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OAS and the future of Inter-American Security in the Western Hemisphere / ОАГ и будущее межамериканской системы безопасности в Западном полушарии
Еремин Аркадий Алексеевич

ассистент, Российский университет дружбы народов (РУДН)

117393, Россия, г. Москва, ул. Миклухо-Маклая, 6

Eremin Arkadiy Alekseevich

Teaching Fellow at the Department of Theory and History of International Relations of the RUDN University 

117393, Russia, Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 6

79151775018@yandex.ru
Аннотация. Предметом данного исследования является потенциал развития направлений и форм взаимодействия стран-участниц ОАГ в обеспечении безопасности в Западном полушарии. Автор рассматривает концептуальную основу для эволюции институционально-организационной структуры межамериканской системы безопасности в соответствии с тенденциями современного миропорядка.В работе рассматриваются такие аспекты данной проблематики, как характер взаимодействия развитых и развивающихся стран в контексте обеспечения безопасности, уделяя особое внимание соотношению приоритетности угроз региональной безопасности с реальными интересами стран-участниц. Методологическая основа данной работы опирается на принципы современной исторической науки: историзма, научной объективности и достоверности. Для достижения поставленных целей использованы следующие методы: проблемно-хронологический, логический, ретроспективный, а также совокупность методов анализа и синтеза, дедукции и индукции. Научная новизна данной работы обусловлена тем, что, во-первых, система безопасности в Западном полушарии представляет собой активно развивающийся феномен, требующий пристального внимания со стороны научного сообщества. Во-вторых, в ходе исследования произведен анализ основных трендов, ключевых форм сотрудничества, направлений взаимодействия и перспектив развития ОАГ в контексте проблемы безопасности на современном этапе.
Ключевые слова: Межамериканское сотрудничество, угрозы региональной безопасности, Соединенные Штаты Америки, Организация Американских Государств, безопасность Западного полушария, Новые угрозы безопасности, Латинская Америка, ОАГ, Политический форум, субрегион
DOI: 10.7256/2454-0641.2017.3.24262
Дата направления в редакцию: 21-09-2017

Дата рецензирования: 22-09-2017

Дата публикации: 25-09-2017

Abstract. The Organization of American States has for a long time been the primary mechanism of promoting cooperation in the Inter-American format. Being formed during the Cold War, this organization, which had originally aimed at establishing productive and effective relations between the countries of the region, was to a certain degree altered by the spirit of that time. With the end of the bipolar standoff between the major super-powers, the OAS, being primarily a mechanism for promoting the US political interests, was no longer necessary in its form at the time, which caused the organization to undergo certain profound changes. Along with the attempts of the OAS to adapt to the changes in the hemispheric politics, smaller Latin American organizations appeared trying to adopt some of its authorities. This process of regionalization is especially true in relation to the maintenance of hemispheric security. The article is trying to critically assess the possibilities of smaller sub-regional structures to effectively substitute the mechanisms of the future place of the OAS in the structure of the hemispheric security, which becomes even more important in the context of the contemporary U.S. administration, famous for its critical position towards the potential of Latin American political direction.

Keywords: hemispheric security, Organization of American States, United States of America, regional security threats, Inter-American cooperation, Non-traditional security threats, Latin America, OAS, political forum, subregion

Introduction.

Organization of American States is considered by most experts and scholars to be the most important and potent mechanism of promoting hemispheric security in the scale of Americas. While acknowledging its essential importance, academic and expert communities nevertheless leave room for certain criticism. Among traditional negative traits attributed to the organization, are the amorphic and overcomplex organizational structure, lack of enforcement mechanisms and no unanimity on both global strategic issues and more specific day-to-day problems. But perhaps the most serious reason for massive criticism is the inequality between all the Latin American countries and the United States of America, something that originates from the questionable heritage of the Cold War. USA, being a dominant power in the region, rarely considered the interests of the other member states, especially if it did not match with those of Washington D.C.

