European Security and Defence Policy as a Transatlantic Issue in International Relations

Essay, 2007

19 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents



Why and how hast he ESDP emerged?

The split among the EU member states: Is it a Problem?

The US and the EU: Challenges of mutual understanding

ESDP and NATO: Fusion Versus Division of Labor




European Security and Defence Policy has become a key issue in the transatlantic relations during the last several years. This paper identifies the problems and challenges which the adoption of ESDP poses for the future of the transatlantic partnership. It does so by observing historical preconditions for the emergence of ESDP (i.e. continuity and change in security aspirations of the member states), as well as by analysing the peculiarities of the domestic structures (decision making processes) on both sides of the Atlantic. The author argues that it is not only ESDP itself with its budgetary, planning and military capability challenges, that poses threats to the transatlantic relations, but also the split between the EU member states over the issue, as well as the policy of the US, characterised by unilateralism and readiness to act relying on military over political means.


Security arrangements in Europe have undergone rapid change since 1989. Intensification of these arrangements took place during the last several years, posing challenge both for the EU member states and the states, involved into the transatlantic partnership (which are usually the same). Scholars have diverging opinions on the preconditions for the emergence of CFSP and ESDP in Western Europe. One group of authors emphasise that the development of European security identity took place during the whole period after the Second World War, and thus has deep historical roots. The other group of researchers, on the contrary, state that intensification of security cooperation, and especially the adoption of ESDP, appeared to be highly unexpected, as the sphere of security has long been associated with the realm of state’s sovereignty, and it was presupposed that most European countries will never grant security issues to the supranational bodies. Generally, it was not the emergence of ESDP itself, which surprised the international security community, but rather rapid intensification and easiness with which security arrangements were held.

Nowadays the movement towards a regulated common security and defense policy that is separate from the United States and the Atlantic Alliance (NATO) is a key issue in the transatlantic relations. Why does it matter so much?

As it is known the ESDI has always been the NATO military project, designed to solve a number of structural and political problems within the Euro-Atlantic community. Adoption of ESDP was also supported by the United States (though in relative sense), since the latter created additional room for them to insist on further enhancement of military expenditure and military capabilities on behalf of the European partners. However, the issue of the so-called Europeanization of the security cooperation, appeared to be one of the most problematic on the ‘international cooperation’ agenda. The greatest problems, in this respect, were inspired not only by the duplication, decision-making, institutional restructuring challenges, which it posed, but rather by the perception of ongoing arrangements, mutual suspicion and ambiguous interpretations.

In this paper I will make an attempt to look at the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union as a transatlantic issue. Trying to answer the questions of how adoption of ESDP can influence transatlantic relations (1) and what challenges and opportunities the adoption of ESDP poses before the transatlantic alliances (2), I will attempt to distinguish the real problems, facing the transatlantic relations at the contemporary period of time.

Why and how has the ESDP emerged?

To better understand the problems facing the so called ‘troubled partnership’, I refer to the discussion of the place of the ESDP within the realm of integration and international cooperation.

As it was largely exemplified in the literature, European integration for the whole period of 1970-1980s was primarily focused on the development of an economic and monetary union. The aim of many initiatives, related to the union, was the creation of a single European currency and a single European market. During the Cold war, the distribution of power between the two centres obviously blocked the creation of the autonomous European security policy. After the Cold War, the traditional distribution of power significantly changed, resulting in the establishment of a new system of international relations. The specific feature of this system was that while new centres of power began to emerge, there was no other country, except for the United States, which could be regarded as a superpower, able to project its decisions throughout the world. However, the situation of peace created additional room for the autonomous military policy of certain number of states, and although military expenditure of many countries declined, it was precisely the end of the Cold war which allowed for the development of the security dimension of the European integration.

