Europe, at Century’s End: The Challenge Ahead

The year 1999 marks the end of the first decade of the post-Cold War world. For Europe, a region central to the Cold War—where it both began and ended—1999 is also proving to be a year of historic import, the most important on the continent since 1989, when the wall came down and Europe’s division came to an abrupt and for the most part unanticipated end.

This claim can be justified by pointing to many events and trends, including the fitful progress toward reconciliation in Northern Ireland and Germany’s emergence as a more “normal” country, one able to use military force beyond its borders as part of a nondefensive NATO action. Still, four developments in 1999 stand out: European Monetary Union and the launch of the euro; the entry of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO and the articulation of a new strategic concept for the Alliance as it passed the half-century mark; the continuing deterioration of conditions within Russia and in U.S.-Russian relations; and the Kosovo conflict, the largest military clash on the continent since the Second World War.