With the Cold War's end, the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI) appeared to be a cause whose time had come. West European governments, no longer controlled by the security imperative that for two generations had locked them into a dependent alliance with the United States, were regaining a measure of strategic free will. Their predisposition to define a collective diplomatic personality could find the political space in which to express itself. Moreover, the lifting of the iron curtain gave impetus to their ongoing Community-building project, which quickened in an atmosphere where anxiety mingled with aspiration.
Apprehension reflected the sudden shift from a world that was fixed and predictable to one marked by uncertainty. Would the instinct to cooperate fade without the rigors of an external threat and the benign discipline of Western Europe's U.S guardian? Might the unity embodied in European Community (EC) institutions be eroded by reawakened nationalism? How was a reinvigorated process of Community integration to be linked to the wider enterprise of fostering liberal reform in the former Communist lands? Would premature embrace of the Central and East Europeans stymie progress toward achieving the ambitious goals of the Single European Act promulgated in 1986?
Most disquieting in the minds of European political elites, the implicit compacts of the postwar era were in danger of being