Ingo Peters finds at least three rationales for the building up of ESDP: the ‘global logic’, that is doing European voice heard in the World; the “integration logic”, that is deepening integration, and the “transatlantic logic”, which is making the European community/ European Union stronger in the security and defense realms1. It is interesting that while there is a consensus on the first and second rationales, mentioned above, the third one inspires significant contradictions both among the EU member states and the NATO block, including the US. There is no consensus among the European states on whether ESDP should move towards greater independence from the European allies, as well as on the question of what kind the emerging division of labor between the ESDP and NATO should be. According to one point of view, largely supported by the US, the development of ESDP primarily means strengthening of the European pillar within the transatlantic alliance. Thus, while the alliance remains intact, the ESDP is deemed to support further military cooperation and partnership. On the other hand, there were some indications that the European Union is seeking more autonomy from its western partners (especially in the sphere of decision-making); and although the position of the adherents of a greater autonomy has not been officially articulated, the ongoing discussions inspire mutual ambiguity and suspicion. Generally, it is fair to say that nowadays it is precisely the ‘transatlantic logic’, which proves to pose major obstacles for the successful transatlantic partnership.

The notion of ‘strengthening’ indicates the fact that the European Union appears to be under the contested vision of itself. While tending to greater autonomy from its transatlantic partners, it lacks appropriate capabilities and independence in the decision making process. International challenges, like the Gulf War (August 1990- February 1991), the violent conflicts in Yugoslavia (July-August 1990) and other events have demonstrated weak points of the common EC diplomacy as well as the EC’s inability to act independently of the United States. There is no wonder, in this respect, that it was only after the Kosovo events, when intensification of security arrangements in Europe took place, and the European security capability has emerged not as a NATO project, but also as the EU political project. The recognition of many failures and ‘weaknesses’ explains that since the Cologne Council in June 1999 and, above all the Helsinki Council in December of 1999, the notion of a common European security and defence policy has become completely differentiated from ESDI.

The advantage of ESDP in comparison with the ESDI is that it managed to establish some kind of legitimacy of the relative autonomy of the European security policy, as it established to 1) to develop an autonomous capacity to take decisions, and where NATO is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises; 2) be able to deploy within 60 days and sustain for at least one year, military forces of up to 50000 to 60000 persons capable of the full range of Petersburg tasks; 3) establish new political and military bodies and structures within the Council to enable the Union to ensure the necessary political guidance and strategic direction to such operations; 4) develop arrangements for full consultation, cooperation and transparency between the EU and NATO; 5) develop initiatives that would allow non-EU European NATO members and other interested states to contribute to EU military crisis management.

However, establishment of ESDP left large room for many uncertainties, since at the time it was obvious how difficult the harmonization of policies between and among the fifteen EU member states, as well as the achievement of the viable trade-off between the strategic objectives of the United States and those of the EU would be. At this stage, it is obvious that ‘strengthening’ of the European pillar can not be possible without of the US support. The US policy itself, however, implicitly impedes greater autonomy of the EU in security and military terms. In this respect, both harmonization and the trade-offs in strategic objectives seem to be highly problematic, and would probably be achieved through a long process of negotiations and bargaining (between the US and the EU, as well as between the EU member states).

The split among the EU member states: Is it a Problem?

In recent several years, it has become obvious how divided Europe is over the problems of the transatlantic partnership. However, the division, which occurred among the Western European states is not something new in the history of the European Union. As the majority of evidence shows, tensions among the EU member states have always been in existence. Many of them were pertaining not only to the issues of political and economic integration, but rather to its security dimension. The way in which security integration evolved proves the fact that it was not pursued by all the member states in the same manner, and, accordingly, it was not perceived as desirable for all of them.

The greatest role in actualization of security dimension of the European integration was played by France and Germany. Both France and Germany proposed the creation of the European political Union, the concept of which included the security and defense component.


1 Peters D., ‘Explaining the Emergence of European Security and Defense Policy: A Rationalist Approach’, paper presented at the 1st Pan-European Conference on European Union Politics, ECPR Standing Group on European Union, 26-28 September 2002, Bordeaux, 35 pp. //

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European Security and Defence Policy as a Transatlantic Issue in International Relations
European Integration
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european, security, defence, policy, transatlantic, issue, international, relations
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Svetlana Inkina (Author), 2007, European Security and Defence Policy as a Transatlantic Issue in International Relations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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