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The Transatlantic Security Agenda: A Conference Report and Analysis

Authored by Dr. Stephen J. Blank. | December 2001

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Numerous media accounts give the impression that the Atlantic Alliance is collapsing or in danger of doing so. Certainly unhappiness and concern over American policies enjoy public popularity in Europe at the moment. In fact, these fears are vastly overdrawn; although Europeans allegedly regard America (and President Bush) as a rogue, cowboy state that mindlessly executes people, pollutes the environment, disregards arms control and international treaties, and is generally destroying Western civilization as we know it. More precisely, the disparities between the U.S. and European approaches to international security represent what one report called both sides? sense of mutual grievance. And similar complaints about America have surfaced in every post-war decade. Moreover, often these complaints are as much salvos in each state?s domestic politics, as they are presentations of their foreign and defense policies. Thus Pierre Moscovici, France?s Minister for Europe, commented that Prime Minister Anthony Blair?s reelection in Great Britain was good for Europe because ?In the final analysis, Europe is the natural place for the expression of the progressive values that the left, whether Labour, Socialist, or Social Democrat all cherish.?1 Obviously the Bush administration and nonleftist parties across Europe reject this partisan analysis, but it helps explain some of the current mood. Finally, to some degree, these complaints also represent the price of American leadership in Europe.

Nonetheless, serious issues are at stake in the transatlantic dialogue over European security. Consequently, we must overcome the real and serious disputes that affect this dialogue. Therefore as we approach a new period of European enlargement?i.e., the enlargement of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU)?repairing the often fractious interallied dialogue is an essential precondition of progress in securing Europe, our most important alliance. With this concern in mind, the Strategic Studies Institute, with Harvard University?s Belfer Center for the Study of Science and International Affairs, cosponsored a conference on the future of the alliance with prominent European elites. This conference took place at the Belfer Center at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 26-27, 2001. While everyone spoke off the record to encourage an open, candid discussion, this monograph summarizes the issues they raised and analyzes the conference?s significance.

The issues discussed included NATO and EU enlargement, these organizations? mutual relationship now that the EU is creating its own defense arm, the European Security and Defense program (ESDP), defense spending and interoperability among the NATO allies, and engagement with Russia on a wide range of issues. Obviously most, if not all, of these issues share a common subtext, i.e., the question of adjusting the transatlantic alliance to changing realities stemming from the enlargement of Europe.

Reaching a functioning consensus on all or most of the key issues that comprise the European and transatlantic security agenda is a vital American interest. The transatlantic alliance enables the United States and Europe securely to project shared power, values, and interests even beyond NATO?s borders.2 U.S. statesmen have always known that, if any one undemocratic power dominated Europe and isolated America from other democracies or if Europe collapsed into constant wars for lack of a legitimate and durable political order, those situations would threaten American security.

If the former condition prevailed, then Europe might conceivably become, in President Thomas Jefferson?s words, ?a Breakfast for Bonaparte." Europe was the Cold War?s primary ?theater" so that it did not become a breakfast for Soviet power. On the other hand, if a general European anarchy prevailed, it would lead to the renationalization of European security policies and then to incessant wars in Europe. In that case, the danger was that one, probably antiliberal, power would then ultimately prevail and threaten American security as in World War I.

Furthermore, to the extent that genuine allied solidarity exists, we and our allies can then face issues beyond Europe?s geographical boundaries that materially affect European security. These include Mediterranean security issues from Morocco to the Middle East and issues of security in the former Soviet Union. Signifying that common concern for so-called out-of-area issues, NATO has invited the Commonwealth of Independent States? (CIS) governments into the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and created its own Mediterranean Initiative. For its part, the EU has established many important socio-economic programs with CIS governments and devised its own Mediterranean Initiative in Barcelona in 1995.

Conversely, diverging approaches to European security issues ensure discord regarding both Mediterranean and CIS issues. That discord generally impedes progress in resolving these issues. Then neither the United States, nor NATO, nor the EU can realize their objectives and interests in those regions. And we know all too well that local conflicts in the CIS and around the Mediterranean can easily become major international crises. These considerations amply justified the discussions at Harvard.


That last point is another way of stating the indivisibility of European security. Europe cannot be part secure and part insecure. This is the fundamental rationale for an enlargement process that must ultimately be taken in Russia and Ukraine. This need not be accomplished all at once, but we must think about how it can be done and take the required actions. However, absent allied consensus concerning the threats to Europe and how to meet them, that denouement will be a long time in coming. And that end game also requires cooperation from elites in Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans who have hitherto not fully accepted or have impeded European integration. While they must be invited to the party, they cannot be allowed to crash it and impose their own values and demands upon the other guests.

This conference was very frank and wide-ranging, but ultimately could not come to terms with issues beyond the Russo-Polish border. Once the EU enlarges to the Baltic, and Poland and those states accept the Schengen borders that are part of the EU?s conditions for membership, that border will be the temporary dividing line in Europe. But it cannot be allowed to harden into a lasting one. Like the other preceding lines that divided Europe, it must come down so that all of Europe can realize the blessings of security, prosperity, peace, and democracy.

This conference only sketched out some of the markings, signs, and detours along the road to European integration. In the future we must travel down that road and, while avoiding those pitfalls, push that road further into hitherto unexplored areas. For if we do not do so, we will not be able to avoid even the pitfalls that we clearly see now. Then, rather than moving forward, we will regress to a new, unforeseeable, undefinable, but clearly retrograde point. And at that point, the goal of Europe whole and free will only signify what we have lost, not what we want.


1.Joseph Fitchett, ?European Leaders Hope Bush Takes Poll Results As A Wake-Up Call," International Herald Tribune, August 17, 2001; ?The Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations: Collaboration or Confrontation?" Speech by House Democratic Leader Congressman Richard A. Gephardt, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, August 2, 2001, www.ceip.org/files/events/gephardtprepared remarks.asp; Hugo Young, ?We?ve Lost That Allied Feeling," Washington Post, April 1, 2001, p. BO1; Edmund L. Andrews, ?Bush Angers Europe by Eroding Pact on Warming," New York Times, April 1, 2001, www.partners.nytimes.com/2001/ 04/01/ world/01Germ.html. For the domestic politics aspect of this campaign, see Thomas Ferenczi, ?Les Impasses de l?antiamericanisme,? Le Monde, June 9, 1999, pp. 1, 22, quoted in Sten Rynning, ?French Defence Reforms After Kosovo: On Track or Derailed,? European Security, Vol. IX, No. 2, Summer, 2000, pp. 75-76. On Moscovici?s quote, see Pierre Moscovici, ?Blair?s Triumph Is Good for Europe,? Financial Times, June 12, 2001, p. 14. On the sense of mutual grievance, see From An Alliance of Necessity to an Alignment of Choice, Seminar Report Aspen Institute of Berlin and the Freie Universitaet Berlin, www.aspenberlin.org, 1999.

2.Adrian Hyde-Price, ?The Antinomies of European Security: Dual Enlargement and the Reshaping of European Order,? Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. XXIU, No. 3, December 2000, pp. 145-147. l