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The New Multilateralism: Reinventing Security and Cooperation in Europe - Wilson Quarterly Winter 2024

February 15, 202431:20

In this edition of Wilson Center NOW, we focus on the latest edition of the Wilson Quarterly, The New Multilateralism, with the help of editor Stephanie Bowen.  Also joining us are contributors Robin Quinville and Philip Reeker.   Their article, Reinventing Security and Cooperation in Europe, examines howby taking lessons from NATO, the OSCE could be more effective in responding to today's complex challenges.”


  • This is an unedited transcript

    Hello and welcome to Wilson Center. Now a production of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I'm John Milewski Today, we're going to be talking about the newest edition of the Wilson Quarterly, Our tradition of every time a new issue becomes available, we speak with a couple of the authors featured in the issue and the editor, Stephanie Bowen, and we're going to tell you who is joining us today and we'll talk to them in just a moment.

    We'll be hearing from Robin Quinville director of the Wilson Center's Global Europe program, during her 30 years as a U.S. diplomat, Robin spent time working with both NATO's and OSCE, and you'll see how relevant that is in a moment when we talk about the article. Also joining us, Ambassador Philip Reeker. Phil is the chair of the Global Europe Program.

    He previously served as charge d'affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the U.K. and was acting assistant secretary for state for Europe and Eurasia. I'm going to mention a third person who is not with us today, but is one of the coauthors of the article. That's Jason Moyer. I want to give him a shout out. He's a pragmatic program associate with the Global Europe Program, and we appreciate Jason's contributions as well.

    Stephanie, let's begin with you. The WQ Winter 2024 issue titled The New Multilateralism. Tell our viewers and listeners what that's all about. Thanks, John. It's great to be here with you as always. The new multilateralism, our winter issue, it takes a deep dive into the evolving landscape of partnerships and alliances, global alliances. And really, we the whole idea was to look at what we call tankers like the UN alongside us, like emerging partnerships that are a little bit more nimble and see really how how the landscape is evolving to be able to address the biggest global challenges and as you will hear, we will be talking about two of the biggest tankers that we've got,

    NATO and the OSCE. I'm going to ask you a little later about some of the other articles in the issue. But let's begin by focusing with the one coauthored by our guests Reinventing security and cooperation Europe. The subtitle says, By taking lessons from Nadeau, the OSCE could be more effective in responding to today's complex challenges. And like Meet the Press.

    Ambassador REEKER and Robin, we're going to share the questioning here. And I'm going to first turn to Stephanie and see what she has on her mind. So thanks, first of all, thank you for the article is really terrific. And when we were putting it together, I couldn't imagine an issue without talking about these two alliances as and you compare and contrast them and say that, you know, as the subtitle suggests, that the OSCE could take some lessons from NAITO.

    Can you just talk a little bit about about the two organizations and how they work together and separately to meet their goals? Or maybe I'll start with all kudos to Robin, who really took the lead on this. And our Global Europe program has been examining these institutions, many of which were created in the years following World War Two, to try to create in the transatlantic space.

    And of course, that's evolved into a global role in many ways. Institutions that could link the participating states in the case of NATO's allies, in the case of the OSCE, indeed participating states, countries into organizations that would be platforms for diplomatic engagement. Now, of course, is the most successful of military alliance, I would say, in history. It is created in a space that is Europe, the North Atlantic, that's been plagued for centuries, millennia by war and conflict to created a space of stability through collective defense.

    It's a defensive alliance. It has no offensive purpose. But indeed to defend its member states through Article five, which pledges that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. And it has changed itself over the years. It is adapted to new circumstances in its area of responsibility in terms of global challenges. It came through the end of the Cold War and redefined itself.

    And true to its due to its organizing principles, it allowed new countries to apply for membership, countries that could demonstrate the shared respect for the values on which the alliance is based and could meet all of the appropriate criteria. And so now, as you know, NATO's has 32 members, soon to be 32, since Sweden is in the final stages of becoming the newest member of the alliance.

    OSCE grew out of the Budapest summit in 1994, which converted the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe into an organization based in Vienna at the half board of some 57 participating states. Again, all of them were tied to the Helsinki principles, the Helsinki Founding Act, which is soon to have its 50th anniversary, a set of shared principles that even during the Cold War era was shared and and adhered to or or stated by the participating states, including the Soviet Union, that they would be respectful of these these principles.

    It became a wonderful base for diplomatic discussion. It's often said if we didn't have the OSCE, we would need to invent it. It's not a military alliance with a place where we can examine all kinds of different aspects of security. And so looking at these two very interesting institutions that are so crucial for stability and indeed prosperity in Europe, we found some interesting dynamics.

    The OSCE these days because of Russia's intransigence, not to mention the full scale attack on Ukraine, has become more about that stuck. It operates on consensus. And of course, it's impossible to find consensus when participating states are violating the very principles to which they signed up. NATO, on the other hand, has evolved and continued to be fit for purpose in terms of inviting new democracies, in terms of changing its strategic approach to collective defense.

    And I think we found a number of areas where OSCE could learn from the efforts NATO has made to adapt itself, and OSCE can continue in the future to be a key part of the European security architecture. I'll pitch in here an ad that one of the things that I think surprised us as we were looking at this is that really we had to redefine fine NATO a little bit and say, okay, yeah, it's a tanker, all right.

    For sure. That for sure it is. But it has had that nimbleness that you wouldn't expect from a tanker because it has continually, in a sense, question itself. What's our mission? What's our task? It has a vehicle to do that in its strategic concept, and that has been really helpful as it looks at what are tasks you saw, especially post-Cold War, right?

    Suddenly one of the earliest questions people were asking when I became a diplomat was what's native for again? Because, of course, their traditional threat had had disappeared. The Warsaw Pact no longer existed. One of the things that one of the meetings I attended when I was on the OSCE delegation was actually held in the former Warsaw Pact headquarters.

    So there was a certain amount of symbolism right there. And yet OSCE, which has committed in the nineties when it was really restructuring itself, has somehow not proven to be nimble over time and certainly not as adept as Naito has been at looking at the threat and the task. Ambassador REEKER, I want to follow up on something you said and get both of your thoughts on this.

    You mentioned that if OSCE had not been, it had to be invented because it was needed, right? That it was the needs were there. But it seems as if perhaps especially based on what Robin just said about the nimbleness of the tanker that is Naito, that its greatest strength having a comprehensive look at security and a vast number of issues is also its weakness in that getting it 57 countries does it.

    However many countries there has to agree on things. When you have such a broad spectrum of issues that you're addressing, it becomes really difficult. And particularly now with the £800 gorilla that is Russia as a member of the organization. Well, indeed, John. You know, you see that, of course, at the United Nations, the the ultimate tanker, if you will, in terms of international organizations and sort of the the key element in our global system, post-World War two in the 1990s, the OSCE, I think, seemed like an ideal venue for strengthening ties with Russia.

    We emerged from the Cold War, of course, and trying to figure out how to integrate the Russian Federation. At that point, an independent country was no longer part of the Soviet Union, along with other former Soviet states, into the international system and the Helsinki principles, which would have been agreed, as I mentioned, by the former Soviet Union itself, were the foundation of publicity and it, I think, made sense through this charter of Paris, which was designed to take a look at these issues.

    Again, proactively looking at how we could adjust and adapt institutions to meet new needs that updated the mandate for a post Soviet era. There was a Helsinki summit in 1992 and it provided new capabilities for the OSCE, including and I think it's important to underscore the on the ground missions, which have been a key part of OSCE success agreement Rights office, which would ensure that the principles, again, these Helsinki principles were implemented.

    And instead of being a regular conference that met at time to time, it became an institution with staff, with offices, with engagement, a fairly efficient organization, although many would say it was a talking floor. And of course there's nothing wrong with it. That's the key to diplomacy. It was a place where countries with diverse backgrounds and experiences, different histories, different values would come together.

    Some called that really the golden era of OSCE. At the same time, NATO's itself was focused on much more macro level security issues. OSCE could focus on human rights and democracy, press freedom, national minorities, and a very important role in arms control and the open skies and would be the conventional forces in Europe. These were important tasks, and I think it was evident certainly to me as as Robin experienced working with the OSCE in the nineties, the early 2000.

    Russia was a key member and every country, every participating state at the OSCE is of equal standing with the United States or any other participating states. This is something that the participating states themselves need to remember. Each of them should own and embrace our OCP for what it can do for them. And at the same time, they then have a responsibility to work, to live up to those values.

    And I think it made OSCE a crucial organization for work in the transition of Central and Eastern Europe. It had a lot of influence. It was vitally important in terms of its on the ground missions in the Balkans after the breakup of Yugoslavia and of course, the war in Yugoslavia, the wars in the Balkans themselves forced a lot of questions and reinvention for both the OSCE and for NATO's.

    So we've seen this this evolution and the ability to be flexible while NATO's was able to carry forth and adapt itself. You'll recall just a few years ago when President Macron of France talked about Natal being brain dead that we underwent in the period around the 2020 forward looking review process at Natal. And if you think that through this was an organization that by its own volition came together with eminent persons who sat down representing many of the allied nations at the North Atlantic Council to talk about how NATO's needed to adapt to new circumstances.

    And it did that and has made itself extraordinarily successful to this very day as a deterrent force. We've seen that as Vladimir Putin attacks Ukraine but has not attacked NAITO, which continues to have that solid Article five commitment from all of its allies to defend one another in case of attack. Robin, let me ask you about the what I refer to as post-Cold War drift, right?

