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Leadership Task Force Calls for NATO-Russia Council to be Urgently Convened to Discuss Risks of Ongoing Military Activities in Europe  

Calls for new Military Memorandum of Understanding between NATO, its Partners and Russia

A Pan-European Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe, including former foreign and defence ministers from the UK, Poland, Russia, Germany, Turkey and France has expressed its concern at the increased scale of military activities in the Euro-Atlantic area and has called for an agreement between NATO and Russia to prevent accidental incidents or miscalculations leading to an escalation of tension and even confrontation.

In its paper on Avoiding War in Europe: How to Reduce the Risk of a Military Encounter between Russia and NATO, the Task Force, coordinated by the European Leadership Network, a pan-European leadership network and security think-tank based in London, describes some of the increased military activity in Europe in recent months. It argues that the situation is ripe with potential for either dangerous miscalculation or an accident that could trigger a further worsening of the crisis or even a direct military confrontation between Russia and the West.


It brings forward a very specific proposal, namely that:

  • The NATO-Russia Council should be urgently convened to discuss a possible Memorandum of Understanding between NATO and its partners and the Russian Federation on Rules of Behaviour for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters between the two sides.
  • Such a memorandum of understanding would be modelled on a similar memorandum signed between the United States and China in November 2014.
  • The agreement would:
    • Set out the principles and procedures of communication that should be observed during encounters between military vessels and aircraft;
    • Require each side to give timely hazard warnings if military exercises and live weapons firing are to take place in a vicinity where military assets of the other side are operational;
    • Commit each side to communicate in a timely fashion about the manoeuvring intentions of military vessels and military aircraft.

It would also, again modelled on the US-China agreement, contain a list of actions to be avoided. This would include:

  • Avoiding simulations of attacks by aiming guns, missiles, fire control radar, torpedo tubes or other weapons in the direction of military vessels and military aircraft encountered.

And the agreement would:

  • Agree the radio frequencies to be used for communication and the signals vocabulary to be used if spoken language difficulties between commanding officers or masters are encountered.
  • Contain a provision for an annual assessment meeting, led by senior military officers, of any events relating to the application of the agreement in practice.

This agreement would provide a multilateral agreement that builds on and expands two existing agreements that apply to the United States and Russia. These are the Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (1972), and the 1989 Agreement on Prevention of Dangerous Military Incidents.

This would provide a concrete multilateral method to more effectively manage some of the risks we are now running in Europe.

Signatories to the paper are:

  • Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Foreign Minister, (Poland) (Task Force Co-Chair);
  • Igor S. Ivanov, former Foreign Minister, President, Russian International Affairs Council, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia) (Task Force Co-Chair);
  • Des Browne, former Defence Secretary (UK) (Task Force Co-Chair);
  • Özdem Sanberk, Director of the International Strategic Research Organisation, former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Turkey) (Task Force Co-Chair);
  • Ana Palacio, former Foreign Minister (Spain);
  • Malcolm Rifkind, former Foreign and Defence Secretary (UK);
  • Volker Ruehe, former Defence Minister (Germany);
  • Tarja Cronberg, Former Member of the European Parliament and former Director of the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (Finland);
  • Igor Yu. Yurgens, Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Contemporary Development, Vice President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (Russia);
  • Tony Brenton, former Ambassador to Russia (UK);
  • Alexei Gromyko, Acting Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IE RAS) (Russia);
  • Paul Quilès, former Defence Minister (France);
  • Vyacheslav I. Trubnikov, former Director, Russian Foreign Intelligence, General (Rtd) and former Ambassador (Russia);
  • Hikmet Cetin, former Foreign Minister (Turkey).

The Task Force is supported by independent research from a consortium of think-tanks: the European Leadership Network (ELN) in London; the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in Moscow; the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) in Warsaw and the International Strategic Research Organisation (USAK) in Ankara.

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