Russia’s attack on Ukraine has shattered the perceptions that the instrument of “hard power” used in international politics has lost its influence. Counterintuitively, military conflicts have not ended in the post-Cold War period, and hard power has not lost its importance. However, issues such as the mutual increase in economic dependence, the importance of identity problems, and the difficulties of achieving political goals by military force have strengthened the views on the necessity of soft power. In the recent period, it is understood that these views should be discussed again.
A similar picture emerges in terms of European security. It is known that after the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) updated its mission definition not as a defense alliance, but as a joint security organization. While NATO’s tasks under Article 5 remain important, the non-military dimensions of security are also crucial. In addition, the European Union (EU) has improved its defense and security capabilities since the 1990s and has become one of the main pillars of European security together with NATO. The EU, by defining itself with concepts such as soft power and normative power, has focused on non-military issues of security, and has put itself in a role that complements NATO. However, the war in Ukraine has greatly shaken this structure, which was formed after the Cold War in European security. It is possible to explain this situation through various determinations.
First, it has been understood that NATO’s common defence role under Article 5 still important. In other words, the strategy, which requires a common response to a possible military attack on one of the member states and in this sense is based on deterrence, is still one of NATO’s core missions. Although Russia does not threaten a concrete attack against a NATO country, it has stated from time to time that it will not hesitate to resort to this option if necessary. In fact, NATO’s new strategic concept underscores the deterioration of peace in Europe and the need to strengthen NATO’s deterrence potential as a nuclear alliance.
Second, the threat perception posed by Russia has strengthened the sense of solidarity among European countries, and for the first time in the post-Cold War era, NATO members have united in such a strong sense of common destiny. Although it is difficult to predict in advance the direction in which this sense of partnership will evolve in the future, NATO, who began to experience an identity problem with the end of the Cold War, has strengthened its position at the center of European security. The fact that two neutral states such as Sweden and Finland have decided to become members of NATO is also an indication of this situation.
Third, the growing sense of solidarity in Europe, on the one hand, and the growing importance of deterrence potential, and on the other, have strengthened the role of the United States (US) in European security. Moreover, the main source of NATO’s deterrent capacity is the American nuclear arsenal. Therefore, European countries have become more in need of military power of the US in the face of the threat they perceive from Russia. In this context, the Transatlantic security relations, which followed a bumpy course after the Cold War, seem to follow a positive course in the short and mid-term. In other words, the two sides of the Atlantic have once again strongly remembered that they are members of the same security bloc.
Fourth, it is likely that the US and European cooperation will increase not only in the field of security, but also in international politics and economic issues in general. The US has identified balancing the dynamics of China and Russia as its main foreign policy priority. However, it has not succeeded in this foreign policy goal to the desired extent at the point of convincing its allies. European countries did not perceive Russia and China as threatening actors as much as the US, and they approached neutral to the policies pursued by the US against these countries. After the Russia-Ukraine War, the chances of the US adopting its own foreign policy priorities to its allies increased. The growing multipolarity in international politics is evolving into a distinction between Western hegemonic powers and rising powers in the East. However, these divisions still have vague lines, and it is difficult to predict in advance which way the international system will evolve into. Despite this difficulty, it is possible to say that the cooperation between the US and Europe has gained significant momentum.
Fifth, the increasing role of the US in European security, although it may seem contradictory, means that European countries are taking more responsibility. The increasing importance of hard power elements has made it necessary for Europe not only to rely on the US in this regard, but also to strengthen its own defense capacity. On the other hand, non-European security guarantees and alliance structures remain vital in the policy that the US will pursue against China and Russia. For the US to pursue an effective balancing policy in Asia, it will need to leave the security and defense burden it assumes in Europe to its allies to a greater extent. Examples such as Sweden and Finland’s NATO memberships and Germany’s increase in the defence budget show that European countries are more willing than in the past to shoulder this burden.
In short, although it is too early to discuss the long-term effects of the Russia-Ukraine War on the European security architecture, it is possible to say that the military dimension of security has regained importance and that relations with the US will be reconsidered in this regard. However, at this point, there are some factors that prevent a healthy prediction for the future. Europe is paying a heavy price for the sanctions imposed on Russia. Because the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have not yet been overcome, and an energy crisis has also been encountered. On the other hand, it is also uncertain how to deal with the climate crisis, which is making its presence felt more and more every day.
Consequently, the international system has entered into such an interdependence in the last 30 years politically, economically and socially. The increasing political tensions within this system create great problems for all actors. Therefore, the sustainability of political tensions and geopolitical conflicts in the international system poses a big question mark. In this context, it is not easy at all to predict in advance whether Europe’s security interests, expectations, goals and strategies at the international level will be compatible with the US in the long term.