European Security is in crisis. Like every crisis, this one not only has a prior history, it has also been in the offing for quite some time. 2008 marked a first peak, after the Bush administration offered the NATO Membership Action Plan to Georgia and Ukraine: Russia demonstrated in the war with Georgia who sets the tone in the former Soviet Union. A similar pattern emerged in 2014 in the Ukrainian crisis, this time with the EU in charge and Russia reacting even more forcefully. Since then, the crisis has escalated with almost unrestrained momentum. Its most recent expression is the termination of the INF Treaty, which carries with it the acute danger of a new (medium-range) missile crisis on the continent.
This graphic tracks how American opinions of Russia and Russian opinions of the United States have developed over time. To find out more about how these developments influenced Europe’s post-Cold War security architecture, see Christian Nünlist’s chapter in Strategic Trends 2017 here. For more CSS charts, maps and graphics, click here.
This graphic shows how the USSR compared to the US in terms of population, real GDP per capita (USD), defense spending (in billion USD) and nuclear weapons in the 1980s, as well as how the US compares to Russia in these key areas today. For an analysis of how different interpretations of the recent past still affect West-Russia relations and what is needed to rebuild trust, see Christian Nünlist’s chapter in Strategic Trends 2017 here. For more CSS charts and graphics, click here.
The U.S. ambassador to NATO has, when one thinks about it, just one job. No matter who holds the job, the U.S. ambassador to NATO has many priorities, as one would expect for a role that involves dealing with dozens of countries and trying to get them to agree on a coherent defense policy. But one would think that not provoking a nuclear war with Russia would be at the very top of the ambassador’s list of priorities. This seems like a no-brainer, but it helps to focus on the simple things. The United States has a special obligation to be the “adult in the room” and to keep the alliance focused on constructive responses to collective threats.