Needless to say, this inevitably leads to the lack of trust between the developing states and such a superpower as U.S. with its aggressive overseas politics. This causes a profound disbalance, which is aggravated by the multiple unpleasant experiences of the Cold War era, when the interests of other countries were sacrificed for common good, which at the time was considered to be the ideological struggle with communism. As a result, even on the modern stage of development of OAS its member countries have a reflex fear of losing its independence, so any potential chance of violation of their sovereignty is met with a defensive reaction, which most of the time stands in the way of arriving to a consensus.

Aims and targets.

The article aims at conducting a thorough analysis of the conceptual and practical basis for maintaining hemispheric security in an Inter-American format and to outline the ability of such model to satisfy the specific needs of both developed and developing nations of the region. The author also attempts to define prospects of the organization in the context of the regionalization process of the security sphere in Latin America and to conclude whether there currently are any potential Latin American alternatives to the Inter-American system.

Historiography.

Organization of American States due to its political significance in the scale of western hemispheric politics has been on multiple occasions become a target for scientific, expert and journalistic research. Among the most prominent scientist working on this topic are Bridget Weiffen[7] [8], Rut Diamint[3][6], D. Nolte[4], Dammert L.[1][2] and others.

In Russian Federation researchers specializing in Latin America also have shown significant interest towards the role of Inter-American dialogue in the context of hemispheric security: Sudarev V.P.[13][14][15], Heifec V. L.[21], Khadorich L.V.[16][17][18][19][20] and Martynov B.F.[10][11]

Organization of American States as the basis for security in the hemisphere.

Most experts agree now that during its first stage of existence the OAS was mostly expected to enhance North American political influence in the neighboring region, ensuring that communist ideas did not take roots in the countries so close to the American boarders[9]. Despite the initial noble cause that organization was following at first, the Cold War quickly shifted the Inter-American polemics from the promotion of democracy to just ensuring non-communism, even if that required harsh dictatorships and disregard for human rights. With the process of dissolution of military dictatorships in Americas in the end of 20th century and further breakdown of bipolar system led to a new surge of interest to the topic of regional democratization. Once restraining socialism was no longer a priority, countries of the hemisphere became preoccupied with the institution building for successful transfer from military dictatorships to the democratic political structure with open markets.

That period of such adaptation to the new are realities, however, did not last too long and soon it became evident that promoting democracy cannot remain a primary target for the countries of the hemisphere. In terms of security, the issue of democratization seemed to grow dim in front of such new threats to regional and international security, such as drug trade, transnational organized crime and so on. Outlining new security challenges and transferring them from the national jurisdiction to the transnational level became a first independent step of Latin American states towards comprehending their objective interests, needs and priorities in the sphere of maintaining security. During previous years harsh politics of the Cold War did not imply any freedom in terms of interpreting the security policies enforced by the United States. This one-sided dominance of Washington D.C. and its relations with southern regional allies remained even after the common ideological enemy was gone, thus undermining the trust of developing nations towards the leading nation of the hemisphere[5]. However, the United States being the only superpower left slowly started re-prioritizing their international policies, including that for Latin America. Western hemisphere due to a vast amount of new opportunities to spread their influence outside of the region started to lose its significance for Washington. A lower degree of the involvement of USA into the regional politics resulted in a rising political independence of the Latin American countries, which suddenly became free to conceptualize and implement the policies of their own.

This quality change had a direct effect on the Organization of American states in terms of maintaining hemispheric security. In 2003 Declaration on Security in the Americas has been accepted, introducing new reference points for the Inter-American security system. The biggest novelty of the document was in being focused on new, non-traditional security issues such as: transnational organized crime, drug trade, traffic in persons, money laundering, environmental security, cyber security and so on [10]. Unlike the traditional sources of insecurities that are mostly represented by war and military confrontation, these new directions were based on the objective necessities of the developing countries of the hemisphere, which has for long been tormented by such plagues and had no significant conceptual basis to properly target and counter them.

From this point forward the role of OAS in the deed of maintaining hemispheric security moved from simply politically uniting the countries against one common enemy or idea imposed by the dominant superpower to conceptually developing the understanding of the regional security dimension in accordance with the actual interests of its fellow members. In order to be able to function under the new security concept, organization’s institutional structure experienced certain changes. This gave necessary leverage to effectively function to such OAS mechanisms, as CICAD and CICTE, which target the problems of terrorism and illicit drug trade.

