Speech by EU Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis,
World Peace Forum,
Plenary Session on European Security
Sunday 3 July 2022, 2:00pm-3:30pm
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Europe is at war.
In an ominous statement in January 1995, then French President François Mitterrand warned the European Parliament that, I quote, “If we fail to overcome our past, let there be no mistake about what will follow: nationalism means war. War is not only our past; it could also be our future.”
Today, Russian nationalism has brought war back into the heart of the European continent. It is challenging the European Security architecture that had secured 77 years of peace, the longest ever peaceful coexistence of nations in that part of the world. Doing so, it has also unilaterally broken solemn commitments it had freely subscribed to in the Charter of the United Nations, putting into question the foundations of global security for all nations of the world.
Four months into Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war against Ukraine, the European Union continues to call on the Russian leadership to stop its aggression for the sake of its own country, Ukraine, Europe and the wider world. Such a use of force and coercion has no place in the 21st century. Let me assure you: those responsible for this atrocity will be held accountable.
This devastating war, moreover, comes at a time when the EU has been witnessing an unprecedented number of conflicts and non-conventional threats in its neighbourhood and beyond. The brutal and merciless weaponisation of migrants, information, food and energy has taken security considerations to new levels. Today we witness how Russia, by blocking hundreds of ships filled with wheat in the Black Sea and targeting the whole ecosystem of Ukraine’s agriculture—fields, farm equipment, warehouses, markets, roads, bridges, and ports—intends to cripple Ukraine’s economy, and in so doing endangers global food security and fuels instability around the world.
All of the above is happening at a time when the multilateral system is already at its weakest in 30 years. Because relations among the main actors are conflictual, international cooperation has halted. The rules-based international order, built in the aftermath of WWII, is facing an existential crisis.
Exactly when the world needs international institutions and effective multilateralism like never before, some are intent on reviving memories of the great empires of the past. Powers who want to change the rules of the global game under fallacious claims. These actors, promoting a sovereigntist and nationalist idea of the international order place sole emphasis on the sovereignty and power of the State. They carry a worldview that Europe has seen before and does not wish to return to.
Today, I will look back on the roots of the European security architecture, the path that Europe has chosen in order to leave behind a world centred around power politics and nationalism that has so often led to an outbreak of war in our history, in order to introduce the European aspiration to carve out a post-Westphalian security order from the ashes of the wars that have devastated the continent and the world.
I would also like to look forward, to the intended strengthening of the European architecture, with the aim to ensure a geopolitical Europe. A more autonomous Europe. A Europe that is a security provider. And a Europe that can settle peacefully its relations with these would-be empires that are so adamant to impose their will and to eliminate criticism and opposition.
[I The European security architecture]
Security has been at the heart of the European project since its inception. Security is in the European DNA, but it has never meant the West vs. the East. Our security architecture did not sprout from the Cold War, as many now believe or would like to portray, but rather Europe has been led by a broader determination of “never again” inspired tragically by the two World Wars.
Our daring goal to move towards a post-Westphalian security order has come to rest on two strongholds, namely, the foundational agreements of European security (EU CSDP, OSCE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – NATO. These stand under the overarching chapeau of the UN Charter, including all of its three pillars – human rights, peace and security, and development. It is a structure that makes peace a prerogative – based on the indivisibility of the tripod, aligning human rights as well as economic and social progress, directly with global security; everyone has the right to live in peace and with dignity.
The establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 was the first step towards the architecture we see today. With economics at the forefront, but security at its heart.
In parallel, the Western European Union, which grew out of the failure to ratify the Common European Defence project, became the European defence pillar in NATO.
A NATO that helped to keep Europe free, but was never a US dictate, never imposed on European countries. The creation of NATO and its enlargement has always been and remains a sovereign decision. A decision – as we have all been reminded by recent developments – that needs to be approved by a consensus of all existing members.
We should remember that Europe, at the cusp of the long Cold War, lay between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, with an Iron Curtain splitting it in two and a broken Berlin at the heart of it.
The transatlantic partnership that came together under NATO kept Europe safe as Soviet tanks lined European borders, much like the Russian tanks that lined Ukraine’s borders at the start of this year. Back then, we saw Soviet tanks and troops viciously crush, kill and wound thousands and force nearly a quarter-million Hungarians to flee the country during the Budapest uprising in 1956. We witnessed Soviet troops march through Prague after the “Prague Spring” of 1968, establishing a permanent Soviet presence in Czechoslovakia to further the artificial division of Europe. These are images that come back to us today in Europe as history stubbornly stutters forward.
