Suivre ce blog Administration + Créer mon blog
16 juin 2014 1 16 /06 /juin /2014 11:50
credit: European Union 2014 – European Parliament.

credit: European Union 2014 – European Parliament.


11th June 2014  – by - europeangeostrategy.org


A billion dollars to temporarily deploy additional American troops to Eastern Europe, organise military exercises, and train with allies and partners. President Obama announced this ‘European Reassurance Initiative’ in Warsaw, just before travelling to Brussels for the G7 meeting that replaced the planned G8 meeting in Russia (4-5 June 2014). Quite surprisingly, for had the United States (US) not just pivoted to Asia?


President Obama wants to demonstrate that NATO’s Article 5 is for real. Was it not before then? Well, the more NATO feels compelled to underline that it is, the more one begins to doubt it. US and NATO communication, and that of the Eastern European allies clamouring for an increased American presence (even permanently) are hardly reassuring. Of course Article 5 always has been and still is for real, quite simply because it fundamentally is an American guarantee. So no, Russia will not invade a NATO or European Union (EU) member state. From the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, that is all that ought to have been said. Objectively speaking, sending extra American forces does not change these basic facts.


Will it solve the crisis? No, it just helps to strengthen European self-confidence. Hopefully that will translate in more diplomatic and economic resolution to act through the EU, for that remains the only way.


Will these deployments affect President Putin’s policy? He was never going to threaten NATO territory anyway. In fact the sabre-rattling may complicate the diplomatic process. One thing Putin cannot allow is the perception by the Russian public that he has given in to Western military might, for his legitimacy rests in no small part on maintaining the illusion of Russia’s great power status. Diplomatic solutions require that all parties concerned can save face. Much more important therefore is diplomatic contact at the highest level, as during the D-Day commemoration in Normandy, with the possibility of additional sanctions kept in reserve.


But perhaps Obama, with an eye on the upcoming NATO summit in September, first and foremost wanted to send a signal to his European allies: shame on you. For, as his defence secretary Chuck Hagel was quick to point out, Europeans themselves should increase their efforts regarding defence. Spending 2% of GDP on defence, to start with. For once, there is no need for caution in making predictions: that will not happen. Or does anyone think that Germany, for example, will double its defence budget?


What is more, it is not necessary. In spite of all the cuts, the 28 EU member states together still spend €160 billion on defence per year. Europe should indeed not let that total amount drop any further. The Ukraine crisis has the potential to stabilise European defence spending. The real problem is that all too many European countries still maintain units and equipment that are useless both for territorial defence and for expeditionary operations. At the same time there are enormous duplications between schools, staffs and support units. Put simply: because of the way Europe spends its defence budgets, a lot of money is wasted. Allocating more money now will just lead to more waste. The real solution is radical defence cooperation between Europeans.


If Europe would just implement the decisions that it already took on this at last December’s European Council meeting, it might be able to meet another, much more justified American demand: to assume first line responsibility for security crises in Europe’s own neighbourhood. That is a necessity because in spite of everything the pivot is happening. Seen from Washington, only Beijing is a strategic competitor – Moscow can at most be a spoiler. What does Europe want to be able to do as a security provider, if necessary without the US? That is the strategic question to which Europe must formulate a response. But the American deployment might just have sent the wrong signal. Why bother, if the cavalry is coming anyway?

Partager cet article
12 mai 2014 1 12 /05 /mai /2014 11:50
A comprehensive approach without a security strategy is a hallucination



8th May 2014  – by Jo Coelmont - europeangeostrategy.org

The European Union’s (EU) mantra, ‘the comprehensive approach’ is known worldwide. However, a mantra that is being repeated at all times and in all circumstances probably refers to an aspiration rather than a reality. The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is the perfect example to illustrate just that.


Successful CSDP operations, regardless…

All military CSDP operations conducted so far have reached their military objectives. Compared with other international organisations involved in crisis management this is unique, and a reason to be proud. However, with the exception of the operations in Bosnia and in Mali, no military CSDP operation has really been conducted comprehensively. As a net consequence lasting results have seldom or never been achieved. Political pressure had a tendency to fade away soon after the launch of any operation. The civilian capabilities deployed were at best under-dimensioned if not completely absent. The most crucial element to obtain durable results, economic investment, never materialised. Often emergency and/or development aid was provided, but that is not a substitute. As to the Security Sector Reform operations launched by the EU under the ‘civil’ or ‘civil-military’ label, the results are disappointing too. Generally a homeopathic dose was administered when the real stuff was needed.

