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The Invention of Peace
At the Ivan Bloch Memorial Conference in St Petersburg, I spoke about the emergence of international organisations in order to seek to preserve the peace in Europe.

The Emergence of International Organisations

Speech by Mr. Carl Bildt MP to the Ivan Bloch Commemorative Conference on The Future of War, St.Petersburg, Russia, Thursday February 25, 1999.

Reading Ivan Blochs work a century after it was published, it is indeed remarkable to note how accurate his predictions on the nature of a coming war turned out to be.

Starting with very technical arguments, he ended with conclusions of profound political significance, and very clearly at odds with the conventional wisdom of his days.

Not only did he predict that a coming war would be a massive, long-lasting and brutal confrontation involving whole nations, but also that this would threaten the very fabric of our societies, paving the way for the social revolution which the Empires of Europe had been doing their best to prevent ever since the Congress of Vienna system had been set up.

Aware of the immense potential for destruction of entire societies in the new technologies of war, his call was for an international order, based on justice and arbitration, which would make war obsolete.

And his work paved the way for that call by Tsar Nicholas II which lead to the two Peace Conferences in the Hague in 1899 and 1907 which gave us not only the International Court of Justice but also the major elements of the laws of war which apply to this day.

In this respect, he was more successful than most other authors of his age warning of dangers ahead, most of who were just politely listened to, but with no action taken.

But in a more profound way he failed, since the institutions set up and rules decided upon amounted to very little as the states of Europe steered towards that catastrophic civil war which started in 1914 and lasted for close to half a century.

In his masterful “Diplomacy” Henry Kissinger vividly describes the diplomatic and military “doomsday machine” that the leaders of the Empires managed to construct – by default far more than by design – and which led them not only to a war far worse than anyone of them could ever have imagined, but also to the social revolution which Ivan Bloch had warned off in his book.

The German, the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman Empires all came crushing down as nations and societies were torn apart by the burdens of that horrible war. The social revolution, which Ivan Bloch had warned of, turned into reality.

Here, in St.Petersburg came that fateful Communist putsch that led first to civil war and then to the Stalinist dictatorship which came to suppress Russia and haunt Europe until less than a decade ago.

The efforts to set up machinery to prevent war prior to the Great War was thus, by all reasonable standards, a failure. The warnings by Ivan Bloch led to impressive efforts, but in the end they were unable to contain the pressures building up, and all the old order crumbled and disappeared as a result.

The doomsday machine ended the world as it had been known until then, and brought us into a new era.

As the horrors of the Great War become more and more apparent, the war aims of primarily the Anglo-Saxon world started to be formulated in more and more radical terms. It was not only a war to restore a balance-of-power system which had failed to prevent the war, but increasingly a war to end all wars, and to erect a new international system based on universal values rather than national interest.

The Wilsonian model of international relations was undoubtedly a noble one. Although the diplomats of Versailles spent months redrawing maps, creating states and dealing with the details of structures in the different disputed corners of Europe, their main achievement was the League of Nations, supposed to end all wars, and usher the world into a new era of both peace and justice.

But the idealism of Wilson was defeated first by the isolationism of his own country. With the major powers outside the system, it was bound to fail.

And when the revanchism of France, as it was expressed in the harsh terms of the Treaty, fuelled the revanchism of Germany, it was hardly more than a question of time until the European conflict would restart again, now with even more powerful military technologies to spread the conflict further and faster over the entire continent and world.

The glorious attempt of Versailles turned into little more than a lengthy cease-fire in that European civil war which came to dominate the first half of this century.

Great wars produce great efforts to make peace. Out of the ruins of the League of Nations came the United Nations, now including all the powerful states of the world, and with ultimate power over the ultimate powers of the new organisation given to them.

The United Nations system has been instrumental in resolving conflicts and creating the conditions for the development of nations and peoples during the past half-century. Blocked in its possibilities of developing into a universal system for conflict-resolution by the conflicts between the permanent members of its Security Council, it has nevertheless played a key role in key events during this long period of time.

