Recap: Lucio Gussetti “The Ukraine/Russia War and Indivisibility of Security on the European Continent: a Perspective from the EU”

March 1, 2023

On February 22, 2023, European Studies Council Visiting Fellow, Lucio Gussetti presented a section from his work-in-progress in the talk titled, “The Ukraine/ Russia War and Indivisibility of Security on the European Continent: a Perspective from the EU.” Gussetti is Director and Principal Legal Adviser of the European Commission for Foreign and Security Policy and External Relations and a former member of the Private Office of the European Commission’s President. Arne Westad, the Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale, served as a discussant. Isabela Mares, Faculty Director of the European Union Studies Program and the Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science at Yale, introduced the participants.

Gussetti’s talk focused on the concept “indivisibility of security” from historical and legal perspectives and its relevance for restoring peace in Europe.

First, Gussetti traced the development of the European security framework in legal documents. In the Article 21(2c) of the Consolidated version of the Treaty on the European Union (2012), one of the objectives of the European Union was to “preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and with the aims of the Charter of Paris, including those relating to external borders.” Gussetti traced the genealogy of this language back to the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The foreign ministers of 33 European countries, including the USSR, and the United States participated at the Conference, held in Geneva and Helsinki between 1973-1975. The Helsinki Final Act, singed in 1975, recognized the indivisibility of European security and common interests in developing cooperation throughout Europe. This statement was reinforced by the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, adopted by most European governments, the USSR, Canada, and the United States in 1990. Furthermore, the Charter of Paris added a significant sentence, “Security is indivisible and the security of every participating State is inseparably linked to that of all the others.” The concept then travelled to the founding documents of the European Union from the Maastricht Treaty (1991) to the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997), the Treaty of Nice (2001), and, finally, the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). The concept continued to evolve at the Astana Commemorative Declaration: Towards a Security Community, signed by 56 participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010. Article 3 stated, “The security of each participating State is inseparably linked to that of all others. <…> They will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States.” According to Gussetti, the latter sentence was utilized by the Russian authorities in their blaming the West for having violated the Helsinki Final Act.

Second, Gussetti discussed the European indivisible security in the context of Russia’s full-scale invasion in Ukraine. He demonstrated that a number of communications between the Russian Federation, the United States, and NATO prior to February 24, 2022 had direct or indirect references to the concept of “indivisibility of security.” As late as in January 2022, the US and NATO underlined serious differences in the understanding of the principle of equal and individual security, fundamental to the European security architecture. The Russian side asserted that the principle of indivisible security was interpreted by the West as a justification for the NATO expansion. In Gussetti’s words, “no matter how one imagines the end of this terrible war, starting with the most favorable scenario of victorious Ukraine, the need of a stable European continent for an indivisible security, protecting all of us from Vancouver to Vladivostok, <…> remains essential.” The speaker argued that though we should not return to the logic of the 1950s and another Cold War, we should collectively strive to return to the logic of the Helsinki Final Act. Following this logic would be the most secure way for reestablishing sustainable peace on the Euro-Atlantic space. He noticed a significant number of uncertainties that complicated the current situation, including the Russian regime, the definition of victory, and the nuclear threat.

In his comments, Westad discussed a possibility of reconstructing an inclusive European security framework. He argued that the development of a uniform and comprehensive framework for European security in the 1990s had failed. Russia was left as a “kind of dissatisfied scavenger on the outside of the European system.” Westad pointed out that congregating under the NATO umbrella instead of creating its own security organization was a mistake for Europe. Westad asserted that even though the United States and Europe worked well together in supporting Ukraine during the war, the long-term idea that Europe would be dependent on the United States for its defense had to go. Defining a Ukrainian victory, Westad emphasized the importance of the integration of Ukraine into the European Union.

During the Q&A, the questions about the role of the United States and Europe in the post-war peace agreements, the position of Ukraine in the European security framework, and the future relations with Russia, among others, have been discussed.

Watch video recording on the Yale European Studies Council YouTube chanel.