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Group statement | 6 December 2020

Recommendations from an experts’ dialogue: De-escalating NATO-Russia military risks

The security situation in Europe has deteriorated to its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. NATO and Russian military forces operate in much closer proximity than just a few years ago, previous lines of NATO-Russia communications have broken down, and the nuclear and conventional arms control system that took decades to build is rapidly unravelling, with nothing to take its place.

Against this backdrop, the ELN has lent its support to an extended series of detailed senior expert discussions led by ELN members Sergey Rogov and Alexey Gromyko on how NATO and Russia might reduce the risk of inadvertent conflict. The experts group has comprised some 30 people including retired diplomats and military officers from the United States, Russia and Europe. While members of the group differed over the root causes of the current crisis, they share a common concern that as tension builds between Russia and NATO, there is a growing danger of a real military confrontation.

The recommendations that have come out of these discussions, signed by 166 people from 20 countries, including 58 ELN network members, call on leaders in the US, Russia and Europe to demonstrate the political will necessary to take a number of urgent actions in order to reduce the risks of military conflict.

The recommendations address the following areas:

  1. Re-establishing practical dialogue between Russia and NATO, including direct contacts between the military commanders and experts of Russia and NATO member states.
  2. Developing common rules that will reduce the risk of unintended incidents on land, air and sea.
  3. Enhancing stability by increasing transparency, avoiding dangerous military activities, and providing dedicated communication channels that would avoid escalation of incidents that might occur.
  4. Utilizing (and possibly supplementing) the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act to codify restraint, transparency and confidence-building measures.
  5. Exploring possible limitations on NATO and Russian conventional force deployments in Europe to enhance transparency and stability.
  6. Establishing consultations between Russia and US/NATO on the topics of intermediate-range missiles and ballistic missile defense, in order to prevent a new nuclear missile race in Europe.
  7. Preserving the Open Skies Treaty.

Read the full recommendations in English and Russian, French, Polish and German

The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.

Image: Flickr, NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde