Courtesy Reuters

Come Together: Europe's Unexpected New Architecture

It must be a new era when the secretary-general of NATO goes out of his way to praise a European Union summit -- and when the EU's rhetoric is tougher than NATO's on Russian brutality in Chechnya. Welcome to 21st-century Europe, in which NATO and the EU routinely meddle in each other's affairs, see themselves more and more as collaborators (and rivals) in joint business, and even fraternize in a manner utterly taboo during the Cold War. It is a Europe in which Lord Robertson, NATO's secretary-general, ostentatiously commended the EU's pledge at its Helsinki summit last December to build better European rapid-reaction forces to supplement America's troops in the region and where, for a few days at least, EU leaders talked about imposing sanctions on Russia for its conduct in Chechnya with a severity unmatched by either the United States or NATO.

Increasingly, the chaotic overlapping institutions of post-Cold War Europe are morphing together, led by the premier Western clubs, NATO and the EU. Amid the ongoing consolidation, some organizations -- for instance, the obsolete Western European Union -- are vanishing altogether. Some, like the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are spinning away from the center to focus on heartland Europe's relations with the east Slavs and others who have chosen not to follow the voluntary rules of the European club. And Europe's strongest institutions are finally beginning to define their own niches and refine their mutual interactions.

In short, the continent's long-prophesied post-Cold War "security architecture" is at last appearing -- and it is not quite the brick-and-mortar of fixed institutions that analysts envisaged when the Berlin Wall fell a decade ago. It is, rather, a form of what computer aficionados would call systems management -- inducing coexisting processes to at best reinforce each other or at least not disable each other.

That the form of 21st-century European governance is so unexpected should itself have been expected. Heartland Europe is postnational in

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