European and American Security Strategies: Convergent Aims, Contrasting Means: Stephen Hoadley Compares the Approaches to Counter-Terrorism of the European Union and the United States

By Hoadley, Stephen | New Zealand International Review, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

European and American Security Strategies: Convergent Aims, Contrasting Means: Stephen Hoadley Compares the Approaches to Counter-Terrorism of the European Union and the United States


Hoadley, Stephen, New Zealand International Review


Until 2003 Europe did not have a formal security strategy. The United States, in contrast, had proclaimed a succession of them since the Truman Doctrine of 1947 and the NSC 68 document in 1950.

This statement may appear surprising in light of the many security and defence policy agreements that European states have entered into. As early as 1948 six European governments signed the Brussels Pact that spawned the Western European Union, and then the North Atlantic Treaty that gave rise to NATO.

The past decade has seen the negotiation of the Petersburg Tasks, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the European Security and Defence Policy, the Helsinki Headline Goals, and the Berlin Plus Agreement. The European Council has established a High Representative with a staff attached to the European Commission to carry out these policies. In addition the treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice and the draft Constitutional Treaty have included passages on defence and security policy. (1)

Nevertheless it has been argued that these agreements were more about building inter-governmental institutions and capabilities than about defining overarching European security aims and outcomes. Furthermore, they have been characterised as reactions to United States Cold War and counter-terrorism requirements rather than initiatives defining a European security vision in its own right. (2)

Iraq issue

The US decision in early 2003 to invade Iraq divided European states pro-US and anti-US. This dissensus precipitated a demand for a forward-looking, truly European security strategy that could draw member states back together and direct their resources synergistically, in a way distinct from the United States. (3) Accordingly, member governments directed High Representative Javier Solana to draft a comprehensive security strategy. Entitled 'European Security Strategy: A Secure Europe in a Better World', this was adopted by the European Council on 12 December 2003. (4)

The security strategy's sub-title 'A Secure Europe in a Better World' reveals its underlying paradigm. (5) Europe cannot be secure if its neighbours, near and far alike, are needy and insecure. Europe's immediate neighbours are the contiguous Eastern European, Balkans, and Mediterranean states. But Europeans see their neighbourhood expansively to take in problematic states in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, and even those in East Asia.

The European Union's engagement not only with Ukraine, Russia, and the Balkans but also with Sudan, Congo, Dan, Pakistan, China, and North Korea exemplifies Europe's widespread security concerns and global policy reach. Furthermore the engagement is to be multi-dimensional and value-oriented. As a Belgian analyst put it, policy is to be guided by 'for what' rather than 'against whom'. (6)

New threats

The 'European Security Strategy' document noted that 'aggression against any Member State is now improbable'. But it identified new threats that are 'more diverse, less visible and less predictable'. These include:

* terrorism;

* proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially in conjunction with terrorism and arms races;

* regional conflicts, for example in Kashmir, the Korean peninsula, and the Great Lakes region of Africa;

* state failure, exemplified by Somalia, Liberia and Afghanistan; and

* organised crime and its manifestations in trafficking of drugs, arms, and people, and its conflation with terrorist support activities.

American contrasts

The uniqueness of the 'European Security Strategy' can be seen most clearly in contrast to a parallel document, President George W. Bush's 'National Security Strategy' issued a year previously. (7) The European document conveys an optimistic tone. It begins by observing, 'Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free'. Noting with satisfaction the numerous policies and institutions already employed by the European Union to good effect, the 'European Security Strategy' enjoins members to make better use of these policies and institutions by making greater efforts to be:

* more active internationally;

* more capable institutionally;

* more coherent in policy co-ordination; and

* more co-operative bilatetally and multilaterally. …

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