International institutions are established to facilitate cooperation and enable multilateral agreements to the benefit of the community as a whole. In the 21st-century we had supposedly transcended the brutish world of Hobbesian anarchy, making of it a place socially constructed from iterated games and a development of trust. Through continued efforts over time, we have been steadily approaching a cosmopolitan, Kantian world.
Yet in the EU and NATO, there is a growing dichotomy between normative trust and the pursuit of selfish interests. In the meeting rooms of the European Union, commissioners dance around the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” while the Greek parliament champions self determination for all. In the halls of the UN, representatives find solidarity in supporting the principles of sovereign territory in Ukraine, even as Turkish troops patrol their hard earned half of Cyprus. In press conferences, the heads of NATO condemn Russia’s violations of human rights as the centennial anniversary of the Armenian genocide approaches in a silent Turkey. In the conference rooms of SHAPE, officers discuss the importance of contributing their shares to defense funding, while Greece continues to spend inordinate amounts to defend against the threat of a fellow NATO member.
Admittedly, these bitter ironies are not enough to overshadow the feats of these institutions. For the past 60 years, the benefits of economic integration have prevented lethal conflict across the continent, and the power of collective defense has been one of the primary means of preventing nuclear warfare. This is promising, because as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and realizes full globalization, international institutions will be the primary instrument of peace and cooperation. Yet the pursuit of complex multilateral agreements can not overshadow the importance of resolving bilateral conflicts and local issues, a multitude of which have been immediately obvious in Greece alone. The importance of the smaller resolutions are especially important if these international agreements base their legitimacy in their moralistic values and leadership; after all, hypocrisy within institutions dangerously undermines their normative capabilities. These institutions have been successful so far, but it is vital that they not overlook the trees in their grand ambitions for the forest.