The New Transatlantic Project: A Response to Robert Kagan

By Asmus, Ronald D.; Pollack, Kenneth M. | Policy Review, October-November 2002 | Go to article overview

The New Transatlantic Project: A Response to Robert Kagan


Asmus, Ronald D., Pollack, Kenneth M., Policy Review


FOR 50 YEARS and more, the United States and our European allies cooperated in a grand strategic venture to create a democratic, peaceful, prosperous continent free of threats from within and without. At the dawn of a new century, that task is approaching completion. This autumn both NATO and the EU are likely to launch so-called "Big Bang" rounds of enlargement, encompassing up to seven and 10 countries, respectively. If successful, these moves will help lock in democracy and security from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

Relations between Russia and the West are also back on track. Russian President Vladimir Putin has opted to protect Moscow's interests by cooperating with the U.S. and Europe rather than by trying to play a spoiler role. The certitude of that decision and, above all, the depth of Moscow's commitment to democracy at home remain open questions. But Putin's turn to the West has further reduced the risk that Russia might again become a strategic adversary and has instead opened a window to put the West's relations with Russia on a more stable and cooperative footing.

There is still work to be done. Not all of the European democracies are ful1y functional and not all of the European economies are prosperous. Completing Central and Eastern Europe's integration will take time even after they join NATO and the EU. Balkan instability has been stemmed but the underlying tensions are not yet resolved. Ukraine's westward integration and that of Russia will remain works in progress for years to come. And the West is only waking up to the challenge of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

But the key cornerstones of a new, peaceful European order are in place. The grand strategic issues that preoccupied statesmen and strategists for the second half of the twentieth century -- Germany's internal order and place in Europe, the anchoring of Central and Eastern Europe to the West, and the establishment of the foundation for a democratic Russia to integrate itself with Europe -- have been or are in the process of being largely resolved. Europe today is at peace with itself and more democratic and secure than at any time in history. If Harry Truman and his European counterparts could look down upon us today, they would no doubt be proud of what has been accomplished in their names.

Unfortunately, there is bad news too. The extraordinary accomplishment of the Atlantic alliance does not mean that America and Europe are now safe and secure. Success on the continent has been matched by the emergence of new threats from beyond. September 11 has brought home what a number of strategists have been predicting for years -- that the new century would usher in new, different, and potentially very dangerous threats to our societies. On the verge of eradicating the danger to our societies from intra-European war and thermonuclear exchanges, we are faced with new scourges -- terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, mass migrations, rogue and failed states, and the threat of disruptions to the economic lifelines of the world.

September 11 has become a symbol and metaphor for the new perils looming on the horizon. No one can doubt that Osama bin Laden would have used weapons of mass destruction on September I I if he had had them. We know that al Qaeda and similar groups are trying to obtain such weapons and will, in all probability, use them if they succeed. The odds of their success are too good for comfort. Indeed, the likelihood of weapons of mass destruction being used against our citizens and societies is probably greater today than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis.

While America is the target of choice for these terrorists, Europe may not be far behind. It was certainly no accident that the United States was struck September 11, but it is not much of a stretch to imagine a similar attack on Europe in the future. There is already ample evidence of past terrorist plots by these groups on the continent. …

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