Can There be a Concert In Europe to Prevent a Nuclear Catastrophe?

The world of yesteryears has changed today with the emergence of China as the richest country though she remains years behind the US both in wealth and militarily.

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A U.S. nuclear test in the Nevada desert in 1953 Foto: National Nuclear Security Administration


As is generally known Concert of Europe was a general consensus among the great powers of 19th-century Europe to maintain the European balance of power, political boundaries, and spheres of influence. Never a perfect unity and subject to disputes and jockeying for position and influence, the Concert was an extended period of relative peace and stability in Europe following the Wars of French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.  which had consumed the continent since the 1790s. Congress of Vienna (1814–1815), was dominated by the five great powers of Europe: Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Initially envisioning regular Congresses among the great powers to resolve potential disputes, in practice, Congresses were held on an ad hoc basis and were generally successful in preventing or localizing conflicts. The more conservative members of the Concert of Europe (Russia, Austria, and Prussia), used the system to oppose revolutionary and liberal movements and weaken the forces of nationalism. The formal Congress System fell apart in the 1820s but peace between the Great Powers continued and occasional meetings reminiscent of the Congresses continued to be held at times of Crisis. Following German unification, German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck sought to revive the Concert of Europe to protect Germany’s gains and secure its leading role in European affairs. The revitalized Concert included Austria, France, Italy, Russia, and Britain, with Germany as the driving continental power. The Concert of Europe ended with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The Concert of Europe describes the geopolitical order in Europe from 1814 to 1914, during which the great powers tended to act in concert to avoid wars and revolutions and generally maintain the territorial and political status quo. Particularly in the early years of the Concert, the Concert was maintained through the Congress System – sometimes called the Vienna System – which was a series of Congresses among the great powers to resolve disputes or respond to new issues.


The ultimate failure of the Concert of Europe, culminating in the First World War, was driven by various factors including rival alliances and the rise of nationalism. The Congress-focused approach to international affairs continued to be influential in the later League of Nations, the United Nations, the Group of Seven, and other multi-lateral summits and organizations.  The Concert of Europe drew upon their ideas and the notion of a balance of power in international relations, so that the ambitions of each great power would be restrained by the others: The Concert of Europe was very much a response to the French Revolution. The Holy Alliance was an informal alliance led by Russia, Austria, and Prussia which aimed to reduce the influence of secularism and liberalism in Europe. The Quadruple Alliance, by contrast, was a standard treaty, and the great powers did not invite any minor allies to sign it. The primary objective was to bind the signatories to support the terms of the Second Treaty of Paris for 20 years. It included a provision for the High Contracting Parties to “renew their meeting at fixed periods for the purpose of consulting on their common interests” which were the “prosperity of the Nations and the maintenance of peace in Europe”.   The Concert of Europe began in 1814-1815.


The Congress of Vienna took place from November 1814 to June 1815 in Vienna, Austria, and brought together representatives from over 200 European polities. The Congress of Vienna created a new international world order which was based on two main ideologies: restoring and safeguarding power balancing in Europe; and collective responsibility for peace and stability in Europe among the “Great Powers”.( the writer acknowledges that parts of the history written above are inspired from WIKIPEDIA).  Things have changed since the days of the Congress of Vienna along with the disappearance of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the emergence of the US from the isolation of being surrounded by two oceans. Strangely some scholars blamed President Woodrow Wilson for choosing the wrong advisers to represent his policies. His closest advisor even thought that Britain allied with Japan could attack the US while in fact at that time Britain was sorely dependent on the US due to her financial difficulties.  The Great War has long been fodder for historical debates. The German historian Fritz Stern famously labeled the conflict, which erupted in the summer of 1914 and officially ended in November 1918, as “the first calamity of the twentieth century, the calamity from which all other calamities sprang.” Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia professor with several tours in the U.S. government, has written an important book, The Road Less Traveled: The Secret Battle to End the Great War, 1916-17. Zelikow argues—convincingly—that there was a missed opportunity to achieve peace in the middle of what would later become known as World War I. The Great War has long been fodder for historical debates. But often overlooked was whether peace could have been made in 1916 and early 1917—before the entry of the United States in April 1917. By joining the Entente alliance, the United States helped seal the fate of the so-called Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottomans. An earlier peace would’ve foreclosed the possibility of the communists seizing power in Russia and could have, the British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey later wrote, “demonstrated the stultification and failure of Prussian militarism.” This was the failure of Woodrow Wilson to grasp the opportunity of acting as the mediator when the so-called Central Powers and Britain would have consented to a meditator role by the US President.   Similarly, analysts have argued that Second World War could have been averted if Adolf Hitler had either not attacked the Soviet Union or the Western Powers had put an end to Hitler’s expansionist ambition which got encouragement by the Western Powers’ inaction on Hitler’s annexation of Austria and later his march on Poland, France, and other European nations.


In his masterly analysis, German Professor Karsten Jung ( WASHINGTON QUARTERLY A NEW CONCERT FOR EUROPE SINCE THE END OF SECOND WORLD WAR 2023 The Elliott School of International Affairs ) argued that Much of the debate on post-war order thus centers on the question of how to reconcile these positions and (re)build a European security architecture that accounts for Russia’s structural power without rewarding, or even merely accepting its aggressive behavior. This article argues that the two positions are not as irreconcilable as they may initially seem. Indeed, a fresh look at how the 19th-century Concert of Europe dealt with post-Napoleonic France provides a possible answer to the vexing question of how to protect vulnerable states from, while building a sustainable continental order with, today’s Russia. To fully appreciate why, especially in its early years, the Concert of Europe was so remarkably successful in keeping the peace and preserving order, it is imperative to consider its dual nature as both a mutual defense arrangement and a collective security organization.

Thus, guarding and preserving both security (understood as protecting the integrity of individual states and their systems of government from external aggression) and order (understood as governing continental affairs through setting and enforcing principles and norms), the concert approach promises to reconcile two seemingly conflicting objectives that have marred the Central and Eastern European borderlands throughout the post-Cold War era. To make this argument, this article first outlines the unique nature and characteristics of the Concert of Europe in its historical form. It then sketches the major fault lines and the gradual demise of the post-Cold War security architecture in Europe.

In a third and fourth step, it adapts these lessons to the present and shows how a concerted alliance and a great power concert can complement each other in maintaining security and order in 21st-century Europe. The Concert of Europe was both a mutual defense arrangement and a collective security organization.     If it    seems worthwhile to revisit a centuries-old institution in search of a present-day peacemaker, this is not least due to the fact that Russian analysts like Dmitri Trenin, a member of Russia’s Foreign and Defense Policy Council and vocal advocate of Putin’s war in Ukraine, seem convinced that “the best model for managing power rivalries is some sort of a global Concert of Powers, modeled on the nineteenth-century Concert of Europe.”  Assuming, of course, that their country would be part of the exclusive great power club, Fyodor Lukyanov, research director of the Valdai Discussion Club and Chairman of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, concurs that “what is needed is precisely a genuine professional diplomacy in the spirit of the 19th century, a diplomacy that is familiar from textbooks but whose actual practice has been virtually forgotten.” 

Compared to the international institutions we are used to today, the Concert of Europe was a much more diffuse and immensely less institutionalized affair. It had no headquarters, no international staff, and no single founding document. It was also decidedly more hierarchical than today’s egalitarian international formats: claiming for themselves “rights as such, distinct from any derived from treaties,” the great powers united in the Concert took on a shared, yet exclusive, responsibility for the maintenance of order and stability in Europe… The first institution established by the great powers at the end of the Napoleonic Wars was in fact not the consultative congress system that is now most prominently associated with the Concert, but rather a defensive alliance directed explicitly against the aggressor: with the Treaty of Chaumont, signed in March 1814, Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia prolonged their alliance for twenty years beyond the end of the war to keep France in check and preserve the order they had fought to defend.11 The 1814 Treaty of Chaumont prolonged the Quadruple Alliance for 20 years to keep France in check A New Concert for Europe: Security and Order After the War.  

Only later did the great powers formally adopt the principle and practice of periodic consultations to shape and guide the continental order. Having come to appreciate the advantages of working closely with their peers during wartime, the Big Four vowed in the Quadruple Alliance Treaty of November 1815 to keep up their habit of private deliberations in peacetime. To this effect, they undertook in Article VI of the treaty to henceforth convene at regular intervals to discuss and collectively decide upon any measures they might deem necessary for the maintenance of peace and security in Europe.  It was not until three years later, in 1818 at Aix-la-Chapelle, that the Allies were prepared to take up the question of a potential French accession to the Concert. Firmly convinced that the great power status of his country and the legitimacy of his restored monarchy accorded him a seat at the table, historian Mark Jarrett writes, King “Louis XVIII boldly instructed his minister to either join the alliance or destroy it.”    Having anticipated such a move, the British Foreign Secretary, Viscount Castlereagh, offered a creative response, yielding to King Louis’ demand for representation in the Concert, but preserving intact the defensive commitments under the Treaty of Chaumont without the French. The allied ministers concurred, thus inviting the erstwhile enemy to join the Concert, but not the Alliance. In this manner, the concert system of the early 19th century institutionalized a dual architecture for maintaining security and order in Europe.

On one hand, the Quadruple Alliance and the provisions of the Treaty of Chaumont ensured security from France through a mutual defense agreement directed against the erstwhile aggressor. On the other, the consultative mechanism under Article VI of the Quadruple Alliance at the heart of the Congress System provided for the maintenance of continental order in cooperation with France through a fledgling collective security arrangement involving all—but also only—the great powers. The solution conceived by Castlereagh thus addressed both the immediate security concerns of continental powers weary of a renewed attack by keeping their defenses intact and the broader need to quell revisionist challenges to the fundamental principles and norms underpinning the continental order by giving all major powers a stake in its preservation. At both tasks, the concert system was remarkably successful. The era of relative calm it oversaw between the Congress of Vienna and the Crimean War of 1854, Henry Kissinger notes, was “the longest period of peace” Europe had ever known.”


The world of yesteryears has changed today with the emergence of China as the richest country though she remains years behind the US both in wealth and militarily. In July this year When NATO put forward a new blueprint for the future this week, the alliance did not mince words about China. China, NATO declared, was a systemic “challenge,” calling out the country for the first time in its mission statement. The country’s policies were “coercive,” its cyber operations “malicious” and its rhetoric “confrontational.” Together with Russia, Beijing was striving to “subvert the rules-based international order,” the alliance said — efforts that “run counter to our values and interests.” For Beijing, the forceful declaration by NATO reinforced a sense that China is being encircled by hostile powers bent on hobbling the country’s ascent. Adding to that concern, the NATO summit included, also for the first time, the leaders of four Asia-Pacific countries: South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

“This is very serious,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “It frames China as an adversary in a global perspective, not only in the Pacific and in East Asia, and it does so in a formal document.” … Days before the NATO summit, leaders of the Group of 7 countries announced plans to raise $600 billion to expand global infrastructure investment in developing countries. It is designed to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a big money push to build ports, rail lines, and telecommunications networks around the world — and shore up China’s diplomatic ties in the process. Such moves are part of the Biden administration’s ongoing effort to strengthen global alliances in the face of China’s growing economic, political, and military might.

In the last year, the administration has announced that the United States and Britain would help Australia develop nuclear-powered submarines; created a new economic bloc with about a dozen Asia-Pacific nations; and strengthened relations within the so-called Quad coalition of Australia, India, and Japan and the United States. …


 China’s push to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal has also set off alarm bells, as has its willingness to leverage economic ties for political purposes. Beijing, for example, cut off trade with Lithuania for allowing Taiwan to open a “Taiwanese representative office” in its capital. The uneasiness intensified after China’s leader, Xi Jinping, declared in early February that his country’s friendship with Russia had “no limits,” just days before Moscow launched its attack on Ukraine. Since then, Chinese leaders have declined to condemn Russia for the invasion, instead blaming Washington and NATO for goading Moscow with the alliance’s expansion in Central and Eastern Europe.

In some NATO countries, negative views of China remain at or near historic highs, according to a new Pew Research Center survey published recently. Despite NATO Secretary General’s assurance that China is not NATO’s adversary“In the future, Chinese war planning or security will have to take into consideration not only the U.S. as a potential enemy, but also NATO,” said Yun Sun, the director of the China Program at the Stimson Center in Washington. A White House official said last week that the administration did not see the participation of the four Asia-Pacific countries as a move toward the creation of an “Asian version of NATO.”

But the prospect remains a concern for Beijing. Ahead of the Madrid summit, the Global Times, a state-backed nationalist tabloid, strongly condemned the participation of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand in the meetings. “It’s an extremely unwise choice for any Asia-Pacific country and is bound to damage that country’s strategic trust with China, inevitably leading to consequences,” read the editorial. “The sewage of the Cold War cannot be allowed to flow into the Pacific Ocean.”


