Russia proposes updated European security treaty

Gerdy Rees
22 September 2009

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev set out his desire to restructure Europe's existing security architecture on Monday, suggesting Switzerland could mediate negotiations between Russia and European NATO members.

Speaking at a news conference in Switzerland, alongside Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz, Medvedev painted NATO as an outdated security model formed in the era of confrontation between NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw pact. ‘We are not divided today into any blocs for ideological reasons, we don't have different values, but at the same time the degree of security (in Europe) is plummeting' he warned. Medvedev went on to propose the development a new European security treaty that would include both NATO members and ex-Soviet republics and encompass territory stretching from North America to Asia.

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The ToD Verdict: Medvedev first proposed the development of a new legally binding pact on European security, designed to prevent a return to the divisions of the Cold War era, in June 2008. Russia's central argument for its development is that under current European security pacts - the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe and 1999 Istanbul Charter for European Security - Russia is left disadvantaged with no institutionalised, significant say in European security decision-making. Medvedev instead wants to create a new pact which would entrench the improved relations between Russia and the West and reflect Russia and the EU's interdependence in security matters.  

Medvedev pointed to the ‘plummeting' level of security throughout Europe as evidence of the need for a renewed security structure, illustrated by NATO's continued eastward expansion and the stalemate which left NATO unable to prevent the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia. Nevertheless, the proposal was received coldly by most Western nations, with many stating that the current agreements continue to serve Europe's needs. Georgia, Ukraine, the three Baltic States and most Central and Eastern European countries continue to place their hopes for greater security in NATO and remain wary of the Russian proposal. However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that they were willing to debate the proposals, although they warned against undermining existing security arrangements and structures.

Despite the lack of European support Medvedev is likely to use a visit to the US on Wednesday to push for a breakthrough in the area. Emboldened by the US abandoning its plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, two former Soviet satellites that are now NATO members, Medvedev is likely to follow US calls for a joint Russian-NATO missile defence system by pushing for a new pact that would cross Cold War fault lines.

Aside from fierce opposition to the plans by states such as Georgia and Poland, there are several probable stumbling blocks to any agreement, most contentiously the status of South Ossetia and Kosovo following its declaration of independence in 2009.

Senior Pakistani militant arrested in Swat valley
The Pakistan military claimed to have captured another leading militant based in the Swat Valley. Mohammad Nasim Shah, also known as Abu Faraj, is thought to have trained bombers for suicide missions and directed a series of suicide-attacks in the north-west region of Pakistan. His arrest is the latest in a campaign by Pakistan's security forces to capture high profile militants in the region. Shah is also believed to be a close aide of Swat Valley's Taliban chief, Maulana Fazlullah, whose capture is the focus of Pakistani military efforts.

Over 100 killed in ethnic clashes in southern Sudan
More than 100 people were killed as thousands of armed members of the Lou Nuer tribe attacked the village of Duk Padiet in Jonglei state, Sudan, on Sunday. The village is home to rival tribe the Dinka, many of whom were attending church when the attack took place. The commissioner of surrounding Duk County, Mayen Ngor, described how the attackers burnt down 260 huts, the police station and local government buildings and forced thousands to flee. Over fifty civilians and 28 members of the southern security forces and police were killed in the attack, and 23 of the militiamen were killed.

Jonglei has been the centre of many violent attacks in recent months. Southern Sudan is home to hundreds of different ethnic groups, and clashes between tribes over land, cattle and other increasingly insecure resources has been a feature in the region for decades. However, the scale of attacks in recent months has been noted as exceptional by observers, and the United Nations estimates more than 1,200 people have died in such attacks in south Sudan this year alone.

Politicians from the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, which heads an autonomous regional government in the south, believe that rival tribes are being armed by Khartoum in order to destabilise the region ahead of next year's elections and the 2011 referendum on the South's independence. Khartoum's political elite have much to lose at the ballot box, since the south contains the majority of Sudan's oil reserves. The Khartoum government, headed by Omar Al-Bashir, denies the accusations.

Ahmadinejad warns against any attack on Iran
Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that Iran would ‘cut off the hands' of anyone that attacked the country. The remarks were made during a military parade in Tehran on Tuesday that marks the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980. In a display of military might, long and short range missiles, unmanned planes and locally made jet fighters were paraded through the city accompanied by trucks bearing the slogans "Down with Israel" and "Down with USA".

Israel, meanwhile, has refused to guarantee that it would not launch a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which it suspects of being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied on Sunday that Iran intends to develop nuclear arms.

Police called to disperse pro-Zelaya demonstration
Hundreds of supporters of Manuel Zelaya gathered on Tuesday outside the Brazilian embassy where the exiled Honduran president, having infiltrated the country, is taking refuge. Police were called to disperse the demonstration and fired tear gas into the crowd, some of which landed inside the Brazilian embassy's compound. An all-day curfew was put into effect soon after. Zelaya was ousted by the Honduran military in June in a dispute over his efforts to stage a referendum that would have allowed him to remain in office beyond the end of his term.  Zelaya has been sheltering in the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into the country on Monday in a bid to return to power.  


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