The Transatlantic Dimension of the European Security Strategy

Towards a policy of "discursive conciliation"?

The Transatlantic Dimension of the European Security Strategy : Towards a policy of "discursive conciliation"? - Iraklis Oikonomou


The following essay attempts to identify and interpret the striking discursive similarities between the 2003 European Security Strategy and the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America. According to the main argument of the essay, the Atlantic dimension of the European Security Strategy is not simply a result of American political-military supremacy. Rather, it reflects an ideological, institutional and material convergence between dominant sections of the European foreign policy establishment and the United States, under the banners of Atlanticism and new liberal imperialism.


Henry Kissinger once complained that he did not know Europe's telephone number. Although this number still remains unknown, the publication of a European Security Strategy (ESS)2 may symbolize an attempt to create Europe's first "phonebook", containing the objectives of a European foreign and security policy. Interestingly, this "phonebook" appears to be characterized by a distinctively Atlantic flair.

This article will attempt to provide an interpretation of the striking similarities between the ESS and the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United States (US).3 After identifying the constitutive discursive elements of the two documents and comparatively presenting the similar logic in which the two are embedded, the paper will suggest that these similarities are theoretically significant in highlighting the prevalent mode of thinking within the European security order today. To proceed with these aims, the paper will firstly provide an overview of the NSS. It might seem unorthodox to begin the analysis of a European foreign and security document with reference to the basic document of contemporary US foreign policy; this choice suggests that it is impossible to understand the creation and orientation of the ESS in isolation from the policy preferences of the US foreign policy establishment. Secondly, a comparative analysis of the two documents will highlight the evident, as well as the less visible, similarities between the two documents and will attempt to trace these similarities back to the ideological origins of the ESS, inspired by Atlanticism and new liberal imperialism. This latter explanatory thread will be coupled with a materialist line of argumentation, focusing on the inter-capitalist consensus that has been formed between the US and the currently dominant section of the European Union (EU) politico-economic elites. The historical materialist framework utilized in the present analysis understands reality as a terrain where different social-class forces struggle for the fulfillment of their material and power interests. In such a context, security discourse is seen as ontologically inferior to the socio-economic interests of the ruling political and economic elites across the two sides of the Atlantic.

Overall, the existence of a security strategy provides a "strategic concept that details and defines a set of interests on which the new political military bodies can base their decisions and effectively coordinate the military aspects of CFSP [Common Foreign and Security Policy] and ESDP [European Security and Defense Policy]."4 The absence of such a concept undermined the effectiveness of ESDP by obscuring its rationale and objectives. Furthermore, the absence. symbolically highlighted the inability or unwillingness of the European states to agree on some basic, common policy aims as well as on the means to achieve them. Thus, the mere existence of the ESS has a symbolic value, parallel to its actual one: it demonstrates the capacity of the EU to discursively (at least) agree on a set of principles and objectives that should govern its foreign, security, and defense policy. However, it is the content of the ESS that forms the basis upon which it should be judged; praising the member states for agreeing on a policy without taking into account the actual content of the document would be a rather biased way to assess this development theoretically in the security and defense affairs of Europe.

A "Secure Europe in a Better World"

The adoption of an ESS is a crucial step towards the formation of a common strategic culture within the EU. As shown in this section, this strategic culture demonstrates some clear and striking similarities with the American one, in terms of both the assessment of threats and the policies to counter them. According to Carl Bildt, "The two documents tend to agree on the nature and the importance of the threat, while their different approaches on how it should be handled are not necessarily as dissimilar as they are often portrayed."14

Some differences are also evident. They are differences in emphasis, tone and scope, rather than large-scale deviations. They include the following: the importance attached to the transatlantic partnership; the geographical scope of action; and the economic aspects of world order. Let us start by briefly looking at them, before focusing on the core security thinking outlined in the document.

