(Art design: Jean-Dominique Lavoix-Carli)
Within the context of the heightened tensions between Russia and the U.S., Russia, on 1st February 2022, through its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov invokes an article of a 1999 agreement (Reuters, 1 February 2022). What is is this agreement and which article does Lavrov use?
The 1999 agreement is actually the OSCE 1999 Istanbul Document. It resulted from a summit between the leaders of 54 states participating in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that took place in Istanbul in November 1999.
The Document notably contains a “Charter for European Security” (pp. 1 to 45), “Done at Istanbul, on 19 November 1999, in the name of”, follows the names and signatures of the countries signatory to the charter (pp.14 to 42).
As shown on the two images below, both the U.S. (p.15) and Russia (p.36) have signed the Charter, besides Canada and many other European and Central Asian States. Ukraine is also a signatory.
Foreign Minister Lavrov refers to article 8 of the Document, that reads:
“8. Each participating State has an equal right to security. We reaffirm the inherent right of each and every participating State to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, as they evolve. Each State also has the right to neutrality. Each participating State will respect the rights of all others in these regards. They will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States. Within the OSCE no State, group of States or organization can have any pre-eminent responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the OSCE area or can consider any part of the OSCE area as its sphere of influence.“Art. 8, Charter for European Security in 1999 OSCE Istanbul Document p.3 [my emphasis].
From Russia’s point of view, any enlargement of NATO eastward is in contradiction with this article. Actions with possible security implications for Russia in a country such as Ukraine, also a signatory to the Charter, similarly are, too, in contradiction with Article 8.
However, from Ukraine’s point of view, the annexion of Crimea by Russia, may also be seen as being in contradiction to Article 8. And there, Russia may in turn argue it answered to the initial absence of respect to its security in 2013 and 2014 (see Crisis in Ukraine) that similarly contradicted Article 8.
Interestingly, in an early analysis of the Charter for NATO, the point invoked by Lavrov in Article 8 is not considered (see Victor-Yves Ghebali, “The OSCEs Istanbul Charter for European Security“, NATO Review, July 2000). This absence may show how much sometimes our focus on one aspect may make us blind to other aspects. This may also show some inability (intended or not) to consider how much NATO may be felt as threatening by others. This incapacity to consider others’ point of view was very much also at the heart of the 2013-2014 Ukraine crisis. This most probably remains true today.