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Russian treaty proposals hark back to post-Cold War era


With increased tension and military forces on Ukraine’s border, Russia’s proposed treaties with the US and NATO are a strange tactic, but must not be dismissed.

When deep in bilateral negotiations, usually one side may produce a draft treaty for the purposes of having text on which to negotiate or, in a multilateral negotiation, the chair or a group of trusted states may produce an attempt at a draft consensus text. In both cases, it is a stage in the negotiations to help focus minds and to move deliberations to the next stage, and normally the draft treaty will be drastically altered by the end of the process.

Tabling a draft treaty in the absence of negotiations tends to be more the statement of a vision, a set of principles, or elements of a possible eventual treaty – a wishlist perhaps – but has little grounding in any agreed reality which can form the basis of genuine negotiation.

The problem with initiatives which table draft conventions is that one country has laid down text which it ‘owns’ and, as any negotiator knows, it is hard to move on from specific language once it has been tabled – and so draft treaties can often paralyse a process rather than assist it.

However, Russia’s two proposed treaties of 17 December – the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Security Guarantees and the Agreement on Measures to Ensure the Security of the Russian Federation and Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – are following no actual process.

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