The first striking element of the document is its repeated reference to the importance of transatlantic relations. This stands in sharp contrast to the almost complete lack of attention to this issue by the NSS. Contrary to its treatment in the NSS, the transatlantic partnership appears early in the EU document; the role of the US in the process of European integration is acknowledged on the very first page.15 Later on, the ESS asserts:

One of the core elements of the international system is the transatlantic relationship. This is not only in our bilateral interest but strengthens the international community as a whole. NATO is an important expression of this relationship.16

The same point is repeated again and again. For example, a few pages later the European citizen is told: "the transatlantic relationship is irreplaceable. Acting together, the European Union and the United States can be a formidable force for good in the world."17

Another difference is the geographical focus of the text. It engages mainly with issues at a regional level and does not provide a coherent treatment of European interests around the world, apart from a small and vague paragraph at the end of the text.18 In contrast, the US document embodies a global scope, offering a detailed analysis of US global strategy towards both its enemies and its allies. Finally, while the American security strategy gives a clear account of its global economic objectives, the European one does not refer to any at all. Both of these points seem to reflect the realities of the US hegemonic/ dominant position, which has shaped the post World War II world order. The American reference point is the globe, involving both its political-military and its economic structures. This is not a matter of discourse; it is rather a matter of concrete material interests and capabilities, as well as of the reality of American leadership vis-à-vis Europe.

The main body of the ESS defines the key threats to European security: a) terrorism b) the proliferation of WMD, c) regional conflicts, d) false states, and e) organized crime.19 It is interesting to note that Chapter III, IV, and V of the NSS refer to terrorism, WMD proliferation, and regional conflicts respectively, a similarity difficult to ignore.20 The European security document places terrorism first on the list of threats, mentioning that Europe is both a target and a base for it. 21 It reiterates EU resolve to contribute to the global fight against terrorism, already mentioned in a number of previous declarations. 22 Moreover, the document suggests that terrorism is an element of a wider synthesis, including the combined threat of terrorism, the availability of WMD, and the existence of failed states and organized crime, with which Europe could be confronted.23

Parallel to the anti-terrorism/WMD proliferation discourse, there is a careful articulation of the "rogue state" doctrine as initiated by the US. According to the ESS:

A number of countries have placed themselves outside the bounds of international society. Some have sought isolation; others persistently violate international norms. It is desirablethat such countries should rejoin the international community, and the EU should be ready to provide assistance. Those who are unwilling to do so should understand that there is\ a price to be paid, including in their relationship with the European Union.24

The vagueness of the wording is striking. There is no clarification of the international norms to which the text refers. These are presumably defined by the political interests and preferences of the European elites on a case-by-case basis. For example, it is a common-place to suggest that multiple military attacks against a sovereign country, without prior authorization of the UN Security Council, constitute a violation of an established international norm. However, this does not translate into any kind of criticism by the EU for cases like the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 or the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The transatlantic consensus is set to prevail over such cases of potential normative conflict. Thus, one might safely assume that the countries to which the ESS refers are the regular "rogue states", as defined by the US. Indeed, Solana has used the term "rogue states" publicly and has related it to international terrorism in exactly the same fashion as the NSS.25

After defining the security threats and aims of the EU in a manner strikingly similar to that of the current US foreign policy establishment, the text seeks to delineate ways to achieve these aims. It comes as no surprise that, to a large extent, this part resembles the approach of the NSS as well. Thus, one reads that "with the new threats, the first line of defence will often be abroad ... This implies that we should be ready to act before a crisis occurs."26 The doctrine of preemptive strike is there, although it is articulated in a slightly milder wording, as "preventive engagement."27 In the draft version of the ESS, submitted by Solana at the Tehsaloniki Council, there was reference to a need for "preemptive engagement" in order to avoid serious security problems in the future. 28 The conceptual difference is rather insignificant; the substitution probably had more to do with conciliating the public opinion in Europe than with any real distancing from the American view. Some theorists have suggested that this change took place specifically to distance the discourse of the ESS from that of the NSS.29 Nevertheless, such a change in terminology is by, no means enough to conceal the ideological affinities of the two texts.

