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The Geopolitics of European Security: The Consequences of U.S.-Russia Tension

Matthew Rojansky
Journal01 April 2014

At the present moment of obvious tension between Moscow and Washington, it may be tempting to dismiss the likelihood of progress on any diplomatic front, let alone in the complex multilateral format of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Yet the 1972–75 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (csce) itself took place against a backdrop of intense rivalry between the u.s. and Soviet-led blocs, suggesting that reasoned dialogue and consensus on core issues of shared security in the osce space is possible, despite—or perhaps even because of—the looming threat of conflict between geopolitical rivals. Despite some superficial similarities, relations between Russia and the United States today are sufficiently different from the past that they cannot accurately be described as a conflict in the same category as the Cold War. The u.s.-Russia relations have been severely strained over the crisis in Ukraine, but management of the crisis alone will not be enough to restore productive relations between Washington and Moscow or to repair the damage to European security. The best hope is likely a return to the principles of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, and through a similarly inclusive region-wide dialogue. Today, the United States, Europe, and Russia all share an interest in renewal of just such a dialogue, although what will not—indeed what must not—return is the Cold War “balance of terror” that exerted pressure on all sides to participate seriously in the original Helsinki process.

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