Transatlantic security is often seen as just the sum of security issues that transatlantic countries face, individually or collectively. It is this, but it is also more. It is the fact of being part of a "community of destiny," whose members try to support one another's security because they have learned that their fates are intertwined. It is also a concept, at once idealistic and highly realistic, of the role of transatlantic unity in providing stability in the world at large and in laying the grounds for the global future. The varied specific issues of security are important within this context, which gives them an overarching unity.
From 1949 to 1989, transatlantic security issues were primarily defined by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its mission – deterring the Soviet invasion of Western Europe. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, both transatlantic security and NATO entered a period of both introspection and eastward expansion.
During that time, many called for the end of NATO, as it was seen as a primarily peacekeeping and peace-enforcing body (such as its mission in the conflicts in the Balkans). Nevertheless, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC saw the first ever invoking of the Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty, and joint effort by all NATO members in assisting the United States. September 11, 2001 was the end of the beginning of new transformation of NATO, following that undertaken in the 1990s – with the goal to become a response force capable of projecting and keeping peace around the globe.
Currently, transatlantic security issues are defined primarily by cooperative efforts in combating terrorism – in the transatlantic homestead and overseas – as well as NATO’s outreach to its immediate neighborhood and to Russia.
NATO’s fourth, fifth, and sixth enlargement cycles in 1999, 2004, and 2009, respectively, transformed the alliance from a North Atlantic to a primarily pan-European one. In Afghanistan, NATO is leading a United Nations-sanctioned International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in addition to the combat operations conducted mostly by the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
Finally, transatlantic security today crosses into the environmental realm as well; since climate change, as stated by the new NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is one of the emerging threats that NATO faces.
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