During the period of August 13-16, 2023, I participated in THE 11TH MOSCOW CONFERENCE ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY where I was invited by the organizers (the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation) as an independent expert.
It is evident that this event took place in a complex, violent, and threatening international context, marked by the Ukrainian crisis (the war in Ukraine) and the collapse of security architecture in Europe, sudden political changes in sub-Saharan Africa arising from the movement aimed at emancipating the African states from the neo-colonial dominance of Euro-Atlantic hegemonies, as well as the escalation of tensions in the Asia-Pacific region within the framework of the Indo-Pacific strategy conceived by the Anglo-Saxon powers led by the United States to contain China and halt its rise to the status of a global superpower. Such developments, from a Romanian perspective and beyond, could lead in the best scenario case to the emergence of a multipolar / multicentric world order, where peace is ensured through the balance of powers and the harmonious economic development of all nations, and in the worst scenario case to the outbreak of a global-scale nuclear war and the disappearance of Western civilization.
The conference was attended by leaders of state agencies with competences in the fields of foreign policy, defense, and security from countries spanning Asia, Africa, and South America, with Europe being represented at the governmental level by Russia and Belarus (undoubtedly European nations). The President of the Russian Federation, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service addressed the conference. A notable presence during the opening session was the Minister of Defense of the People’s Republic of China.
Representatives from international organizations with regional character, politicians, experts from academic media and from civil society organizations also participated. Among the latter were individuals from some EU and NATO member states (Austria, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Hungary), as well as Japan and South Korea. Romania was also present, although its participation did not engage the Romanian government in any way.
A regrettable and unacceptable absence was that of international organizations with global and regional vocations (UN and OSCE), established precisely to ensure global peace through dialogue among political actors with differing or even opposing views and agendas. Unfortunately, it seems that these organizations have veered toward dogmatic partisanship or passivism, just when they are most needed to preserve global peace.
On the other hand, while nearly all participants agreed that humanity is undergoing an irreversible process of fundamental transformation, it was observed that almost no one is inclined or knows how to manage this transition by advancing plans for peace and projects related to the foundations of the future order. The magnitude of such a mission and its inherent risks seem to discourage the pursuit of solutions, leaving room for the hope, not necessarily well-founded, that events in their spontaneous progression will offer optimal resolutions. Such an attitude and beliefs characterize, as well, the circles of those who have politically decided to ignore the event and not participate. I consider this approach extremely dangerous.
In the understanding of such a danger, my decision to positively respond to the organizers’ invitation finds its explanation. It is said that “absentees are always guilty.” This time, Romania was not absent.
Every state, including Romania, has only one foreign policy at any given time. However, it simultaneously encompasses multiple doctrines of foreign policy and multiple schools of thought regarding its national interests and their promotion. All must express themselves, among others to demonstrate that, in relations between states, nothing – except for interests and geography – is eternal, and nothing is personal.
At the same time, diplomacy is centered on communication and dialogue. Dialogue with anyone, but especially with those who hold opposing views and interests. Without dialogue, hope for understanding is futile, and peace is in danger. When a state, such as Romania, chooses to forsake the path of official dialogue, opting to be – even to the detriment of its own national interests – the ventriloquist of greater powers, from which it futilely seeks protection, it becomes the obligation of civil society to fill this void. Thus, it should achieve at an unofficial level the communication that the official government denies and overcome the official silence through the explicit expression of the real nation’s deepest aspirations.
The Moscow Conference offered me an opportunity for dialogue not only with high-quality experts and political decision-makers from various countries around the world but also to present my convictions within respectful, rational, and positive exchanges of views with representatives of the Russian Parliament, of the Russian diplomacy and of Russia’s armed forces, as well as with members of Russian civil society (including geopolitical experts). The common denominator in all these discussions was the pursuit of a path toward just, feasible, and sustainable local, regional, and global peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers!”
Within the framework of the Moscow Conference, the following topics were addressed in several plenary sessions: 1. Realities of Global Security in a Multipolar World; 2. Security in the Middle East and on the African Continent; 3. Security in the Asia-Pacific Region; 4. Interaction of defense agencies – conditions and expectations. Additionally, the conference program included a special section dedicated to the dialogue of experts gathered in a so-called “Club of Independent Experts,” invited to formulate their opinions and proposals regarding the current and future challenges to global and regional security under the motto “One World – Common Security”.
My intervention, presented under the title “SOLUTIONS FOR RESTORING PEACE AND BUILDING A NEW SECURITY ARCHITECTURE IN EASTERN EUROPE, WITH THE OBSERVANCE OF THE INDIVISIBILITY OF SECURITY”, was developed in coordination and consultation with members of Romanian civil society – particularly the Middle East Economic and Political Institute and Euro Defense Romania. It aimed to lay the foundations of a peace plan for the current conflict in Ukraine, as well as for the blueprint of a future multipolar world order. The main ideas of my contribution were as follows:
- The current challenges to global and regional security are synthesized in the confrontation between the rearguard of the decaying American-centered unipolar order, supported by the collective Euro-Atlantic West, and the vanguard of the emerging Euro-Asian multipolar order, propelled by post-colonial and post-imperial powers of the plural South.
- In the 1990s, the Cold War ended without a peace treaty being concluded and without the international institutions created under the conditions of the bipolar order following the Second World War being reformed and adapted to the new international realities, with their major geopolitical changes. This explains the international disarray we are witnessing today, after American unipolarism went into decline as spontaneously as it established itself.
- Peace in Eastern Europe can only be restored and guaranteed under the conditions of the consensual definition of the principles that will govern the entire world order in the 21st century, after the expiration of pax americana („American peace”) and Euro-Atlantic centrism.