It has widened the scope of the efforts to secure peace from only Europe to the entire world. It has played a key role in the important process of decolonization. It has given a voice and a role to nations and state who otherwise might have felt isolated in frustration at the margins of the international system. It has provided a forum for dialogue between all the nations of the world.

But the United Nations has been much more than what we generally associate with the terms.

It can be argued, that the different organisations and arrangements that are part of the wider family of the United Nations have been even more successful in trying to shape a global order of co-operation and integration which, in the final analysis, also makes a vital contribution to the cause of peace.

The Bretton Woods institutions – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, what has evolved into the World Trade Organisations – have evolved into probably the most significant international organisations we have ever seen. Together, they have shaped and reshaped an evolving international economic order, which so far have prevented the economic calamities that proved so disastrous during the inter-war years, while at the same time improving the prospects for economic and social development for all those nations choosing to be a part of the system.

For a long time, the Bretton Woods institutions and their framework for economic development was limited to those parts of the world following a Western model of development.

But as the old divisions have faded away, we are now beginning to see the entire world coming together in a common system of rules, obligations and frameworks for economic development and integration. Whatever the challenges we are facing in the more restricted areas of security, this represents an achievement we should not forget and the importance of which we must not neglect.

When Ivan Bloch wrote about the threat to peace, his focus was a distinctly European one. And although our focus today must be far wider, it remains fair to say that questions of war and peace throughout history have to a large extent been questions debated against the background of the experience of European history.

Bloch saw four big issues threatening the peace and stability of the continent of Europe.

The first was the conflict between France and Germany over the disputed territory of Alsace and Lorraine – or Elsass and Lothringen.

The second was what he referred to as the Eastern question, the management of the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the political order of the areas formerly ruled by it.

The third was the question of the relationship between Russia and the rest of Europe.

And the fourth was the emerging colonial question, then framed very much as the race for territory in Africa and Asia by European powers.

The big emerging issue of European security in those days, which Bloch failed to see, was how a system of stability and peace could accommodate the rise of Germany to the position of dominant nation in the Western part of the continent. Previously a divided region in the hearth of the continent, the combination of political unification and economic modernisation had suddenly started to lift Germany to the position of the strongest of nations of Europe.

The Peace of Versailles sought to solve the problem of Germany by suppressing it, depriving it of economic and military resources. But Germany soon broke out of the limitations of Versailles, launching a quest for the domination of the continent that was swifter and more powerful than any other such attempt seen before.

After the defeat of Germany in 1945, the problem of Germany was solved through a combination of division and integration. Soon after the war had ended, Germany was de facto divided into two states, and these were gradually integrated into the two competing blocs, the one an extension of the Soviet system into virtually all the areas brought under the control of the Red Army, and the other a defensive alliance trying to deter war and protect democracy.

But of far greater long-term importance than the division of Germany was the integration of Germany into a framework of close co-operation with its former enemies. And it is this process of European integration that during the past half-century has solved not only the problem of Alsace and Lorraine, but also the wider problem of the place of Germany in Europe.

The efforts at European integration represents not only a novel approach when it comes to the setting up of international organisations, but also when it comes to trying to secure peace in Europe. Within a group of nations sharing the same political core values, its system of integration of economies and societies also de facto rules out the possibility of the use of violence in inter-state relationship, thus securing peace between all those nations part of the process of European integration.

And we would be unwise to forget all the wars and conflicts of these areas during the past centuries. The great peace efforts of Westphalia, of Utrecht and of Vienna all to a very large extent dealt with the perennial security issues of the areas now part of Europe. The European Union has proved itself as the most important instrument for peace in our part of the world in our time.

But the start was a difficult one. The Council of Europe never got the powers needed to be the true focus of the integration efforts. The European Defence Community failed. It was only when the example of the Coal and Steel Community was applied much wider – economic integration in order to achieve political ends – that it proved possible to move forward. But now, as we stand on the threshold of the 21st century, we can with a high degree of confidence say, that the efforts that have lead to the European Union, encompassing 15 European nations, have effectively taken away the risks of war in a very large part of our continent.

