- From the Managing Editor:Whither the Transatlantic Community?
The southern Mediterranean rim forms part of what the former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt called in a recent speech in Washington, DC, the “ring of fire” around Europe. Coupled with continued sluggish growth across Europe, the ongoing Greek crisis, and the rise of populist parties in many European countries, the European neighborhood faces a long litany of challenges, and the outcomes will define and determine the future of Europe and regions beyond. The broader Mediterranean region plays an integral role in this drama. While the economic and political problems of Europe have been simmering for more than five years, the security challenges have arguably emerged more suddenly and quickly.
European security and stability have been disrupted in recent years by the twin challenges of a crumbling Middle East order and a newly assertive Russia that is willing and able to use force to keep nations out of the orbit of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and also to test the credibility of NATO in Europe’s north and southeast. Quite arguably, European security is at its worst since the Cold War, notwithstanding the turbulence and sometimes violence that was generated in the early 1990s due to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the wars in the Balkans. Little suggests that this is a passing crisis; it looks instead like the beginning of a new era of geopolitical competition in Europe and intractable conflicts and unrest across the broader Middle East and along Europe’s southern rim. So far, the transatlantic community has been able to devise only stopgap measures in response to these challenges—measures that are made increasingly complex [End Page 1] because they are generated by revanchist state power and by the collapse of states and social governance. Effective responses to them have also, in part, been frustrated by the economic and political interdependence that has been the dominant characteristic of global developments over the past thirty years.
These challenges have strategic implications for the transatlantic community in general and for Europe’s Mediterranean countries in particular. The EU, NATO, the United States, and leading European countries must devise long-term and holistic strategies in order to effectively face the challenges in the east and south and to preserve the peace, stability, integration, and prosperity that has increasingly defined Europe in the post–Cold War period.
War in Europe Once Again?
The Ukraine crisis, triggered by the popular ouster of Ukrainian prime minister Victor Yanukovych after he refused to sign an association agreement with the EU in early 2014, is at the core of the new geopolitical competition in Europe’s east. Russian president Vladimir Putin used the unrest to foment rebellion in eastern Ukraine and also inserted Russian special forces, now well known as “little green men,” to support rebel forces and even pry away Crimea from Ukraine and attach it to Russia through a hasty and internationally decried referendum in March 2014. As of this writing in late 2015, there is still fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed rebels, and many international observers worry that Russia may soon launch another push to dismember Ukraine further. All the while, Moscow insists that there are no, and have never been, any Russian forces in Ukraine, even though the evidence to the contrary has been mounting quickly and persuasively.
But Russian assertiveness is not unique to Ukraine. Putin is seeking to alter the European security architecture that has so carefully and painfully been built by NATO, the EU, and the United States in the decades since the end of the Cold War. The work of the transatlantic community rests on a vision of a Europe ever more closely integrated, with close linkages to the United States, and where the use of force has been banished from the continent. Indeed, that order is central to the stated US foreign policy goal of a [End Page 2] Europe, whole, free, and at peace. Building this order has not always been easy, and it has included strategic vision, skillful diplomacy, tough negotiations, and even the use of force in ending the civil...