That a European-led effort nevertheless managed to solidify a nascent détente with the Soviet Union following such events in 1975, should be seen as a sign of hope to all of us today. The Helsinki Final Act that was signed that year by 33 European countries, the US and Canada remains a foundational one for the European security architecture as it started us out on a path towards the Charter of Paris, later the Charter for European Security. These remain three foundational documents of the OSCE, founded in 1995.
And in 1989, the Iron Curtain started falling – peacefully – across Europe, beginning with the wall dividing Berlin.
There was not one European country nor did NATO take advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union or of the disintegration and turbulence weakening the newly found Russian Federation. A fact that should serve as a reminder to Russia and the world today that both Europe and NATO were from the start and remain defensive in their nature. Like the Chinese say, seek truth from facts: the European Union embodies peace among formerly warring nations. Can the same be said of other powers who have never renounced the use of force in their international relations?
Indeed, the European project rejects power politics among its member states. It has succeeded by supplanting power calculations with legal procedures. In the history of international relations and our war-torn continent, this was a Copernican revolution. It has also been spectacularly successful, cementing peace and cooperation, creating institutions, mental maps and a vocabulary that are unique, while resting on the universally adopted pillars of the UN Charter.
European defence integration only gained momentum after the end of the Cold War, partly as a result of the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, when it became clear that the EU needed to assume its responsibilities in the field of conflict prevention and crisis management. The 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam listed the conditions under which military units could be deployed. The 2009 Lisbon Treaty was a cornerstone in the development of an EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
[II So how did we end up where we find ourselves today?]
“L’Europe qui est la nôtre n’est pas une alliance de nations qui veulent se faire la guerre, c’est un projet de respect qui a mis fin aux rêves d’empire qui nous avaient toujours fracturés. Et les rêves d’empire reviennent : c’est le rêve de la Russie aujourd’hui, c’est le rêve de certains autres.”
(Président Macron, Avril 2022)
Last April, French President Emmanuel Macron said in Strasbourg that, I quote, “our Europe is not an alliance of nations that wish to wage war among themselves, it is a project of respect ending imperial dreams that have fractured it for so long. Yet imperial dreams are returning: this is today a Russian dream, as it is the dream of some others.”
In the past months, President Putin has made a number of claims to service such imperial dreams.
It claims that the West violated its promises to Russia to stop the enlargement of NATO beyond the borders of the reunified Germany. Such a promise was never made, nor was it ever requested from NATO. Russian state-controlled media have often claimed that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was promised “verbally” that NATO would not expand beyond the reunified Germany. In fact, it was Gorbachev himself that denied this claim in a 2014 interview, saying that, “the topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all, […]. Not a single eastern European country raised the issue, not even after the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist in 1991.”
Nor has there been any evidence that Russian-speaking or ethnic Russian residents in eastern Ukraine faced persecution – let alone genocide — at the hands of Ukrainian authorities, as claimed by Putin. This has been confirmed in reports issued by the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the OSCE. President Putin’s claim that Ukraine and Russia are “one nation” is one of the oldest and most deeply ingrained myths used against Ukraine. Even from a long-term historic perspective, this argument does not hold. Despite long periods of foreign rule, Ukraine has a strong national culture and identity, and is a sovereign country.
Notions of “spheres of influence”, that underlie such imperialist dreams, should have no place in the 21st century. Like all sovereign states, Ukraine is free to determine its own path, its foreign and security policies and alliances, and its participation in international organisations and military alliances. Ukraine is a candidate to accession to the European Union. It is a strategic partner of China. And it remains a country whose sovereignty China has promised to guarantee unilaterally in the governmental statement dated December 4, 1994, when Ukraine had voluntarily decided to abandon the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal.
As with Ukraine, Europe and NATO have sought a partnership with Russia. There was no issue with the indivisibility of security as Russia was opening up economically and gradually enhanced its security cooperation with NATO and Europe. In 2002, NATO leaders and President Vladimir Putin himself signed a declaration establishing the NATO-Russia Council as a consensus-based body of equal members and up to 2008, our security cooperation with Russia had an architecture where Russia was a full member – Council of Europe, OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council.