 Determined to show that it is not isolated, Beijing has accelerated efforts to build up its own partnerships. In recent months, Beijing has sought to expand its military and economic presence in the South Pacific. Last month, Mr. Xi spoke virtually to leaders from the BRICS economic bloc — which includes Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa — and touted Beijing as an open and cooperative multilateral partner. He contrasted China’s approach with what he called the “bloc-based” and “zero-sum” strategy of other countries. He called on nations to join China’s new Global Security Initiative and its Global Development Initiative, two loosely defined campaigns. “China is in a rush to gather friends to break isolation and to break down U.S. and Western alliances,” said David Arase, a professor of international politics at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Recently, Jens Plötner, a top German foreign policy adviser, warned that attempts to decouple economically from China would result in a “self-fulfilling prophecy” by driving Beijing and Moscow even closer together. But any attempts by Beijing to exploit such disagreements within the bloc would not go unnoticed, NATO warned in its mission statement. “We will boost our shared awareness, enhance our resilience and preparedness, and protect against the P.R.C.’s coercive tactics and efforts to divide the Alliance,” it said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.


 In the recent past, China has warned of nuclear threats against the US.  Hu Xijin, chief editor of Global Times, “Given the intensifying US strategic containment of China, I would like to remind once again that we have many urgent tasks, but one of the most important is to keep rapidly increasing the number of nuclear warheads and strategic missiles like the Dongfeng 41 with extremely long-range and high survival capabilities,”  Hu Xinjin wrote in a post written about the cornerstone of China’s strategic resilience against the United States. He wrote voicing the will of the Chinese government or in other words, those of Xi-Jinping that  “Our nuclear missiles must be so numerous that the US elite will tremble at the thought of military confrontation with China at that time. “On such a basis, we can calmly and actively manage our differences with the US and avoid all kinds of gunfire. As US hostility toward China continues to burn, China needs to use her strength and the unbearable risks China would face if she took the risk to force China to remain calm.  His comments come days after US President Biden ordered the US intelligence community to investigate whether the Covid-19 virus first emerged in China from an animal source or from a laboratory accident – stoking fury from China. The move hints at growing impatience with waiting for a conclusive World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into how the pandemic that has killed more than 3.5 million people worldwide began.US President Biden ordered the US intelligence community to investigate whether the Covid-19 virus first emerged in China from an animal source or from a laboratory accident. During an ongoing meeting of WHO member states, European Union countries and a range of others also pressed for clarity on the next steps in the organization’s efforts to solve the mystery, seen as vital to averting future pandemics.

The WHO finally managed to send a team of independent, international experts to Wuhan in January, more than a year after Covid-19 first surfaced there in late 2019, to help probe the pandemic origins. But in their long-delayed report published in late March, the international team and their Chinese counterparts drew no firm conclusions, instead ranking a number of hypotheses according to how likely they believed they were. In another article ( CAN US-CHINA POLITICAL TENSION LEAD TO WAR) I had written about US TARGETTING CHINA AND THUCYDIDES’ TRAP). Unfortunately targeting China as the prime enemy of both by Donald Trump and Joe Biden has not improved the situation. Though the US reportedly is working backchannel diplomacy so that China does not make the mistake that centuries back Sparta and Greece had committed causing the death and destruction of thousands of lives. In an article written in the Diplomat in 2015, Professor Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School popularized the phrase “Thucydides’ trap,” to explain the likelihood of conflict between a rising power and a currently dominant one. This is based on the famous quote from Thucydides: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.” This usage has even spread to Chinese President Xi Jinping who said “We all need to work together to avoid the Thucydides trap – destructive tensions between an emerging power and established powers … Our aim is to foster a new model of major country relations.”

Despite the overwhelming demand of the world population that SINO-RUSSIAN friendship should not be turned into a race to demonstrate the superiority of Communism versus Democracy disregarding the lessons taught by, in the case of China, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao.  Jiang Zemin served as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party from 1989 to 2002, as chairman of the Central Military Commission from 1989 to 2004, and as president of China from 1993 to 2003. Jiang was the paramount leader of China from 1989 to 2002. He was the core leader of the third generation of Chinese leadership, one of four core leaders alongside Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Xi Jinping. In the case of Russia, complications have arisen in world politics due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the final analysis, the multipolar world of today would not allow a few countries possessing nuclear weapons would not allow the extinction of mankind which has survived disasters for a millennium.

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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