There Is No Security without NATO




Although the war in Ukraine is forcing European allies to radically rethink defense and security policy, NATO and the U.S. remain the bedrock of collective security.

When a person reaches the advanced age of 75, they are bound to face a few existential questions. As a rule, every 75-year-old will have experienced both good and bad times and will be wondering what life still has in store for them. Are they still in reasonably good shape, or dare one ask, “fighting fit,” as the expression goes? And what new events are on the horizon?

We like to celebrate personal anniversaries for good reason. Such occasions offer us opportunities to look back, take stock and seek reassurance. It is not so different for nations and international organizations, even if 75 might be considered relatively young in their case.

The upcoming 30th anniversary of Austria’s accession to the European Union on Jan. 1, 2025, for example, might also serve as an occasion to reflect on the country’s position, and where it intends to go in the future, vis-à-vis its neutrality, on a European continent that has become less peaceful.

In 2025, the new Austrian federal government could for once think deeply about the Republic’s idea of a security policy, possibly with respect to European sovereignty rather than national culture, known as Leitkultur.* Doing so might take the nation’s future role in any EU joint military alliance or even the question of NATO membership into consideration.

It seems increasingly likely Europe will feel the full brunt of all these issues, in the event Russia continues to wear out Ukrainian morale, and Donald Trump returns as U.S. President, with his relative disregard for NATO and Europe’s security.

Global Winds of Change

This would bring down the entire structure of European security policy. One cannot simply sit idly by as global events unfold. That was also the case in 1989 and 1991, when the Cold War came to an end, and the major actors in the international security arena, NATO and the EU in Europe established a new European security architecture. In the immediate years that followed, a rather optimistic view held that democracy and freedom would ultimately prevail.

Unfortunately, that optimism proved misplaced, and the somewhat peaceful interim period that blessed Europe up until recently, has ended. As the trans-Atlantic alliance celebrates its 75th anniversary, it too must face up to some existential questions.

History never sleeps. Nor does it end, despite what many believed and hoped for in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed, and the bitter stand-off between Eastern and Western blocs drew to a close. Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has forced Europeans to recognize that, like it or not, they will need to look after their own security to a much greater extent than before. And the European NATO member states are anything but “fighting fit.” They face having to fully overhaul their armed forces on a scale beyond anything they could previously have imagined or wanted.

This will certainly require vast amounts of spending on arms and equipment. It will also demand much greater levels of cooperation between national armies.

Years if not decades will pass by the time European allies have the capacity to cover their own defense and security needs without U.S. backing. Perhaps Europe will attain such a position in time for the trans-Atlantic alliance’s centenary celebration. But, for now, the fact remains that there is no security in Europe without NATO, and by the same token, no real security without the U.S. acting as guarantor.

*Translator’s note: The German term Leitkultur refers to a contested political concept of a core national culture rooted in a shared language, heritage and social values.

About this publication

About Anna Wright 22 Articles
I am a London-based translator, who got properly hooked on languages and regional affairs, while studying German and Russian at Edinburgh University, followed later by an MA in Politics, Security and Integration at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. I have worked in Language Services for many years and hold a Postgraduate Diploma in Translation from the Open University.

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