The operations in Libya are the example of a non-comprehensive way of acting. While European nations where taking the lead in the military operations, the European External Action Service (EEAS) was planning for humanitarian aid in complete isolation from the military intervention. It was, in fact, acting as an non-governmental organisation. Eventually the EU lost the beauty contest to set up such an operation in Libya to the United Nations, which was also acting on its own. Meanwhile the durable results of the military operations in Libya are well known: they are called Mali and the Central African Republic.


Events, dear boy, events

Fortunately not each and every crisis requires military assets to be part of the solution, on the contrary. The real question is how to explain the absence of any comprehensive approach whenever CSDP actions or operations are on the agenda. In the absence of an effective Security Strategy, in every contingency the starting position of the EU and the Member States is a blank sheet. The first step is for Member States to investigate whether the issue at hand is affecting their values or (individual) interests, and if so, whether it concerns a priority issue, and whether the region is considered as such. If the answer looks like a yes, discussions may start on how, when and with what means to react. If military action is judged appropriate by some Member States – the few that most of the time have the honour to act in the name of so many – than enter the process of ‘force generation conferences’. In the meantime, emergency aid may be provided. As to economic action: are the economy and trade ever really taken into account in crisis situations? More generally, is the overall desired strategic outcome and a comprehensive roadmap to reach it ever being thought about? Please, not now, we are in the midst of confronting events, dear boy.


Ukraine, a surprise

Taking improvised initiatives on the international scene, without a strategy, may turn out to be audacious, as recent events once more made clear.

Last year Ukraine was approached, mainly by the Commission, with a proposals to establish a trade agreement, as if Ukraine was simply about another extension of the internal market. For the EU this is well-known business. And yet, that same Union was completely surprised with the ultimate outcome. It was revealed to be a matter of geopolitics and strategy. And all of a sudden, the Union had, and still has, difficulties to respond.


A strategy or no strategy

Some actors have a strategy. You may not appreciate Russia’s moves, but Moscow acted in a rather comprehensive way, politically, economically and military. This is not to say that Putin has masterminded all events, but he was well prepared, having a strategy and even a doctrine (which one might call ‘Putin infiltration’), as well as the means to act accordingly. This makes that Russia, for the time being, can punch above its weight. Compared to each of the individual EU member states, Russia is rather big. Compared to the Union as such, Russia is an economically and even military middle-sized country, with some potential but facing enormous weaknesses. But at the political level, it is a chess player. And that makes all the difference.

In the Ukrainian crisis, the US is acting in a remarkably steadfast manner, in line with its strategy. In the past, whenever a security crisis emerged, the President of the US traditionally called on ‘the US and Allies’ to take action, suggesting the US take the lead and the Allies follow. In the meantime that has changed. At the start of the Obama administration it was always was referring to the ‘US and European countries’, suggesting some kind of burden-sharing. Later that changed to ‘the US and Europe’, carefully avoiding the pitfall of mentioning ‘the EU and its Member States’. Today, with the crisis in Ukraine, it is all about ‘the US and the EU’. The message is clear. The US will remain involved. However, in Washington Russia is measured by its potential to cause disruption, in particular in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran. No doubt Washington will react to Moscow’s expansionist ambitions, but it will not allow itself to get distracted from its main geostrategic concerns in Asia. Globally speaking, the US is looking towards Europe as its principal partner. But you only have a real partner if, when faced with a crisis, the outcome matters equally to the partner if not even more so. For NATO, article 5 matters profoundly, for each and every partner. But for the crisis in Ukraine, NATO will not do the trick.

Central Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa, no doubt matters a great deal for Europe, so… After 3 wakeup calls, time to get up

The crisis in Yugoslavia triggered the ESDP and some concrete actions. Iraq triggered the CSDP and even a European Security Strategy (ESS), a prelude to a real Strategy, calling for preventive action and a comprehensive approach. So far neither the CSDP nor the ESS have generated significant results. In the end, Herman Van Rompuy took the political risk to put the issue of defence on the agenda of the European Council. This resulted in some pretty good conclusions. What about the centre-piece of acting comprehensively and what about a security strategy? Last December our Heads of State and Government where so shy they used very opaque language:

The European Council invites the High Representative, in close cooperation with the Commission, to assess the impact of changes in the global environment, and to report to the Council in the course of 2015 on the challenges and opportunities arising for the Union, following consultations with the Member States.

