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'Shake loose the Cold War', Guardian Oped by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, 30 January 2009

Shake loose the cold war: Europe, North America and we in Russia need a new security treaty. So this is our proposal, Sergey Lavrov, Comment is Free, www.guardian.co.uk, 30 January 2009.

As in the rest of the world, Russia has watched with great interest the first few days of the Barack Obama presidency. It is far too early, of course, to take any settled view of what the change at the White House might mean for the world.

What is without doubt is the opportunity for a much more multilateral approach to help ease tensions and overcome problems. At the heart of any such approach must be an agreement to put in place effective processes and institutions to meet the security and political concerns of all countries. This will require them to look beyond their history and narrow national interests.

If we are serious about greater co-operation, we must start by shaking ourselves loose from the grip of the old cold war rivalries. Europe and North America long ago moved beyond those tensions but the institutions still seem frozen in time, as do some of our responses.

Plans to expand Nato seem aimed at tackling problems of the past, rather than building confidence now. So, too, do unilateral decisions over anti-ballistic missile defence systems. We must recognise that it is not possible to enhance the security of individual countries by ignoring the security implications for their neighbours.

Many of the institutions already in place are primarily concerned with the security of their own members; the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe, as the summer crisis in the Caucasus demonstrated, lacks the rules and accountability to be effective. And it was seeking a way to plug this damaging gap that prompted President Medvedev to propose a new treaty on European security: we believe it would establish a truly united area of collective security in the Euro-Atlantic region and put right what we together so far failed to manage.

The new system would have to be based on supremacy of international law and adherence to the UN charter. It is intended to provide the forum through which we could resolve security problems for many years to come. A treaty could only arise from a democratic negotiating process involving all states of the region, as well as multilateral security bodies already working in this area.

Such an initiative would open the way for a more effective dialogue than the one provided by the OSCE format. It would also allow us to build in ideas from academics and experts from across Europe, Russia and North America.

There is no hidden agenda behind this initiative. It stems from a genuine desire to restore confidence and security. It will also, as former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer has said, finally provide the opportunity for us together to answer the critical strategic question of Russia's global role and its place within Europe.

If we get this right, it could lead to a new era of co-operation. The extra safeguards would give countries the confidence that their security would be protected collectively rather than by national action. It would breathe life into the commitment of the OSCE and Nato-Russia council that no country should ensure its own security at the cost of the security of others. In doing so, it would break the deadlock on arms control in Europe and prevent the risk of any new arms race.

When foreign ministers discussed the idea of such a treaty during the OSCE ministerial council in December, there were plenty of views on what it should contain. But no one challenged the usefulness of such a discussion. If we can get down to the hard work of finding a way forward, we will ensure we don't waste this opportunity for increased international co-operation - and earn the gratitude of future generations.

Source: The Guardian, www.guardian.co.uk.

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