In an extremely wide-ranging speech delivered to the conference “OSCE: Prospects for Pan-European and Eurasian Security and Cooperation” in Moscow on Wednesday, the Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Grushko, argued that new conflicts have been made possible by the ineffectiveness of the security-mechanisms which have been adopted over the past three decades.
"It is difficult to argue with the fact that the pan-European project, as it was envisaged in the late 1980s - beginning of 1990s, failed to translate into reality. The European tools to ensure stability on the continent turned out to be ineffective. This fact exacerbated old conflicts and gave way to new crises... Conflicts are left unresolved, the terrorist threat has not subsided, and the problem of uncontrolled migration flows persist, while the gap from unequal wealth distribution between countries widens, and the struggle for control over resources and market access continues to mount," he said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Grushko also claimed that the OSCE was “oversaturated with aggressive rhetoric and is used to promote one-sided interests,” but stated that he still did not believe that the OSCE’s potential had been exhausted. He cited the positive role played by the OSCE’s monitoring mission in Ukraine, and its missions in Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transcaucasia as examples. However, Deputy Minister Grushko itemized “myths of the cold war” and the use of the Eurasian security-system to pursue unilateral agendas as weaknesses in Eurasia’s current security-infrastructure.
Deputy Minister Grushko also argued that that a more multilateral approach, which enabled the OSCE to cooperate more extensively with other intergovernmental security-structures in Eurasia and in the Asia-Pacific zone, including the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) was necessary in order to counter threats which transcended specific zones of responsibility, such as terrorism.
He also criticized provocative developments in the Black Sea region and Eastern Europe, stating “Under the pretext of countering the mythical Russian threat, NATO is expanding its military presence in Eastern Europe, militarizing the Black Sea region, and ramping up its intelligence collecting activities on Russia’s borders….The Western allies are not only boosting their policies, but also developing their military capabilities by demonizing certain countries.”
All of this requires very careful unpacking. In analyzing these remarks, the first point to note is that the issues at stake concern, not only collective security, but also ideological questions. However, there is a clear connection between these two levels. Insofar as collective security is one of our highest universally held moral and political priorities, monitoring-organizations indirectly confer a certain level of political legitimacy.
While Deputy Foreign Minister Grushko is perfectly correct to point out that borderless threats such as terrorism cannot adequately be addressed on a purely regional basis, this point cannot be completely divorced from the ideological question of the Atlanticist bloc’s attempt to monopolize political legitimacy. To develop this point further, multilateralism and an increased level of cooperation between different intergovernmental security-structures throughout Europe and Eurasia are the only ways to guarantee that monitoring organizations such as the OSCE itself will not in the future be weaponized.
As an exemplarily well trained diplomat, of course Deputy Minister Grushko is obligatorily reticent on certain related points. The less reticent amongst us might point out that some of the conflicts which have developed in Eastern Europe over the past 30 years, most particularly the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and in present-day Ukraine, were not only products of the weakness and ineffectiveness of current intergovernmental security-structures, but also products of the age-old imperial practice of “divide and conquer” – in the case of the former Yugoslavia, the application of that maxim by a global hegemon at its apex, and in the case of Ukraine, by the same hegemon in decline, in an attempt to delay or decelerate precisely this decline.
We have clearly seen a transition from the Pax Americana to the Bellum Americanum. Therefore, if the internal contradictions of American hegemony and its process of decay are the root of the kaleidoscope of security-related crises seen across the globe today, then the solution must lie in the recognition of the new multipolarity, in the adoption of this recognition as an international norm. Insofar as nations which do not play the role of American vassals are demonized as a matter of course, this inhibits the type of Eurasia-wide cooperation which Deputy Minister Grushko deemed necessary to counter contemporary security-threats. On a purely pragmatic level, this analysis is irrefutable.
The problem is that the western alliance sees this issue in ideological and civilizational terms, and in fact also in crypto-religious terms – insofar as its dominant ideology is liberal universalism, it thinks of political legitimacy as a zero-sum game, in a manner similar to how religious transcendental monotheism might be seen as a zero-sum game.
My use of this religious metaphor is not purely rhetorical. Insofar as organizations which monitor compliance with international security-norms confer a certain level of political legitimacy, they play a role in the “sanctification” of political systems – that is to say, they play an ideological, priestly role.
If you and I practice two different monotheistic religions, then our respective priesthoods cannot cooperate together in the performance of religious rituals. In the internal logic of the post-religious Occident, it cannot “share” legitimacy with different social, political or economic systems precisely because it is post-religious, and therefore being in need of some substitute for religion, has raised liberal democracy up to the level of a transcendental principle.