- These principles should be at least the following five, which must be seen as inseparable: a) multi-centrism (instead of the unipolarism); b) the symmetry of the powers organized around the main coagulation centers and their dynamic balance; c) de-ideologization of international relations (giving up the principle of uniqueness and universality of a certain value system – i.e. the Euro-Atlantic one); d) indivisibility of security; e) ensuring peace through economic, social and territorial cohesion, as a result of global development achieved by promoting the strategy of common projects based on solidarity of interests.
- A European problem is that, while most Western and Central European states are organized as civic and multicultural states based on the principle of nationality (the principle of ethno-cultural majority and inter-ethnic consensus), many of the Eastern European states are the result of geopolitical projects carried out outside the national consensus. The return to a peace that must be sustainable, and not confused only with the absence of war, requires that all ethno-cultural communities living in their historical territories, but, without their previous consent, within the borders of states created on geopolitical criteria, have the benefit of the right to establish by referendum their political belonging / identity, respectively the nature of the legal relations with the states of which they are currently part and with their states of origin. The object of this right is self-determination – whether international or domestic / internal.
- In case of the option for international self-determination, this could lead either to the emergence of an independent and sovereign entity, with the right to associate with other such entities in confederal formulas, or to reunification with the state from which the self-determined entity was torn.
- In case of internal self-determination, the state in question will reorganize itself into a federal system and at the same time will adopt the principle of neutrality.
- The current international disorder is also the result of the proliferation of economic wars by imposing economic sanctions through the unilateral decision of some states, outside of any rules of international law, respectively outside the control of the international community. These wars are often waged not (only) against the enemy state, but against its innocent people, with the goal that the difficulties of everyday life push it to riots that would cause the overthrow of the domestic political regime. More serious is the fact that the economic sanctions are also extended to third countries, as well as to their citizens or private economic agents, who do not want to enter the economic war on the side of those who imposed the sanctions. An order parallel to the international order is thus created. Even when this order acquires, by force, authority, it has no legitimacy. It enshrines the right of the might instead of the might of right.
- Since war through economic sanctions is inhumane, causing mass sufferings and development imbalances globally, with the potential to give rise to a chain of wars over long periods of time, it should, as a rule, be prohibited as a crime against humanity. Resorting to it must have an exceptional character and it should receive a legal regime in international law similar to that of weapons of mass destruction. Any economic sanctions would have to be approved by the UN Security Council, with the previous agreement of the UN General Assembly, or, in certain cases, by the deliberative forums of regional organizations such as the OSCE.
- International law needs to be reformed based on the mentioned general principles. In this sense, states can enjoy the freedom to establish their alliances with the observance of several conditions, namely: a) states located on the external border of military alliances cannot host on their territory neither weapons of mass destruction nor permanent military bases of other states; b) conventional and non-conventional tactical weapons located on the territory of the military alliances, as well as that of the states in their vicinity, must maintain a mutual distance outside their range of action or in such a way as to respect the reaction capacity in defense of each; c) strategic non-conventional armaments are to be limited and subject to balancing rules, both in terms of research, production, storage and usage; d) the transparency of the military policies must be ensured both through early information and through the right of oversight. New international treaties need to be concluded to regulate all these conditions. They must be open to the widest possible participation.
- International law should also include the prohibition of the use of a state’s territory by a third state to attack another third state. It should also be defined as belligerence, with all the consequences that flow from it, the conduct of wars through intermediaries / proxies. This would also include the provision of arms, ammunition, technical assistance, and military intelligence to a state at war with another state, whether free of charge or against payment. The transfer (including sale) of arms to states at war must be prohibited. Whoever wants to fight in the war should do so directly, in his name and on his own account.
- The “right to intervene” associated with the “obligation to protect” must be regulated by consensus at the international level so that it is clear: a) which are the cases in which intervention or protection is justified from a humanitarian or a collective security point of view; b) who verifies the fulfillment of the conditions for the intervention (other than the one who proposes it); c) who approves the intervention and sets its limits (other than the one who carries it out); d) who provides the post-intervention rehabilitation; e) who is responsible for the abusive or negligent intervention and who establishes the liability for such abuses, while ensuring the application of sanctions or the obligation to make reparations. The UN, OSCE or a similar international forum must be given all necessary powers in this regard.
- The current Ukrainian crisis can only be resolved under the conditions in which a Peace Conference organized with the participation of at least Ukraine, its neighbors (including those bordering the Black Sea, such as Turkey, Bulgaria, and Georgia), and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, adopts the principles and rules we referred to previously. This Conference must provide security guarantees to both Ukraine and its neighbors. Ukraine must receive guarantees but deliver guarantees too. Their balance would be subject of detailed negotiations.
- These negotiations could lay the foundations for a global defensive Pact made through an agreement on communication, consultation, coordination, and cooperation between regional political-defensive alliances – NATO, SCO, AUKUS, etc.
- Only political negotiations can resolve the crisis and restore peace to Eastern Europe, the mouths of the Danube and the Black Sea. They must begin without preconditions and without non-negotiable topics. Military confrontation cannot decide the fate of the war in Ukraine.
- Facilitation of political negotiations requires the swiftest possible cessation of military hostilities on the positions the parties are currently holding, without preconditions.
- The UN or the OSCE, separately, together or in association with other regional organizations, should oversee the behavior of the states involved in the conflict after the ceasefire, in such a way that none of them takes advantage of it in bad faith to obtain a stronger position for the resumption of hostilities.
About the author:
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Former President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly