Changes in the Character of East-West Relations

Implications for NATO's Southern Region

by Ian O. Lesser

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This Note explores the implications of changes in the East-West strategic relationship for NATO's southern region. As Central and Eastern Europe occupy the center of attention, particularly with reference to detente and arms control, southern region issues will still be important to NATO and the Mediterranean. The Alliance as a whole will likely come to adopt views traditionally characteristic of the southern region — a perception of a diminished Soviet threat, a reduced emphasis on nuclear deterrence and defense, and independence and assertiveness on regional issues. As the Soviet threat recedes, strategic coupling, or the linkage of security interests across the Atlantic, will become increasingly complex and challenging. It will also permit increased attention to issues around the Mediterranean as it places added pressure on the U.S. presence in the area. Finally, Atlantic Alliance cooperation on political and security considerations will be enhanced beyond the scope of the East-West competition.

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