Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

Building Military Confidence in Non-European Regions

Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

Building Military Confidence in Non-European Regions

Article excerpt

This article analyses the role and place of confidence-building measures (CBMs), instruments of strengthening politico-military security, outside the Euro-Atlantic area. There is a broad consensus among experts, underpinned by European history since the Cold War, that CBMs stand a chance of succeeding as long as interested parties (states, alliances, armed groups, etc.) are prepared to invest politically to change the status quo by forging a common understanding of the problem and mustering the political will to solve it. Apparently, the major characteristic of CBMs is also their biggest advantage: compared with other similar endeavours, such as disarmament, they entail low politico-military costs.

It is paradoxical that no globally agreed definition of CBMs exists. Various methodologies and criteria have resulted in a host of concepts and proposals in various contexts.1

Typologies of military CBMs differ, although some elements are often referred to and included in agreements. These are the exchange of information and notification about military activities, observation, constraints, assessment and verification of data, communication between the interested parties (via implementation mechanisms and/or institutions), and declaratory commitments (unilateral, bilateral or multilateral).

The contemporary concept of confidence-building measures in the military field is to a great extent the legacy of the Cold War. The justification for politico-military CBMs at that time was the need "to contribute to reducing the dangers of armed conflict and of misunderstanding or miscalculation of military activities which could give rise to apprehension, particularly in a situation where the participating States lack clear and timely information about the nature of such activities."2

Confidence building turned out to be an impressive, durable politicomilitary success of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now known as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The origins of the European undertaking go back to the early 1970s, when a thaw prevailed following the crises of the previous decade.3 The evolution of CBMs was long and uneven, but the subsequent Cold War tensions and stalemates did not result in the failure of the process, as the protagonists saw that it was in their interests to continue, albeit cautiously. The high level of East-West strategic stability determined gradual, innovative solutions in the politico-military domain. The negotiations of the 1980s expanded the scale and deepened various aspects of applying CBMs in the European area, which since then have been renamed confidence- and security-building measures, CSBMs. These measures were politically binding, militarily significant and verifiable where possible. In geographical terms, they covered the area "from the Atlantic to the Urals."

The end of the Cold War accelerated the development of the principles, norms, instruments and mechanisms of security, including CSBMs (vide five Vienna documents adopted between 1990 and 2011). Building confidence and security in the OSCE area was institutionalised in the framework of the Forum for Security Cooperation. In the post-Cold War period, attempts to integrate two flows of hard (disarmament) and soft(CSBMs) arms control failed because of the lack of consensus among the OSCE participants and parties to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) concerning at least the harmonisation of their rights and commitments. In the broader context, CSBMs are considered an adequate link between the military and civilian dimensions of security.

The OSCE's success did not escape the attention of non-European players willing to avail themselves of the opportunities provided by cooperative security. During the final decade of the 20th century and in the following years, non-European players showed an interest in CBM-related means of helping solve regional or local threats and risks, including antagonism, enmity, lack of transparency, unpredictability, suspicion and rivalry. …

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