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A changing security architecture


Contemporary European security is as complex and complicated as it has always been. One only needs to pick up a paper or go online to see high-profile issues such as Britain’s nuclear deterrent, terrorist attacks in European cities, crises in Europe’s periphery from the invasion of Ukraine by a resurgent Russia to the ongoing civil war in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis. Gone are the days when the main threat to Europe was a nuclear war between the two superpowers. At the same time, while Europe seems to be no longer the staging ground for a nuclear holocaust, the insecurity that states and their people experience continues to dominate global, regional and local communities. Contemporary European Security analyses the changing nature of European security since the end of the Cold War and represents an insightful study into the importance of how regional organisations, national governments and individuals perceive and experience security.

First, the chapter asks how we might understand European security. We look at the debates about what constitutes ‘Europe’ and ‘security’. Second, the chapter introduces readers to the relevance of the topic in the international relations curriculum. The chapter offers several areas of contemporary international relations strongly highlighted in European security. These areas are the important role of regional organisations, the role of the state and the role of the individual in international relations. Furthermore, we ask: what are the primary threats to European security today? What is the European security community/complex? What role should different regional organisations play in European security? What impact do states have on European security? How is European security challenged by non-state actors? How is European security affected by global security? Finally, the chapter details the structure of the book.

Unpacking European security

If we want to analyse European security we need to begin by considering what the term Europe actually means. As Delanty (1995, p. 1) argues: ‘every age reinvented the idea of

Europe in the mirror of its own identity’. While, geographically, the conventional definition of Europe is delimited by the Ural Mountains and the river of the same name running into the Caspian Sea, this has often proved controversial. In particular, large geographical areas of Russia and Turkey are outside this boundary, but both have historical and political claims to be European, and both are important considerations in the question of European security, as we shall see in Chapter 7. Moreover, few would argue that the concept of Europe is purely geographical. Rather, over the centuries the word Europe has been associated with unifying concepts like the medieval Christendom or the Enlightenment. Importantly, such movements have been about fostering unity and inclusion on the one hand, but setting boundaries and, thus, exclusion on the other. The period this book covers is no different.

The Cold War divided the continent of Europe into two antagonistic blocs. As Chapter 2 outlines, both blocs developed mechanisms of security cooperation: in the West, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Western European Union, and, in the East, the Warsaw Pact. While some states remained neutral and non-aligned (Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Ireland), security on the continent of Europe was a matter of mutual defence pacts and deep suspicion between the two blocs, rooted in the fear that the Cold War might turn into a hot military conflict (Hobsbawm, 1994). After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the collapse of communist regimes across Eastern Europe followed rapidly, and the constitutional reunification between East and West Germany was matched by rhetoric about the reunification of Europe.

The reunification of Europe took on a highly institutionalised format through the enlargement processes of both the EU and NATO (Schimmelfennig, 2003). Membership of both institutions was gradually extended to many of the former Warsaw Pact members. However, as German (2017) argues, it created new boundaries, new European frontiers - enlargement, while viewed as enhancing European security at the time, may, in fact, have led to new conflict. Moreover, it perpetuated an image of Fortress Europe - security within the bounds but insecurity outside. Russia was excluded and ‘buffer zone’ states like Georgia and Ukraine were left in the uncomfortable position of trying to placate both Russia and NATO/European Union (EU). The definition of what constitutes contemporary Europe in terms of military security has always struggled to accommodate Russia. More recently, too, Turkey, under Erdogan, despite being a long-standing member of NATO, has been in open disagreement with its allies, and increasingly, too, its European credentials are questioned. Finally, a core member of both NATO and the EU, the United Kingdom, has chosen to leave the EU; again this raises questions about what Europe means. Is it purely geographical, a question of institutional memberships, or a deeper sense of being a part of a joint political project?

