Notes on European political culture




NATO redux in Paris

In a speech to the French National Military Academy on 29 January US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did her best to press the old wine of 20th Century security thinking into the new bottles of a shifting European security landscape.

The speech in its entirety can be found here. The report and analysis from Le Monde can be found here and here.

Europe’s political class is still scrambling to find its footing at the dawn of the era of the Lisbon Treaty and the new architecture of power, legitimacy and politics it is producing. The European Council of Ministers is consolidated around a new ‘president’ of Europe, the EU has a distinct new foreign policy and security spokeswoman and a beefed up operational capacity of the European Parliament.

Add to this the fact that NATO is itself in the middle of its own identity crisis. It’s own 1999 Strategic Concept is generally considered obsolete, and a highly visible, multi-national fact-finding and consensus building exercise is under way in order to identify a new one. The group of experts assigned the task is led by none other than Cold Warrior Madeline Albright.

In terms of the trans-Atlantic and European politics of security, the present juncture rivals 1989 and the transformation of the Cold War concept of security.

Against this backdrop it is all the more puzzling that Secretary Clinton used the occasion to reaffirm three of the basic principles of the very 12 year old security concept, precisely the one that NATO Is presently revising (and three other principles of more immediate relevance). I have addressed these issues briefly here.

Among the pillars of security in US policy, she underscores, are the territorial integrity (of the state), the indivisibility of security and the Article 5. It is hard to predict for sure, but it is likely that these three principles stand for a fall when the new Strategic Concept first sees the light of day. In any case, the notion of the state’s integrity as a basis for security covers less and less of Europe’s (or the US’s) actual security needs. Furthermore, all measures suggest that few things are more divided than security in Europe, whether we are talking about traditional geopolitical exposure or human security (see my forthcoming article with Shahrbanou Tadjsbakhsh in Global Society). The real open question is whether Article 5 (an attack on one is an attack on all) will survive. Most pundits claim that if Article 5 goes, so will the Alliance, so a re-tooling of the article is most likely.

Thus a remarkable step backwards at the moment when the future unkowns of security and and security policy press upon us like rumbling storms on the horizon.

(To these three 1999 NATO fundamentals Security Clinton adds transparency, viz. Iran, the right to live without fear of nuclear destruction, viz. Iran, and rights for individuals, viz. Iran.)

In short: NATO redux in Paris. Perhaps Clinton thinks that France, only members of the new NATO since last year, enjoys a taste of old NATO before it disappears for good?

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