However, without a credible alternative to the status quo, both the West and Russia seem doomed to continue it. The RAND Corporation convened a working group composed of experts and former policy practitioners from the United States, the European Union, Russia and the in-between states to consider proposals to foster cooperation, reduce tensions, and increase stability. The papers collected here outline these findings and recommendations.
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Related Products Report. Ukraine's Donbas region became another arena for a frozen conflict fueled by great power confrontation. Russia's main stated concern over the last two decades has been the mooted membership of post Soviet Eurasian states in NATO. At NATO's summit in Bucharest, the alliance issued an unequivocal pledge to accept Georgia and Ukraine into its fold without specifying the timeline. Ukraine's putative quick rapprochement with NATO after the overthrowal of the supposedly pro Russian president in became one of the officially cited reasons for Russia's forceful action with regards to Crimea and Donbas President of Russia, At the same time, several years into its civil war that began in , Syria became another arena of great power confrontation, with numerous mediation attempts running amok due to the absence of agreement among the United States, Russia, Israel, Iran, Turkey, and other stakeholders on the contours of plans for peace and post conflict reconstruction.
Looking at the regional context in Eurasia at the end of s, Ukrainian expert Oleksandr Chalyi concluded:. Getting out of the stalemate is no easy task: A large package of principles, norms and ad hoc policies will be needed to solve the problem.
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Only such an approach would make it possible to turn from confrontation to cooperation between the West and Russia regarding the states in between. The approach requires measures at three levels:. Relations among the great powers will be crucial in determining the course and outcome of many smaller conflicts in various regions of the world. Several types of dynamic of great power relations over the next five to ten years can be extrapolated from their current path and logic. Not only European, but also Eurasian security order consolidates around those organizations that attract further membership applications and are capable of fending off criticism of and resistance to their continued expansion.
In Southeast Asia, the United States works with Japan to overcome Beijing's bid to change the rules of navigation and natural resources development in the seas around China. While such dynamic is possible, the end result may not hold for too long because of the mounting resistance that could take the parties into the second scenario. Such a scenario pivots around the intensifying integration dilemma: disenfranchisement of and pushback by influential players that are being left out of prestigious groupings of states Charap and Troitskiy, While a superpower led comprehensive institution, such as NATO, enlarges or promises enlargement, disgruntled regional powers, such as Russia, do their best to stop the expansion and manage at least to delay, if not fully to derail it.
Ukraine's association agreement with the EU, signed in June , came at a very high price for Kiev, in part, because of Moscow's resistance. In a similar way, tightening US led alliances and partnerships in Asia and toughening the US position on the South China Sea may lead Beijing to up the ante and subject Taiwan to increased pressure while doubling down on artificial islands.
If China stands firm, the US and its allies may find it difficult to raise the stakes even further in order to roll Beijing back. A third scenario takes this trend even further to suggest that the offshore superpower may choose to stay aloof as the aspiring powers impose their own solutions on the respective regions, either directly or through biased mediation. In Eurasia, Russia ensures recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as of the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation.
In the meantime, China secures highly preferential conditions of trade and investment with most ASEAN nations and begins actively to challenge freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, especially access into it by foreign warships. Opposed to the above zero sum scenarios is a group of imaginable positive sum trends in the resolution of conflicts involving the world's leading powers and aspiring nations. One such scenario can be built around good faith mediation by the aspiring powers, for example, Russia and China on North Korea, Russia on Transnistria, or Turkey on Syria.
Such mediation would imply agreement on goals and a blueprint for a definitive settlement of the conflict, for example, making sure that North Korea forgoes its long range nuclear weapon capability or nuclear weapons altogether. There is a record of concerted good faith mediation by Washington and Moscow: in the early s they jointly convinced Ukraine to forswear any ambition to gain the status of a nuclear weapon state; over the last 25 years, Russia has also been applying a balanced mediation approach to the conflict over Nagorny Karabakh while the US usually competed with Russia in that mediation effort, both sides were relatively close in their vision of opportunities for and contours of a final settlement.
The role of the leading global powers, the US and the EU, in this conflict resolution scenario would be instrumental.
These players would be responsible for pushing the conflicting sides towards an agreement or, as the in the case with North Korea, coordinating their positions with those of the mediating regional powers. For example, NATO gets on board with Russia's Collective Security Treaty Organization to build peace in Afghanistan through concerted multilateral mediation, extensive sharing of information, and even joint operations. In the meantime, Moscow and Brussels find a way to align EU's association agreements with Russian led free trade arrangements in post Soviet Eurasia.
That could take some pressure off such countries as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, or even CSTO member Armenia that have been looking for ways to avoid paying a heavy price in their economic relations with Russia for developing ties with the European Union. In their turn, China and Russia in a positive sum scenario manage to avoid contradictions over the alignment of the countries in Central Asia by reconciling Russia's bid to remain the exclusive security provider in the region, on one hand, with China's increased economic footprint in Central Asia, on the other.
