The Ukraine crisis and European security 25 years after the Cold War

On 25 September, IFS arranged a seminar to discuss European security and mark the publication of two books edited by IFS scholars – Common or Divided Security? and The Future of NATO.

In November, Europe will mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and with it the most important symbol of the end of the Cold War. Somewhat ironically, the crisis in Ukraine is conjuring images of a divided European security, and a future for NATO reminiscent of its distant past.

After opening remarks by IFS acting director Dr Kristine Offerdal, IFS scholars Dr Paal Hilde and Dr Robin Allers briefly introduced the two books. Common or Divided Security? tackles western cohesion in a changing European security environment: a topic made only more relevant by recent events in Europe. The Future of NATOexamines the history, the tools, and the future of a security organisation that has to balance between regional territorial defence and global security demands. After the introduction, two of the participating authors - Professor Derek Averre, University of Birmingham and Dr Patrick Keller, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Berlin) - addressed some of topics covered in the books in light of the Ukraine crisis.

Prof. Derek Averre laid particular emphasis on the emerging chasm between Russia and the western European countries, as two parts of Europe with fundamentally different sets of values, and consequently approaches to security. From Moscow, Averre argued, the western security community is seen as using the Ukraine-crisis as an instrument to increase focus on defence and deterrence in its proximity. Russia's responses the last 12 months have not been strategic manoeuvres, but rather reactions to sudden events. As for the West, its reaction has been relatively coherent but at times lacking determination. Both Russia and the West need to consider the costs and consequences of further confrontation. Potentially, the crisis could deteriorate even further leading to a situation with certain similarities to the Cold War, where you have two competing systems in Europe.

Dr Patrick Keller outlined a German perspective on Russia, NATO and European security. Speaking in a private capacity, he made two main points. The first concerned Germany's current domestic debate on the country's role in international security affairs. In this debate, one narrative sees Germany becoming "normalised" and contributing substantially to military operations, with Kosovo in 1999 as a watershed. The second narrative argues that Germany is an unwilling contributor, always too little too late. Non-participation (abstention) in the Libyan crisis of 2011 was interpreted as an interruption or even stepping back in the normalisation process. Keller's second point was that German reactions to current crises in the east (Ukraine) and the south (Iraq/ISIL) have actually been adequate. Germany's special relationship with Russia s has been one of its strongest cards, while the political leadership has simultaneously drawn a firm line in the sand.

The Q&A session focused on the question of German leadership in European security as well as on western preparedness and the state of the transatlantic relationship. Seminar participants also pointed out the Ukraine crisis' implications for Northern Europe.

Summary by Andreas Østhagen

Publisert 25. september 2014 00:00.. Sist oppdatert 28. juni 2016 11:07.