The great swath of states stretching from North America across Europe through Russia has a crucial role to play in stabilizing an increasingly fragmented and stressed international order. They can play this role, however, only if first they transform this geographic space into a genuinely inclusive and vibrant security community. Failing such a transformation, this vital contribution will be lost. Moreover, failing such a transformation, the Euro-Atlantic area will remain a potential victim of its own internal tensions and unresolved conflicts. And failing such a transformation, the Euro-Atlantic states and their organizations will settle for suboptimal and too often utterly inadequate responses to the twenty-first century’s security challenges—from the swelling threat of nuclear proliferation to the menace from cyber space; from the devastation of catastrophic terrorism to the ravages of drug flows and the threat of infectious diseases. Failing such a transformation, however, is exactly where we are.

By a Euro-Atlantic security community we mean an inclusive, undivided security space free of opposing blocs and gray areas. Within this space disputes would be expected to be resolved exclusively by diplomatic, legal or other non-violent means, without recourse to military force or the threat of its use. All would be bound together by a shared understanding of the major security challenges facing member states and ready to respond to them with effective organization and action.
This is not pie in the sky. This is the order that the countries of the Euro-Atlantic area pledged to build at the Cold War’s close. It is the vision at the very heart of the 1990 Paris Charter. It is what the 56 countries in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have spelled out in detail in a dozen documents, from the 1991 “Berlin Mechanism” for early warning should political tensions threaten to explode to the 1999 Istanbul summit’s “Charter for European Security.” All is agreed to on paper. Much less has become reality.
Lately, however, many national leaders, including the Russian and U.S. presidents, have returned to the idea and endorsed the need to fashion a stronger and more inclusive European security order. They are joined by the NATO secretary general who too speaks of seeking a “new era of cooperation under a common Euro-Atlantic security roof.” More portentously the Euro-Atlantic family is about to enter a critical two-month period. On November 19-20, NATO heads of state meet in Lisbon, Portugal to approve a new “strategic concept” to guide their organization for the next decade. Two weeks later, the OSCE heads of state assemble in Astana, Kazakhstan for a rare summit where shaping the OSCE’s next stage of development will be the task.

NATO Leaders understandably will focus on the challenges facing the Alliance and how to meet them, and the OSCE heads of states will attend first to improving the work of that organization. But, unless in both contexts, leaders lift their eyes to weigh seriously how their efforts will help or hinder the creation of a larger Euro-Atlantic security community and unless they make its realization immediate, not a secondary or distant goal, the opportunity to create such a community will once more slip away.

How to overcome past failure and at last move the Euro-Atlantic nations toward a level of stability and cooperation allowing them to exercise badly needed global leadership is no mystery. Five core challenges must be confronted head-on. First, U.S.-Russian and NATO-Russian security relations must, as a conscious goal, be converted from residual hostility and strategic rivalry to strategic cooperation. This can only be done by introducing greater stability and restraint in their military relations, which, in turn, depends on an enhanced level of mutual trust. Second, an historic reconciliation within the Euro-Atlantic area’s eastern half comparable to that achieved by its western half must be consciously pursued. As part of this process the security of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and other new states must be assured and the area’s frozen conflicts resolved. Third, the dueling narratives agitating relations among Euro-Atlantic countries must give way to a new narrative recognizing how great the real stakes are in the growing security and prosperity of all, not in the weakness and tribulations of any member. Fourth, a path to Euro-Atlantic energy security based on interdependence rather than competition must be traveled. And, fifth, the institutions on which the Euro-Atlantic states rely for security must be modified, strengthened, and welded into a division of labor enabling them together to meet the twenty-first century’s new security challenges.
None of this will come about without a far-reaching shift in political consciousness as well as a determination to design concrete measures with the larger goal in mind. Achieving a genuinely collaborative approach to missile defense matters not only in addressing a threat, but in removing the misgivings blocking progress toward a common security space. Mobilizingthe Euro-Atlantic states behind efforts to internationalize nuclear fuel-cycle services—including the safeguards and oversight of spent fuel and waste—and devising mechanisms and procedures by which Euro-Atlantic governments can together protect critical infrastructure from cyber attack are not only crucial for the national security of these states but a prerequisite before they can lead the effort to mitigate these challenges as global threats. Ensuring that the responsible exploitation of hydrocarbons and other resources in the Arctic becomes a reason to cooperate rather than compete not only would remove an unnecessary source of tension but would constitute an early building block on the path to a Euro-Atlantic security community. Adjusting operational doctrine guiding strategic, tactical, and conventional forces in order to increase early warning and decision-making time for all would not only be generally stabilizing, but a giant step toward ending the militarized framework of NATO-Russian relations. Reinforcing the cohesion and effectiveness of the European Union, NATO, the OSCE, and other key institutions not only addresses what is needed in meeting the new security challenges but in giving members confidence to invest in a larger security community.

This is but a partial list of what must be done if governments are serious about building a stronger, inclusive European security order. We, representatives from all corners of the Euro-Atlantic region, have formed the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative because we believe they and a number of other concrete steps essential for the creation of a genuine security community are feasible. In the coming weeks and months we will offer specific suggestions on how to move them forward.

The Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative is made possible by funding from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Hurford Foundation, the Robert & Ardis James Foundation, and the Starr Foundation, along with support from the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO).