It is postulated many times that the EU was created to prevent a war between large countries of Europe and was successful in doing so:

The European Coal and Steel Community which is designed specifically to link their economies in a way to prevent war

The European Union (EU) won the Nobel Peace Prize... has thus “helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”

However, the obvious issue of the security framework based on the premise that EU members are reluctant to fight a war on the opposing sides, is that Russia is not a EU member and did not have any significant political integration with it even before 2014. Russia is obviously being participant of most large European wars such as Napoleonic wars, Crimean war, World War I and II. I wonder if there is an official explanation on why the EU deterrence was supposed to work in this fashion? Alternatively, is there an official assertion that this risk is not covered by the EU security model and is left unaddressed?

Some details:

Coal and Steel Community was signed into existence in 1950, when there also was Comecon, so its point was that the Western pact has to counterbalance it and ensure no war on the western side of Iron Curtain. However, the EU was created in 1992 when the Soviet Union was already dismantled so it was in position to treat this Russia issue from the day one.

A war in Europe does not have to start as a frontal assault of two large countries on each other - it is sufficient that they enter the same conflict when being on different sides (as it is already a case in Ukraine) and then the situation may slide into larger war uncontrollably.

I know that some prominent people acknowledged this issue (often from the somewhat different, NATO/US-centric angle), such as George Kennan and George Friedman from Stratform. However, since it wasn't their job to define EU and postulate its deterrence capabilities, they could not answer this question.

The issue of Turkey is similar since it participated in European wars as well. However, the issue is milder since Turkey is more focused on Middle East and not Eastern Europe for some time, is/was an EU candidate, and it does not have nuclear weapons.

Update: I am more interested in how the idea of Coal and Steel / EU evolved over time and its response to changing circumstances (or lack thereof) than about its founding documents from 1950.

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    Not sure I understand your question. Part of the reason for the Coal and Steal Community was specifically to prevent a war between the EU nations, notably France and Germany who had fought in 1870-1, 1914-18 and 1939-45. But by the 1980s France and West Germany were firm allies. Nether the EU nor its predecessors was specifically a military body, not set up to deter aggression or counter it with military might. Many of the EEC/EU members were in Nato which acted as a deterrent against the Soviet Union and then Russia, so the EU did not fulfil that role.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 25, 2023 at 11:27
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    My understanding is that European integration was desgined to prevent war in between the countries involved (at first 6 countries in Western Europe, nowadays everything East of Belarus and Ukraine), but not necessarily to solve any potentiel conflict between those countries and third parties (e.g. Russia)...
    – Evargalo
    Sep 25, 2023 at 12:33
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    Well, there has been no war in between France and Germany for 78 years, which is much longer than during any other period in History, so the bad plan might have worked.
    – Evargalo
    Sep 25, 2023 at 12:43
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    Re "I wonder if that's written down anywhere." : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schuman_Declaration
    – Evargalo
    Sep 25, 2023 at 12:48
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    Closed because the question is rambling and unfocused. Also, "I am more interested in how the idea of Coal and Steel / EU evolved over time and its response to changing circumstances (or lack thereof)" isn't a suitable question. More focus is needed.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 27, 2023 at 18:53

5 Answers 5


Let's just say that hindsight is 20/20. The EU got the prize in 2012, before Russia annexed Crimea.

Preventing wars through commerce and economic relations more generally isn't a 100% guarantee, just statistically more likely according to a number of studies. (There are number of counter-factors [discussed in there], including disparity in perceived military power etc., which definitely played a role in Russia-Ukraine as they did in other conflicts.)

Anyhow, you could say the Comecon plan failed much more miserably, in the end, with Russian and Ukraine fighting each other.

And it's a well known fact that Germany and France did less to help Ukraine militarily before 2022 than the USA did. So that was the EU peace plan for the region. (Appeasement, one could say--and in fact some did phrase it just like that, at least in the aftermath. Finally one might say that the intensification of Russian autarky plans after 2014 did bear some resemblance to the Nazi ones, so the EU failed to heed that lesson, in hindsight. And going back over a decade or so, the "half way" policies of EU back then towards Ukraine were also considered appeasement of Russia, by some. Although evidently they were ultimately not appeasing enough for Putin. Who knows how accurate this recollection is, but according to one Georgian ambassador to the EU, some EU officials were sure Putin would not do what he did in Crimea, before 2013, that is.)

FWTW, I think almost everyone forgot about this by now, but around 2010 the EU had a more rosy vision for the relevance of economic relations with Russia, in the "Partnership for Modernization":

Concluded in 1997, the EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) still constitutes the legal framework of the EU-Russia political and economic relations (European Communities 1997). It contains provisions on trade in goods and trade in services based on the GATT most-favoured nation treatment provisions and GATS, respectively, but does not link trade to either a peace or security agenda. In line with Art. 1 and Art.3 PCA, the Parties considered negotiating a new agreement, but these attempts failed amid Russia’s use of force in Georgia and energy security issues, i.e. Russia’s weaponization of gas supplies to Ukraine and Moldova (Dettke 2011).

