Elbe Group Join Statement
Naples, Italy: March 15-16, 2018
The Elbe Group takes its inspiration from the relationship that existed between the United States and Russia during the Second World War; a time when our two nations, despite considerable differences, joined forces against a common threat.
The regular (tenth) meeting of the Elbe Group was held on March 15-16, 2018 in Naples, Italy. During the meeting the Russian and U.S. sides discussed the following issues:
- Strategic stability (nuclear weapons, missile defense, NATO, Ukraine);
- The current US-Russia relationship;
- The situation in the Middle East;
- WMD Terrorism.
Speaker: COL (ret) Stanislav Ivanov, Candidate of Historical Sciences and leading research fellow at IMEMO and the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.
It was clear through the presentations and our discussions that both the Russian and U.S. sides have strongly held views concerning the causes and potential effects of the currently unfavorable relationship between Russia and the United States. Rather than reiterating the differences, which were forcefully represented by the participants, the desire of the Elbe Group is to seek solutions that can result in positive outcomes. While acknowledging that we have differing views, we choose to present jointly held beliefs that can narrow our differences, improve our relationship, achieve greater security for our countries, and contribute to global stability. We urge that this model be followed by others.
On strategic stability, the Elbe Group participants stated that the existing system that enables strategic stability and international security is undergoing significant changes. These changes are often the result of different approaches used by the sides to protect their national interests.
The sides share the common opinion that the exacerbation of the military and political situation in the world is determined by a number of factors, of which the key ones are:
- Growing confrontational processes at the regional level and an increasing role of the military force as an effective instrument for the promotion of national interests;
- Rapid development of the state-of-the-art weapons and military technologies including strategic offensive and defensive systems which do not fall under international treaties and agreements;
- Growing crisis in the global economy;
- Competition for possession of energy and other resources;
- Growing scale of terrorism and extremism.
We are witnessing unique situations where regional contradictions initially serving the limited interests of specific (exclusive) countries or coalitions are becoming global in nature thus posing a threat to the entire international community.
In such circumstances, we are basically returning to the times of the Cold War when the sides already consider each other as hostile states.
The current situation where any interaction between NATO and Russia has been fully scaled down can lead to an increased chance of incidents which is especially dangerous considering that both sides have nuclear weapons.
The situation in Ukraine continues to remain unresolved; moreover, it is fraught with the possibility of renewed combat operations that could expand.
On Strategic Stability
During the meeting the sides stated that as of today the global order has reached such a critical point of development that the United States and Russia as well as the entire international community must undertake immediate efforts to change the existing situation which is likely to lead to the final destruction of the entire system of strategic stability and to sliding into a serious military confrontation.
The Elbe Group considers that it is unacceptable to resolve the problems in Ukraine using armed forces. The only way, which has no alternative, is to observe the Minsk agreements and to continue the negotiation process.
Current U.S.-Russia Relationship
The sides have strongly held views that the current US-Russia relations have reached such a critical level that there are less and less opportunities for their return to normalcy.
The sides are convinced that for the mutual interests of our countries and for the interests of global security as a whole, neither the United States nor Russia can afford not to communicate with one another.
The Elbe Group participants strongly recommend that the US and Russian administrations authorize active interaction between the special services of the two countries including the discussion of problematic questions in the field of cybersecurity. ; ;
The Situation in the Middle East
The sides believe that the final defeat of ISIS must become the ultimate goal of our joint actions in the entire region of the Middle East including carrying out joint actions in the military, economic, diplomatic, financial and other fields.
Realizing that the potential consequences of damage from cyberattacks could be comparable to the use of weapons of mass destruction, the Elbe Group recommends the consideration at the international level (the UN) of a need to establish criteria that would reduce the cybersecurity threat to the critical infrastructure of countries similar to the limitations in the field of nuclear armaments.
Regarding cybercrime, the sides believe that there is a need for an international convention to increase criminal liability for crimes of this nature.
The Elbe Group believes that the increased exchange of charges and countercharges between our countries and an absence of dialogue and cooperation creates a ‘favorable’ environment for international terrorism.
The continuing presence of ISIS and their associates in the Middle East may lead to a situation when terrorists can obtain and explode a warhead (device) with nuclear materials.
We understand that it is difficult to concentrate our attention on what has not yet happened. At the same time our countries must do everything possible to bring attention at the highest level to the possible acts of terrorism which uses nuclear materials.
Taking into account the difficult period in our relations there is a need to establish close cooperation on the exchange of information in this field.
We call for continuing cooperation to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The Elbe Dialogue
Understanding the danger of scaling down cooperation in all areas, the Elbe Group believes it necessary to engage additional experts, politicians (members of parliament) to discuss in an extended format and whenever necessary the most urgent international problems.