The independent resource on global security

1. Euro-Atlantic security and institutions


I. Introduction

II. The United States

III. The European Union

IV. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization

V. The Kosovo issue

VI. The former Soviet area: security relations re-energized?

VII Conclusions


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Since the fundamental shift in focus in the West’s security concerns that followed the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001—giving priority to the threat posed by international terrorism—mainstream security analysis has remained essentially unchanged. The US-led invasion and subsequent counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq seems to have created long-term vulnerability for the international community. It is becoming clear that the cause of counterterrorism will be best served by keeping its major strands separate from the issues at stake in Iraq.

Although transatlantic relations improved during 2006, the two main Euro-Atlantic security institutions—the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—are still in a transitional phase, seeking ways to prove their relevance in the context of new challenges. The EU’s foreign and security policies are handicapped by the organization’s constitutional crisis and, perhaps even more seriously, by ‘enlargement fatigue’—and they are likely to remain so for some time to come. NATO’s long-heralded transformation process has made little further progress. Neither institution has reached a consensual ‘grand vision’ of global and European security, which also hinders closer EU–NATO cooperation.

Efforts to establish lasting state structures in the Western Balkans continued to advance slowly in 2006 with the separation of Serbia and Montenegro and the prospect of self-government for Kosovo. Kosovo also stands as a reminder that ethnic composition and population trends can still influence international security. In the shorter term, the focus of attention will shift to Serbia’s ability to adjust, both internally and externally, to the emerging realities.

Russia has altered the paradigm of international security by turning the security of oil and gas supplies into a major strategic issue. In response, European states have agreed in principle to coordinate their positions on this matter. Other aspects of Russia’s current propensity for antagonistic behaviour towards much of the Euro-Atlantic community may similarly push West European states into closer cooperation. Russia has used its energy wealth to revive national pride, to restore its influence in its ‘near abroad’ and to maximize its geopolitical power. In doing so, it has shown a disregard for other states’ goodwill that may work against it in the longer term. One consequence of Russia’s current course is the emergence of a—still not geographically precise—‘soft’ division between the new, expanded West and the under-reformed, less-integrated parts of Eastern Europe.


Dr Pál Dunay (Hungary) is Director of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, Budapest.


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