The ESS calls for a stronger international society, a rule-based international order, and the development by the EU of a strategic culture that is heavily pro­interventionist.30 Such a strategic culture logically demands sufficient means in order to be reliable, and the ESS recognizes this fact by calling for the accumulation of more resources for defense. 31 Interestingly, there is no reference to the military means and resources of the unidentified enemy for a comparison with the resources available to the EU and its member states. The ESS merely seeks to address US calls for a more equitable ''burden-sharing" among the transatlantic partners, rather than any objectively defined need to divert resources to European defense.

Critics of the idea of a convergence of transatlantic foreign policy point to the difference between a supposedly "European" way of dealing with global issues multilaterally and an "American" way based on unilateralism.32 The ESS talks of "effective multilateralism" as the basis of European foreign policy and of the international order that the EU seeks to build. For the European strategists, multilateral institutions are necessary to support a rule-based international order; however, these institutions should be effective, i.e. ready to act when confronted with threats to international peace and security.33 There is nothing to suggest that the US foreign policy establishment might disagree with such a concept.34 US foreign policy officials have even used at times this very same term, "effective multilateralism," to characterize the American standpoint.30 In an article in the Guardian, Solana provided an often-overlooked description of the two supposedly divergent approaches:

There is no inherent opposition between power, supposedly the "US method," and law, the "European method." Law and power are two sides of the same coin. Power is needed to establish law and law is the legitimate face of power.36

Juxtaposing US unilateralism with EU multilateralism misses the fact that the two might complement rather than strictly contradict one another. In a rough metaphor, the two approaches can be conceived as being two versions of a broadly common logic. Petras and Morley stress this point:

The issue is not unilateralism versus multilateralism, whether the United States should be the world's sole policeman or share duties with Europe and Japan. Both are variants of the new imperial policies that have emerged in the post-Cold War era.37

In other words, what is at stake is not whether the international system will be unilaterally or multilaterally based; rather, it is whether unilateralism will be purely American or transatlantic.

The National Security Strategy of the USA

Released in 2002, the NSS constitutes the single mast important official account of the goals and security perceptions of the US. From an international relations theory perspective, it is an enlightening piece because it shows that the dichotomy between realism and liberalism is relatively irrelevant with respect to US foreign policy. In the NSS document, the discourse of “freedom”: and "democracy" fits comfortably with concepts such as "pre-emptive strike” and ''balance of power," pointing to the blurring of the sharp distinction between realism and liberalism (in this context). The words "liberty," "freedom," and “free" appear forty-nine times in the preface and the first two chapters alone. Parallel to this liberal discourse, the text introduces a multiplicity of realist ideas that flow from the naming of terrorism as the single most important threat to US interests. The blending of discourses is indeed impressive; peace and free markets follow the building of ballistic missile defense, and the discursive commitment to international organizations is accompanied by the concept of pre-emptive strike. The• other. famous dichotomy within US foreign policy between isolationists and internationalists is equally undermined by historical facts and the discourse of the NSS. The point is that, however one might wish to call it (internationalism, interventionism, or imperialism), there has been no single post-World War II US administration that refrained from projecting American power abroad. Far from questioning such an assumption, the NSS actually adds to it by referring to a "distinctly American internationalism."5

The document reflects fully the "anti-terrorist" turn in US foreign policy after the end of the Cold War, and especially after the 9/11 attacks. It states:

The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach.... The struggle against global terrorism is different from any other war in our history. It will be fought on many fronts against a particularly elusive enemy over an extended period of time.6

The enemy is now borderless, its dimensions are apocalyptic, and the duration of US response to it is uncertain. Moreover, the NSS acknowledges openly the possibility of using pre-emptive strikes as a legitimate strategic tool:

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security... To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.7 ·

There is no mention of the states that could be.the potential targets of such a policy - its reach is global. According to the US security doctrine, terrorists are active in North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East;8 in other words, the whole world constitutes a potential theater of anti-terrorist operations.

In the NSS, the pre-emptive strike doctrine is related to the concept of "rogue states". This concept was introduced in 1994 together with its synonym - "backlash states" - by Anthony Lake,9 then Clinton's National Security Adviser, and has since dominated much of US foreign policy discourse. Its meaning is rather simple but simultaneously vague; it refers to those states that are ruled by authoritarian regimes, suppress human rights, are isolated from the rest of the world, possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and follow aggressive foreign policies.10 The countries that have been regularly grouped together as "rogue states" by the US foreign policy establishment include Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Libya. In the NSS, the term has expanded to include disregard for international law and sponsorship of international terrorism.11

Europe and the EU occupy a minor position in the NSS. Generally, reference to the EU is very rare compared to the tribute paid by the ESS to its transatlantic ally and partner. Broadly, the EU is characterized as America's "partner in opening world trade," while the role of the guardian of transatlantic security is ascribed to NATO.12 However, the document welcomes European attempts to build a foreign policy and defense identity within the EU, as long as such developments are compatible with NATO.13

Interpreting Discursive Convergence

Existing literature on the analysis of the ESS and European security policy in general in relation to the US can be broadly categorized into two groups. On the one hand, a number of authors have, in one way or another, suggested the existence of a growing divergence between the two Atlantic partners in terms of security preferences and objectives,38 of which the ESS is but one example. On the other hand, several analysts have welcomed the synchronization of the EU and US security perceptions, and have regarded the ESS as a first, positive step towards the healing of the wounds created by disagreements over Iraq. Despite their differences, both categories agree on the normative ideal of preserving and strengthening the transatlantic security links,3 9 and they adopt a "problem solving" standpoint. The problem is identified as the lack of Atlantic understanding and coordination in security affairs. Accordingly, the ESS is presented as either part of that problem, i.e. as diverging from the US-built discursive consensus,40 or as part of its solution, i.e. as sufficiently accommodating of the concerns of the American foreign policy establishment and paving the way for a collective response to common security threats.41

While interpreting the discursive commonalities between European and American security objectives and perceptions, one is tempted to suggest that most European political elites might have attempted to provide the US with credentials of understanding and trust. This view may be supported by high-profile statements, such as the following: "The strategy sets out our perception of threats, and by doing so, it sends a strong signal to our American friends: we take your concerns seriously, and we are ready to act to do something about them."42 As mentioned, the Iraq crisis, in which Europe appeared divided over the issue of whether to support the US invasion, was unquestionably an element that affected the timing, language, and content of the ESS. The constant reference to the positive nature and consequences of the EU-US relationship may indeed, to a certain extent, stem from the efforts of Europe to heal the wounds of the war on Iraq.43 Given America's importance for European security and defense affairs, the document was directed to both the European people and the US foreign policy establishment.

In fact, one could term the EU's discursive pattern of providing continuous assurances of loyalty over security and defense issues to the US, NATO, and the transatlantic partnership as a policy of "discursive conciliation". The ESS is a very indicative case of such a pattern. While the US, by ignoring the opposition of numerous European governments to the war on Iraq, inflicted a heavy blow to transatlantic relations, Europe is choosing to undertake the duty to repair the damage. The ESS serves this purpose, as already demonstrated in this paper, by producing policy objectives that "are generally compatible with American interests and policies."44

However, it should not be assumed that the ESS is solely a political tool that seeks to narrow a supposedly fundamental ideological cleavage between European and US ruling elites. Rather, it could be argued that the merging of values and perceptions between certain EU and US elites is real per se, stemming from common sources of ideology and common material interests. In other words, the ESS can be conceived as a representation of the sincere viewpoint of the dominant European politico-economic elites. This observation is valid not for EU elites as a whole but rather for specific, nationally-based, class fractions mainly located in the Anglo-Saxon world and the Central Eastern European countries. However, before turning to the material socio-economic roots of transatlantic foreign and security policy convergence, this analysis will shed some light on the ideological background of tl1e Atlantic dimension of the ESS.


When one seeks to define the concrete ideological references that underpin the ESS, one is confronted with a wide menu of choices. The present analysis suggests that a central source of inspiration for the authors of the ESS is found in the work of Robert Cooper. This is probably a far too modest assumption; given his position, Cooper was a key figure in the drafting the ESS, if not its main author. 45 This is a safe speculation. Despite the fact that the Commission was also involved in the drafting, the Strategy can be regarded as a paper of the Council at large.46 A senior British diplomat, Cooper was an advisor to Tony Blair before being appointed to the European Council as the Director-General responsible for External and Politico-Military Affairs. His article, "The New Liberal Irnperiailsm,"47 is one of the most recent and direct calls for a new era of imperial domination on behalf of the world's biggest powers.

The argument of the article sterns from a specific understanding of the current state-system comprised of three kinds of states: failed, post-imperial (or post-modern), and traditional. The first category includes mostly former colonies where the state has collapsed and has been replaced by war and conflict. Examples of failed states are Somalia and Afghanistan (before the US intervention in 2002). Cooper defines post-modern states as the states that conceive their security in terms of interdependence and mutual vulnerability and not in terms of force and conquest. In this group he includes the EU states, Canada, Japan, and-with some reservations -the US. Finally, the traditional states are the ones that still base their behavior on the classical realist notions of Machiavellianisrn, such as India and China. What Cooper calls for is the use of double standards on behalf of the post-modern states. Among themselves, relations should be governed by cooperation and the rule of law, but when confronted with the old world, post­modern states have to use the familiar, old methods of force, deception, and preernption.48 According to Cooper, the pre-modern world constitutes a "zone of chaos'', which ideally should be countered through colonization; yet colonization is unacceptable for postmodern states and, therefore, is not a feasible alternative. Thus, he ends up proposing a new kind of two-fold, voluntary imperialism, whose one arm is based on the global economy and multilateral financial institutions (IMF, World Bank) and the other is based on intervention and the creation of protectorates. This point is very crucial; as already shown, this duality of political­military coercion and economic domination appears in both the ESS and the NSS documents and represents the key to the interpretation of the current wave of expansionism in both the discourse and the policies of the transatlantic CFSP.49

It is beyond the scope of the present essay to provide an in-depth critique of Cooper's theoretical scheme. As an analytical tool, the concept of the failed state may be useful in highlighting the power vacuum that exists in some third world states and the violent conflicts this causes. However, it is doubtful whether this concept can be a legitimate weapon in the hands of the proponents of new imperialism. After all, state-building is a process that, in the case of Europe primarily and the US as well, lasted for centuries, was accompanied by large-scale warfare, and developed mainly as a byproduct of domestic forces, not through the imposition of some imperialist powers. Moreover, postcolonial states are obliged to proceed with the completion of the state-building process in an international environment that has imposed severe political and economic obligations on them, as well as certain standards of human rights and democratic rule. Such standards were met by European states only after their own state-building process was complete, after centuries of authoritarian rule and oppression.50 Last but not least, one should bear in mind the fact that Third World "failed" states have to accomplish statehood within irrelevant and artificial borders that reflect the power-politics realities of the colonial era, rather than the prevailing linguistic, cultural, and historical logics of their domestic societies.51 All these factors lead us to conclude that the so-called "failed states" are merely reflecting the past of Europe and the US. More importantly, this process unfolded without the politico-economic restraints imposed on the Third World after centuries of colonial looting and rule. Failed states are far more the result of the development of underdevelopment52 in the periphery of the capitalist world economy and the reproduction of corrupt local elites that form part of the political economy of capital accumulation on a global scale than a threat emerging in isolation from the developed world.

The second major ideological source of the ESS is Atlanticism, an idea according to which "the cohesion of the entire group of Atlantic nations should be the principal objective of the nations' policies. Atlantic cohesion should take precedence over the cohesion of any lesser grouping."53 Although it would be difficult for any Atlanticist to openly admit it, an essential pillar of the Atlantic ideal is the perpetuation and prioritization of US dominance within the transatlantic relationship. This does not necessarily involve a specific normative preference for such an American preponderance; rather, it is a byproduct of legitimizing US engagement with European security and defense affairs, which partly results from the existing distribution of power among the inter-capitalist, transatlantic partners. In other words, Atlanticism may be presented not only as a policy preference but also as a policy necessity, in terms of the recognition of US supremacy in the political and military areas.

One way or another, the Atlanticist ideology is currently the most powerful ideological tool in the hands of both academics and policymakers; numerous voices call for the generation of new, more solid links between the US and the EU. At its most extreme, one finds theorists such as Kupchan who have advocated the creation of an Atlantic Union between the US and the EU.54 Milder versions of Atlanticism are no less ambitious, such as Sloan's call for the formation of a "New Atlantic Community."55 It can be argued that Atlanticism, having permeated most of the security thinking in Europe, has reached the status of a dominant ideology in Europe.

Such an ideology is primarily discernible in the personnel involved in the drafting of the ESS. Both the Director-General for External and Politico-Military Affairs of the Council (Robert Cooper) and the European Commissioner for External Affairs (Chris Patten) were British, coming from a political establishment that has traditionally fuelled Atlanticism in Europe. Solana, who officially authored the draft of the ESS, is also a prominent member of the Atlanticist community in Europe, having been chosen by the transatlantic elites to serve as the Secretary General of NATO. According to Sloan's subtle wording, "Solana had performed well as NATO secretary-general and had won admiration in Washington. Solana's selection [as High Representative] clearly was intended to reassure the United States."56 The continuity in Atlanticist civil servants taking key positions in the EU foreign and security policy hierarchy is indeed impressive. The latest addition is Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. Barroso was the host of the March 2003 Azores Summit between Bush, Blair, Aznar, and himself, which gave the green light for the second war on Iraq and widened the split among EU states with regard to the invasion.

Atlanticism is evident both in the issues that are present in the ESS and in its lacunae. Thus, a security theme as important as the development of a US National Missile Defense system with installations in Europe is not mentioned at all. Neither the continuous creation of new nuclear weapons by the US, affecting global as well as European security, nor the issue of Iraq and the 2003 US-led invasion is discussed. Especially with regard to the UN and the concept of effective multilateralism, pro-UN rhetoric appears extremely weak when seen in the light of the Kosovo and the Iraq military campaigns, in which European states participated without any authorization from the UN Security Council.

The core issue around which Atlanticism is currently unfolding is the prospect of forming a European army. Solana, the EU High Representative for the CFSP, has sought to provide safeguards to the US at an early stage of this process. In an article in 2000, he asserted:

There is no intention that the EU should take on responsibility for collective defence: this will remain the business of NATO ... There will be no European Army: the forces concerned already exist and are by and large already committed to NATO... These changes are in the interests of the US.57

The current state of the ESDP suggests that the EU has relatively adapted its course of defense policy integration to US expectations; Europe is supposed (and allowed) to act only "when the alliance as a whole is not engaged."58


It is essential to conceive of European politico-economic elites not as a totality but rather as a coalition of at least two main sections divided along broadly national lines. On the one hand, one finds the bulwark of the UK-US "special relationship," coupled by other, traditionally Atlanticist ruling elites - such as the Dutchs9 -and the newcomers from Central and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, it is possible to identify an alternative block of social forces in the form of the famous Franco-German axis, regularly supported by Belgium. This distinction is not just a result of popular fiction; rather, it corresponds to an actual configuration of power within the EU which has been reflected in, among other efforts, moves towards a more autonomous security and defense dimension within the EU.

However, such a distinction between Atlanticist and Europeanist states has certain explanatory limitations and should not be overemphasized. For example, Howorth suggests that, at certain stages of ESDP formation, the Europeanists were not opposed to the principle of NATO involvement and the Atlanticists were not opposed to the principle of European autonomy ... Clashes were about sequencing, about tone and priorities, but very rarely about substantial policy issues.60

