This event will gather on Thursday, May 15, a small group of senior foreign and strategic policy experts from the EU, US, Romania and also think-tank representatives and independent experts interested in Eurasian issues from a transatlantic perspective. The event is organized by the Aspen Institute Romania and the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Bucharest in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania.
The global and regional context makes this meeting particularly relevant. Aside domestic issues in both Europe and the US, policy makers and planners are faced with a world that is definitely changing rapidly and sometimes unpredictably.
The ongoing events in Ukraine and particularly the invasion of Crimea by Russian forces have substantially altered the context, without, however, changing the original intention of the convening institutions.
Europe is at the same time engaging and stepping back from its foreign policy ambitions in the extended Mediterranean region and in South Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Caught in its own structural and quasi-constitutional challenges, the EU finds that developing a coherent and consistent foreign policy discourse and matching civilian and military capabilities for the EU is not a walk in the park.
The US has made a rebalancing to Asia its central policy axis. However, despite the energy revolution making it less dependent than ever, it gets repeatedly drawn into old unhealed conflicts in the Mediterranean and Golf regions.
In a relatively short time span, we have seen massive and not always positive changes in the Middle East, a difficult Arab-Israeli peace process, an uncertain negotiation process with Iran, an anticlimactic start to the Syrian negotiations. Turkey is in a political crisis, we witness a renewed challenge from Islamist fundamentalism in Iraq etc. Aside the predictably difficult process of drawing down forces in Afghanistan, we have also seen a growing set of security challenges created by Islamic factions in Northern Caucasus and Western China. Even closer to EU’s borders, instability in North and Sub-Saharan Africa brings a growing pressure from migrants and refugees from the region. On its Eastern borders, a resurgent Russia challenges Europe’s vision for stability and democratic prosperity for the region. In Ukraine, a major crisis emerged after the government failed to sign the EU Association Agreement in Vilnius. This was compound by the Russian invasion of Crimea and the continuous pressure on Eastern Ukraine and Trans-Dniester, but also in neighboring countries in the Baltic or South Caucasus.
The transatlantic perspective to stability and security in Eurasia sees a number of surprising challenges returning. Not only is Russia playing a dual spoiler and partner game in regional crisis, but it is also making decidedly unsettling steps in the field of cruise missile testing.
There is also a longer timeframe perspective that informs this conversation. This year marks the overlap of three significant and symbolic commemorations of events that shaped both Europe and the transatlantic relations. We mark a century since the start of the WWI that ended the empires and launched the transatlantic link as Europe’s key strategic alliance. We celebrate a quarter of a century since the fall of the communist regimes that opened the door for NATO and EU enlargement and, to some extent, transformed the Eurasian strategic outlook. Finally, we mark the 10th anniversary of NATO’s enlargement to include seven new countries from the former communist bloc.
Given immediate priorities and long term strategic objectives, Europe and the US have a long list of shared interests. Belonging to a common normative space rooted in shared values cannot be taken for granted. If this space is to remain stable, secure and prosperous in this changing world, Europe and the US need to work together more effectively.