Center for Strategic Decision Research


Windows on European Security

His Excellency Dr. Werner Fasslabend
Minister of Defense of Austria


The signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation has brought an end to the post-Cold War era and is ushering in--reinforced by the Madrid Summit--a new period characterized by joint efforts to cope with the challenges of European security in the 21st century. These two historic events will fundamentally change the European system and create opportunities previously unimaginable. For the first time, European security will be based neither on hegemonic strife nor on a balance-of-power concept. The European nations are free to establish an all-European system of cooperation, partnership, and integration, long wished for by each and every state, and are ready to back it with their full and enthusiastic support.


Because of the new reality in Europe, a number of windows of opportunity are now wide open:

  • The consolidation of the new democracies' independence without undesired interference from outside.
  • Stability in Europe and mutually beneficial relations with the intent of creating a lasting partnership between the Russian Federation and Western Europe.
  • The development of the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI) in close cooperation with the United States.
  • The chance to avoid conflicts altogether or at least to embark on crisis management at the earliest possible stage, before parties to a conflict resort to force.

In short, the situation is very favorable to bringing lasting peace and stability to the Euro-Atlantic region.


Peace and stability, however, will be achieved only by the timely creation of a comprehensive security architecture. Such an architecture, in its initial phase, will need to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Prevent new armed conflicts in the Balkans, which remains a turbulent region and poses a major risk to European stability, at least for the foreseeable future.
  • Raise the new democracies to the democratic, economic, and social standards of the European Union and smoothly integrate them into the community.
  • Secure and harmonize the integration process, which is taking place at varying speeds.
  • Continue the involvement of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and other relevant CIS states with the structures of European cooperation while supporting them in their reform processes.
  • Establish mutual confidence and cooperation between the European states and the countries in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly because of the millions of Muslims living in Europe.

These tasks will be completed only through a joint and equal effort by Europe, Russia, and the U.S. And it goes without saying that in this context Europe must speak with one voice.


It would be naive to the extreme to assume that a workable all-European security architecture can be developed easily. It cannot even be taken for granted that such a system can be developed at all. Disappointment and frustration on the part of key players, caused by less than optimal functioning of the existing relationships, seem to pose the greatest risks at this time. Particular problems that might cause frustration include:

  • For the United States, the all too complex handling that is necessary for an expanded NATO, possibly leading to a withdrawal of U.S. commitment to the European integration process and to partnership with Russia.
  • For the Russian Federation, the fact that despite having a voice it does not automatically have a vote.
  • For Ukraine, the fact that it is lagging behind in the European integration process.
  • For the European countries, the fact of American dominance, with the Russians sitting on the fence.
  • For the new, first-round NATO member-states, the awareness of greater attention being paid to Russia, at least by the U.S., than to them.
  • For those countries not chosen for first-round NATO accession at the Madrid Summit, a lack of certainty about a second round.

Because of the disappointment that might result from these scenarios, the above-mentioned windows of opportunity could close, fostering, in turn, nationalistic movements in both Eastern and Western Europe. Such renationalization would prepare the ground for tension and conflict within Europe and beyond, triggering a deterioration of the political climate among all nations concerned.


In order to prevent detrimental developments from occurring, it is of paramount importance for all concerned to do their share:

  • The United States must provide Europe, in its present stage of integration, with needed political guidance as well as military assets. It must not, however, resort to hegemonic tendencies, which would be counterproductive for Europe, the America-Russia relationship, and, consequently, for the U.S. itself.
  • The Russian Federation must act in accordance with the principles stipulated and reiterated in the NATO-Russia Founding Act, in particular those regarding cooperative security and democracy. The more the federation shares in common objectives and tenets, the more it will gain influence by having a de facto vote. It is Russia itself that will decide whether or not new dividing lines are to be drawn on the Continent.
  • Ukraine must become aware of the dual function it must play because of its history and strategic location. It must bridge the gap between Russia and Central Europe, which will simultaneously contribute to the maintenance of its own cohesion, a crucial factor for European stability.
  • The European countries must live by the rule "Public need before private greed." Eventually they will come to understand that such behavior serves their national interests best. It remains to be seen whether or not France will reintegrate with NATO's military command structures, a step that will decide the fate of ESDI.
  • The new, first-round NATO members must continue on their paths with caution and prudence, remembering that it was their sense of responsibility for regional stability that made them eligible for NATO in the first place.
  • Those applicant states not chosen at the Madrid Summit should not give up, but instead concentrate their efforts towards membership. Not being short-listed for NATO membership should not result in a discontinuance of reform efforts.

Failure by just one of the players mentioned could ultimately cause a domino theory-style chain reaction.


I believe that all players in the European arena must become aware of the benefits the current windows of opportunity offer, and the fact that they require different approaches of varying duration. Taking the right step at the right moment is of great importance. This, however, is even more difficult today than it was during the Cold War. The common-threat scenario of those days, which acted as negative motivation for a common-security policy, must now be replaced by the promotion and acceleration of the European integration process, particularly by readjusting defense policies to the new realities. Because the military's role in national defense has become more and more improbable, defense assets may now be redirected towards improving stability. In other words, for the first time in history, forces can afford to not merely react to threats but to actively shape security policy, thereby preventing threats altogether.

As in any transition period, the present one calls for rethinking old concepts, including those concerning security policy. Politicians as well as military planners must be challenged to make necessary adjustments. And they must accept the fact that change can be achieved only as a result of a thorough learning process, which, of course, will take time.

On their road to change, the international community has already made considerable progress. This includes:

  • A decision, in the case of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, to take comprehensive action, i.e., on both political and military levels, at quite a late point in time.
  • Preventive deployment of UNPREDEP, in Macedonia, at the earliest possible stage, for crisis management.
  • Reaction to the situation in Albania at a point somewhere between the time of reaction in the first two examples.

The ultimo ratio of security policy, however, cannot be crisis management, but rather the prevention of crises that might lead to armed conflicts. In this respect, NATO's readiness to open itself to new members can truly be considered a shining example of the learning capability of the international community as it is focused on long-term fundamental change in the geopolitical, political, economic, and military situation in and around Europe, rather than on short-term trouble-shooting. In other words, what counts is action, not reaction.

Once such an approach is recognized throughout Europe, this new way of thinking will shape the Continent and redefine its security.


The success of the European security architecture will depend on the early successes of the new European configuration, whose design will be finalized at the Madrid Summit. The year following this Summit will be decisive for the effectiveness of cooperation among EU, WEU, NATO, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. A window of opportunity has now opened for these players as they face a well-known but solvable problem, namely the future of SFOR, about which a decision must be made by mid-1998. This decision will illustrate how efficient the new configuration really is, and might yield the same results as NATO's commitment did in Bosnia.

The Bosnia experience forced NATO to redefine its role faster than it otherwise would have done, and enabled the Alliance to gain self-confidence. Similarly, the actors in the new security architecture might profit from finding themselves in a situation calling for joint decisions and swift actions, which would act as a catalyst, speeding up the European integration process. Since NATO has not been weakened, but rather strengthened, by its commitment in the former Yugoslavia, the new configuration should also earn dividends from a wholehearted commitment.


The players in the new configuration will be able to develop the attitude necessary for such a commitment only if they can act on equal terms. Whether or not this will be possible depends, to a considerable extent, on the future role of Central Europe's smaller countries. I believe their political, economic, and military integration into the Euro-Atlantic community is necessary for three particular reasons:

  • In order to transform Europe from its present politically inactive role into an agent of world politics.
  • To enable a well-balanced Euro-Atlantic relationship.
  • To tie Russia tightly to European structures while preventing it from resorting to hegemonic tendencies.

It should be noted that by and large the new democracies are well on their way to European integration.


The integration efforts of EU, WEU, and NATO member-states should be harmonized with the performances, but also the expectations, of the new democracies. But however it proceeds, the integration process must not come to a halt because this would inevitably result in an increase in nationalistic tendencies.

Austria fully supports an integration process aimed at establishing all-European stability. Presently, special consideration must be given to those countries not chosen in the first round of NATO accession in order to prevent them from relapsing into anti-democratic behavior. For this reason, cooperation between these countries and EU, WEU, and NATO must be intensified.

Austria has a vested interest in the success of the European integration process because it is located in the center of the continent, where stability and instability meet. Our position has afforded us special opportunities as well as increased responsibility for the building of a new European security order.

It goes without saying that the reorientation of Austria's security policy from neutrality to solidarity will be a gradual process. We have already taken decisive steps in this direction by joining EU (thereby accepting without reservation the goals of CFSP), gaining observer status in WEU, and participating in PFP. The decision on our next step toward integration will be made in 1998, after the government submits a special report to parliament. This report will speak to all options leading to Austria's participation in a workable European security structure--participation that is on the equal footing pointed out as an objective in the current coalition pact. Who would doubt that NATO will be an essential part of a workable European security structure?


The end of the post-Cold War era has brought about the chance to establish a new world order, one that is equally borne by Russia, the United States, and Europe. The most essential precondition for such a world order is the readiness to cooperate and integrate to the extent necessary for the maintenance of stability. This is especially true for Europe, which has yet to define its global role.

The new era has also brought with it the opportunity for an all-European security architecture that is greater than ever before. By the turn of the century we will know whether we have been able to take advantage of this unique opportunity. We therefore challenge those countries that have not yet been able or willing to fully participate in establishing and maintaining European order to show a clear commitment to integration.

Austria will do its share--including militarily--and make the necessary contributions to stability which, because of its geographic location, only Austria can do. I will personally do my utmost and extend my best efforts to this end.


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