By Kramer, Steven Philip; Kyriakopoulos, Irene | McNair Papers, March 1996 | Go to article overview
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Kramer, Steven Philip, Kyriakopoulos, Irene, McNair Papers

   And that this place may thoroughly be thought
   True Paradise, I have the serpent brought.



When political observers talk about European security, they invariably refer to the challenges Western Europe faces on its peripheries from a renationalized Russia, conflicts in the Balkans, and Islamic fundamentalism in North Africa. Rarely do they imagine that the greatest dangers to the new Europe may come from within, that the kind of stability Europe has enjoyed since World War II could be merely a passing chapter in history, not a transcendence of history. Without suggesting that there is necessarily a worst case ending, this study will argue that there is indeed a series of crises converging on post-Cold War Europe that threaten its stability and that need to be addressed by European policy makers and taken into account by Americans.

The unparalleled stability of post-war Western Europe was based on several major factors:

* A powerful external threat, the USSR, which unwittingly fostered European cooperation and cohesion

* The United States, a willing and indispensable ally that guaranteed West European security

* Economic prosperity

* The success of a welfare state cum mixed economy, which brought to term the political and social polarization that characterized the interwar era and facilitated the consolidation and universalization of democracy all over Western Europe

* The existence of a divided Germany and a Federal Republic that chose to tie itself to western institutions

* Franco-German cooperation, which led to everwidening and deepening European integration that made unthinkable the prospect of renewed conflict among the states of Western Europe.

But can these achievements, which seemed so secure, survive the end of the Cold War? This study suggests that there are serious reasons for doubt.

The search for the sources of instability in Europe (if not throughout the world) should begin with a re-examination of the European political and economic map and its transformation over the last 6 years. During this period, the Berlin Wall was dismantled, a unified Germany emerged, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. These events generated great public euphoria and created high expectations for a large political, social and economic peace dividend to be reaped by the whole western world. The last pace of the civic revolutions that proceeded unopposed in all of Europe was taken as a sign that the potential for significant near-term economic gains could soon be realized. This would be the result of large-scale demobilization and wholesale conversion of resources from the military to the civilian sector; indeed, credible estimates show that the Soviet threat had accounted for about half of defense expenditures in NATO countries. It was thought that in the absence of such a threat a dramatic reallocation of resources within and across countries could easily follow.


In contrast to popular expectations, the end of the Cold War did not generate an immediate peace dividend or stability on the European continent. Ironically, it helped to highlight and intensify preexisting economic problems-but it did more than that. It created new political and economic uncertainty.

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