I hope that now with the Ukrainian crisis everyone reads this sentence as an urgent call for the long awaited genuine European Security Strategy, the prerequisite to act comprehensively.

Jo Coelmont

* Brig. Gen. (ret.) Jo Coelmont is an Associate Editor of European Geostrategy. He is also a Senior Associate Fellow for the ‘Europe in the World Programme’ at Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels. Formerly, he was the Belgian Military Representative to the Military Committee of the European Union. He writes here in a personal capacity.

Partager cet article
16 avril 2014 3 16 /04 /avril /2014 11:50
No more schisms in the holy alliance


14th April 2014  – by Sven Biscop * - europeangeostrategy.org


The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) events can seem a touch religious. One congregates to profess one’s belief in the Holy Alliance. And because it is holy, there is little tolerance for heretics. Making my way to the Transformation Seminar 2014, organised in Paris by Allied Command Transformation (ACT) on 7th-9th April, I had reason to look over my shoulder for religious zealots. For I had just published a policy brief about NATO’s upcoming Wales Summit, in which almost as an aside I had actually questioned the continued relevance of ACT. I need not have feared, however.


The crisis in Ukraine naturally dominated the conversation at the seminar. Because of the crisis, of its three core tasks of collective defence, expeditionary crisis management, and cooperative security and partnerships, NATO will again put more emphasis on the first. Defence of the alliance’s territory and the security guarantee offered by Article 5 will be the main focus of the NATO apparatus for some time to come.


That does not mean that NATO will no longer do crisis management, but as a consequence in many future non-Article 5 contingencies the European Union (EU) may be the institution that will be called upon to take the lead, as it is doing already in its broader southern neighbourhood. Therefore NATO must be able to offer the EU reliable support in terms of command and control. In other words, the Berlin Plus Agreement, which ought to give the EU (or de facto even an ad hoc coalition led by European states, as in Libya) guaranteed access to NATO headquarters, must be revived.


When it comes to the capabilities which European interventions require, the current crisis will hopefully create a sense of urgency in the implementation of the European Council conclusions on defence of December 2013. Given the meagre results of NATO’s Smart Defence initiative (if one discounts projects that were retroactively stamped with the Smart Defence label), the EU does indeed seem the more promising avenue for multinational programmes to address European capability shortfalls. The NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP) could incorporate these collective European initiatives, including the contributions from non-NATO EU Member States.


Finally, a lot more political consultation between the EU and NATO is necessary, in the first place about our strategy for our eastern neighbourhood.


I thought this was just my heretical thinking, but all of the above was put forward by senior American voices. Suddenly my heresy has been adopted by the largest diocese in the church (which has undoubtedly found the light of its own accord – I dare not attribute its conversion to my scriptures).


This conversion is perfectly rational. Russia remains far too weak to be a strategic competitor of the United States (US). It can only be a spoiler that distracts US attention from what it perceives as the real strategic competitor: China. However, the US can only focus on China and Asia to the extent that the European continent is secure – that is a vital American interest. Therefore the US has to engage with the crisis in Ukraine, making it clear that Article 5 offers as strong a guarantee as ever, to give its European allies and partners the self-confidence for resolute diplomacy. But the US’ undivided attention we will never again have. The focus on Asia has just been reaffirmed in the latest Quadrennial Defence Review. And thus the US still expects that Europeans themselves take the lead in addressing all security problems short of Article 5 in their own broader neighbourhood.


That puts even more pressure on Europe to deliver – and rightly so.


Oh, and I am still not convinced of the continued relevance of ACT.



* Prof. Sven Biscop is a Senior Editor of European Geostrategy. He is also Director of the ‘Europe in the World Programme’ at Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels. He writes here in a personal capacity.