Finally, all major powers may delegate resolution of the conflicts that raise the biggest controversy among those powers to the existing nonpartisan and relatively low key institutions. The logic of the security dilemma or of an open and irreconcilable quest for dominance, depending on one's conceptual preference, makes it difficult for the cooperative scenarios to materialize.
Balancing behavior in a low trust environment, a major root cause of conflict, prevents coordination between a global and an aspiring power that usually do not have sufficient incentives to forswear leveraging regional conflicts against each other. Moreover, the understanding of security among aspiring nations evolves as they build up their clout irrespective of their domestic economic trends that can well be negative. As a result, the tensions between the global and aspiring powers are likely to rise.
Munich Security Conference
In a similar vein, the existing cobweb of institutions, economic interdependence, and diplomacy may be enough to prevent great power wars, but as the historical record has shown, those institutions and interdependencies may not cope with defusing conflicts among smaller nations or separatist groups within the contested regions. The existing security regimes, with NATO at the core in Europe and US led bilateral alliances in Asia, were designed and implemented at the time when little or no challenge could be mounted by the currently aspiring powers.
Present at the creation of those regimes, Russia and China either did not have a distinct view of their interests and future roles in the emerging regimes, or did not have the capacity to alter the course of events. Having developed its perspective on the desirable structure of security arrangements in Europe, Moscow moved to demand a vote and the right of veto in the European security architecture by the late s, while Beijing became more assertive in relations with its neighbors in Asia and the United States around , looking to achieve unequivocal regional primacy.
As a result, the US and the EU as leading global powers are faced with a dilemma: can they afford and should they seek to accommodate the aspiring powers in order to ensure their cooperation in mediating and settling regional disputes?
Without such accommodation, the regional powers will often work to sabotage mediation efforts, including those implemented through comprehensive multilateral institutions, such as the OSCE, while the superpower will find that its interest in mediation is limited and will eventually disengage. They could also work to establish neutral or buffer zones of conflict areas Hampson and Zartman, Agreeing upon and implementing such bargains would be difficult given the vocal criticism by assorted pressure groups, including ethnic lobbies, in the United States and EU countries, as well as their smaller partners.
Even if the global influence of the United States is in decline, as many policymakers in the aspiring nations are tempted to believe, regional powers may be faced with even more intransigence on the part of smaller nations because nationalism will rise and flourish within those states, making transnational bargains among political elites particularly problematic.
In addition, conflicts are fueled by the struggle for prospective members among competing multilateral institutions Chalyi, ; Charap and Colton, ; Charap and Troitskiy, ; Nikitina, For example, such contest for members is a potent source of conflicts of separatism in post Soviet Eurasia. And yet, it should be noted that conflicts developing at the intersection of the interests of global and regional powers are in no way predetermined.
Whether they break out or not depends on the strategy and tactic of competitor powers and the peculiarities of their relations with allies and partners Schweller, If neither existing institutions nor immediate great power bargains are likely to become reliable vehicles of conflict resolution, a midway approach could be attempted that would rely on a web of negotiation fora spanning and transcending the spots and regions contested by the global and aspiring powers.
Negotiation is commonly understood as giving something to get something Zartman, , so when engaging in it, one need not compromise the principles by which foreign policies of any players are driven or on which the existing alliances are built. Neither does it imply interference in domestic affairs, which is a growing concern among not only the authoritarian aspiring states but also global leaders.
Some fora would still need to be created anew. One necessary pillar of a comprehensive negotiation structure must be regular formalized security consultations involving the United States, Russia, China, as well as the relevant stakeholders in post Soviet Eurasia, depending on the issue under discussion.
Such a web of bilateral and multilateral organizations can be relied upon as at least a canary in the coal mine of conflict and a stabilizer of the manifold relationships in Europe and Eurasia. So far, good faith negotiations in the existing fora have largely stalled because of the absence of a mutually hurting stalemate. Three considerations inflating BATNAs of the key players in Europe and Eurasia complicate breathing new life in the existing fora and setting up new platforms.
Can It Happen Here?
First is the conviction that one's opponents are declining. The US policy community largely views Russia through a similar lens, and China equally does not expect Russia to rise to the ranks of a global power. Such mutual perspectives strongly demotivate agreement: why negotiate and compromise now with a player whose power is declining?
If our ability to achieve desired outcomes is not decreasing, then why negotiate now? Finally, fundamental lack of trust, for example, believing that one's negotiation counterpart has no track record of compromise with opponents seemingly, the actual mutual perspectives of the US and Russian policymakers , ruins any possibility of good faith negotiation. To make matters worse, broad inclusivity may become a major limit on the effectiveness of any multilateral regional conflict resolution process.
The same applies to the Middle East and Asia. Overall, artificially inflated BATNAs and broad inclusivity threaten to turn any multilateral negotiation platforms, if they ever materialize, into talking shops and imitation of engagement. Another obstacle to comprehensive negotiation is that the leading global powers may consider negotiation itself to be a major concession to the aspiring challengers.
Cooperative resolution of proxy conflicts was practiced by the United States and the Soviet Union in the late s.