The Lost Equilibrium: International Relations in the Post-Soviet Era

By Bettie M. Smolansky; Oles M. Smolansky | Go to book overview

Resting on its Laurels:
The West Faces the East

STEPHEN BLANK

THE RECENT ACTIVITY OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZAtion (NATO) and the European Union (EU) suggests that NATO enlargement has unleashed a process that will allow the West to finally consolidate the victory of 1989 that ended the cold war. Specifically NATO enlargement, the EU’s decision to start accession talks with Central and East European states and actively take up a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and the campaign in Kosovo to resist ethnic cleansing are all major steps toward realizing a truly democratic, integrated, and collective European security community. However, there are drawbacks or costs, both visible and invisible, to these actions. First, many of these commitments are still in an early, reversible stage or may be distorted before fruition. Second, those actions enlarge the distance between a prospering, dynamic West, and a floundering Russia thereby creating potential new sources of tension. Nor are these achievements as yet consolidated in domestic, popular institutions either in Europe or the United States. Future progress crucially depends on achieving that consolidation and on solving the Russian problem.

The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the cold war gave the West the greatest political-military victory of modern times with scarcely a shot and challenged the Western alliance to lead the recasting of a legitimate and viable world order. What this world order, or at least its European dimension, entails is to sustain the ability of the new states, in and out of the former USSR, to function as sovereign, economically viable, secure, and politically coherent entities, to define a legitimate order that allows them to find an equally legitimate scope for realizing their national interests, and, most of all, move to overcome the division of Europe. The achievements cited above indicate how much has been done, but also how much awaits further action.

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