The independent resource on global security

1. Euro-Atlantic security and institutions



I. Introduction

II. The policies of the United States

III. NATO: striving to regain ground

IV. The EU: expanding the sphere of security and defence

V. The CIS countries: peaceful revolutions and stability

VI. Conclusions


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In 2004 the international policies of many states in the Euro-Atlantic area were determined by political processes that started in 2003. Transatlantic partners worked to reduce the damage to their mutual relationships caused by the Iraq conflict. The USA began its return to multilateralism through various institutions, although not without hesitation and regular attempts to unilaterally set the agenda.


In 2004 it became obvious that maintaining control over Iraqi territory would require capabilities other than high-intensity warfare and more manpower than in the technology-intensive phase of the war. The two main underlying reasons for the war on Iraq—the alleged terrorist connections of the regime and its possession of weapons of mass destruction—were revealed as hollow. This caused problems for many democracies with troops in Iraq. Some, such as Hungary and Spain, withdrew their forces and others considered doing so—adding to the fragility of the situation. The USA has continued to develop an inclusive partnership approach to ensure the necessary international support to fight terrorism and gain more effective intelligence. The USA has increasingly recognized that the EU is an indispensable partner in these activities.


In the US presidential election campaign, the two main parties offered little alternative thinking in the main security-related areas—Iraq, homeland security and intelligence reform. The result of the election focused European states on the need to find a way to work with the Bush Administration.


NATO’s efforts to heal the transatlantic rift resulted in an expansion of the organization’s activities outside its treaty area of operation. Nonetheless, there was continued resistance to making Iraq a NATO operation. The challenge is to overcome the perception that NATO is a ‘forum for taking decisions on operations’ in order to regain its role as a ‘central forum for political debate and decision making’.


The EU has continued to develop its capacity to become a credible security actor. This was demonstrated by the adoption of Headline Goal 2010, which provides for a qualitative strengthening of crisis management and defence capabilities; the launch of the European Defence Agency; and the gradual putting into practice of the battle group concept, as well as a new EU military mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The European Neighbourhood Policy moved closer to realization—bilateral accords on cooperation between the EU and some neighbouring states were signed at the end of the year.


A new divide seems to be emerging along the eastern boundaries of Europe. The leaderships of a number of countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are increasingly resentful of the spread of democracy, including to some of their own neighbours, and regard it as a challenge to the survival of their regimes. Repressive reactions are, however, likely to make internal dynamics more unstable and eventual changes more violent—with consequences that will spread at least temporarily beyond the frontiers of the states concerned. The situation may bring renewed tensions in West–East relations in the years to come.