A realized political settlement on Europe’s future would also be a key turning point in the conceptual and ideological formulation of NATO’s purpose. It would provoke some overdue questions about the alliance’s present utility and future potential, and lead to a realization that the viability of collective security in Europe depends more on a concrete conception of converging interests than the rehearsal of slogans like “community of values.” It must be grounded by a clear assessment of the balance of power in the regions into which NATO seeks to project its power or defend its interests as much as by its dedication to the abstract ideals of a democratic peace. A new conceptual and institutional framework for the future of European security that recognizes these limitations would be an historic strategic achievement, especially in a grave period when China poses the far greater threat to the global balance of power. The Western alliance has before it both an opportunity and an obligation to work towards a geopolitical settlement that can resolve disputes and contain conflicts in peripheral areas which will not ultimately advance the causes and values that the United States and its European allies aspire to represent.
Wesley Jefferies is a graduate student at Walsh School of Foreign Service’s Security Studies Program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.