But as some old problems in Europe have been solved, others have resurfaced, and presented us with new challenges as we try to secure the absence of war in the future.

It was the city Strasbourg that was the symbol and the centre of the conflict between France and Germany over Alsace or Elsass. But today, Strasbourg is the seat not only of the European Parliament, but also of the France-German joint brigade, trying to tie the armies of nations that in the past fought each other so often together.

It is a fact filled with symbolism, that key parts of this brigade have now been deployed from Strasbourg to Sarajevo, trying to secure the peace in that torn part of our Europe.

In this simple fact of military deployment is reflected not only that the first of the main threats to the peace of Europe seen by Bloch has been solved, but also that the second, the order of the regions of the former Ottoman Empire, has not.

Indeed, when we look at the headlines of the newspapers during the past week, it looks as if we are about to be overwhelmed by the problems left as a legacy of the orders and disorders of the Ottoman Empire. From the problems of the peoples of Kosovo to the problems of the Kurds, we are dealing with the remaining issues of the political order of the vast area from the Danube to the Persian Gulf once under the rule of the Sublime Porte.

If the first threat has been solved by a radically new approach in the form of economic and political integration within the European Union, the issues arising out of the second threat are now being dealt with by some sort of modern version of the Concert of Europe.

A century ago, it was the representatives of three Empires that used to come together, discuss the implications of the different conflicts of the area, issue edicts on how they should be solved, and threaten different sorts of military action if their words were not taken seriously enough.

Today, we see the United States, the key countries of the European Union and Russia coming together, discuss the implications of the different conflicts of the area, issue edicts on how they should be solved, and threaten different sorts of military action if their words are not taken seriously enough. The Concert of Europe of then has turned into the Contact Group of today.

The issues of this part of Europe are to some extent different from the issues we find in most other parts of Europe. The legacy of not only the Ottoman Empire during 500 years, but also the millennium of the Byzantine Empire which preceded it, has been a mosaic of cultures, religions and traditions in this area where the East meets the West which has no counterpart anywhere else.

This mosaic could to some extent be held together within the framework of a multi-national and multi-cultural empire. But when the multi-national empires gave way to the national states as the key principle of organisation, the tension between this principle and the multi-ethnic realities of the region started to produce the series of wars that we have not yet seen the end of.

The choice for the region is a simple, although stark, one. Either one tries to build new frameworks of integration and co-operation, or one continues down the road of setting up the one new national state after the other, with battles for borders being in effect battles for majority or minority status in the different states resulting from these conflicts.

Today, it is a question of the future of Kosovo. The offer of the Contact Group Concert in Rambouillet is the offer of three years of interim international rule, and all options thereafter open. It contains the conflict, but it does not solve the problem.

Tomorrow, it might well be the question of the future of some other part of this region. The jury is still out on the question of the possibilities of establishing a self-sustaining peace process in Bosnia.

And if one widens the perspective only so slightly, the immense challenge of the Eastern Mediterranean, with Greece and Turkey entering into a new phase of bitterness over the Kurdish issue when they really need to come together over the Cyprus issue, underlies the magnitude of the challenges we are faced with in that wider area which Ivan Bloch brought together under the general heading of the Eastern question.

Indeed, we will increasingly over the years to come be faced with the problems of order and disorder in the wider arch of instability stretching from Agadir on the Atlantic Ocean to Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea, where Europe meets Africa to where it meets Asia.

The third of the issues of Ivan Bloch was the question of the relationship of Russia with the western parts of Europe.

He rightly concluded – taking issue with others at the time - that war would never bring a solution. Russia needs all its resources for its long-term domestic reform and development, and will never be able to dominate the rest of the continent, while efforts by even the strongest adversary to conquer a Russia always being able to mobilise reserves from its interior where always bound to fail. The lesson of Charles XII and Napoleon were to be relearnt by Hitler.

Today, after the horrible decades of Communism, Russia is again going through a transformation that is as important as it is difficult. It is shedding not only a system but also an empire, trying to come to terms with itself, and trying to find a new role in the emerging new international system.

