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Updated: 01-Feb-2002 NATO Review

Web edition
Vol. 39- No. 1
February 1991
p. 11 - 14

The European security architecture
Transatlantic links remain indispensable

Professor Joao de Deus Pinheiro,
Minister of foreign


The year 1990, among the many changes which it brought to world politics, marked the beginning of a decisive phase in the process of European unification. Two intra-governmental conferences have started within the framework of the European Community to prepare the way both for economic and monetary union and for political union. The debate concerning the feasibility and parameters of a future common foreign and security policy of the Twelve of the EC has been particularly heated, thus demonstrating the importance and sensitivity of the subject.

Security remains one of the fundamental roles pertaining to governments; thus public opinion has the right to expect from them adequate measures to ensure continued peace and stability as well as military capabilities to respond to aggression should deterrence fail. The role of the North Atlantic Alliance was, therefore, clear until the recent historic events in Central and Eastern Europe: to deter and, if it came to that, to defend against a Soviet attack on its members.

In 1949, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that the North Atlantic Alliance was "an act of faith in the destiny of Western civilization. Based on the exercise of civil and political liberties, on respect for the human person, it cannot perish". But new circumstances have arisen which require an urgent in-depth analysis of the multiple components of our security structure in order to preserve what we believe continues to be indispensable, to adapt what must be changed so that it remains useful, and to terminate what no longer serves a valid purpose. To do this, an unbiased look should be taken at the different proposals that are being discussed to ensure continuing stability and security for the allies and, hopefully, for Europe as a whole.

Much has already been done to that end in the last six months (namely at NATO's London Summit last July) and some fundamental facts have emerged which, I believe, any credible future architecture for European security will have to take into account. On the one hand, the Soviet Union is no longer seen as a likely threat in the near future but it remains a most substantial military power even after the implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. On the other hand, new challenges can and are putting to the test our security interests and these have to be faced.

In order to maintain a credible structure that will sustain the essential transatlantic partnership which gave us four decades of peace and, at the same time, take into consideration the growing European identity which must also be present in the field of common security, one must visualize the way in which existing entities will develop and interact according to the objective mentioned above. The main reason why only existing structures are considered, is that they possess a valuable acquis of doctrine and experience which can make the necessary speculations on future developments more realistic, avoiding as much as possible a resort to the crystal ball.

Three interacting circles

If one considers the Western European Union (WEU), NATO and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as three concentric circles whose size is related to their respective number of member states, one has a basic representation of the existing structures upon which the security architecture of Europe can rest, since the Warsaw Pact is no longer a viable option. Each of the three has specific capabilities and by putting them all to serve agreed purposes to their best ability a coherent and structured model can be achieved.

In accordance with this objective, WEU should continue to build upon the recognized need for a greater European role in the security dimension, as a part of the on-going process of unification in Europe. The principles stated to this end in the Hague Platform of October 1987 remain valid since it is said there that "a more united Europe will make a stronger contribution to the Alliance, to the benefit of Western security as a whole". The role of WEU in the new European security architecture can therefore be made compatible with the progress to be achieved by the Twelve as the necessary bridges or organic links are built between the two entities and these can more readily become effective if WEU is, one day, transferred to Brussels.

The role of a common foreign and security policy among the Twelve is a fundamental aspect of the building process of a Political Union. It is also a difficult issue that requires a careful and progressive development of its principles and parameters. During the period of construction of an EC identity in the field of foreign and security affairs, the existence of WEU can be put to best use as the embryo from which a Community security dimension will grow.

At the same time, a revision of the WEU Treaty could enable the Organization to realize its full potential to become a truly European pillar within NATO, able to contribute to a more equal partnership between allies on both sides of the Atlantic while also maintaining an open and cooperative relationship with the other European allies who presently are not members. This relationship should, in my view, lead to an early enlargement of the Organization to include the other allies who are partners in the European Community.

The capability, already twice demonstrated, to discuss and coordinate efforts in crisis areas outside Europe is also a valuable asset. Such experience in the light of the new challenges to security must be seen as a relevant factor when considering this smallest of the three circles.

