Former Russian Foreign Minister Warns of Growing Nuclear War Risk
~ Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions on Countering Terrorism, Sunday ~
BRUSSELS (March 19, 2016) – On the second day of The German Marshall Fund’s 11th Brussels Forum, Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister from 1998 to 2004 and current president of the Russian International Affairs Council, said the escalation of tensions between Russia and the West has brought the world closer to nuclear war than any other time since the end of the Cold War.
“The risk of confrontation with the use of nuclear weapon today in Europe is higher than it was in the 80s,” said Ivanov. “Today we have less nuclear warheads and the risk of them being used is growing and this is the dangerous situation for all of us.”
Ivanov also warned of possible consequences of an arms race between Europe and Russia saying, “it can be assured that once the U.S. deploys its missile defense system in Poland, for example, Russia would respond by deploying its own Iskandar…missiles defense system in the Kaliningrad region, for example.”
Ivanov spoke at Brussels Forum, an annual conference on transatlantic relations organized by The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and attended by heads of state, officials from the EU institutions and member states, U.S. officials, congressional representatives, parliamentarians, and academics.
He went on to say, “Russia is no longer the eastern flank of the failed Greater Europe. It is becoming the western flank of the emerging greater Eurasia.”
Speaking on the same panel, Michael Turner, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio, argued that the East-West divide today differs from the end of the Soviet Union. “We're not in a cold war situation. We're in a hot war situation. They're shooting weapons. That's a hot war.”
He went on to say, “Georgia and Ukraine represent no threat to Russia. They didn’t invade Russia. You can't look to a nation and say your own internal conflict is a justification for your neighbor to invade you.”
After reminding the audience that Russia annexed Crimea exactly two years ago yesterday, Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs, stressed that his government has made strides to fight corruption and needs international support to combat Russia’s encroachment.
“Russian aggression should not be an excuse not to deliver on reforms,” Klimkin said. “Actually, I believe it’s the other way round, because now we must speed up reforms in order to completely transform Ukraine from the post-Soviet reality.”
Witold Waszczykowski, the Polish minister of foreign affairs, pressed Ivanov on how far Russia would go in its quest for global relevance. “What will satisfy Russia? What kind of a position will satisfy you?”
“You are the member of a security council as a permanent member,” he continued. “You are the member of a G20. You have a privileged relationship with European Union and NATO. You're part of every original structures, Middle East Quartet, talks on Iran, talks on North Korea, whatever, on Arctic. You are part of Normandy Formula, Minsk Formula. What else? What else will satisfy you and what else will give you the right to cooperate with us and stop claiming that we are threatening you?”
In a later session on energy security, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, deputy secretary of energy with the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out that the United States had recently changed its policy in a way that may influence the European energy markets in the near future.
“We began export of natural gas just last month and we are also beginning to export oil,” she said. “We need to have diversity of sources, that is our allies and partners need to have options for where they get their resources from, what the fuel mix is and what the pipeline routes are and the infrastructure that receives the resources.”
Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, agreed. “Even if there is not one BCM (billion cubic meters) of export from U.S. to Europe,” he said, “the fact that U.S. energy can come in a moment, the fact that there is an alternative, is a very important present for Europe.”
Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential U.S., European, and global political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. With over 50 countries represented and more than 400 attendees, the 11th annual Brussels Forum include heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. government officials and Congressional representatives, parliamentarians, academics, and media. GMF is delighted to be joined in this initiative by its Founding Partners, Daimler and the Federal Authorities of Belgium. We also extend our thanks to Deloitte as Strategic Partner; BP, UPS, Google, and the OCP Policy Center as Forum Partners; the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, the Brussels Capital Region, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, NATO, and the Wilfried Martens Centre as Associate Partners; European Investment Bank, Elnet, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, IBM, Intel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, and Solvay as Dinner Partners; and the United States Mission to the EU and EMC as Partners for Brussels Forum’s Young Professionals Summit.