Since the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of the European Union (EU) in 1993, a new transatlantic strategic triangle has been forged between Russia, EU and the US. In addition to annual meeting between the presidents of the US and Russia, there are now EU-Russian and EU-US summits happening on a regular basis, which point towards a more long-lasting relationship between the three actors.
Since the 90s, there has been a shift away from military strength to economic power and diplomacy skills in determining foreign and security policy. Unfortunately, historical and ideological differences and the lack of internal agreement within the EU hinder further cooperation between the actors.
With the US and Russia comfortably sitting on the either ends of the ideological spectrum, the EU remains the only actor that is indecisively split on either side, with countries like France, Finland and Germany supporting of Russian socialism whereas others like the UK, Portugal and Spain are loyal to American liberalism. This ideological split, along with the reluctance of EU member states to give up their interests for the sake of the Union has crippled the process of forming a coherent EU foreign policy so far.
Following the 2005 rejection of the Constitutional Treaty, each Member State now pursues an independent foreign policy whenever an agreement cannot be reached at the level of the European parliament and the Council of Ministers.
Last year, the UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed a desire to forge a common policy after “the disunity of the 1990s” at a meeting at Brussels. This came as a response to the split in the stance on recognition of the new Kosovo, with countries like Germany, Italy, France, UK, Austria and Albania for the independence of Kosovo and Russia, Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyrus against it.
However, apart for the lack of internal legitimacy within the EU, other obstacles also stand in the way of the transatlantic cooperation, namely, the encroachment of the EU, US and Russia on territory once perceived as the an integral part of the others historic sphere of influence, the problem of supposed decommissioned military weapons and hardware disappearing, and the possibility of rogue organisations being supplied with them.
All three parties are also hoping to continue to work on global peace promotion through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
On the overall, the will and need for cooperation has been undeniable but much is left to be seen if this will translate into successful diplomacy on the global stage.
* Views expressed are the authors’ and not necessarily the EU Centre’s.