, Volume 91, Number 3

Sten Rynning

The war in Ukraine is revelatory of a malaise in Europe’s security order created by Russia’s resistance to western institutions on the one hand and the western desire to maintain these institutions while partnering with Russia on the other. Absent a sense of priorities, western policy risks contributing to the erosion of Europe’s security order that Russia seeks in opposition to western ambition.

Europe’s order is premised first and foremost on a distinctively western concert of nations— whereby Euro-Atlantic states coordinate policy according to a common purpose layered into both NATO and the EU—that forms part of a wider balance of power between Russia and the West. Western policy should aim to strengthen the concert and clarify the balance. However, the prevalent desire to include Russia in the concert confuses matters in a major way, eroding both the underlying sense of priorities and the foundation for order. This article examines this threatening erosion and traces it to three underlying trends: political contestation with regard to the meaning of ‘restoration’ post-1989; military instability following from the unpredictability of ‘hybrid war’; and moral equivocation on the part of the West when it comes to defending the Euro-Atlantic security order. The article concludes that given the depth of contestation, western allies should learn to distinguish concert from balance and act on the condition that the former, a vibrant western concert, is a precondition for the latter, a manageable continental balance.

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The false promise of continental concert: Russia, the West and the necessary balance of power
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