United States have made multiple attempts to impose their own view on the security sphere, based on coercive approach, harsh criminalization and dominance of state sanctioned violence. Despite having it implemented in Colombia and Mexico in the fight against drugs, such model of security cooperation did not bring positive results, but rather created additional issues[12]. Despite all the efforts of the United States to form the hemispheric security agenda, Latin American countries have contributed heavily to the conceptual basis of the Inter-American security system. Most obvious example in this case seems to be the introduction into the OAS organizational and institutional structure of the concept of Multilevel Security, meaning that security consists from different levels: from personal, local and national to regional and global. All of these levels are under this concept considered to be closely intertangled and interconnected with each other. For instance, lack of personal security cannot coexist with high local or national levels of security, a perfect example of which are Latin American countries where despite many attempts to strengthen national and regional security were significantly undermined by the low level of security on the level of individuals and local communities. On top of having several levels of security, the document of 2003 introduces us the idea of multidimensional nature of security, meaning that all the aspects of security are important and one cannot be sacrificed for another. This is something that directly opposes the traditional approach of the United States that had been inherited from the Cold War era, when all security issues were perceived to be secondary compared to the fight with communism.

The Declaration on Security in the Americas has built a necessary conceptual basis for further development of ways to counter new non-traditional threats and challenges for regional and sub-regional security. Needless to say, over the years it has been supplemented by a number of declarations, resolutions and other documents that take a closer and more practical view towards different aspects of security.

Even though in the 21st century OAS has experienced a transition to a more productive and innovative model of security system development, one of its biggest flaws yet is the remaining lack of supranational mechanisms to enforce its decisions on the national level. Most of the Latin American countries still have a reflex fear of losing their sovereignty, which was inherited straight from the Cold War era. This creates a serious obstacle for OAS in terms of ensuring their decisions being implemented on the level of separate member-states, which largely limits the influence and results the organization and its activities provide. Thus, due to the fear of risking their independence, such countries oppose the introduction of the supranational instruments, turning OAS merely into a political forum that helps develop the conceptual basis of the Inter-American security system, but lacks practical implementation and results.[14]

Integrative approach towards security and the process of regionalization.

Even though the concept of multilevel security is actively practiced by OAS, it does not only exist in the dimension of Inter-American security system. Among Latin American countries it found implementation in the more integrative approach towards maintaining regionals security, which led to the formation of the Multilevel Integrative Security. The difference from the OAS ideas is mainly based on the assumption that to the only effective way to ensure the interests of the developing countries of the region is for them to run through a complex integration process, so all together they would be more likely to be able to stand up to the vast USA influence.

This trend is mainly demonstrated in an attempt to rethink the regional security from its wider Inter-American scope towards a narrower, but more practical scale of Latin America alone and at times even separate sub-regions. The source for such a tendency was being formed over the years as a result of profound gap between developed and developing countries of the western hemisphere, which resulted in political inequality when it came to the cooperation in Inter-American format. The more evident it became that the interest of the United Stated of America in the region was far from that of the Latin American countries, the more popular did such a position become. Finally, it came to a point when excluding Washington D.C. from the common regional political agenda for some actors was perceived as the only way to curate Latin American politics and security, bringing it back on the tracks of their own interest, rather the North American one. Needless to say, such a position has been favorable within the governments that consider themselves in terms of international politics to be in the opposition to the United States of America. Among those, of course, were Cuba and Venezuela that have become famous through their ideological quarrel with Washington. The thing that also contributed to the creating of such an idea was an often lack of results from the Organization of American States and the heavy criticism it had to endure over the years. Among the most crucial ones – the allegation that the United States being a part of Inter-American system and major financial donor of the OAS deliberately sabotage its proper development. In doing so, Washington ensures that the system does not shift towards being more suitable to promote political and economic interest of developing countries, but rather stays focused on the agenda of USA.