Leningrad was the symbol of the Communist coup that, for all its internationalist rhetoric, brought about not only the decline but also the isolation of Russia from the rest of the world. Apart from the occasional fellow traveller of the early years, there were few friends of the Soviet Union beyond the paycheques of the NKVD or KGB.

Now, the city is again St. Petersburg. Founded by Peter the Great on a piece of land just taken from the Swedes, built to its splendour by the architects from Italy, deliberately turning its back to inward-looking tradition of Muscovy, it once was the symbol of a new and modern Russia, wanting to be fully a part of the rest of Europe.

The integration of Russia into structures of co-operative security and integration in Europe is a key task for the future. There are overwhelming reasons for the development of strong economic links between the European Union and Russia. And there even stronger reasons for the development of political and security relations between Russia and the emerging common foreign and security policy of the European Union, thus extending the system of security anchored in the relationship across the Atlantic.

A decade ago this month, the round-table negotiations which were to bring about the peaceful fall of the Soviet Empire in Europe started in Warsaw, the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan and the blue-black-and white flag of Estonia was once again raised over the castle of Tallinn, thus signalling the end of the Soviet Union itself.

Then, the talk was of the end of history and of a new Europe suddenly emerging. But today, ten years later, we are still in the midst of this the third attempt this century to bring about a lasting order of peace in Europe.

Previous attempts to build lasting orders of peace have often been based on efforts to secure the dominance of the one principle or the other in the new international system created.

The Congress of Vienna based its efforts on a concept of managed balance of power which proved amazingly successful for a long period of time, but which ultimately failed. And the Congress of Versailles tried to dictate the noble principles of a Wilsonian state of affairs to the entire world, only to fail much faster and much further.

Now, I believe we are in the midst of a number of processes, the combination of which should bring the possibility of a prolonged period of the absence of major wars, although not necessarily of universal peace, and certainly not of stability in the more conservative sense of this word.

It is not a question of one principle or one organisation or one structure. I believe it is a question of a number of interdependent efforts to set up what will amount to a common system of co-operative security on our continent, and with important consequences for the wider world.

The economic and financial dimension of the change should not be underestimated.

When the finance ministers of the G7 group of leading nations decide to set up a global stability forum, or when the budget of the Russian Federation approved by the Duma takes for granted direct support by the International Monetary Fund, we see the gradual emergence of an tighter and tighter global economic order, bringing together nations of the world otherwise in confrontation with each other.

As the global trading system becomes more open, and the financial interdependence between states more pronounced, the scope for major conflicts tends to be reduced even more, although it would be naive to believe that economic integration alone can prevent conflicts and wars.

One of the key tasks ahead for security in Europe will be the fifth enlargement of the European Union, taking it out of the Western Europe of the old Cold War into the hearth of Central and Eastern Europe. It is a development with profound implications.
t is a remarkable facts, that there is today hardly any nation in the widely defined Western part of Europe which is not or does not seek membership in the European Union. From Cyprus to Estonia, they are all negotiating and preparing for a step seen by them all as crucial to their future peace and prosperity. Even in Norway, we see opinion polls registering strength in support for membership in the European Union which is remarkable, and in a Switzerland which once saw isolation as something of a national virtue, the signs of change are also increasingly evident.

There will be numerous problems along this road. The management of the new Euro currency, the development of a true common foreign and security policy with also a military capability and the big enlargement will all have to be managed during the next few years. But it brings the promise of the process of integration over time being able o handle all of the tensions and conflicts of that wider Europe to the West of Russia and the Ukraine and to the North of that area of the old Eastern question.

Integration has many faces. Economic integration has been the key to the political efforts of the European Union during the past four decades, and the advent of the Euro will certainly not weaken this trend. With a common economy also comes a common political responsibility, which will further develop the institutions necessary to make the management of this responsibility a natural part of our democratic systems of government.

