Reconstruction, development, peace. The plea of the international experts to contain the military risks in Europe

risks

The commitment of the international community to overcome the pandemic crisis and promote a plan for reconstruction and shared, integrated, sustainable development in the medium and long term has, as a pre-condition and essential reference the peaceful coexistence between peoples and states, the reduction of risks of possible conflicts and the elimination of those existing in different regional areas.

Precise indicators for measuring peaceful coexistence among peoples

This commitment to build valid conditions for widespread peace has been sanctioned and repeatedly confirmed in the common decisions of the main international institutions, such as the plans of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which among the strategic objectives has also included that relating to the promotion of «peaceful and inclusive societies» (Goal n.16). This brought to the definition of precise indicators for measuring peaceful coexistence among peoples, such as: the reduction of all forms of conflict (indicator 16.1); the increase in the sense of security of people living in a given territory (indicator 16.1.3.); access to information on the acts of States and international Institutions (indicator 16.10); the strengthening of their collaboration to prevent all forms of violence (indicator 16.a).

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A similar commitment to a widespread process of peace, as a condition for post-Covid reconstruction, can also be seen in recent informal coordination summits between States, which are the main promoters of global development. For example, the latest BRICS’ summit – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (12th summit, November 17, 2020) and the latest G20 summit, held on November 22, 2020 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In this regard, it is interesting to note that, on this last occasion, the final declaration of the Heads of State and Government was complemented by the publication of various specific documents edited by thematic study groups – the so-called Think Tanks (T20) – among which it is worth noting, as a true novelty, a document which, for the first time, appeals to religious communities to collaborate in the construction of a process of balanced and peaceful development (Cf. Religious networks, their impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 17) and the challenges for the international legal order Task Force n.7, 2020).

Biden proposed a renewed commitment to spread the peace process in the world

Two elements of great importance have also occurred at the start of 2021. The first is the election of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, who in his inaugural speech proposed a renewed commitment to multilateral cooperation aimed at spreading the peace process in the world. The second is the entry into force, on January 22, of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – TPNW. It can be considered as a real turning point in the international scenario, even if the time for its application will undoubtedly be long, since the main States holding nuclear arsenals have not yet ratified it (incidentally, Italy has not yet ratified it, despite numerous pleas especially from civil society organizations). It should be noted that the Treaty, adopted by the United Nations on July 7, 2017, is a legally binding international act.

In this general framework, there is the specific situation of the European Union, with its peace and security problems at the eastern and southern border, that affect relations with states in Eurasia (especially Russia) and in the Mediterranean area. There is no doubt that, in order to face these problems in the most adequate way, the alliance with the Nato system is fundamental, but how can the actions of this alliance be consistent with the widespread commitments for peace, continuously reaffirmed by the Institutions and in the international bodies we have mentioned so far?

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An important contribution to reflect on this point and to stimulate the construction of adequate responses was given, at the end of December 2020, by a series of Recommendations contained in a document approved by an influential group of 146 Russian, American and European experts. The group, including numerous former ministers, military leaders and diplomats met during several in-depth meetings organized during the year. The initiative, which received considerable international acclaim, was promoted by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Studies on the United States and Canada (directed by Sergey Rogov) and the Institute for Europe (directed by Alexey Gromyko, also a member of the Scientific Committee of Eurispes). Among the Italian experts we find Nathalie Tocci, Director of the Institute for International Affairs (IAI) who in 2021 serves as scientific advisor to the Italian G20 Presidency and has the co-chairmanship of the T20 study groups; Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Defense, an expert in international politics with particular regard to the political-military dimension of the European Union; the former Minister of Defense, Giampaolo Di Paola, also President of the Nato Military Committee between 2008 and 2011; Stefano Stefanini, former Diplomatic Advisor to the President of the Italian Republic. Amid the international institutes that have taken part in this initiative, the following are particularly noteworthy: the German institutes SWP-Foundation for Science and Politics of Berlin; the Center for Security Studies of Bonn; the French institutes IISS for Strategic Studies and IFRI for International Relations; the French-German-British Club of Three; the European Network “Friends of Europe”; the “European Leadership Network”; the American Center for International Security and Cooperation-CISAC; the Brookings Institution; the Center for National Interests-CFNI of which Henry Kissinger is Honorary President.

The document demands political leaders to promote «urgent actions aimed at reducing the risks of military conflicts»

The document, entitled Recommendations of the participants of the Expert Dialogue on Nato-Russia Military Risk Reduction in Europe – December 2020, moves from the observation of the profound degradation occurred in the European security system in recent years. The current situation is characterized by a loss of trust between the main players, by the progressive loosening of controls on the use of nuclear and conventional weapons and by the incremental loss of value of international agreements, such as the agreement signed between Russia and Nato in 1997 on cooperation and security, defined as a “founding act” for a new continental structure after the collapse of the USSR (Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between Nato and the Russian Federation). The consequence of all this is the inevitable increase in the risk of unintentional military incidents that could cause tension and further deteriorate relations between States. This marks an absurd and contradictory situation if compared to the commitments to peaceful cooperation repeatedly affirmed in the most various international forums. In order to remedy a situation that experts have defined as very serious, the document demands that political leaders demonstrate their will for peace by promoting a series of «urgent actions aimed at reducing the risks of military conflicts», restarting the dialogue between Russia and Nato in order to prevent incidents, ensure security throughout the European area and define new agreements on armaments and military activities. These recommendations are now on the table of parliaments and governments, with the hope that the sense of common responsibility will lead to rapid and shared decisions on the control of the use of conventional weapons in the enlarged European system.

Translation by Silvia Muscas

*Marco Ricceri, Secretary General of Eurispes

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