If Europe is difficult to define, security is even more challenging. It is, perhaps, a myth that there was a clear understanding of what national security meant throughout the Cold War. Among both policymakers and academics, realism predominated as the explanatory framework for state behaviour, as Chapter 3 explains. Realism makes the assumption that states act rationally to maximise their interests while prioritising state survival, but, even during the Cold War, security decisions were made that were not based entirely on rational calculations of national interests. As Katzenstein (1996, p. 2) points out, the Cold War cannot be understood solely as a 'bipolar, ideological struggle’; nevertheless, it is true that there was a clear military threat evident during the Cold War and this took priority over any other security concerns for most European states. After the conflicts leading to decolonisation had ended, only where domestic terrorism was prolonged and serious was attention diverted from the main security concern of the East-West confrontation (Jongman, 1992).

The end of the Cold War meant that European states, for the first time in decades, had no immediate military threats to their physical integrity (with the major exception of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and former Soviet states - see Chapter 2). This opened up space to reconceptualise security in both academic and policy-making circles. As Chapter 3 explores in more depth, European academics were at the forefront of this discussion. Within this debate, two main strands were discernible: the broadening of the national security agenda to include non-military threats and the deepening of the security agenda to consider the security of individuals, not just states.

Ullman (1983) was one of the first to critique the concentration on external military threats, pointing out that this risked both ignoring non-military threats with the power to destabilise states and underestimating threats from within. This has led to much broader ideas about what might constitute security threats. The Copenhagen School, for example, identifies five general categories or sectors of security: military, environmental, economic, societal and political security (Buzan et al., 1998). Migration, international terrorism and environmental degradation have become standard chapters in security studies textbooks. However, the broadening of the security agenda is not without its critics. Some, like Ayoob (1997), argue that it is unhelpful to conflate problems of global management with international security. A more serious critique is outlined by proponents of securitisation theory; here, it is argued that by defining an issue as a security issue through speech acts, politicians can claim the need for extraordinary measures to block the threat, thus threatening human rights (Buzan et al., 1998).

At the same time, some security studies scholars and policy-makers focused on challenging the state as the referent object of security; that is, the thing to be secured - a debate known as the deepening agenda (see Chapter 8). The question they posed was whether entities other than the state should be able to claim security threats that need international action. Is the state always the best guarantor of its citizens’ security? While authors have proposed moving upwards to the level of the international, and downwards to regional and societal levels, the argument that has gained most attention in the academic and practitioner worlds is that of human security: the security threats to the individual (UNDP, 1993). Similarly, as Chapter 9 shows, the place of women in peace and security began to attract concentrated scholarly attention. Both the broadening and deepening agendas challenged how Europeans thought about security, what they understood to be security threats and which institutions might be best placed to respond to such threats. The predominance of NATO and military security seemed threatened.

IR and contemporary European security

So far, we have discussed how the changes after the end of the Cold War influenced debates among academics and policy-makers about what European security actually means. We now need to situate those concerns within the wider discipline of International Relations (IR).

With the growth of the IR scholarship in the twentieth century, explaining conflict and its absence became a core object of attention. The search for answers surrounding security has been most pronounced in the realist paradigm of IR, which perceives the international system we live in today to be obsessed with security from others outside. As we shall see, this obsession lies at the level of the nation-state, although realists have their roots in realist philosophies of individual behaviour.

In the twentieth century, IR scholarship focused intensely on security in the Europe context. Europe as a subject of IR scholarship came about for two primary reasons. First, the twentieth century witnessed three major events that greatly shaped the way some explain international politics and, thus, security: the First World War, Second World War, and the Cold War. Each of these conflicts had its root in Europe, although all had a global impact. Even the space between the two world wars was of great interest, seeing as it was the case study in E. H. Carr’s seminal work on the study of IR (Carr, 1946). Many scholars took the view that IR was about boom and bust; or, more appropriately, war and peace. In other words, peace failed when the status quo broke down and war ended when a new status quo was established (Kennedy, 1987). Second, the growth in IR scholarship came with the ascendency of the US academic system, which perpetuated a Euro-centric view of IR, for the reason mentioned above, in addition to the impact the European scholarly legacy has had on the US intellectual tradition (see Chapter 3 for more discussion). The good news, then, is that for students of European security, there is much to find out there in terms of academic literature, including theoretical and conceptual frameworks that were actually based on Europe in the beginning. The bad news may be that there is simply too much literature with which to come to terms. This is where this book fits in.