In 2010, the EU and Russia announced a Partnership for Modernization as a framework for ‘promoting reform, enhancing growth and raising competitiveness’ (Council of the European Union, 2010). As the initiative was advocated by Germany, it is characterized in the literature as the ‘Ostpolitik for Europe’ (Stelzenmüller 2009). It was adopted as a response to Russia’s newly elected President Medvedev’s suggestion to create a new security architecture in Europe, involving both NATO and the former Warsaw Pact institutions (e.g. the Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS) (Dettke 2011). Interestingly, ensuring the openness of Russia’s economy through its WTO membership lay at the heart of the EU’s vision for Russia’s modernization. Thereby the Union hoped to develop a network of new trade agreements which would foster a large free trade area including the EU, Russia and Eastern Neighbours. Thus, from the EU perspective, the Partnership for Modernization with Russia should have become a new valuable dimension of its efforts to promote prosperity and stability through trade on its Eastern borders. Moreover, the EU’s hopes to link Russia and Eastern Partners within a large free trade area in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian war clearly followed the liberal peace logic or, put differently, sought to use trade to prevent another war in the Neighbourhood. There is no single reason why the Partnership for Modernization did not become a reality. The most evident one is that the window of opportunity for EU-Russia ‘constructive bilateralism’ closed after the 2012 presidential elections in Russia and Putin’s return to power (Fix 2021). Besides, the parties had different ideas about what modernization should mean, with Russia refusing to include political and institutional matters into the modernization agenda (Dettke 2011). The Partnership de facto ceased to exist following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea [...]

It's clear that the EU could not leverage economic ties with Russia in exchange for certain (internal) reforms [that may have translated into foreign policy ones] as it could with smaller neighboring countries.

I almost forgot about this too. But after 2008 (their intervention in Georgia), Russia also saw the EaP (EU's partnership with some countries in the former Soviet space) as nearly the same thing as NATO:

A noteworthy development in this regard was Russia's vehement reaction to the launch of the EaP in 2009. Moscow condemned this new EU initiative in terms that had until then been reserved for NATO. Although it was confined to the level of rhetoric, such animadversion appears quite puzzling since, as was emphasized, the EaP is a rather modest bureaucratic initiative that mainly regionalizes instruments that already existed in the ENP framework.

The term then used by Lavrov in the EU's EaP was "sphere of influence" and he later argued that such an expansion of EU's relations would ‘push Russia out’. The accusation would then be repeated over the years, in nearly identical terms. (The strong Russian reaction may seem a bit puzzling, but according to some Western analysts the fact that none of the EaP countries endorsed Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia [as independent countries] may have had some kind of electrifying effect in Moscow.)

Although the West paid a lot more attention to the (2010-2011) announcements of the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), as pointed out in Putin's article introducing the latter, the effort had been in place since 2000 as the Eurasian Economic Community. So one could say that Putin's Russia always intended to be the center of a single market of its own, in sync with the Russian foreign policy motto that the world needs to be "multipolar". (Whether that was intended or not, economically speaking, Russia accounts for about 90% of the EEU's GDP.)

  • And a sort of by-the-by comment here: one of the ironies of the self-styled realist thinking is that they used to drub on appeasement in re Nazi Germany, while [not necessarily the same people, but some endorsing the same label] have been calling for it in the present in re Russia. Sep 25, 2023 at 19:06
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    Comparing your success with Comecon is a discipline of a special olympics that one would want to avoid participating in.
    – alamar
    Sep 25, 2023 at 20:02
  • I'm not entirely sure of this timeline-wise, but apparently even the UK only sent NLAWs to Ukraine shortly before the 2022 large-scale invasion, apparently a just month or two before forbes.com/sites/sebastienroblin/2022/01/25/… Sep 26, 2023 at 2:45

No offense, but first things first, it would help if you got your history right.

The EU's predecessor, ECSC, was created in 1951. The EU proper cames some time after that. Not in 1992. The Treaty of Rome comes in 1957 and I guess that could be considered the transition date from the ECSE to the EEC proper.

Note: I am not talking about the official naming of the EU here. By then the EU had been operational for decades, if under a less ambitious framework.

The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty—whose main architects were Horst Köhler,[45] Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand—came into force on 1 November 1993.[21][46] The treaty also gave the name European Community to the EEC, even if it was referred to as such before the treaty.