Russia’s military action in Georgia in August 2008 however led to the suspension of formal meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, and in March 2014, Russia illegally and illegitimately annexed Crimea, part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. In the face of such gross violations of international law on 1 April 2014, NATO Foreign Ministers decided to suspend all practical cooperation with Russia.
The willingness of NATO to continue seeking solutions through constructive dialogue and diplomacy was again demonstrated in January 2022 when NATO and its allies met with Russia to discuss about its security concerns.
There should be no misunderstanding over the fact that the door for partnership with NATO has been and remains open to a Russia that respects the commitments it has taken.
III Patriotism towards multilateralism
“Patriotism is the love of one’s own, and
nationalism is the hatred of others”
None of us is perfect. Having learned this from history, countries of the world have chosen to rally under the UN banner to ensure global security and stability.
Throughout the past half century, global security has long depended on the P5 of the UNSC coming together to guarantee the security of any one country. It has been the defender of the UN Charter, but only as long as it is united. The Balkan Wars (1995, 1999) and the denuclearisation of Ukraine (1994) remain examples of UNSC cooperation. They included cooperation with Russia and other nuclear states, as well as the international guarantee to Ukraine’s borders.
It is with great regret that today we witness a gaping divide emerging among the UNSC members on a broad number of issues.
The war in Ukraine is the latest and most dramatic illustration that at the gates of the European Union, the jungle is growing back, forcing seven million Ukrainians to seek refuge in our post-imperial gardens.
Let me recall the celebrated verses of Du Fu who in Spring 756 lamented the impact of the war that had devastated the Tang Capital of Chang’an: 國破山河在, 城春草木深. 感時花濺淚, 恨別鳥驚心. “The Nation is broken, but mountains and rivers remain; as spring comes to the city, the grass and the trees grow in abundance. In view of these circumstances, the flowers make me cry; loathing separation, I am startled by the birds.”
We should draw inspiration from these centuries old human emotions and make sure that our people do not cry and are not separated when spring comes. As Europeans, but hopefully also as Chinese, we should resolutely favour dialogue over confrontation; diplomacy over force; multilateralism over unilateralism. Multilateralism is in the EU’s DNA, which makes it a natural ally of the United Nations and those regional organisations that support democracy, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect human dignity.
Effective multilateralism should not be confused with multipolarity. The EU is not in favour of a world organised around opposing blocks. We acknowledge without any difficulty the diversity of nations and of sensitivities; but peace, stability, development and prosperity require rules-based cooperation, respect of universal rights enshrined in the UN system. Relativism and whataboutism are mortal traps. Political and cultural differences will always exist: they do not justify adding insult to injury.
TO CONCLUDE –
It is up to Russia to decide what it wants. The EU’s door remains open to partnership, as it has in the past, with a Russia that is ready to honour the commitments to the UN Charter and the European security architecture, which it once chose to join.
Europe has been at the centre of two World Wars, which spread to the rest of the world; it does not want to become the centre of yet another. The war against Ukraine can again turn into a global war. The consequences of Russian aggression against Ukraine are already being felt across the world in terms of food and energy shortages. But also, in the anxiety sensed from Kenya to Singapore that if the rules based international order crumbles, it will bring devastation to those facing powerful neighbours and those that, with the help of the rules based order, had made nationalist arguments a thing of the past.
In 2021, under the leadership of the HR/VP Borrell, EU member states set out to define a common threat assessment that led this year to a Strategic Compass aimed at providing an ambitious plan of action for strengthening the EU’s security and defence policy by 2030.
The Strategic Compass represents a quantum leap forward when it comes to making sure EU’s security meets the challenges of the time. It represents a political proposal to prevent the existential risk that the EU is facing: that of strategic shrinkage, or the risk of being always principled, yet disarmed in view of the present geopolitical challenges – a herbivore in a world of carnivores – to quote a former European Foreign Minister. Europe’s relevance today lies in its capacity to remain a guiding force for a sustainable and rules-based international order. That is why so many countries want to be part of the European project.
As a nation with a major stake in international stability, we expect China to also take a responsible role in addressing core issues such as global security and stability and step up to defend the multilateral security order built around the UN Charter. A demonstration of positive resolve to help stop Russia’s war on Ukraine and to stand up against the return of imperialism and power politics would be a welcomed act in the eyes of the international community to complement China’s assurances of its peaceful rise.
At the very least EU hopes that China as a major power and a P5 member will take full account of the determination of Europe I have described here today to build and promote something radically different from the 19th century imperialism.