What does the experience of the 1990’s suggest for the future of European Security
The statement by Marc Bloch shows us why the eventful decade that was the 1990’s has a wider effect on the life of Europe and the world in the future. It started with the declaration of a “New World Order”2 as the continent emerged from the Cold war and the long shadow of ideological conflict it inflicted. However a decade on, the history of the 1990’s looks less than positive. The spectre of global war has gone, yet new challenges emerged which fundamentally shook both Europe and the world’s ability to manage their own security.
Violence and ethnic tension in the Balkans were widespread, the former Warsaw Pact nations struggled with the burdens of newfound democracy, while Europe did not look or feel particularly secure for many. This essay will seek to analyse the complex nature of the 1990’s experience, with obvious focus on Europe. It will aim to pull together links between the actions and events of the past and discuss the potential results and considerations for the future. Of course there is nothing definite about security, context is everything, events like September 11th show that. However the essay will argue the 1990’s was an ‘awakening experience. It showed security is not necessarily a precursor for peace, but merely the means to limit and control any form of challenge to state stability. 1990’s Europe increasingly tried to stand on its own feet but found an inability to do so. The reliance by the European’s and the wider world on the idea of ‘collective security’ and pre-cold war policies will be criticised, as results were shown to be increasingly old fashioned and unsuitable. In conclusion the 1990’s gave Europe and the west harsh lessons that will ultimately make their security policies in the future more realistic, if not more successful.
The centrality of the USA in European security, the need for the redevelopment of trans-national institutions and a greater awareness of the threat of growing immigration, will be marked as future big issues. European security was formalised after the Cold War when the Maastricht Treaty (1993) set up the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The CFSP is a statement of intent that member nations will aim to hold common positions and take joint action on both security and foreign policy issues. Equally in recent years the EU has discussed implementing a common European rapid reaction force to further enhance its security situation.
The reasons for this have some links to avoiding the problems of the 1990’s. Finally the Treaty of Nice (2001) includes a new provision called the “European Security and Defence Policy. “3 To some extent this united line was visible in the global coalition set up in the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait. The post cold war order was to endorse ‘collective security,’ in an attempt to get the basics right. It sought to foster maintaining the status quo through negotiation, but if this failed take collective action. It is in this context we must analyse how Europe and the west dealt with the 1990’s experience.
The Balkans tragedy suggests flexibility and a multi-faceted approach to security are needed in the future. It was a region full of hatred, death and decay. If the Gulf war was a celebration of past security practices, the Balkans was there darkest hour. The Bosnian conflict was sparked by a desire for independence. Serbia was fast loosing its dominance over the other Yugoslav republics, had already lost Slovenia and wanted to regain control. In doing so a four-year conflict followed killing 278,000 at a rough estimate4, while Europe and the west seemed lethargic to respond.
Not only did they recommend elections, which saw the rise of nationalist parties worsening the situation, but they also felt it suitable to send ‘peacekeepers’ in to a “hot” zone. This suggests two primary failures: the belief democracy would soothe tension immediately and the idea peacekeepers would have a calming influence. The Bosnian war was eventually ended when massacre forced the UN and West to act. Srebrenica, 1995 saw Dutch peacekeepers hopelessly out of their depth retreating, while Serb forces massacred thousands of Muslims.
The Criminal Tribunal would call it “truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history. “5 A bombing campaign followed bringing surrender in two weeks by the Serbs. On a basic level it showed the USA was needed to sort things out. After all, Luxembourg Foreign Minister, Jacques Poos had declared as early as 1991, “if one problem can be solved by the Europeans, it’s the Yugoslav problem. This is a European problem and it’s not up to the Americans and not up to anyone else. “6 The Europeans failed.
Equally Bosnia suggests the UN was unprepared to deal with military crisis, never mind ethnic cleansing. It has been argued, with justification the UN in Bosnia made things worse, showed itself to be practically inept and set confidence in the UN’s ability back decades. These structural problems are made more sickening with the revelation that when the Dutch commander faxed for air backup, he was told the wrong form had been used! In 1999 the Balkans again caused European security difficulties. Kosovo erupted as Serbia sought to control the last remnants of Yugoslavia.
The Kosovo Liberation Army sought independence for the Albanian majority and civil unrest followed. The Serb’s brutal crack down forced Europe and the west to act; NATO commenced a bombing campaign that forced Serbia to retreat in weeks. The CFSP was looking jaded while collective security looked extinct; all was not well. Meanwhile in the former Warsaw Pact, changes were occurring as each nation undertook the long and arduous journey to democracy. As Ian Clark states, “The European armistice had been struck: the full settlement was still impending. 7 They may have been freed from the ‘Motherland,’ but were left economically impoverished as their previous dependence was gone. It is testament both to the leaders in those countries and the wider community for making sure east Europe did not go the “Balkan way. ” This was more relevant for the west as these nations were on their doorsteps. The effects of a united Europe and Balkans conflict have led to a refugee problem and the increase in immigration. Legal immigration has been generally welcomed by western European nations as they seek to maintain economic growth with cheaper, foreign labour.