At that time - 1948, 1952 or 1957 - it seemed imperative that Europe's Western countries would not repeat their disastrous habits of going to war every 25 or so years.

Additionally, and directly relevant to your question, it was important to cement Western cohesion with regards to its big challenge, the Warsaw Pact in 1955.

While the Pact dated from 1955, tensions between the West and the USSR did not wait that long. Churchill's Iron Curtain speech is in 1946. And the Berlin Blockade? 1948. Korean War - 1950.

The Pact had been initiated by the USSR and was directly opposed to Western democracies.

I.e. the idea that the ECSC/EEC, in its inception days, should have included an olive branch to the Soviet Union (of whom Russia was the lead) and to the Warsaw Pact makes absolutely no sense in the context of the Cold War.

Now, as to what was done after 1989, that is another story entirely, but being best buds with Russia did not have much to do with the ECSC and the motivations for it in the 1950s. Or rather, those were motivating factors for the ECSC/EEC, but in the opposite sense: having an united bulwark of democracies against the USSR's totalitarianism, not cuddling up to it.

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    I'm more interested about post-1989 time frame actually. I will correct question.
    – alamar
    Sep 26, 2023 at 7:00
  • Indeed, the Schuman declaration only explicitly mentioned avoiding another war between Germany and France: "The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible." european-union.europa.eu/principles-countries-history/… Sep 27, 2023 at 17:02


What is the answer of Coal and Steel / EU based security framework regarding Russia

  • 1973 - First enlargement. In 1973, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom become members of the EEC.
  • 1979 - Direct elections.
  • 1985 - Schengen Agreement.
  • 1986 - European Community.
  • 1992 - Maastricht Treaty.
  • 1999 - Single currency.
  • 2007 - Treaty of Lisbon.

The EU was not formed to ensure peace between its members. That might have been a motivation in the 50's but the driving force behind the EU coming together in the 70's, 80's, and 90's after decades of negotiation was business. To make trade between it's members streamlined and more efficient. That is very profitable for everybody. Germany, the EU's largest economy maintained one of the smallest militaries, until Russia's actions in the Ukraine forced them to reconsider defense decisions. Clearly Germany did not feel threatened by France or the UK who both maintained much larger more capable forces than Germany. Perhaps Germany's lack of security concerns have more to do with NATO.

Peace dividends don't come solely from economic integration. If they did Russia never would have attacked Ukraine and threatened the EU. You couldn't get much more economically dependent on each other than the EU and Russia prior to the invasions. A peace dividend comes when one's national interests are subordinated for the collective, something the EU still is struggling with. Supporting a robust infrastructure of laws and governmental bodies all sides trust to resolve disputes. To reach greater economic success the EU will need to tackle this final hurdle. Or they won't tackle it. Both futures are possible. You have European nationalism interests struggling to maintain the status quo, and you have business interests struggling for greater integration and profits.

What is the answer to greater integration with Russia? It's really not on the table. While Russia would be a very desirable member of any economic / political alliance they aren't in the market for that outcome. Russia is very much caught up on 20th century nationalistic interests. They see their weaker neighbors as targets to be possessed (Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Baltics). They are not of a mentality to consider subordinating their nationalistic goals for membership in a greater collective. Any such entity for Russia would be one of Russia's making and one which Russia would want to dominate, like the old Soviet Union. That way leads to economic collapse and conflict.

  • The last paragraph looks like a self fulfulling prophercy: "We did not envite them to any economical / political alliance because they have shown possession with their nationalistic goals some time later".
    – alamar
    Sep 25, 2023 at 19:59
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    Germany's armed forces were proportionally rather weak. In absolute terms, things look different (except that Germany signed the NPT as a non-nuclear state).
    – o.m.
    Sep 25, 2023 at 20:21
  • @alamar, I'm not sure I understand your point. I don't think Europe would invite a candidate to join. It would be up to a candidate to apply. But that was never Putin's ambition. He always saw Russia as an alternative to the west.
    – user47010
    Sep 25, 2023 at 20:25
  • @JMS If it's a security framework then it needs to have coercive properties. I don't think Germany and France had much say in 1950, and countries aren't exactly asked whether they want to join Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
    – alamar
    Sep 25, 2023 at 21:07
  • @alamar a lot to unwind there. You don’t think Germany and France had much to say in 1950s? When has France ever not had a lot to say? When wasn’t joining the NNPT a choice? Germany ratified the NNPT 2 May 1975. You don’t think that was by choice?
    – user47010
    Sep 26, 2023 at 8:16

The EU was formed on the premise of avoiding yet another war among western european nations. It has worked. It never tried to be a global police, or prevent all wars in the world.

