To achieve these various purposes, NATO embarked on a series of interlocking efforts during the 1990s that were intended to provide some aspect of an overall concept of security. A series of initiatives resulted in NATO accepting new members with the possibility of still further additions in the future, crafted the Partnership for Peace and created the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council; entered into a Founding Act with Russia and a Charter with Ukraine; revised its command arrangements; and, simultaneously, became increasingly aware that developing a new relationship with the Western European Union was clearly in its best interests (Hunter, 2003).
In this regard, Dannreuther (2004) maintains that the EU's engagement with its immediate periphery represents a highly important, and potentially the most important, post-Cold War geopolitical challenge for its foreign and security policy; the nature of these obstacles can be considered to have three major dimensions, as follows:
There has been the challenge of the enlargement of the European Union, to take on new members and to define the new borders of the Union. To some degree, this has been a joint project loosely coordinated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which culminated in the NATO summit in Prague and the EU summit in Copenhagen in late 2002 broadly welcoming the same group of candidates from East-Central Europe.
The impact of the EU's ambition to provide a political union to complement its economic union; the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) represent the most visible aspects of this political ambition.
The security challenges emanating from Europe's periphery and the demands for an effective crisis management capability (Dannreuther, 2004, pp. 2-3).
Recent Trends and Events.
In recent years, the United States, Canada, their European allies, and other countries belonging to the European Union (EU) have continued their long-standing debate concerning the appropriate relationship between the NATO in its historical context as well as a European defense "pillar" of the Western alliance (Hunter, 2002). According to a former ambassador to NATO, this debate has always had several components that continue to influence the various powers involved, including the following issues:
Paramount has been the characteristics and pace of the development of European integration, chiefly enshrined in the European Union;
The management of security within the West -- until 1991 focusing on the Soviet Union and now oriented more broadly;
The sharing of common transatlantic defense burdens among the various countries of Western Europe and North America; and,
The distribution of political influence, both within the two key institutions -- NATO and the EU -- and in general between the United States and its partner (Hunter, 2002, p. 1)
In 1993, yet another series of debates over these and other timely issues took place, with two important developments:
Widespread recognition that NATO still retained a purpose following the end of the Cold War; and,
European Union's embarking on a new round of institutional creativity (Hunter, 2002).
In reality, it would seem natural that the same processes that were taking place within NATO and the EU would have some degree of influence on each other, particularly considering that both of these organizations involved the essence of some fundamental questions. These questions included:
The nature of security in 21st-century Europe;
The long-term relationships among European and transatlantic politics, economics, society, and military affairs;
The role to be played by the United States in European security -- both writ large (the corpus of relations) and small (military engagement); and,
The precise purposes to be developed in the new era for the two great institutions, entailing both the respective bounds that separate them and the processes and practices that can and do link them together (Hunter, 2002, p. 3).
The defense minister from France argued that, "The prime objective of the common European security and defence policy is to strengthen our military capabilities so that Europeans can make a greater contribution to the security of their continent, within the Alliance framework, or within the EU" (quoted in Hunter, 2002 at p. 35).
Current and Future Trends.
According to Gartner and his colleagues, "For much of the Cold War and before, security was primarily defined in military terms and concerned primarily with the national security of the territorial state. In the absence of a legitimate international authority -- in other words, in an anarchical international system -- states were seen as responsible for their own security. The only reliable means perceived to guarantee security was military power" (p. 1). Smaller nations in particular sought out alliances with or security guarantees from larger nations or groups of states, but the key concept involved remained the need for some mechanism to provide for their mutual defence. "For the great powers," Gartner et al. state, "the balance of power was seen as a key mechanism for providing security in a multipolar international system, with power being defined in terms of military capabilities. In this context, security was defined as the absence of threat or the capability to deter threat" (p. 2). In this regard, Danreuther (2004) suggests that, "The geostrategic consequences of the end of the Cold War have required the EU to prioritize and sharpen the focus of its foreign and security policy towards the countries and regions in its immediate neighbourhood. Concentrating on this dynamic area of EU foreign and security policy should contribute to the ongoing debate about the EU as an international actor and Europe's prospects for translating its economic might into political and strategic influence" (p. 3).
There are some significant challenges involved in achieving this level of integration within a union that remains highly disparate in terms of many important cultural, social and political spheres. In this regard, Knodt and Princen (2003) report that, "Even in a favourable setting of regional stability, EU governments tend to get bogged down by treaty bickering that provides for, at best, incremental solutions. In the current setting, stability is far from given" (p. 22). This is especially relevant when two external developments in particular are taken into account:
The EU continues to enlarge its membership to include as many as 27 countries, although 24 is the likely number in the short run;
The U.S. is waging a global security campaign against sources of terrorism (Knodt & Princen, 2003).
While the situation remains highly dynamic and there are a number of unknowns involved, there are some useful techniques available to help predict how these events may play out in coming years in terms of mutual security provisions within the EU. According to Knodt and Princen (2003), realist theory suggests that external threats generate internal cohesion and states will therefore join together to provide for their mutual security and well-being; however, enlargement is not commonly recognized as a 'threat' in the European Union. Some countries, such as France and Spain, that have vested interests in the smaller Union and have historically fought to secure 'deepening' before 'widening."
Nevertheless, a significant number of EU countries remain strongly supportive of European enlargement and maintain that larger is better in terms of how the EU can advance their respective ambitions for European. There are other ways of considering these trends as well. For instance, "If game theory has taught us that institutionalization is more likely when group membership is held constant over time, then game theory also tells us that the EU's current 'opening'-in terms of membership and practical policy-will weaken political cohesion. Enlargement may therefore be a cause of political division rather than a factor of internal unity" (Knodt & Princen, 2003, p. 22).
Another way of looking at how these processes will likely play out in the future relates to the so-called "security dilemma":
Along with the balance of power, a key concept of traditional security thinking has been the security dilemma. [This is a] situation in which the means by which a state tries to increase its security decrease the security of others. The existence of a security dilemma, it is argued, means that when states arm themselves (even for self-defense) they weaken the security of neighbors by shifting the military balance in their favor. Neighbors will therefore feel compelled to increase their military capabilities to restore equilibrium. (Gartner et al., 2001, p. 2)
The fact that the U.S. continues to prosecute two wars in the Middle East in Iraq and Afghanistan further complicates the picture for European nations seeking to forge a new alliance while balancing their historic commitments to NATO and the various treaties and mutual agreements that are shaping the…