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European Security: Washington's Shaping Strategy in Action

Authored by Dr. Stephen J. Blank, Dr. Thomas-Durell Young, Dr. William T. Johnsen. | March 2000

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Conclusions and Recommendations

The importance of U.S. national interests in Europe is unlikely to abate in the period under examination. Increased cooperation between the United States and evolving European political, economic, and security organizations could lead to even greater trans-Atlantic bonds. The United States, therefore, has a considerable stake in bringing to fruition the vision outlined above (or one similar to it). Despite the obvious fact that posited conditions will benefit the United States, Europe and its citizens also would garner tremendous advantages. Thus, Europe, too, has a stake in such a positive outcome.

But such an outcome is not guaranteed. U.S.-European cultural affinities may diminish. In the absence of a massive external threat, perceived mutual U.S.-European interests may lessen. Economic competition between the United States and Europe or among large regional trading blocs for global or regional markets could be intense, further magnifying the divergence of interests. For this vision to become reality, therefore, will require mutual efforts and, sometimes, substantial changes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Nonetheless, we generally do not see any need for dramatic changes in the ongoing economic, political, and security evolution of Europe. Certainly, we would welcome any acceleration of positive trends that will increase the number of market democracies that seek to resolve disputes through peaceful means. But this does not call for wholesaleoverhaul of current systems. Indeed, too rapid a change may create instability that the United States and Europe hope to avoid. Thus, we support evolutionary initiatives and continued progress along foreseeable lines.

On the economic front, Europe must continue to widen and deepen its economic institutions. Accession to the EU, particularly, must remain a viable option for all eligible countries. The important decision made at the EU Helsinki summit in December 1999 to open membership accession negotiations to expand the community from 15 to 28 or more countries is noteworthy for European security. 63That said, economic integration does not have to occur strictly through the EU. The EU and nonmembers should be free to pursue a ?variable geometry? that accommodates national and regional differences within the larger organization. The intent, rather, is to pursue options that make national economies more open and to preclude a catastrophic economic failure that affects large portions of the European and global economies.

This last point underscores the importance of ensuring that Russia, especially, but also Ukraine and the other NIS states merge their economies into the European economic system. The inability to effect such integration risks creating a tiered system of ?haves? and ?have-nots,? where the latter group may perceive that it has no stake in supporting European stability. Indeed, such ?have-nots? may conclude that they have tremendous incentive to overturn existing European economic, political, and security institutions, architectures, and systems.

European economic integration should occur in close partnership with the United States. Much more can be accomplished, for example in integrating Russian and NIS economies into European and global economies, if the United States and key European nations and institutions cooperate. Equally, hostile trade competition or, worse, debilitating U.S.-EU trade wars could significantly damagelong-term U .S. and European national interests not only in the economic sphere, but also in security matters.

Recommended changes in European political institutions generally parallel the economic transformations outlined above. Increased political integration that includes all European nation-states is a desirable and achievable goal. More important, perhaps, than increased pan-European institutions is a greater focus on ensuring individual and minority rights. Redressing real or perceived inequities in minority rights, in particular, will greatly improve the potential for long-term stability within Europe.

In the security arena, Europe should strive to create an effective European Security and Defense Initiative. The United States should support such efforts. This should not require, however, creating new mechanisms or erecting new ?institutions,? if they are at the expense of creating needed military capabilities. Europe should evolve its role in security affairs within existing structures, such as OSCE, EU/Western European Union (WEU), NATO, PfP, and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), for example. These organizations, if properly adapted, can resolve impending conflicts or, if violence breaks out, take the necessary steps to halt conflict and achieve a lasting political settlement. An excellent example of this capability and potential results is the ongoing significant internal adaptation of NATO.

This adaptation will have to include changed roles and participation in security institutions. European states will have to take a larger role in ensuring their own security. This will mean, as well, taking the steps necessary to ensure that they possess the military capabilities needed to meet the potential challenges of the 21st century security environment. This also will mean less reliance on the U.S. political leadership within European security organizations, as well as during crises. A stronger European security role also should lead to improvements in military capabilities, which many European states have let languishover the last decade. At the same time, these changes will require the United States to alter how it cooperates with Europe, relying more heavily on prior consultation and developing consensus prior to rather than after the fact. It also may mean that the United States must let go of some of its authority and leadership positions. While psychologically difficult, these changes can occur without damaging U.S. or European national interests.

A continued U.S. military presence in Europe will remain an essential element of the European security environment for the foreseeable future. Partially, this is to reassure allies and partners of the continued U.S. commitment to Europe, which will be especially important during this period of transition. These forces also will play a key role in shaping the future European and global security environments through a broad range of peacetime engagement and shaping activities. Especially important may be helping former communist militaries transform themselves into defense establishments that conform to the norms of democratic civil-military relations. Should a crisis arise in Europe, U.S. military units also would be positioned to respond quickly. They also could foster compatible, if not common, doctrine and operational procedures among potential coalition partners to facilitate combined operations within or outside Europe. Lastly, forces stationed in Europe will be positioned to respond quickly to crises that may erupt in other areas of the world or to support operations in other theaters.

While all elements of the U.S. armed forces will contribute to a future presence in Europe, land forces will play the more dominant role. Land forces are less transient than sea or air forces, and, therefore, provide greater reassurance to allies and partners. Equally, land forces are most appropriate for performing the broad range of missions that fall under peacetime engagement and shaping activities. Because most emerging democracies depend most heavily on land forces, moreover, U.S. Army units and personnel offer the better role model forappropriate civil-military relations. Similarly, land forces offer the best means for facilitating the development of common doctrine and operational procedures. Lastly, because of the nature of probable crises in Europe, land forces may predominate in any responses.

Achieving desired political, economic, and security conditions in Europe that benefit both Europe and the United States will not happen on its own. As indicated above, a number of obstacles will have to be overcome, not the least of which will be the integration of Russia, Ukraine, and the NIS into Europe?s political, security, and, especially, economic systems. But while difficult, these challenges are not overwhelming. Progress may come in fits and starts, and occasional strains in trans-Atlantic relations will occur. But none of these difficulties will be insurmountable. With perseverance and close cooperation the United States and Europe can turn the vision into reality.


63.The Economist (London), January 15, 2000, pp. 51-52.