MUNICH – The chasm between Russia and the West appears to be wider now than at any point since the Cold War. But, despite stark differences, there are areas of existential common interest. As we did during the darkest days of the Cold War, Americans, Europeans, and Russians must work together to avoid catastrophe, including by preventing terrorist attacks and reducing the risks of a military – or even nuclear – conflict in Europe.
Ever since the historic events of 1989-1991 changed Europe forever, each of us has been involved in Euro-Atlantic security, both inside and outside of government. Through it all, efforts to build mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region have lacked urgency and creativity. As a result, the Euro-Atlantic space has remained vulnerable to political, security, and economic crises.
In the absence of new initiatives by all parties, things are likely to get worse. Terrorist attacks have struck Moscow, Beslan, Ankara, Istanbul, Paris, Nice, Munich, Brussels, London, Boston, New York, Washington, and other cities – and those responsible for carrying them out are determined to strike again. Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine since 2013, and more are dying in renewed fighting today. Innocent refugees are fleeing the devastating wars in the Middle East and North Africa. And Western-Russian relations are dangerously tense, increasing the risk that an accident, mistake, or miscalculation will precipitate a military escalation – or even a new war.
The first step in acting to advance our common interests is to identify and pursue concrete, practical, near-term initiatives designed to reduce risks, rebuild trust, and improve the Euro-Atlantic security landscape. There are five key areas that such initiatives should cover.