    The Cold War provided a certain ballast when it came to international relations for all countries. You know, choose a side and alliances formed around that to create sort of rough stability or equivalency since the end of the Cold War. We've seen the 911 effect, which you write about in your article. Ambassador REEKER has just described a series of changes over time and adaptations.

    But are we really still in an experience where the world is looking for a new organizing principle minus the standoff that was the Cold War? Well, I think what we're seeing now is is really a new threat assessment, because with the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has basically said, right, this this the agreed norms and principles are no longer going to be applicable.

    And that has caused Europe to really reevaluate what its threat assessment is. And you can see the results in some of the documents that have been put out. You see it in the tests that NATO's and the OSCE are taking on. But I think that for both of these organizations, there is much work to do for NAITO, of course, superior relevance and that and focused on the defense of Europe.

    That is clear for OSCE. It is trickier because Russia is a participating state of the OSCE. At the same time, having that is a forum for dialog, but it remains important. And the tools of the OSCE are still viable and useful in this in this era. You wouldn't want to have to recreate them If you can, maybe deploy them in another context.

    If you look at the OSCE list of OSCE missions, not just the ones that are available, that are on the ground now and working, but the ones that it has had in the past and closed, you can see that it provides a valuable opportunity for the OSCE to go in and to help, at the very least monitor what is happening and defuze tensions.

    And that can be a valuable part of its work. So I find value in those tools, even if they're not able to be used right now, because you wouldn't want to have to recreate them. Stephanie, back to you. Yeah, that's interesting that you you mentioned the OSCE, OSCE is toolbox, if you will. One of the things that you mentioned in the piece is that you felt that the OSCE had expanded its responsible parties and that was that had weakened it.

    Can you talk a little bit about what tools should it be focused on using and how it should use? To be honest, but I look at and I say, right, I think some of those tools that it developed for itself at Helsinki, the ability to put monitoring missions on the ground and to create those the ability for for a subset to ask for a monitoring mission.

    These tools are still are still valid and could be could be used and adapted. And you you will find that you may need those. And in fact, the OSCE mission in Ukraine was was working right up to the invasion and that was and providing valuable information and so forth. And it had been there. So I think those are the tools that that remain deployable.

    OSCE has taken on even broader thematic issues, and this can be because they are of interest to participate in states at given times. But I think it needs to take a look at how broad it is and whether it can create new norms and standards, because that is what it comes from a background of creating norms and standards.

    And I see Phil nodding. So I'm going to I'm going to toss this to him as well. But I think Robyn's got that exactly right, because, see, expanded is its area of responsibility, even as it became outside the United Nations, I think the largest security organization in the world with, as we said, 57 participating states stretching from Alaska to Vladivostok, if you will, both American members, Canada and the United States, all through the former Soviet Union and even many of the vital states of Europe.

    And not just expanding that membership, but it expanded its issues of the three original pillars of OSCE, political, military, economic and environmental, and then the human dimension or extended with I believe they're some 24 subthemes and focus areas. And of course, that reflected the increasingly complex nature of of the world and the challenges that we face. What what comes under the umbrella of security, what requires cooperation.

    And that was useful and appropriate at the time. But once Russia decided to violate the fundamental values, the fundamental organizing pillars of OSCE, then the organization fell into a problem. Russia made it exceptionally difficult to ever pass a budget. They made it that most recently at the the ministerial in Skopje in 2023. Very difficult to choose a new country chair to steer the work of the OSCE for 2024.

    And they finally came to a consensus on Malta taking on that challenge. So perhaps it's time for this anchor, the OSCE, to return to some of its original focus and before the period when it took on so many more complex themes and areas of focus to look at what's vitally important, particularly in this this era of a real clash, we can no longer say that we see Russia as a partner.

    That indeed was even part of NATO's strategic concept after 1999. We can see it with Vladimir Putin's policies. Certainly what they've done in Ukraine and threats to other parts of Europe and the stability that we've enjoyed that we need to get back to focusing on on critical areas. And I think that may be the way that it will see It has to reinvent itself yet again.

    Again, the field missions will remain crucial. There are areas of frozen conflict where OSCE plays a vital role and a very inexpensive role, frankly, in terms of bringing the international community, often in a small way, but giving a level of confidence to security, to local populations. They feel that the international community has a has a stake and a presence where these conflicts often frozen for decades, are kept at bay without getting out of control.

    When the when the Wilson Center claims to be fiercely nonpartisan, we're that's not just rhetorical. We are very serious about that. But that doesn't mean that we operate in a vacuum. And I want to ask both of you about comments made on the stump by former President Trump, now candidate Trump, about NATO, about Russia, about paying its dues.

    Some it's been being received around the world in very harsh terms, labeled as irresponsible. What I want to ask you about is not the politics of it, but I want to ask you about what that does to the stability of the organization. Does it send shockwaves through the organization? Does it create serious issues or serious problems for the organization?