Intensive integration of Latin American countries in multiple spheres is considered to be the cornerstone of this concept – the only thing that can possibly allow developing countries of the region to unite in one front to outweigh the U.S. political dominance. The process of integration is Latin America has been supported by many of its nations in the forms of various integrative organizations. The most successful one of them is MERCOSUR, which united the countries of the South Cone in a common market. However, the progress these countries have made in the sphere of economy in sub-regional format is a lot harder to repeat on a larger scale. It comes as no surprise, that countries from all the different sub-regions turn out to be less compatible, which limits their cooperation potential. Even though to many Latin America might appear as one integrated core, the divide between the representatives of different sub-regions can be enormous; and even more so in the sphere of security. For example, security agenda for Brazil, which happens to be an obvious leader in the whole Latin American region, will differ significantly from one of an underdeveloped Central American state such as Guatemala. The gap between levels of socio-economic development defines the difference in security priorities, which then on top of no functioning supranational mechanisms leads to unsatisfactory rates of cooperation. In this regard, a narrower intraregional format turns out to be quite alike with the Inter-American system, which has no core for integration at all.

In terms of Integrative model of security, the closest alternative is the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (SELAC). The primary target of these organizations is to coordinate and orderly arrange the sub-regional processes on the basis of political and economic pluralism[19]. Despite the noble aspirations and a number of achievements of the abovementioned organizations in the sphere of high politics, they lack the practical embodiment of their activities and long-term programs. Even in such a compact format countries of Latin America cannot come to an accord on the basic security topics, such as the relations with the US or moving forward a standardized economic and political model of development for the member states. Most of the experts nowadays claim that the potential for regionalism has reached its logical limit in its current form: multiple flaws of the sub-regional organizations, which most of the time are the same that trouble OAS; pathological fear of the supranational organs and significant defragmentation of the countries of the region – all of this makes sub-regional security alternatives dim before even though imperfect, but still to a certain extent more widespread and well-organized Inter-American model of cooperation.

Future of Organization of American States.

Despite multiple alternatives to the Inter-American format, most of the experts agree that at this point effectively substituting OAS seems to be more of a political step, rather than an actual possibility. The idea of excluding the United States from the political agenda in the region even though seems like a beneficial thing for Latin American states, will in reality have a predominantly negative effect. It has been widely accepted in the academic sphere, that the influence of the United States of America on the security sphere in the region and its politics in general is quite crucial. In other words, the U.S. factor here has determined and defined the peculiarities of the security system in the hemisphere for decades, which still in many cases seems to be happening.

Even though the USA have experienced massive critique for creating OAS, but at the same time not following its principles; now the balance of power keeps changing for the good – the input of the Latin American nations has been steadily growing. For instance, the concept of multidimensional security that has been years ago been adopted by the Organization of American States has mostly Latin American origin. Unlike Washington’s more traditionalist view on security of the Hemisphere, this approach grants a reasonable balance between classic and non-traditional security threats and challenges based on the actual priorities and interests of the all the countries in the region. Another good example of Latin American input into the conceptualization of the security sphere in the Western Hemisphere is the slow but steady transition from the values of the «War on drugs», introduced by Richard Nixon and then massively promoted by the White House, towards a more humane and complex approach to fighting illicit drug trade. Among those are the ideas that drug problem should be mainly perceived as a health issue and only then a law-enforcement problem[9].

In this regard, the OAS now acts as a forum where developing countries of the hemisphere can communicate with the developed northern superpower, exchange opinions and share their views. If Washington was to lose interest in the Inter-American cooperation, OAS would lose its primary financial donor and would not be able to effectively function further on. Expert community agrees on the fact that at its modern stage Organization of American States is mostly beneficial to the Latin America and not to the USA, which has already caused several of their congressmen to raise a question about expediency of financing Inter-American system if it no more promotes Washington’s political will in the hemisphere. Moreover, it is not a coincidence that neither Brazil, nor Argentina or for that matter any other more or less politically and economically successful state in Latin America had promoted shutting OAS down – such an idea has been solely supported by the countries that are in direct opposition to the United States, primarily Venezuela.

One thing that ensures a future for this organization is its flexibility and readiness to structurally and institutionally adapt to new realities. This allows us to believe that current troubles of the Inter-American format can potentially be avoided in the future to both satisfy the need of Latin American reactive multilateralism and correspond with the objective conditions of the hemispheric security system.

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