European Culture - Caught Between Illusions and Reality ?

Posted in Europe | 18-Aug-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

A coherent and comprehensive “grand strategy” – comprising all political elements – is a necessity for any state and any alliance. Individual states and alliances have fundamental differences in their respective strategic cultures – based upon different political visions and objectives, history, geography and overall capabilities. It goes without saying that developing a strategy is easier for an individual state than it is for an alliance. The EU, a fairly young union that has now expanded to 25 countries, faces ongoing difficulties to develop a common European strategic culture.

The label exists: Common Foreign and Security Policy(CFSP) – but what is its content? Is there a clear line leading from visions and objectives via a common strategy to the means necessary for a credible implementation?

During the Cold War, the need for a “European grand strategy” was limited. The member states of NATO formed the strategic framework. NATO and its member states were able to adapt their strategy to changing conditions. The end of the Cold War with the demise of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact led to the end of the “great threat”. This changed the strategic landscape drastically. NATO learned to look beyond traditional areas of interest. “Out-of-area” became the famous catchword. “Collective defence” lost priority to “crisis management”.

Arc of instability from Marrakech to Bangladesh

During this phase, the transatlantic ties within NATO became increasingly weaker. Europe as a political union started to develop its own strategy. The crucial question will be whether the European Union is seeking an extended autonomy without the transatlantic partners or a complementary solution as a strengthened European pillar within NATO. To develop a European strategy on paper seems to be easier than to put such a strategy into real life.

Dr. Andrea Riemer examines in-depth the current status of the European strategic culture.

She asks the right questions and finds thought-provoking answers.

The final answer must come from the EU. The EU will have to decide whether it wants a strong strategic partnership with its transatlantic partners in a responsible NATO with a limited capability of European-only operations, or if it wants to develop autonomous European capabilities. Both solutions should find a balance between elements of “soft” and “hard power”.

The question is whether or not Europeans have the resolve to deliver the resources to make the crucial step from wishful thinking to reality.