But increasingly, I believe we have to see military integration as a key part of the process of building a structure of peace in Europe. In the Europe of today, there are far more independent armies than there were in the Europe of yesterday. Bosnia is certainly an extreme example, but from having no army at all of its own a decade ago, it now de facto has three separate armies trying to control separate parts of its territory. A proliferation of independent armies brings with it increased risks of instability.

But with the new as well as old challenges we are all facing, and with the importance attached to that co-operation between the United States, the European Union and Russia within the new Concert of the Contact Group, there are numerous reasons why we should try to build new structures of military co-operation.

This will give us not only the instruments to deal with the crisis of today, but – perhaps even more important - also secure that the young men and women in uniform tomorrow will see other young men and women in other uniforms not as enemies in conflict but as colleagues in co-operation.

The Franco-German brigade deploying from Strasbourg to Sarajevo is certainly one of the symbols of the conflicts solved as well as the challenges remaining. But the soldiers of Russia, the United States, Poland, Sweden and Estonia working together under joint command in another part of that region points the way towards even more far-reaching arrangements for the future.

Here, the key role will be played by the reformed NATO now gradually emerging. Still having important functions when it comes to deterring those seeking to address political problems through the use of force, is role will increasingly be to advance that crucial process of integration of the armed forces of Europe, moulding not only the members of NATO, but also its partners, into a military structure ready to address joint tasks. Here, the relationship with Russia will be of particular importance.

I thus see the solutions thrown up by history in the search for the solutions to the three European problems identified by Ivan Bloch as coming together in a new concert for integration and co-operative security in Europe.

The developing and deepening integration between the increasing number of members of the European Union must go hand in hand with the continued strong links across the Atlantic and the efforts to build new structures of co-operative security also with Russia, thus making it possible for us to gradually be able to handle all the challenges to our security that will come from that arch of instability from Agadir to Astrakhan which we have to be concerned with.

The process of enlargement will clearly not be enough. A true common foreign and security policy will be a necessity. And we must soon in earnest be ready to go from the present policy of a patchwork of protectorates in the Western Balkans to a true regional policy of integration and reform. It is futile to search for an exit strategy from our commitments to that region – we must start to devise an entry strategy for that region into the wider structures of Europe.

Needless to say, I do not see our concerns for security and stability limited only to our common home or our common near abroad. We would be at least as affected by an implosion in Korea or an explosion in Kashmir as we are by the continued strife in Kosovo or the disputes over the issues of the Kurds.

But it is only a Europe able to feel secure in its own part of the world that will have the energy and the resources to play a more active role in the search for peace and stability in the wider world. And we should not forget the lesson of history, that Europe is not only one of the most promising places on this earth of ours, but also one of the most dangerous.

It is by managing the challenges of this wider Europe that we can also learn to handle the challenges of the wider world – and the long-term challenges of our own societies.

In the Eastern questions are coming together all those issues of those meetings of civilisations and cultures which can bring, depending on how to deal with them, either an explosion of conflict or an explosion of creativity, with also recent history providing an abundance of examples of both.

There are parallels that we should not ignore between the problems of Bosnia, Brussels and Burundi. The living together of different cultures in the valleys of Bosnia, the suburbs of Brussels and the hills of Burundi all present us with problems we have not yet come to grips with.

Ivan Bloch asked for the setting up of systems of international law and arbitration. He succeeded – and they failed. The Great War brought the Old Order to its end. Since then, two further attempts at a new order of peace have failed or come to their ends. Now, we are in the midst of the third attempt.

I am in no way arguing that we should give up the quest of Ivan Bloch and so many others for universal justice and for a universal system of law. Indeed, the further development of the system of international law, not least in the area of human rights, is of the greatest long-term importance. But I am humbled by the experience of history – past as well as present - and convinced that the search for the ultimate good must not deflect us from the more immediate tasks we are confronted with.

If we can handle them, we will see a new pattern of co-operative security evolving, which might well give us better chances of peace and peaceful change in Europe than perhaps at any time during the millennia now coming to its end.

Bildt Blog Comments

In addition to this webpage, and the email letters ongoing since 1994, I have now started a blog as well.

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