the residual confidence deficit. Forming an area of genuinely indivisible security between Lisbon and Vladivostok is something we can only achieve through strengthening the strands of cooperation that bind us together. Against the backdrop of the crisis every such strand is worth its weight in gold. I would like to convey to you the hope and ambition that the military- political dimension of the Russia-EU strategic partnership over time becomes a showcase for such a constructive, trustworthy and future-oriented approach.