Why a EU-NATO Partnership Now?
The recent EU-NATO meeting at the NATO headquarters on the 8th of December regarding cooperation in tackling emerging security challenges and the establishment of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) are two of the many developments which demonstrate that we are at a historical juncture in terms of the transatlantic relations and what they signify for NATO and the EU.
The architecture of the global security environment has undergone drastic modifications due to various factors that come into play. On the one hand, the U.S. and Europe are facing a wave of illiberal movements, on the other hand Russia is amplifying its revisionist stance and the Islamic State is becoming ever-more threatening. Under these circumstances, seeing the transatlantic alliance weaken could not be solely classified under the realm of the impossible. In order to avoid such a doomsday scenario, the interweaving of NATO capabilities with EU competences in such a manner that only the best from each is put forward in future defense strategies is what should be on the agendas of all future EU and NATO high-level meetings.
With the two most significant game-changers, namely Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the chaos unravelling in the MENA region, the current strategic environment has changed dramatically. The consequences brought about by these game-changers – or black swans, as they like to be referred in IR literature – are plain obvious. Neither NATO, nor the EU can singlehandedly tackle the current security conundrums the world is facing. As a matter of fact, the Euro-Atlantic security policy is finding itself in a host of contradictory situations:
– in which NATO’s Article 5 is becoming increasingly important while not allowing NATO to become what it has historically been, namely a Euro-centric security provider. This happens as a consequence of the fact that NATO hast to maintain its 360° view on 21st-century security challenges;
– in which crisis management through military intervention is not as likely but cannot be completely disregarded since unfortunate events such as genocides in the Global South might ask for military action applied by external forces;
– in which the United States has, on the one hand, restated its commitments to the safeguarding of Europe’s safety, but, on the other hand, is expecting a much larger burden sharing;
– in which the economic power of the US – which translates into American military power – is slowly declining which makes the distance between the US and its Allies relatively shorter in terms of diplomatic, economic, military, technological and cultural matters.
– in which the new PESCO agreement is seen as NATO’s main competitor, bringing about a clash of strategic geopolitical interests.
For these reasons, the two security actors can work together in partnership, while bringing to the table the best they have to offer. Reaching a level where the capabilities of both NATO and the EU are more or less on the same playing field requires a stronger NATO-EU partnership.
NATO’s and EU’s Strong Suits and Weaknesses
NATO’s high-end military capabilities and extensive transatlantic reach are two of the definitory traits of NATO’s defense system. In terms of its military capabilities, NATO owns its very own fleet of Airborne Warning and Control (AWC) surveillance aircraft and is currently developing Global Hawk surveillance drones. This comes as an addition to the equipment and troops that individual Allies normally commit to NATO. Going beyond the field of defense using traditional military capabilities, NATO is called upon to respond to a whole range of missions and functions in the non-traditional sense. At one side of the spectrum, we would benefit from NATO’s high-end military capabilities and extensive transatlantic reach. However,while most military strategic priorities before 2014 were targeted on ‘crisis intervention, nation building or expeditionary operations, today’s priorities are clearly directed towards territorial defence and deterrence’. What we are in fact noticing is that crisis management through military intervention is not as likely to happen as before. What this means for NATO is that out of the three core functions from the 2010 Strategic Concept, namely crisis management, partnership and self-defence, the latter is the one which should take center-stage either with NATO putting more emphasis on it or with the EU filling this gap.
The EU – as a non-military security policy actor – can bring to the table a broad array of proficiencies to complement NATO’s. To begin with, its far-reaching small-operations civilian and military expertise is one clear example. In terms of the military capabilities of the EU, we are solely referring to crisis management by intervention and not to self-defence (which has traditionally been NATO’s task). Needless to say, if military crisis management becomes less likely to work (especially in the context of emerging security threats), EU’s military capabilities have the potential of carrying less weight. In order to avoid this loss of EU defense resources, NATO could take these EU capabilities under its protective wing in order to use them in complementary ways, alongside NATO’s hard security. It is just as important to highlight that apart from the shortcomings of EU crisis management by intervention, another EU weakness lies in the fact that the block is currently not in the best shape of its 60-year old existence as a cause of different goals pursued by different EU nations, on top of the pressure of a financial crisis, which makes it unlikely that EU members will be on the same page regarding security and defence issues.
How Can the NATO – EU Partnership Play Out?
In order to better understand how the NATO-EU alliance can work in terms of security and defense, let us consider the case of Portugal through a historical perspective. Portugal is one of the many countries which has benefited from both a comprehensive NATO defense apparatus and a EU one. Historically, NATO is seen as the organisation which has taken on board the larger military, such as the intervention in Afghanistan. This is due to the fact that NATO is in possession of all of the required resources needed to showcase ‘hard power’. Contrastingly, the EU security interventions in which Portugal had engaged in were mostly using ‘soft power’, while being also relatively much smaller in scale.
While the EU is playing a major role up to this day, NATO is still perceived as the main defence actor that is able to intervene in crises of all magnitudes. The EU, on the other hand, is still much more deficient in that ‘accumulated know-how that NATO possesses’. It is important to note that for European nations of small and medium sizes, such as Portugal, maintaining a strong presence in NATO is extremely important. Therefore, the act of balancing the commitment to enhance EU’s security and defence capacities with the continued support for NATO enlargement and its military operations gives states such as Portugal ‘the advantage of not putting all their eggs in one basket’.
