Wednesday, December 01, 2010

New Security Concerns for Europe

The last quarter of 2010 has seen the rumblings begin of a potentially seismic shift within the European balance of power. The cementing of Germany as a the great European power in the wake of the Greece bailout, the strengthening of ties between Germany and Russia, and the failure to create a new strategic framework for NATO at a recent summit in Lisbon has brought back significant security concerns for Central Europe.

With the Greek bailout and the wider financial crisis plaguing Europe, particularly at the periphery of the Eurozone, Germany has seen its economic situation, founded in a large export surplus, propel it once more to the top of the economic heap within Europe. This economic primacy has provided a path for a united Germany to once more dominate European affairs in a time of peace as it has not done since the days of Bismarck. Furthering this imagery of a powerful Germany is the fact that Angela Merkel seems to be taking to heart Bismarck first rule of diplomacy: “Have a good treaty with Russia.”

Russia and Germany stand to benefit greatly from increased economic cooperation. Russia requires economic investment in its raw materials sector and jobs to cope with massive amounts of unemployment, while Germany needs those raw materials to feed its export engine and an additional labor source to make it all go. With closer economic ties come closer security ties. Germany and France, both of whom stand to benefit from better economic ties with Russia, took the lead in crafting the new NATO strategic concept at the Lisbon meeting of mid November. The result of the summit was a convoluted idea of NATO becoming an ally of Russia in order to contend with extra-European threats.

The recent NATO summit made abundantly clear that the traditional powers of the continent, France and the resurgent Germany, fully intend to warm relations with Russia both economically and militarily. This move, while on the surface would appear to lessen the need for American security assistance in Europe will instead do just the opposite, as better German-Russian relationship will increase the cries for American security resources in Central Europe.

Away from the political circus surrounding this past week’s latest round of wiki-leaks lies the unearthing of diplomatic information out of Central Europe. While the United States remains overwhelmingly focused on the Middle East, the nations and governments of Central Europe are preparing and organizing themselves to guard against security threats that do not appear to show up on American diplomatic radar. Poland, the Czech Republic, and to a growing degree, Hungary are all interested in bolstering their security situation vis-à-vis Russia. With the European community, with whom these countries had hoped would bolster their security, now drifting towards warm relations with Russia, these nations are going to look for American assistance instead. Such aid has already been requested in the form of missile shields and military training. The current administration has since backed away from such security agreements with these countries, despite the wishes of the host nations.

American security interests remain focused on the Middle East at the expense of the bigger picture. Central Europe, which since the end of the Cold War has been seen as on a peaceful progression toward unity under the auspices of the EU is instead on the path toward becoming a geopolitical and international security hotbed which will require greater US attention.

No comments: