, from the inter-war period, to be one of ideological division
and confrontation – no longer mainly between fascism and communism,
but between communism on the one hand, and capitalism and democracy on the other.
The United States’ creation of the NorthAtlanticTreatyOrganisation
(NATO) in 1949 together with eleven West European countries merely
confirmed the American commitment to the old continent as manifested
through the Marshall Plan. Based on the Washington agreement, NATO
committed the participating countries to consider ‘an attack on one of
them as an attack
The disappearance of the Soviet Union and the end of its hold over Central and Eastern Europe posed the question of the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). What continued purpose could NATO serve? How far east could it enlarge without upsetting Russia? NATO's first-ever armed conflict was with Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999. The Kosovo War led to intensified discussion in Europe and the United States over the need for increased European defence spending and operational efficiency within the alliance, and over the prospects of more ‘out-of-area’ peacekeeping or peacemaking operations. The United States and Russia abrogated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and concluded the Treaty of Moscow. Russia's relations with NATO became even closer with the creation of a NATO–Russia Council. NATO was not likely to disappear as it was still useful to both sides, but the communality of purpose was not the same as it had been during the Cold War.
This study interprets and interrelates the major political, economic and security developments in Europe – including transatlantic relations – from the end of World War II up until the present time, and looks ahead to how the continent may evolve politically in the future. It weaves all the different strands of European events together into a single picture that gives the reader a deep understanding of the continent, and of its current and future challenges. The first chapters trace European reconstruction and political, economic and security developments – both in the East and in the West – leading up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Later chapters examine the European Union's reform efforts, enlargement, movement to a single currency and emerging security role; the political and economic changes in central and Eastern Europe, including Russia; the break up of Yugoslavia and the wars that ensued; and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)'s enlargement and search for a new mission. Final chapters deal with forces affecting Europe's future, such as terrorism, nationalism, religion, demographic trends and globalisation.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 led, in rapid succession over the next two years, to German unification, Baltic state independence, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its replacement by Russia and other successor countries, the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Capitalism, liberalised world trade and new electronics technology seemed to have carried the day. The hope of the countries concerned for a new Marshall Plan was not met, but a new European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was meant to fulfil a similar function. In 1993, the European Union (EU) concluded a European Economic Area agreement with various European Free Trade Association countries, tying them closer to it in the areas of trade and investment. The disintegration of Yugoslavia beginning in 1990, and the several wars it led to, posed serious challenges to the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), apart from signifying a tragedy for the people of the region.
While the Russian economy began to slide in the early 1990s under its new leader, Boris Yeltsin, as a result of an uncertain mix of change and standstill, economic reform in Central European transition countries started to bear fruit in the form of higher growth and adaptation to world markets. The European Union (EU)'s Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) collapsed in 1993 but was revived in a more flexible form, permitting plans for Economic and Monetary Union to proceed. The conclusion of the Uruguay Round and the establishment in 1995 of the World Trade Organisation meant a major push for Europe towards globalisation and its being exposed to greater competition from emerging non-European economies. Other institutions, such as the Council of Europe, began to form – with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the EU, and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe – a rather complicated European ‘security architecture’. All these organisations were faced with immediate challenges, such as successive wars in the former Yugoslavia and in the southern Russian province of Chechnya.
As the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) enlarge, prospects for overall economic growth and peace are good, even if tensions both within and without the enlarged circle of EU and NATO member states could cloud the picture, as over Iraq in 2003. Continuing EU and NATO enlargement will mean an eastward shift of Europe's ‘centre of gravity’, with a major role for Germany. An intricate ‘European security architecture’ may preserve peace and co-operation via their multiple activities. Co-operation intensified following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, leading to a broad anti-terrorism coalition spanning the Atlantic and beyond, and causing Russia to become even more involved in that architecture. Europe will be obliged to tackle, in international as well as European fora, such worldwide threats as terrorism, transnational crime, climate change, missile threats from ‘rogue states’ (also via terrorists), economic instability and democratic malfunctioning. Overall, however, Europe is experiencing a unique period of peace and integration.