EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2015

Cooperation on European security issues

11 - Relations with the US on NATO, arms control and Russia

Grade: B+
Unity 3/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 8/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2012: C- (6/20)
Scorecard 2013: C+ (9/20)
Scorecard 2014: C (8/20)

After a slow start, Europe took a strong and unified position on sanctions. The US led on bolstering NATO’s Article V. 

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea and its hybrid war in eastern Ukraine, along with its provocative actions against NATO and EU member states, were widely perceived by the US as transforming the European security environment. Russia’s behaviour revived the traditional rationale for the transatlantic alliance: to balance Russian power and protect the independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of the allies.

The crisis demonstrated that the US commitment to European security remained unchanged. The US was engaged from an early stage. In fact, the Obama administration was criticised by some Europeans for being overly zealous in its support for the Ukrainian opposition and for the wide-ranging sanctions it favoured. However, as the year progressed, there was a convergence in assessments and response on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular, the sanctions were broadened and imposed both by the US and by the EU.

The alliance tackled this crisis in a new way. Since the US and Europe ruled out the use of military force in Ukraine, the European response has been mainly directed through the EU rather than NATO. The Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the UK have led calls for cooperation with the US on this issue. And, in the second half of the year, especially after the downing of MH17, Germany took a leadership role in the alliance on Ukraine and Russia sanctions, which was broadly welcomed in Washington.

If the Europeans played a leading role on Ukraine and the sanctions as the year progressed, the US played its traditional role within NATO. The US perceived a divide in Europe on the extent of the Russian threat to NATO members, with the Baltic and northern European states viewing it more seriously than did some others. Therefore, the US made bolstering Article V a key priority. This included a speech by President Obama in Estonia and diplomatic efforts with western European members of NATO to shore up the alliance’s military presence in the Baltics.