In fact, every European state enjoys a "special relationship" with the US. Since the end of World War II, every Western European state developed massive political, economic and ideological links with the US, whose economic assistance was crucial for the post-war recovery of Europe. And, since the end of the Cold War, most Eastern European states have shown their appreciation of the US support against the Soviet Union by pushing ahead with their incorporation into the Atlantic institutional and political realm. Thus, the paradigms of Atlanticism and Europeanism should be considered ideal types (in the Weberian sense) when applied to specific state units, rather than taken as absolute and definite categorizations. Beyond that, institutions such as the Commission largely shape their foreign and security policy agenda through regular interaction with US officials.61 With variations, the US position in a number of issues, from counter­terrorism to WMD proliferation and from NATO to the management of regional conflicts, is an exceptionally important factor in the decision-making of the CFSP. In other words, the "special relationship" exists not only at the intergovernmental but also at the supranational level within the EU.

Turning to the ESS, the discursive prevalence of Atlantic themes and the more-than-evident influence of US foreign policy thinking reveal that the Franco-­German nucleus is on the defensive. Its capacity to define the orientation of the European foreign, security, and defense policy integration has been largely undermined by several factors, such as the inclusion of Eastern European elites into the EU foreign and security policy decision-making process through the Union's enlargement. However, apart from political developments, there are also some structural, socio-economic factors at work, which can be grouped together under the category of "transatlantic economy."

The importance of the massive economic and productive flows between the EU and the US has been acknowledged by, among others, the masterminds of European foreign and security policy planning. Referring to the current debate on the existence of a transatlantic drift, Javier Solana suggested:

When the dust settles, the facts will once again emerge, and those facts are simple: Europe and the US are natural partners, linked by common values and interests... Total EU /US trade exceeds 500 billion dollars in both ways ... Each partner has investments totalling around 500 billion dollars in the other.62

In the 1970s, the Greek philosopher Poulantzas pointed to a major tendency of European capital to merge with American capital to a level that exceeded intra­European merge levels. 63 His object of analysis was the penetration of European states by American capital and the implications this had for European labor and the nation-state. This phenomenon has now expanded to include its reverse dimension, i.e. European intrusion into the US economy. The numbers are indeed striking. The number of transatlantic mergers and acquisitions deals worth one billion dollars or more in the years 1998, 1999, and 2000 were 36, 36, and 60 respectively, with the majority of cases involving a European acquisition of a US target.64 The total value of European investment in the US reached a record 835 billion dollars in 2000, over a quarter more than the respective US stake in Europe.6 5 It is safe to conclude that the US and the EU have developed unique bilateral economic linkages that have a parallel global dimension. These linkages are formally and inforn1ally institutionalized, generate shared ideological assumptions, and embody common material interests. However, they are unequally dispersed among EU partners. For example, the UK represented over one fourth of total US affiliate income earned in Europe between 1999 and 2001, and it received over a fifth of total US FDI.66 Clearly, the UK's "special" political relationship with the US has an expanded economic basis.


The present analysis suggests that it is possible, and indeed preferable, to understand the creation of an ESS and interpret its actual content within a transatlantic, rather than a purely European, context. A selectively comparative analysis of the transatlantic partners' two most important security policy documents makes evident that they share some striking similarities with regard to their actual content, objectives, and rationale. At first glance, this phenomenon can be interpreted as a result of a political calculation by the EU foreign and security policy establishment. Under the current political and military supremacy of the US, fear and the will to avoid confrontation with the superpower may legitimately lead to a policy of "discursive conciliation."

However, these similarities reflect a convergence at two other levels: the ideological and the material, socio-economic levels. Rather than seeing Europe as a unified totality vis-a-vis the US, the present analysis suggests that within Europe there are ideological and power struggles unfolding along the issue of Atlantic relations. Last but not least, they result in a convergence at the institutional level: the perpetuation of NATO as the primary institutional terrain within which the future of the European security continues to be decided in the last instance. Although this aspect was not examined in the present short paper, its existence was implied in the same way it is implied by the ESS. Questioning the legitimacy and effectiveness of this pattern of US-EU relations that happens to touch upon the heart of the European security order may be the way forward for critical scholarship on European security and defense.



Iraklis Oikonomou is a Ph.D. student in the Department of International Politics at the University of Wales Aberystwyth.