16 February, 2019

The INF Treaty – EU’s chance to prove itself as a global player

On February 14, I voted in the plenary session of the European Parliament a resolution on The Future of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Impact on the European Union – in short, the defunct INF Treaty and the impact on Europe’s security.


As is often the case, moments of crisis are those that make the difference between the strong and wise on the one hand and the weak and unprepared on the other. INF Treaty suspension by the two signatories, the US and Russia, is such a moment of real crisis. The new status quo throws the world 30 years in the past and deeply destabilizes Europe’s security balance, which existed until February 1st.


I am not the one who talks about this threat, but Valeri Kuzmin, the Russian ambassador to Bucharest. The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation called for the US to destroy the Mk-41 universal launchers deployed at Deveselu. Valeri Kuzmin completed and detailed this request: “There are no hostile, unfriendly actions planned and I can assure you that Russia has no hostile, aggressive intentions towards Romania. So far, nothing will change.”


Who knows how to read a diplomatic text can also clearly see the veiled threat.


I think it is the best time for the European Union to prove through its actions that it is a real global power. The security crisis is as real as possible, and Europe is at the forefront of the potential threats. At the same time, the suspension of the INF Treaty has global consequences. Other countries, such as China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan or North Korea, feel encouraged in their nuclear claims, and we will see new resources allocated to military programs that involve ballistic and cruise missile development. It is precisely for these reasons that the EU, by bringing Russia and the United States back to the negotiating table, can secure both its own security and that of the whole world.


This time, taking into account the new context, we should have more than a bilateral treaty. I believe that a multilateral agreement would better respond to the new reality.


The INF Treaty covers nuclear and conventional ballistic missile and land rocket launchers with a range of 500-5,500 km. From Crimea to Portugal, there are 3,500 km. As a result, the EU is rightly concerned with restoring the security balance and has a legitimate interest in initiating and mediating the negotiation process towards a positive outcome.


The fact that the EU is not involved in nuclear weapons development or in ballistic missiles and cruise missiles programs, and is consistently with its pacifist position, gives credibility in assuming a leading role in negotiating a new INF treaty.


Today, the EU has not only the chance but also the duty to initiate a diplomatic effort, starting from a threat assessment, analysing the implications for EU security if we will no longer benefit from the protection provided by an INF treaty. We must base such an evaluation on those sources of information that we rely on when it comes to the security of the European Union, namely NATO sources. NATO is the only EU security guarantor, and has consistently warned over the past four years about Russia’s violations of the INF treaty.


I have no doubt about EU’s ability to bring the United States and Russia, together with China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, as soon as possible, to the negotiating table. Let us not ignore the fact that Russia has repeatedly expressed its frustration with the fact that other countries are not obliged to obey restrictions regarding missile programs.


Much more problematic will be to persuade the two of the need and benefits of a functional INF treaty and, above all, to make them comply with such an agreement. The US, for the moment, has only military arguments to convince Russia to come to the negotiating table. Russia, on the other hand, says it is not interested in initiating any kind of negotiations.


Here is where the EU can intervene. The EU has considerable economic, political and diplomatic strength. This power brings with itself those tools of intervention and conviction necessary to achieve the goals, if we really want it.


We already know that economic sanctions, if applied consistently and consistently, deliver results. Frankly, I think the European Union has not used such instruments at their maximum capacity. There have always been pressures from one or another Member State that has bilateral economic interests, to lessen the harshness of economic sanctions. Furthermore, national policies have not always been in line with European ones.


In fact, if we go beyond appearances and dig deeper after Russia’s reasons for generating a suspension of the INF Treaty, we come to economic and geo-political arguments.


In 1987 there was a completely different political, economic and military context. At that time Russia had no choice but to give up.


Today Russia is part of a globalized economy. The military and geo-political context is also another. In the political and economic game played by Moscow, it needs as many cards as possible, to throw them in negotiating of other, more attractive, files. What card is stronger than the nuclear safety?


With a functional INF treaty and the prospect of extending the START Treaty in 2021, the nuclear issue was no longer a subject that could be negotiated by Moscow.


With ability, Putin pushed things to the level at which Russia was released from the constraints of Reagan and Gorbachev’s agreement. He breached INF Treaty provisions and used the huge propaganda apparatus at his disposal to make the proofs look like something questionable, pushing the US to the point where it announced the suspension of the Treaty. Now, Moscow can once again negotiate the nuclear file, in exchange for major economic advantages and a renaissance political influence.


I am convinced that Russia will never push things to the level of an open conflict, much less one that involves nuclear weapons.


It is precisely at this point that the European Union has the chance to rise itself to the level it claims to be: politically, diplomatic and economic. We cannot let the class bully to feel that anything is allowed, that there are no consequences for his actions, to save the circle of oligarchs through toxic alliances with various Member States. If we want a united Europe, built on solid common values and interests, words are not enough. Actions are needed, both in the East and in the West.