The independent resource on global security

4. European Security


Overview, Ian Anthony [PDF]

I. Conflict or peace in Europe? Increasing uncertainties, rising insecurities, Ian Anthony [PDF]

II. Conflicts in the post-Soviet space: recent developments, Ekaterina Klimenko [PDF]

III. Turkey’s search for stability and legitimacy in 2016, Michael Sahlin [PDF]

Cooperative security under strain

At the end of the cold war the underlying causes of confrontation in Europe appeared to have been eliminated. A shared assessment of the main problems facing Europe and a common approach to dealing with them seemed possible. In constructing a rules-based European order in which to organize cooperation, states carefully balanced political, politico-military, human security, environmental and economic issues within a framework of comprehensive security.


Events in 2016 reinforced the view that all the elements of the European cooperative security system were under strain. A step-by-step estrangement between Russia and the member states of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has led to politico-military policy change, military modernization and adapted force postures that could increase the risk of confrontation and, in crisis conditions, military clashes between major military powers. At the end of the year, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) proposed a renewed emphasis on addressing the politico-military aspects of security.


The political and human rights dimensions of the European security system were also challenged in different ways. With mixed success, key security institutions, the OSCE, the EU and the Council of Europe responded to the need to protect the independence of the judiciary and safeguard the freedom of the media while combating hate speech, protecting the rights of minorities and ensuring that states meet their legal obligations regarding the humane treatment of refugees.


Armed conflict in the post-Soviet space

Armed conflict has returned to Europe, in particular through an escalation in violence in some of the protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space that emerged in the final years of the Soviet Union and the years that followed its demise. Efforts to find a sustainable peace in eastern Ukraine, where conflict has now claimed roughly 10 000 lives, did not bear fruit. All these conflicts contain the potential for significant escalation.



Recent developments in Turkey reveal a domestic, regional and international security environment that is the most complex in Europe. The dramatic events in 2016—including a sequence of violent attacks, an attempted coup d’état and subsequent government crackdowns on suspected plotters and other dissidents—made the year one of the most challenging in recent Turkish history. At the end of 2016, neither the conflicts on its borders with Iraq and Syria—and their spillover effects, such as the major displacement of civilians—nor the upsurge in domestic and international mass-impact terrorism had abated. Internal political and constitutional challenges in the aftermath of the failed coup competed with important reassessments of relations with key partners: the EU, Russia and the United States.

Dr Ian Anthony, Ekaterina Klimenko and Ambassador Michael Sahlin