Yet this did become unbearable in the late 1990’s and an illegal immigration issue ensued. This is not only a direct threat to individual state borders but has the potential to unnerve internal stability. France, Holland and Austria have all seen the rise of the far right. It has led to a security issue many Europeans had not expected. Can the 1990’s suggest anything for the future of European Security? On the simplest level it can, we can always learn from past experiences. The 1990’s can be used as a general tool of comparison and learning rather than an exact synopsis of the future.
Some analysts claim the 1990’s showed the attempt to build a New World Order had failed and with the restraints of the Cold War removed internal conflict raged. Robert Kaplan predicted, “instead of Western Europe and Eastern Europe there would be Central Europe and the Balkans. “8 This is to some extent true, but is not the whole picture. The problems caused by the Balkans were a lot more complex. The fact that nuclear threat was gone did allow nations more individual development, but to suggest it was a precursor to start killing each other would be a pervasion of the facts.
Indeed the violence seen fails to suggest we do not have a new world order, but merely shows the new order we have, is not as peaceful as we had hoped or expected. Instead the 1990’s should be seen as a ‘transitional’ period in the wider terms of European Security. It saw the old Cold war ideas die a natural death as it was proven they were no longer relevant in a deeply more complex world. The rigid nature of collective security, which was seen in the early 1990’s, may have worked in the old fashioned conflict of the Gulf, but was inappropriate to explain the Balkans or deal with the rising immigration issue.
It was also the decade the Europeans realised the world was no longer a tight bi-polar system. Instead there was one super power and more ability for individual states and sub-state actors to manoeuvre. It is at this point Mary Kaldor’s theory of “New Wars” becomes especially relevant. New wars are fought for more particularist aims, they are generally based on religion and ethnic identity and there ultimate purpose is the destruction of the other. Equally warfare maybe low-intensity and the lines between civilian and soldier blurred. 9 The Balkans fits in to this pattern and description.
Thus the experience of the 1990’s has allowed us to see that in the future, Europe will have to be aware that each conflict has individual characteristics and duly adapt their security practices. This leads on to whether Europe has the awareness of what are threats to its security. The European Union has been criticised for being too bureaucratic and lethargic in its defence and security policies. However it has been argued, with justification, that the European Union has created stability through the promise of membership to its institutions.
The argument goes that a nation wanting membership will westernise its policies and have a narrower avenue to commit its foreign policy, after all it is looking to impress. The evidence would suggest this is true, one positive from the 1990’s was the relative secure nature of nations like Poland and Hungary both seeking EU membership. Meanwhile Turkey has banned the death penalty and liberalised Kurdish cultural freedom in a bid to join the European Union. Equally in the last week it was announced the size of NATO would increase by seven to 26 members by 2004.
Countries like Latvia and even Slovenia make the NATO security buffer advance to the Russian border. 10 It would therefore be legitimate to say, that one experience the 1990’s provided, was that nations seeking wider stability will largely behave to achieve it. Trans-national institutions were not covered in glory during the 1990’s, but what experience tells us, is they will be more important in future security matters. NATO may not be perfect, but it did bring about the end of the Kosovo crisis.
Equally its increased membership and commitment to a new rapid reaction force means it will have 40,000 troops ready to maintain security. NATO still lacks a clearly defined role in the post Cold war and September 11th world, but there is little doubt with domestic pressures one will be found. Equally the UN needs to rapidly recover its reputation when dealing with violent crises and regain the trust of the USA. The experience showed that the whole peacekeeping procedure needs a rethink, while there needs to be a real consideration of just how effective UN planning is.
As General Francis Briquemont complained in Bosnia, there was a “fantastic gap between the resolutions… the will to execute these resolutions, and the means available… in the field. “11 The UN has been taught in future it must unite or die, while the wider world have been pushed in to expanding independent security institutions. Finally the experience of the 1990’s would seem to suggest the future of European Security may well be in the hands of the Americans.
Richard Holbrook said in Bosnia, “this was the most important test of American leadership since the end of the cold war. 12 They arguably sorted out the Balkan problems with the Dayton Accords and Kosovo bombing, of which they carried out 90% of sorties. The 1990’s showed the Americans that the dependant relationship they had fostered during the cold war could not just be terminated. Indeed it is clear the Americans have sought to make this dependence more prevalent by placing themselves ever more firmly in NATO and in calling for a global coalition against terror. As long as they seek European support and the Europeans are happy to get protection and global security on the cheap, this should continue.
Pax Americana, shows no sign of abating, it is certainly clear the Europeans will have to adopt security procedures which fit with the super-power’ wishes. The future of European security is destined to be a complex and expensive issue. If the 1990’s did show the Europeans anything it was nothing comes cheap or is easy -the world is a quickly changing place. Europe in many ways went through a road to perdition experience, it has learnt from mistakes which were often deeply tragic, but one can only hope make the world more secure in the long term.
The end of the cold war was a lot more rapid and extreme than most had expected. In this context the European reaction was perhaps justified in its wariness. In the future European security will have to look just as much within each state, than outwards to traditional ‘hotspots. ‘ With the global war on terror in full flow, the Iraqi question on going, the mechanisms for security need to be both rapid and adaptable, otherwise history may just repeat itself.