The NATO-EU-Russia Triangle: Different Perceptions and Approaches to International Security

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Reuben W. Hills Conference Room
  • Franz Cede

About the speaker:

Dr. Franz Cede is a retired Austrian diplomat who served as the Austrian Ambassador to Russia (1999-2003) and to NATO (2003-2007). He also was the Legal Advisor to the Austrian Foreign Ministry. He has a strong California connection dating back to the time when he was the Austrian Consul General in Los Angeles 20 years ago. Dr Cede holds the degree "Doctor of Law" from Innsbruck University. He received an M.A. in international affairs from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., and is currently an associate professor at the Andrassy University in Budapest, Hungary. Dr. Cede has published several books and articles in the field of international relations, international law and diplomacy.

Jointly sponsored by The Europe Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.


Audio Synopsis:

In this talk, Dr. Cede details his views on Russia's evolving relationships with the EU, NATO, and the US, drawing on his experiences as Austrian ambassador to the Soviet Union from1999 to 2003. Cede first outlines his perceptions of present-day Russia-US and Russia-NATO relations. Russia, he explains, still thinks in Cold War terms of bilateral relations and considers the United States to be its primary strategic partner on global security issues, especially in light of the Obama administration's recent "reset" of relations and ratification of the new START treaty. In contrast, Russia views NATO as outdated and yet still a threat. Its expansion to the East is viewed with suspicion by Putin's administration, which considers these developments to be distinctly anti-Russian. Russia engages with NATO only to the extent that it believes it can influence the organization's behavior and policies toward Moscow.  Still, in Cede's experience, the NATO-US-Russia triangle continues to be at the forefront of Russian policymakers' dialogue. Russian leaders prefer to avoid dealing with the EU because it lacks a coherent foreign policy, and also because Russia prefers bilateral relations with countries that offer a strategic benefit. Dr. Cede quotes Timothy Garton Ash, who wrote in a recent op-ed that "much of the Russian foreign policy elite treats the European Union as a kind of transient, post-modern late 20th century anachronism: flawed in principle, and feeble in practice. What matters in the 21st century, as much as it did in the 19th century, is the...determination of great powers." Dr. Cede cites the Georgian military intervention and recent Ukrainian gas crisis as examples of Russia's renewed attempts to reestablish dominance in its neighborhood.  

In the second portion of his talk Dr. Cede traces the evolution of Russian views of the EU and NATO.  Ten years ago, the EU-Russia relationship was largely ignored in the Russian media. When Cede asked Russian citizens for their views on the EU, they "either didn't know or didn't care." As Ambassador, Dr. Cede found Russian officials better informed, but  disdainful of being given orders by EU donors and "treated like a developing country." Cede illustrates this dynamic by recounting the 2004 incident in which the EU forced the residents of Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast region to apply for EU Shengen visas, which then required special permits to travel throughout Russia.  Western assurances that EU expansion to the east was not an attack on Russia but rather an attempt to extend stability to the Eastern bloc fell on deaf ears. Cede believes that notwithstanding Russia's attitude, the country is too big to ever join the EU, or to be influenced by Europe in its policy decisions. Because Russia still views itself as "one of the poles in a multipolar world," Dr. Cede insists that any change must come from within the country. However, Cede views Russia's candidacy to the WTO, which would require a clearer commitment to democracy and open economic policies, as a glimmer of hope.

Finally, Dr. Cede outlines several "permanent" features of Russia's relationship with the world, including economic interdependence, lack of cooperation on security policy, and weak relations with stateless organizations like the EU and NATO. He lays out several recommendations, which are elaborated on during the Q&A session:

  1. EU policymakers and other Western powers (notably the US) should strengthen their common Russia policy. Given the EU's dependence on Russia for oil and gas, it should also diversify its own energy sources to strengthen its bargaining position.
  2. The EU should consider membership for "bridge countries" such as Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus.
  3. Personal diplomacy between universities, civil society, and citizens is important.  This includes reevaluation of visa policy. Cede hopes that the advent of the internet will also help improve attitudes between Russia and the rest of the world.