The middle circle represents, of course, the Atlantic Alliance and constitutes the fundamental structure of the whole model. This is because, in the first place, it was for many years the only circle that guaranteed Western defence; secondly, because the indivisibility of the security of the European and North American allies is contained in the Treaty of Washington and this remains as vital today as 42 years ago; thirdly, the changes which have occurred in Europe owe an enormous amount to the political example, the economic success and the military solidarity and cohesion shown by the member nations of the Alliance. We must therefore transform and adapt the Alliance to the new political and military environment in Europe but on no account consider the transatlantic partnership as outdated or inappropriate. We know full well what a stabilizing influence the NATO countries have at a time when the reform processes are still under way in most of Central and Eastern Europe, and the USSR is facing a great many uncertainties.
When we decided to create with those countries a diplomatic liaison relationship, together with expanded military contacts and greater cooperation in the scientific and environmental fields, we showed the remarkable adaptability of the Alliance and its capacity to continue its important contribution to ending the divisions of our Continent. Security is multifaceted and therefore an increased understanding of our multiple levels of cooperation within the Alliance, and the beneficial results for its members which have come from its 42 years of existence, is an incentive for a more confident relationship beyond the limits of NATO's Sixteen nations.

The Alliance must also play a significant role in bringing about an enhanced participation of the Europeans in their own security by fostering closer consultations within the NATO frame- work and by using direct and effective channels to both the EC and WEU. It will be in the interests of us all to have a flexible political approach to the discussion of the many themes likely to come up in more than one forum in the near future, be they the verifica tion of arms control and disarmament agreements, the creation of multinational units, the challenge of new threats to security, and so on.
The examples given above show that NATO must act inwards towards the centre of the circles (EC and WEU) and also outwards to where the other members of CSCE are situated. This third and largest of the circles comprises the 34 countries who signed the Charter of Paris last November which began the institutionalization of the 1975 Helsinki process. The security ties among the participants in this circle are not as old and developed as in the other two circles but they nowadays play a most important role in creating a climate of increased transparency and predictability in the military activities which take place in Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. As a developing forum for a regular pan-European consultation process together with the North American partners, as well as for conflict prevention, CSCE has a unique potential capability that can be steadily developed in the coming years. This will require not only a good deal of preparatory work to render the new institutions effective but also a generalized understanding that the results will be more durable and useful if the process is not envisaged on an "all or nothing" basis. At the same time, the necessary balance among all the components of the CSCE process must continue to be respected.

Dynamics of interaction

Having referred to the components of the model, I will now touch briefly upon its dynamics which are an essential aspect of any model.

The central role played by NATO is, I believe, indisputable. One only has to think of the significance of the continuing need for a US and Canadian military presence in Europe, of the appropriate mix of NATO conventional and nuclear forces and of the integrated military structure. This said, it is also clear that the Alliance is no longer the sole organization that can assume responsibilities for the security dimension in the new Europe we are building. An intense dialogue must therefore take place between the Sixteen of NATO and the Nine of the WEU not as two separate circles, but rather as two components of a structure in which the smaller is called upon to provide greater and more coordinated support and thereby strengthen the larger component. This should lead, in fact, to the creation of institutionalized links between the two organizations and, possibly, also with the European Community, through agreed representatives.

The close link which exists between the development of European security cooperation and the renewal of the Atlantic Alliance could be translated, for example, into reports from the rotating presidency of WEU to the North Atlantic Council as well as into regular contacts between the Secretary Generals and top staff of the two organizations. At the same time, the possibility of the Twelve of the EC having, through their presidency, the opportunity to maintain a dialogue with the Alliance on political and security issues of common concern would, undoubtedly, strengthen both the process of building a new Europe and the evolution of NATO.

The shift to a more pronounced political component of the Alliance would benefit from this closer interaction between the two circles as, for example, in the case of consultations on the security and other impacts of events occurring outside Europe.

At the same time, both organizations share an interest in seeing the security dimension of CSCE continue to develop as new negotiations on arms control and confidence-building measures are being prepared to take place among all 34 states thus contributing to the full strengthening of the Continent's stability. In this context, full consideration should always be given to the fact that, in the framework of CSCE, we are creating institutions that bind together not only the countries of Europe but also those of North America; accordingly, the two inner circles must work in such a way as to ensure Atlantic solidarity through a joint approach to issues after appropriate concertation. Such a posture would not prevent but rather increase the significance of initiatives to be taken in co-sponsorship with other members of the third circle of the model. The contacts which the Presidency and Secretary General of WEU as well as the Secretary General of NATO have established with the Soviet Union and the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, together with those made by the parliamentary bodies of both organizations, are also a valuable part of the links that must develop between the central and outer circles.

The perspective that I have outlined for this period of transition is oriented towards the future not only in terms of immediate requirements but also, and mainly, as a positive answer to doubts which have been expressed about the possibility of combining, in a credible and durable security architecture, the transatlantic and the European elements, both of which I consider indispensable. I sincerely hope that these doubts can now be overcome.