Our discussion of security begins with the question: ‘Whose security?’ W e start by looking at three objects of security: states, individuals, and international organisations. Traditionally, IR scholarship has thought of security in terms of national security (Wolfers, 1952). And traditionalists have done this for good reasons: nations have a near monopoly on mass, organised violence. In other words, states have the ability to cause the most harm. At the same time, states have increasingly relied on alliances and international organisations to protect them and their allies. These institutions have become, at the least, mechanisms of national security and, at most, security actors within themselves. Yet, with the state and international organisations in mind, we think most often about our own security: the security of the individual. For example, we think about where we walk, at what time of day, and with whom. States, international organisations, and individuals are what ‘security studies’ refers to as the ‘referent object’: to what does this security refer? Since this book attempts to stress the role of each in our discussion of contemporary European security, we look at them in more detail.

As discussed, nation-states, or ‘states’, have been the traditional focus or ‘referent object’ in security studies. ‘The academic study of international politics . . . continues to be motivated by and concerned with the two faces of Janus: war and peace between states’ (Holsti, 1996, p. 6). There are two characteristics of states that make it the traditional focus of security studies. First, as a political community, a state has the responsibility to protect its people. As citizens and taxpayers, we expect our government to protect us, at the very least, from physical harm.

Second, a state tends to be large enough to maintain a capability to defend its population. In other words, ordinarily we do not expect city governments or wealthy individuals to protect us from physical harm. Instead, security is monitored and maintained at the highest level of political organisation: the state. The focus on national security has dominated security studies as a discipline but also dominates the way policy-makers determine what is and is not a threat. Finally, national security generally tends to be the way we (as citizens and taxpayers) think about security. It appears clear that the state is an important actor and object of security.

Yet, how does the ‘state’ fit into how we think about contemporary European security? For instance, the EU has offered European citizens the freedom to move and work across borders. At the same time, Europeanisation has encouraged greater sub-regional identification, such as being Breton first and French second. Today, someone living in Rennes may feel Breton, French and European (Luhmann, 2017). In this case, who needs to be secured? Who should be doing the securing? Perhaps this is where regional organisations fit. For instance, as we shall see in Chapter 6, the EU (or, more precisely, its member states) has made great progress in establishing mechanisms by which to maintain European security. At the same time, security has been a policy area where states remain unwilling to cede too much power or responsibility to the EU. Even in Europe, which has progressed so far in creating a regional political community, national security is primarily a lingering responsibility for states.

The ‘pluralist’ challenge to the traditional view of IR and, thus, security, argued that the focus on the state was at best misleading and at worst simply incorrect (Ullman, 1983). For instance, scholars of foreign policy could see that states do not act as a unitary actor tied to reacting to the international community. Rather, foreign policy analysis insisted that domestic factors played an important role in policy-makers’ decisions. Issues of national security, as an aspect of foreign policy, are the responsibility of a select group of policy makers. This reinforces the focus on the state as the central agent and object of security. The next challenge to the state-centric approach to security looked beyond the state to established and formal interactions between states. In other words, security studies began to take account of international organisations as key agents of international security.

In contemporary international security, much of the responsibility to protect people from physical harm is borne by international organisations. The basis of international organisations is cooperation between two or more political communities. We can think of a defence alliance as a means of cooperation for the sake of mutual security. As this cooperation becomes more established, this multilateral relationship between states may become a political community within itself. This development has happened so much that today we talk about the ‘United Nations (UN)’ in the former Yugoslavia or ‘NATO’ in Afghanistan as agents of security. This transition of responsibilities from the state to international organisations occurs when decisions regarding those organisations’, and, thus, member states’, actions are taken at the level of multilateral decision making and enacted through previously established mechanisms to ensure security. These organisations, although dominated by more powerful states, may begin to take on an operational culture of their own, which differentiates their behaviour from any individual member state. In this way, international organisations become an additional focus of security studies and one of particular importance in Europe.

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