Panel at the Munich Security Conference
In 2016, the Munich Security Conference – which is considered the most important forum on foreign policy and security worldwide – was marked by the crisis in relations between Russia and the West. For the first time, the Robert Bosch Stiftung hosted a panel at the conference. The topic: "How can the West reach a new consensus on policy regarding the East?"
The report of the Transatlantic Strategy Group, which was introduced at the security conference, gives some initial answers to this question. The strategy group includes foreign policy and security experts who came together at the invitation of the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR), the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
Mere minutes before Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke of a "new Cold War" during the security conference’s main program, Daniel Hamilton (director of the CTR) and Stefan Meister (program director at the Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia of the DGAP) presented the strategy group’s policy recommendations to an audience of European, American, and Russian guests. The group calls on the West to rethink its previous policies regarding Russia – strengthening the defensive capabilities as well as the internal solidarity of Western society is an urgent necessity.
Strategy Recommendations for a New Eastern Policy
The experts recommend a threefold strategy: First, the West should attempt to curtail aggression where necessary; second, the West should rely upon communication and selective intervention; and third, the West should strive for proactive interaction with the largest possible number of partners from Russian society. Stefan Meister emphasized: "The primary tasks in Ukraine and in other former Soviet republics are the establishment of institutions and the support in improving the security situation. Without security, there will be no successful reform or transformation." Because the EU has such great interest in a stable "neighborhood" with intact borders, it is necessary to improve the border authorities in these countries as well as to strengthen the military and other security-related institutions. In conclusion, the Transatlantic Strategy Group appealed to the countries of NATO to keep their primary objective of collective defense and deterrence in focus. "While the old NATO mantra was 'out of area, out of business,' today's is 'in area or in trouble,'" said Daniel Hamilton. The Transatlantic Strategy Group’s conclusion: The West should strengthen its defensive capabilities as well as the solidarity of its societies and disseminate this ability to withstand to weaker neighboring countries.
Dialog between East and West is Important
Afterward, speakers from both the transatlantic and the Russian perspective commented on the recommendations. In her welcome speech at the beginning of the event, Stella Voutta highlighted the importance of the Russian participants for the Robert Bosch Stiftung: Although the strategy group was aiming at a better coordination of Western policies when dealing with the East, maintaining direct dialog between Russia and the West is at least equally important.
Within just a few weeks with two workshops in Berlin and Washington, D.C., as well as a study trip to Moscow and Kiev, the Transatlantic Strategy Group compiled recommendations for a "new Eastern policy for the West." The publication of the strategy group’s report was released in May 2016. It contains concrete recommendations for dealing with Russia and the region.
The project entered its second phase in September 2016. Based on the results of the first year, the dialog will be continued in 2017.
See working papers of the project: