The independent resource on global security

1. Euro-Atlantic institutions and relationships



I. Introduction

II. The policies of the United States

III. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization: overcoming marginalization

IV. The European Union: pursuing a strategic role

V. Broader European security issues

VI. Russia

VII. Conclusions


Read the full chapter [PDF].


The policy agendas of the Euro-Atlantic community, wielding as it does enormous weight—political, economic, military and other—in world relations, will continue to dominate the international system at least in the short to medium term.


The year 2003 was one of extremes for Euro-Atlantic relations, moving between traumatic divisions and efforts to restore unity. In the first months of the year events were driven by the national policy priorities of the United States, on the one hand, and the diverging reactions of major Western partners and Russia, on the other. Later in the year, more constructive use was made of organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, even if the political reconciliations opening the way for this were mostly made elsewhere. Programmed changes, not related to Iraq, such as NATO’s continuing transformation from a territorial defence organization, negotiations on the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and the countdown to both organizations’ enlargement, continued largely as planned.


In 2003 the Bush Administration’s declared security policy moved to the implementation phase. The lessons of Iraq did not directly alter its doctrines and policy emphases. However, by the end of the year, the balance and style of its activities in pursuit of them had shifted notably towards more diplomatic, multilateral and even international legal approaches. Many shortcomings in homeland security were also remedied. In its international non-proliferation efforts, the USA placed the emphasis on launching new programmes designed to meet its national priorities (such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and a UN draft resolution to criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction).


Developments in 2003 put NATO to an existential test as a security actor. Its leading member, the USA, appeared to use it as a military ‘toolbox’ for building ‘coalitions of the willing’ in time of need—rather than a political forum or a vital partner. The attack on Iraq and the disputes during its build-up precipitated a profound rift between NATO members, which bred new doubts about the organization’s viability. Among NATO’s efforts to maintain its relevance and seek a new role, it was the initiatives launched outside its treaty area of activity that gave hope for its revitalization. In the last months of the year there were signs of recovery as the USA adopted a more positive attitude to the organization. NATO’s problems did not discernibly affect progress in the other areas of its adaptation to the new security environment— enlargement and the transformation of its forces and structures.


The EU is also facing the challenge of redefining its role and place on many fronts, ranging from its traditional competences to new ones such as a shared foreign policy and security identity and military strength. The draft Treaty under discussion since 2002 is designed to make the EU system more effective, more accountable (democratic) and more comprehensible to its citizens, alongside the enlargement which took effect from 1 May 2004. The Iraq war caused new divergences which added to existing concerns, fears and uncertainties about leadership and future commitments, power sharing and the shape of the organization. It proved impossible to adopt the new Constitution on schedule in December. However, the effort to build a strategic personality produced a chance to operationalize the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, while the common initiatives put forward with regard to the European Security and Defence Policy seemed to offer promise of a fresh boost to this project.


West–West dynamics dominated the security scene in 2003—to such a degree that even Russia seemed to spend most of its time deciding where to place itself within the Western spectrum. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, seeking to find its relevance and utility against the background of the NATO and EU enlargements, was dealt a blow at the end of the year by the rising tension between the West and President Putin’s Russia over the latter’s southern perimeter.


That the Western Balkan region is still not fully immunized against ethnic hatred and terror was painfully brought home to the international community by the outbreak of violence in Kosovo in March 2004.


During the first years of the 21st century, at least, the northern hemisphere’s family of democratic states does not seem to have found the formula for becoming at once more inclusive and more united.



Dr Pál Dunay (Hungary) is Course Director of the International Training Course in Security Policy at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. His recent publications include, with Wolfgang Zellner, Ungarns Aussenpolitik 1990–1997: zwischen Westintegration, Nachbarschafts- und Minderheitenpolitik [Hungarian Foreign Policy 1990–1997: At the Crossroads of Western Integration, Neighbourhood and Minority Policy] (Nomos Verlag, 1998).


Dr Zdzislaw Lachowski (Poland) is Leader of the SIPRI European Security and Arms Control Project. He formerly worked at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw. He has published extensively on the problems of European military security and arms control as well as on European politico-military integration. He is the author of The Adapted CFE Treaty and the Admission of the Baltic States to NATO, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 1 (Dec. 2002) and a contributor to Armament and Disarmament in the Caucasus and Central Asia, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 3 (July 2003). He is the co-editor of International Security in a Time of Change: Threats—Concepts—Institutions (in Polish), Warsaw, 2003 and has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since 1992.