The EU is the culmination of a process of co-operation that began in 1952 with the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which aimed to make war between its members “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”. Though Europe has not been free from war since, there has not been an armed conflict between member states since the foundation of the EU (1)

The EU is proud enough of these success as to enunciate them in their own official websites.

The ruso-ukrainian war, the Yemen war, the sirian war or the coup in Niger are not something the EU feels responsible for. They will act on every of these events based on moral, politicial and/or economical reasons, but the EU was founded to prevent wars among its members, not with the naïve objective of universal world peace. The EU members involvement on the ukrainian war has everything to do with the antirussian principle of NATO, which most of them are members of, and nothing to do with the EU - see the UK, for instance, which is not part of the EU.

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    The problem here is that none of wars among Western European nations has involved Niger or Yemen as an actor, whereas most of them has involved Russia. It is thus a regional problem if Russia is not handled by this framework. But I admit the EU's right to throw the towel.
    – alamar
    Sep 27, 2023 at 8:26
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    @alamar This is a typical example of western disregard for everything that is east of German border. Here Poles and Russians can unite in frustration. Sep 27, 2023 at 15:43
  • This is [somewhat] correct if one considers the EU of 1990 for example; a trip down the memory lane in EP proceedings of then finds they had little interest in the former USSR space. But as the EU has expanded, mostly eastward, so have their interests changed. So what happens in Ukraine was more interesting to the EU by the next decade or two. Sep 27, 2023 at 16:51
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    Also, "History Extra" (your 1st source) has added some words like "between its members", which are not contained in the actual Schuman doctrine/declaration, which in fact was [even] more narrow "The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible." european-union.europa.eu/principles-countries-history/… Sep 27, 2023 at 16:56

tl;dr EU made some effort to integrate with Russia but in its current state it's unable to handle Russian membership. Russia does not want to join EU anyway.

EU efforts to integrate with Russia

First - when could ECSC/EU start thinking about integrating with Russia? We seem to agree that when ECSC was founded Russia and other East Block countries were definitely out of scope. The point was to make economical bonds between western countries (especially between France and Germany) so strong, that future war between them would be highly unlikely. And we can agree that it succeeded. I haven't heard of anybody that fears war between France and Germany.
The Maastricht Treaty you recall was too early to consider integration with Russia. The year 1992 is the moment the treaty text got its final shape i.e. negotiations were over. USSR dissolved 3 months earlier. There was Transinistria war ongoing. Next year constitutional crisis arose in Russia.
Negotiations started in 1994 and resulted in Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which came into force on 1 December 1997. Details can be found on Wikipedia. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi supported Russian membership in EU.

EU capability of accepting Russian membership

Treaty of Nice was expected to prepare EU for the biggest enlargement in its history but it turned out to be not sufficient. There was an attempt to establish EU constitution but it got rejected. Finally Treaty of Lisbon got ratified but EU keeps facing various crises, including Brexit, eurozone crisis, European migrant crisis that show either weaknesses of decision making in EU or dissatisfaction of EU members. There are some ideas to reform EU's treaty but it's a long way to get ratified. Until UE manages to reform its institution enlargement by such a big country, as Russia, is not feasible.

Russian attitude towards EU

In 1997 Boris Yeltsin claimed that Russia wants to join EU. 11 years later RF Permanent representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said that has no intention to join the European Union and this seems to be an official stance for now. It seems consistent with Russian actions.

Russia and membership criteria

Criteria for EU candidates are known as Copenhagen criteria and include rule of law, respect for human rights and having a functioning market economy. As for rule of law Russian Federation Ranked 107th Across 140 Countries, 2022. Better than Turkey, which keeps negotiating membership, yet not very good. And I haven't heard about efforts in Russia to improve this.
EU officials became really firm about including LGBT rights as part of human rights candidate must preserve. Russia strongly opposes them.

Russian actions

Russia prefers to negotiate with EU countries directly, instead of negotiating with EU institutions, often pushing member states to act against the interest of other member states and treating EU institutions as an obstacle. One notable example is Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 project, which was negotiated directly with German government, with opposition of other member states and resulted in Gazprom taking legal action against European Commission. Another one is Polish gas contract from 2010 that got blocked by European Commission.
Russia also takes hostile actions towards EU countries. This includes:


Attempts to integrate with Russia broke down after 2014 Crimea annexation and later after invasion on Ukraine on 2022. Now European Union attempts to push Russia into more peaceful behavior using sanctions.

  • There is an obvious problem when you decide to not invite countries who do not adopt LGBT rights into a security framework. Thanks for the effort, though.
    – alamar
    Sep 27, 2023 at 16:19
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    @alamar It seems that the focus of EU has changed a bit since its foundation. But please don't ask me about my perceiving of priorities between European security and LGBT rights. I want to keep my account here. Sep 27, 2023 at 16:22

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