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Will the new regional security system help? Speech by Dean of School of Government at Moscow State University, V.A. Nikonov at the 8th General Conference of CSCAP in Hanoi November 22, 2011

This year a remarkable event took place. In the soup of abbreviations of various international organizations, which is being cooked in the Asia-Pacific region, for the first time emerged two organizations with a matching set of participating countries: East Asia Summit (EAS) and format ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM+). This is already indicative of what organization (or organizations) are the central parts of the security system in the APR. There is also greater clarity about the functions of individual organizations.

In the Declaration on Principles for mutually beneficial relations, as adopted at the Sixth East Asia Summit (November 19, Bali, Indonesia), a common vision of the role of the EAS was described as “a Leaders-led forum for dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues of common interest and concern with the aim of promoting peace, stability, and economic prosperity in East Asia.”

It appears that the format of ASEAN +8 is acceptable to everyone. At the very least those countries which are inclusive in this format and all key players are inclusive. At the EAS meeting on Bali on November 19 the United States and the Russian Federation for the first time took part as full members, even though President Medvedev could not attend, since in two weeks there will be parliamentary election, at which his name is on top of the list of the ruling party.

In the framework of existing composition of the EAS consistent approaches to virtually any issue can be developed. However, it appears that in the agenda of this this organization truly large, strategic issue should be included. As key areas of cooperation the following can be considered: 

  1. Strengthening economic security. All countries in the region (and many of them are members of G20) are interested in reforming the global financial and economic architecture to prevent the second wave of the crisis. If you think big, the goal of such an extension should be comprehensive economic partnership, which will open prospects for multilateral free-trade zone in the Pacific Rim. Economic cooperation could include high technology, including civilian nuclear, space research, the use of global navigation and communication systems.
  2. Energy security and energy efficiency. Russia is ready to make a growing contribution to the solution of these problems, including the traditional energy, "green energy" and liquefied gas. Today our country is the largest energy producer in the world, but its share of the energy market of the Asia-Pacific region is still less than 1%. The situation around Fukushima dictates the need to strengthen the international legal framework to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities.
  3. Disaster Management. This includes the development of early warning of natural disasters and man-made disasters, introduction of modern technologies for eliminating their consequences. In this regard, proposals submitted by the United States, Australia, Indonesia under the EAS Russia considers useful and worthy of further discussion.
  4. Healthcare, including the creation of a unified strategy for the prevention and fight against new and returning infectious diseases, preventing their spread outside of endemic areas.
  5. Environment and climate change. Special attention is required for protection, management and information exchange in the field of water resources. The initiative to establish an East Asian Research Center for Climate Change deserves all support.
  6. Education as the basis for development of human capital and breakthrough into the future.

EAS can not and will not be the only link in the security architecture in Asia-Pacific. But today, the potential of the forum has grown significantly. It has all the prerequisites to become the platform for policy dialogue on key issues of regional order. Security of the region must rely on the partner network of multilateral organizations and dialogue forum, which would include also the ASEAN Regional Forum, Meeting of Defense Ministers of of ASEAN and dialogue partners (ADMM +), APEC (where Russia will chair in 2012), SCO, Cooperation Dialogue in Asia, Conference on Interaction and confidence-Building Measures in Asia. I would also mention RIC and BRICS, who also pay attention to the situation in the region. But it is you who have the biggest prerequisites to take on the role of conceptual coordination center and initiator of such a network, designer of partnerships connections between organizations to clarify their specialization, with full recognition of the fact that ASEAN remains a systemic factor of integration in the Asia-Pacific, while ASEAN and Russia share common views on all major issues of regional and global agenda.

It is particularly important in this respect to divide the agenda for EAS, ARF, ADMM +. In my opinion, the ADMM + could specialize in the issues of emergency response, maritime security, military medicine, counter-terrorism and peacekeeping. In the framework of ARF, where the tone is set by the foreign ministers, could discuss the issues of nonproliferation of WMDs, terrorism, non-military aspects of maritime security. With regard to practical work on such sensitive topics as nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, territorial conflicts, Afghanistan – these can be handled on bilateral basis or on specialized multilateral forums.

It is important to work towards creation of the atmosphere of mutual trust, cooperation, non-confrontation, avoid attempts to plot the new dividing line of bloc politics and military build-up. Relations should be built on the principles of indivisibility of security, which would rule out the logic of zero-sum game.

So, will the new security system help? Hopefully it will. But it definitely would not hurt.