    Ambassador REEKER, let's begin with you and then, Robin, we get your thoughts as well. Well, look, when when I was leading the European Bureau of the Department of State, obviously there was a lot of tension between across the Atlantic in terms of a focus on NATO's how it was operating, particularly in the realm of member countries allies meeting the 2% of GDP for defense.

    That's something that all allies signed up to as a as a goal that they would spend not for NATO's. And I think there's often confusion there, but they would spend on defense, including their own efforts at defense, because data was a collective organization of now 32 countries that they would spend 2% or more of their GDP, if not all member states, not all allies are meeting that requirement.

    Certainly it is increased. Certainly Putin's attack on Ukraine highlighted for allies why they needed to do that. And so they're doing much better there. But this is not about money that they owe to NATO's or to the United States. This is about each country fulfilling their own pledge to themselves that they will target 2% or above of their budgets to be spent on defense.

    So obviously, that creates some tensions and uncertainty. It did during 2019, 2020, even as Netto undertook this forward looking review process that I mentioned earlier. But I do want to say that while there were whitecaps on the surface of the Atlantic, if you will, down below NATO's as an alliance, as defensive alliance was was working very well. We've already said to to help redefine itself, to come out with a new strategic concept to be more streamlined in terms of what they did, how they did it, in terms of the importance of Article five.

    And really, I think we've seen it in the fact that NATO's was united and remains that way in the front of this Soviet threat, that we can see the Russian threat reminiscent of a Soviet threat that we can see so much and Ukraine now the alliance itself, I think, is better able to respond to threats. It's perhaps more relevant than ever.

    And indeed, it has two new applicants now, members or in the case of Sweden, almost members taking its number up to 32. All of them embracing the same set of common values, of common standards and interoperability, a pledge to defend each other if, in fact, if attacked and defend is the key word. It's not an offensive alliance, but that defense has provided the security and stability over that NATO's space, which has given us a period unprecedented in history in terms of stability and indeed economic growth and opportunity for the peoples of Europe and North America.

    Robin, your thoughts on this stability question of the organization when it comes under fire in a political campaign from one of the most important members of the alliance, the United States. And your thoughts on stability not just now, but moving forward when we we envision a world post Russian invasion of Ukraine? Well, you know, our allies recognize that this is this is something that they signed up to in 2014 with the Wales pledge was informal before that.

    But but they they know they made this pledge. And but of course, our buddies at the Defense Department would be the first to tell you that getting an increase in defense spending in any domestic budget is something that is a long term project. And so countries have been working on this, but nothing that nothing promotes that that additional spending, like having a real threat that you see and a change in the threat perception.

    And that's really what's happened here for Europe. So you can look at the the increased pledges. I'll take the country I was most recently serving in Germany. They will reach their 2% this year. Yeah, nothing like reality versus theoretical threat right now. Stephanie, I want to go back to you before we close and talk a bit about the current issue.

    Beyond the article there, Phil REEKER and Robin Quinn will have provided for us. Tell us who some of your other contributors are and what are the topics that they touch on? Sure. We look at the U.N. and we do that through a couple of lenses. We have a great Q&A with the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, in conversation with our very own Wilson Center CEO, Mark Green.

    We also have a look from a couple of scholars who have studied the U.N. for a long time and look at the rise of informal governance organizations and how the U.N. has has to adapt, given more informal organizations that are having more and more influence and how the U.N. needs to how it can and has adjusted how it works.

    We look at Latin America's rich history of using alliance diplomacy, if you will. We look at the G-7 and we also have a great piece from World Pomeranz honor from the Kennan Institute about Russia and their cacophony of partnerships and how he has a lot of very interesting things to say about the different partnerships in alliance that Russia is part of and how it is and isn't helping them on the global stage.

    There's a lot to really explore and I think so much really to explore in this issue. It's and I wish we could talk to our contribute even even longer because I feel like there when we look at the biggest challenges of security, terrorism, climate, it it really is those global alliances that are helping to address them. And over the past couple of decades, as as alliances have shifted and those challenges have become more complex, it's even more important to understand the history and the capacity of those alliances to really address issues appropriately, effectively, and where and where can people find the WQ Wilson quarterly dot com.

    It is free. It is available to subscribers and just available online. Well, thank you. Thanks to all of you today for this terrific discussion. I would like to speak to Robert and Phil longer, too. But, you know, we don't want to give it all away. Right? We want people to read the issue. So this has been your Cliff notes for for the article.

    But there's a lot more to be learned. Thanks to all of you for today and for your ongoing work in helping us try to sort through a complex world. We hope you enjoy this edition of Wilson Center now and that you'll join us again soon on. Till then, for all of us at the center. I'm John MALESKY. Thank you for your time and interest.


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