From California to Vladivostok

Por Rafael Calduch Cervera (para Safe Democracy)

Rafael Calduch analyzes the dispute surrounding Turkey‘s membership to the European Union, drawing parallels to the expansion of NATO. In Calduch Cervera‘s opinion, while both are drawing upon the need to consolidate the geopolitical borders of Europe, the EU‘s growth tends towards restrictive criteria, while NATO‘s is based upon expansionist criteria. Calduch Cervera reflects on the changing energy market, the EU‘s need to juggle both Washington and Moscow, and the changing nature of Europe‘s security borders.

Rafael Calduch Cervera is a Professor of International Relations and the Director of the master’s program in International Relations and Communication at the Complutense University of Madrid. He completed his doctorate in Political Science and Sociology and presides over the consulting group “International Strategic Analysis”.

THE DEBATE SURROUNDING THE ENTRY OF TURKEY INTO THE EUROPEAN UNION finds its parallel in the controversial enlargement of NATO: both seek to consolidate the geopolitical borders of Europe. Nevertheless, while the EU tends to impose restrictive criteria, complicating its growth, NATO is driven by the simple logic of expansion.

After the French referendum rejected the bid for a European Constitution, the EU has suffered through a period of stagnation. With the hopes for a complete European integration looking bleak, it has been important for the EU to step back and reflect on its limitations, its security needs, and the conditionality of its expansion. The incorporation of Turkey would jeopardize the borders of the EU by expanding out into the Middle East and the Caucasus, areas of high military risk due to political instability and general turmoil. This summer’s War in Lebanon is a perfect example of the type of conflict that the EU is looking to avoid. Yet on the other hand, expanding into the Middle East would present the possibility for the diversification of Europe’s energy resources, currently dependent upon Russia and Algeria.

Situated before this dilemma, it is more than likely that the EU will refuse to admit Turkey. Yet, the negotiation may continue on for the next decade, provided that no Islamist revolution arises. And ten years from now many things will have changed including a complete shift in the energy market, which would make Turkish integration much more favorable to the European community. The privatization and fusion process already begun by many European energy companies is laying down the groundwork for the EU to be able to compete actively on a world scale to provide for the growing energy demands of the United States, China, and India.

Many of the pipelines that are currently in planning or under construction, like the joint Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey project, called the Nabucco, which will connect the countries with Turkmenistan, and the planned pipeline with Iran, will revitalize the geo-economic importance of these new borders. By 2020, some 71 millon cubic meters of natural gas is expected to flow through these lines. 71 million cubic meters of natural gas means a lot of money, and may therefore play an influential role in the EU’s decision on Turkish membership.

Europe’s defense capabilities are gradually growing. Halfway through the next decade the A-400M strategic transport plane will be operational, as well as the Galileo satellite positioning system, granting military capabilities to the EU that it currently lacks. These technologies will bolster Europe’s effectiveness as a deterrent force, but will also require the EU to develop a global strategic doctrine and take international action for which it has no experience. In anticipation of these shifting priorities, the still undecided Constitution offered three essential proposals: the establishment of a European Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the institution of a solidarity clause, and the institution of an alliance clause.

These changes seem sure to alter the EU’s relations with the US and the Russian Federation over the next few years. In the first place, future American administrations will have to view cooperation with the EU as a requirement for the success of their international initiatives. An open confrontation between Washington and Europe would condemn any unilateral intervention, complicate American operations and logistics, damage public support both domestically and abroad, and aggregate a severe diplomatic cost on the United States.

This changing world dynamic has given NATO renewed importance for the United States. Not only does NATO provide for the possibility of organized military response to new threats, but it serves as a multilateral forum for cooperation with the EU and the protection of American hegemony. American leaders have initiated the expansion of NATO to include the regions surrounding Europe (including Oriental Europe, the Balkans, the southern region of the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East) in an attempt to amplify the organization’s influence. This political expansion will permit direct action in countries like Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldavia, as well as the exploitation of the inequalities that already exist between the EU and the Russian Federation.

This last aspect of NATO’s growth is especially relevant due to Russia’s political and economic importance in determining the future of defense and security policies in the EU. In the coming years, the European community will have to reach a security understanding with the Kremlin to serve not only as an instrument of strategic European consolidation, but also to reinforce Europe’s transatlantic ties, forged half a century ago. Balancing the US and Russia will not be easy, however, considering the growing tendency of the US to take unilateral decisions, and Putin’s priority to restore Russia to its former position as a great economic and military world power. Europe’s security borders reach far, with interests stretching literally from California to Vladivostok.

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