Twenty years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall promised great hope that Cold
War divides would vanish, ushering in a new era of peace and security based on
what Mikhail Gorbachev called a “common European home” and George H.W. Bush
called a “Europe whole and free.”
Over the intervening years this moment never arrived, but neither has the hope
died. This month, the three of us will launch an international commission to
build the intellectual framework for an inclusive transatlantic security system
for the 21st century – the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI) – devised
and formed by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The events of 1989, stunning and wondrous as they still seem, remind us of how
much remains undone, and how important it is to bring fresh thinking to the
core questions: What does European security mean in our day? What are the key
challenges to it? How can existing structures, principles, and institutions be
reconciled and strengthened to meet these challenges? What must be added or
changed? Nested within these fundamental questions are the many common perils facing
all of our countries – from the spread of weapons of mass destruction to the
instability created by the unresolved conflicts that dot the continent; from
the threat of terrorism to the uncertainties of climate change and the
frictions surrounding the stable supply of energy.
These are not questions for tomorrow. Unaddressed they virtually guarantee
that the core tension between Russia
and the West will remain – and constantly at risk of worsening. The
uncertainties surrounding Europe’s unfinished security agenda – uncertainties
sharply focused by the events of the last two years – not only leave important
parts of Europe insecure and capable of generating trouble for all, but they
seriously impede progress on the day’s most urgent problems.
There will be less success in controlling, let alone eliminating nuclear
weapons, if either Russia
or key NATO states are on edge over security arrangements in this crucial
region. Progress on climate change will be slow unless those countries most
important to a solution have a broad stake in cooperation. Co-operation in
dealing with the turbulent areas of the world has slim prospects, if
co-operation does not prevail in the case of Europe’s
own trouble spots. And the list goes on.
To address these questions afresh, in the hope of finding substantial common
ground, the commission will look comprehensively at the full range of security
challenges facing our countries, assess the capacity of existing institutions
to cope with them, and recommend steps by which the great swathe of nations
from the Atlantic to the Urals could be transformed into a genuinely common
security space. The aim must be a community of nations where all generally
agree on the security threats they confront, believe co-operation is crucial in
coping with them, and work seriously to overcome the obstacles to it.
We know this will not be easy. The security challenges facing our countries are
many, diverse, and difficult, and our differences in defining and addressing
them are considerable. The accumulation of past disappointments, enduring
suspicions, and damaging misperceptions weighs heavily. Thinking small,
however, will get us nowhere. Hence, without losing sight of Europe’s
realities, we intend to approach the task by conceiving of security broadly: a
domain encompassing not only the traditional threats to national peace of mind,
but new sources of unease, including energy and environmental insecurity.
Determining how these new and old threats relate to one another, and then how
best to integrate the response to them stands as a key challenge for the
The starting points
Our starting points, we well understand, are the hard, unanswered questions
of the moment: What is the path to greater security for those countries
standing outside the continent’s existing security institutions? How can
tension-filled relationships, such as that between Russia
be eased and set on a more constructive course? What could be the elements of a
more comprehensive European security architecture? And how can Europe’s
existing institutional framework including NATO and the OSCE as well as more
recently created organizations, such as the Collective Security Treaty
Organisation, be enhanced to deal more effectively with the immediate threats
of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the conflict over resources, the flow of
narcotics, duelling pipeline projects, and the tattered state of conventional
We do not pretend to be able to answer all of these questions, so we are all
the more eager to co-operate with others who intend to address various elements
of this formidable agenda. Nor do we start from the assumption that an improved
security environment in Europe can or should
be predicated on a major recasting of institutions, including the European
Union and NATO. But we are convinced that we will all benefit if our nations
can find ways to give traditional forms of security cooperation the added
underpinning of a vibrant common economic space, across which goods and
services, including oil and gas, capital, people, and ideas, can freely flow.
Igor Ivanov was Russia’s foreign minister from 1998
to 2004, Sam Nunn was chairman of the US
Senate’s Armed Services Committee from 1986 to 1995, and Wolfgang
Ischinger was Germany’s deputy foreign minister from 1988 to
2001 and its ambassador to the US from 2001 to 2006 and is an ECFR council member.
This piece was first published in European Voice.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.