Partager cet article
3 décembre 2013 2 03 /12 /décembre /2013 12:50
The European Council on Security and Defence: asking tough questions


2nd December 2013  – by Jolyon Howorth - europeangeostrategy.org


The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is currently in limbo. With the European Union’s (EU) southern and eastern neighbourhoods in a state of relative turmoil, with the United States’ (US) tilt to Asia, with draconian defence cuts being applied in every Member State, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) still searching for a role, CSDP is floundering.  The European Council on Security and Defence in December will address its status and future


Prognoses for the success of the December Council range from pessimistic to dire. Most commentators predict minimal progress on essentially technical issues. This is a recipe for failure. The summit is too necessary to risk being a non-event. It should not be about fine-tuning. If CSDP is to develop into a policy area with a future, it is time to ask some probing, fundamental questions.


In its brief fifteen-year history, CSDP has achieved a great deal. But most progress has been incremental, reactive, ad-hoc, piecemeal, experimental and inchoate. It is time to stop muddling through and to establish, at the very least, what exactly CSDP is attempting to achieve. The December Council needs to rethink three key issues: strategic vision; autonomy; intervention.


Strategic Vision


EU officials tend to shun ‘grand strategy’. Yet to posit the need for a more strategic approach is to insist that there needs to be clear agreement on basic objectives, and on the means of achieving them. To this extent, the 2003 European Security Strategy was not a strategy since it ignored the relationship between means and ends. The 2008 ‘Review’ was not a review since it contented itself with a minor updating of the 2003 text. The world is undergoing a process of power transition. What does the EU hope to accomplish in such a world?


There is a lively debate in the US about potential transition scenarios, beginning with diametrically contradictory views about the appropriate role for the US post-Afghanistan. More substantially, John Ikenberry foresees the liberal international order co-opting into its institutions and values all of the emerging powers. Robert Hutchings and Frederick Kempe insist, on the contrary, that ‘the West’ will have to make major concessions to ‘the Rest’ and forge a ‘global grand bargain’ ushering in a new global order acceptable to all the major actors. Charles Kupchan imagines a world in which no one power will enjoy dominance, still less hegemony. These are totally different scenarios. There seems to be no echo of this debate in the EU. It is time to start one.




We should recall why the word ‘autonomous’ in the December 1998 Saint-Malo Declaration was so important. It was predicated on the belief that EU Member States would take security and defence more seriously through an EU agency rather than through NATO – where the habit of free-riding is deeply engrained. The EU should be able to decide for itself what to do and with which instruments. Those were important foundational principles. It was crucial in the early years to allow CSDP to grow in its own way, without being micro-managed from Washington. But has the EU actually delivered on the promise of autonomy? In 2013, it remains hugely dependent on NATO and on the US for more or less everything other than the very simplest of missions. Given the scale of ambition revealed to date, what has ‘autonomy’ produced?


It is widely agreed since the Libya fiasco that CSDP must enter into much deeper and intensive cooperation with NATO. Both NATO and CSDP are currently in a state of existential self-interrogation.  What does it mean under those circumstances to insist that CSDP should remain autonomous? As one who initially argued in favour of autonomy in order for CSDP to breathe life into itself, I now believe the EU should cooperate intensively with NATO, in order to turn their joint efforts into an effective and appropriate regional capacity for the stabilisation of the greater European area.




We need a heart-searching re-appraisal of intervention as an activity and as a principle. The recent debate on Syria’s chemical weapons is instructive. How can we be sure that, through our intervention, we will make matters better rather than worse – or no different? That is the only question of significance. There is much talk about CSDP being a ‘security provider’. But does the EU really know how to achieve that with any degree of durability? There have been no fewer than five CSDP missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In what sense have they ‘provided’ lasting ‘security’?


If the EU is to become a security and defence actor – even at the regional level – it needs to tackle these issues head on. There is little purpose in simply re-arranging the deckchairs. The Council should, as a minimum, set in motion a process through which tough questions can be addressed.



* Prof. Jolyon Howorth is an Associate Editor of European Geostrategy. He is also Visiting Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Yale University and Jean Monnet Professor ad personam of European Politics and Emeritus Professor of European Studies at the University of Bath. He writes here in a personal capacity.

Partager cet article


  • : RP Defense
  • : Web review defence industry - Revue du web industrie de défense - company information - news in France, Europe and elsewhere ...
  • Contact


Articles Récents