The independent resource on global security

1. Euro-Atlantic security and institutions



I. Introduction

II. The policies of the United States

III. Euro-Atlantic inter-institutional relations

IV. The European Union

V. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization

VI. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

VII. ‘Normalizing’ interstate relations in the post-Soviet area

VIII. Conclusions


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Pragmatism dominated Euro-Atlantic relations in 2005. Beyond the still basically unsolved rift over Iraq, the USA and the European countries that are members of the EU or NATO have recognized their roles in global affairs as shared, complementary and cooperative rather than divergent and confrontational.

The USA has gradually normalized its relations and coordinated its policy more closely with its European partners. The USA’s pragmatism in its dealings with European countries and institutions seems to owe less to a philosophical reassessment than to specific blockages in Iraq and on the domestic front. The Bush Administration’s proclivity to use force unilaterally seems unchanged, but the Iraqi turmoil prevents it from going beyond occasional hints of further ‘pre-emptive’ use of force. The present posture of the USA could thus be characterized as self-restrained unilateralism.


In some cases, the flow of Euro-Atlantic cooperation has reverted to international institutions such as NATO, the OSCE and the UN. In other cases, bilateral channels have been used for rapprochement, and much less is currently heard from the USA about the value of ad hoc coalitions.


In the institutional dimension of Euro-Atlantic relations, the rivalry between the main actors—the EU and NATO—is entering a new phase as their geographical and functional agendas increasingly overlap. Both organizations have evidently lost their enlargement momentum for years to come. The EU’s Constitutional Treaty setback in 2005 has had a muted, apparently non-fatal, impact on the implementation of its ambitious security agenda for the coming years. Nonetheless, it raises questions about the EU’s ambition to be a more effective security actor in world affairs.


NATO, entangled in the competing visions and interests of its members, still lacks a clear strategic mission for the future. It seeks to emphasize its relevance by embarking on new kinds of missions, such as non-military state-building tasks, indirect peacekeeping support and humanitarian relief using military resources. Other European security-related bodies are even more burdened with internal troubles and dwindling legitimacy.


Relations between Russia and other post-Soviet states on the one hand and the West on the other are about to take a decisive turn. The recognition of Russia’s importance in Eurasia beyond its post-Soviet sphere of influence—including Iran, the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East—continued to underpin efforts for strategic cooperation in 2005. Several Western actors, however, voice their concerns more clearly regarding Russia’s domestic and international political course. In the post-Soviet area, there is an increasingly clear and sharp divide between countries that have embarked on democratization and those that strive to maintain authoritarian rule. The resulting bad chemistry complicates the resolution of pending conflicts. Central Asia, thus far much less scarred by conflicts than the Caucasus, could be more vulnerable to instability as a result of the push for regime change, on the one hand, and the toughening of domestic restrictions, on the other. The strategic implications of a major breakdown in any large Central Asian state, given the acute interest of the USA and Russia as well as China in the region, are difficult to estimate.


Dr Pál Dunay (Hungary) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Euro-Atlantic, Regional and Global Security Project.


Dr Zdzislaw Lachowski (Poland) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Euro-Atlantic, Regional and Global Security Project.