For Americans that grew up during the Cold War (like me) or are interested in modern history, coming to Germany can be an eye-opening experience. I’m not talking about the events of the Cold War itself, but the fact that so many threats that we were told about as children are now so much closer.
Russian tanks? Less than one day from my house. Rogue nuclear nations? Half the distance from me as from the shores of the US. Wars in the Middle East and Central Asia? Why… those can be just a car ride away!
Americans have enjoyed the natural barriers that oceans and distance can provide from unstable or opposing regions. Those of us now living here in Europe cannot take such comfort. Our geographic closeness brings us face to face with these issues. In truth, American shores are really not that much more secure. With air travel, ocean travel and the risk of local terrorism (such as the Oklahoma City bombing) these issues are just as immediate for all Americans.
Yet because Europeans have long felt more vulnerable they have had more time to come to terms with the risks and potential solutions. That is a big part of what the European Union (EU) is about. Such an economic and political union is primarily aimed at creating a large region of economic and political stability that all nations have a vested interest in. Nobody within the EU wants to upset things as they would lose the economic, diplomatic and military advantages.
As the EU continues to integrate the newest members, there is talk in all corners if Turkey… and even one day Russia, should be allowed in. The more conservative members would like to rule that out. But I would just ask this question: If nations such as Turkey and Russia continue to have their own separate spheres of influence with little interest in European prosperity, what do they have to lose by working in opposition?
By giving them a full-fledged stake in the prosperity and safety the EU can provide, we can take another step forward towards putting an end to our vulnerability. Of course, Turkey and Russia are not yet on the same page with the EU in terms of enforcing laws which protect all citizens, but they have been making progress on those fronts. As we Americans say, perhaps now is the time try carrots. That means offering the rewards of EU protections in exchange for social solidarity and the welfare of everyone.
Well… it is just a thought.