Risto Volanen in English

A model for regional de-escalation

International Conference on European Security, Prague September 2016

Risto Volanen, Ph.D.

Remarks in panel:

The Common European Security?


Our question is a good one, because it implies the answer, too. During the last 500 years Russia has been an essential element of the European security, and it will be also in future. Therefore the next question is, what this means during the next decades. This leads to the question, where are we now.


Recently there have been discussions, that the world is going or has gone back to the Cold War. This seems not to be a decent way to judge our situation.


In a longer perspective Cold War seems to have been quite an exceptional period in history. Two universalistic blocs seeking global hegemony and eye balling each other, but in the same time galvanising each other due to their nuclear arsenals. This does not seem to be the case today.


One more point of reference has recently been the time before the Second World War especially by George Friedman of Stratfor Inc. However, this also sounds misleading. Before the WW II there was a concrete will to have a large scale war and this seems not be the situation today.


Many things have happened since the 1648 Westphalia peace. Above all there are now the United Nations and the European Union.  However, the fundamental structure of sovering states still creates their foundation as well as the overall structure of the international order. And this takes place in a world where all the 193 member states of the United Nations are active players.


This means that the world scene looks now more or less Europe on the late 19th century, but in global scale. As we remember the dynamics of that time led finally to the First World War. First, there was a major power together with its partner. Secondly, a counter force coalition was formed, and it covered whole Europe so that if two major states went to war all the others followed. Thirdly, the tension between the coalitions mounted. Fourthly, the tension was triggered to war by the murder in Sarajevo.


On the way to Sarajevo, the mounting tension encouraged Realpolitik becoming plain power politics without historical dimension or effort to seek common legitimacy. We are not so far yet, but the direction is obvious.


Of course, I cannot try to give here any fundamental solution, but there are some concrete ways to use in order to block the escalation towards an uncontrollable stage. One of them is regionalisation of security. For instance, we have now somewhat calmed crisis in Ukraine and high crisis in Syria. There are no objective reasons why there should be a horizontal escalation also to the Baltic sea region. But in spite of this that is what is happening just now.


So we should see for instance the Baltic sea region as a regional security domain of some 100 million people and work together to prevent escalation and help de-escalation there. In this kind of security domains all the relevant parties should be included to mutual security communications. On the Baltic it would mean all of its 10 countries including Russia and the US responsible for its part of the balance on all of its levels from technical to geopolitical. 


Escalation and de-escalation takes place on different levels: technical, operational, political and geopolitical. To start with you can take concrete small steps starting from the lowest level. This is what Finnish President Sauli Niinistö suggested when he made the initiative for introducing transponders to all air planes over the Baltic region in order to avoid their accidents. The same logic holds also in MP Matti Vanhanen’s suggestion for the operational level to start decreasing the volumes in the military exercises on the Baltic region.


Of course these Finnish initiatives do not solve the problem immediately. But they are a good start, and they also can give a model to be used on the other regions of the world.