In practical terms…
In order to properly address terrorism, migrant flows, state collapse and overall instability coming from the Global South, NATO must discover a way to complement EU security efforts especially in view to crises that need to be addressed using the full spectrum of policy tools. A historical example is represented by a mechanism named Berlin-Plus which exists to lend part of NATO’s integrated command structure to the EU. Nevertheless, Berlin-Plus and other NATO-EU arrangements are currently frozen political matters because of disputes among EU and NATO members regarding the Cyprus question. Bearing in mind the gravity of this situation, NATO should consider alternatives. For example, complementing the efforts of coalitions involving NATO and non-NATO states is a good way to go around the Cyprus situation and fully implement Berlin Plus.
In even more practical terms…
Here, it is instrumental to create a Southern Strategy of ‘Comprehensive Support’ in which EU and NATO are jointly carrying out the following:
- are supporting lead countries and main coalition operations;
- are increasing investment in NATO’s Readiness Action Plan;
- are prioritizing air and missile defense capabilities together with the development of new maritime approaches in their collective defense strategy;
- are strengthening crisis management by intervention;
- are also strengthening regional partners in conflict-ridden areas;
- are focusing on deterrence and defense measures particularly along the Turkish-Syrian border, as these measures have outshined former pre-2014 military strategic priorities;
- are focusing on the EU organising its military forces within NATO
All Good Ideas Get Bad Press in the Beginning…
There is a host of pessimistic voices proclaiming that the EU-US transatlantic cooperation is likely to cease. One of the first arguments they use is the declining public support for the cooperation between the two actors on matters of defense and security which has seen a sharp decrease since 2008 (see the chart below)
Another set of negative views on the EU-US transatlantic cooperation comes from the current President of the United States himself who has stated at various points both on the campaign trail and once taking up office that the European allies are free riding on American capabilities and are not fulfilling the 2% pledge. However, it is noteworthy to mention that this pledge is wrong-headed because of the fact that it is a politically-constructed benchmark which makes it merely a tool used by the Trump administration for naming and shaming.
…But Bear in Mind the Potential for a EU-NATO Partnership
All things considered, the bottom line is that the weaker the transatlantic partnership becomes, the less safe and prosperous people across both sides of the ocean will feel. Therefore, it is in the interest of all parties to maintain the alliance and work towards strengthening it by intertwining the defense and security instruments of both NATO and the EU and complementing each other’s capabilities in order to deter and counteract the aggressive actions of opposing camps. While NATO is the superior transatlantic alliance in the defense and security arenas, it might not take the same leadership roles it is accustomed to in other areas and might have to work within a wider network of institutions, such as the European Union. This challenging of traditional roles is something that should be expected and embraced since it would be serving the higher purpose of making the world a safer place in an increasingly unpredictable security environment.
The Encroaching Impact of Arms Trade on South Asia’s Geopolitics
In his famous farewell address to the American Public in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had both defined and warned against the encroaching influence of what was then termed as the US’s ‘Military-Industrial Complex. ’Speaking of the growing synergy between the US Military and the US’s fast rising defense and arms industry, President Eisenhower (himself a highly decorated former US General) had taken both time and considerable thought to highlight what he believed was a grave threat to the ideals of peace and prosperity for which the United States had stood for within the Post-War scenario. What’s more, he had said it right in the middle of the Cold War at a time when the US was engaged in an arms race for survival with the Soviet Union.
Six decades later, as one surmises the far-reaching impacts of the same Military Industrial Complex on the present day’s international politics, President Eisenhower’s warning seems more like the realization of a cryptic prophecy more than anything. In fact it has become increasingly difficult to find a parallel to the way the intersection of money and power affects global peace and prosperity, the way it is affected by the intersection of defense and foreign policy at the hands of the world’s arms industries.
This is best exemplified today by how lucrative arms contracts at the state level have increasingly come to take growing precedence over key foreign policy decisions, particularly by the world’s major powers. Thus, it is no secret that the world’s foremost arms importers enjoy considerably close ties with their suppliers. This is markedly apparent in the long history of close ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia which have increased manifold since the latter recently took over India as the World’s largest arms importer. The importance given to Saudi Arabia’s defense contracts in the US is such that the entire diplomatic fallout from the Jamal Khashoggi affair last year was presented as an unnecessary inconvenience by none other than President Trump himself.
The same bonhomie is also visible in the US’s growing defense and strategic ties with India. As the top importer of arms for the entire previous decade, India’s lucrative market for arms contracts is fuelled by its fast rising economy as well as its need to modernize its aging soviet-era platforms.
Whereas the bulk of India’s military hardware is sourced from Russian defense manufacturers, US defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing have consistently eyed gaining a wider share of the Indian market. This includes the delivery of the first of 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook helicopters made to the Indian Air force earlier this month. It also includes a similar deal that was recently signed between the United States and India to purchase 24 Sea Hawk helicopters to further expand the latter’s naval capabilities.
Yet, perhaps the most lucrative opportunity for US defense contractors coming out of India is the Indian Air Force’s latest tender for 114 fighter aircraft to replace its soviet era MiG squadrons. Worth around $18 billion, the Indian government’s requirements are based around developing an indigenous production base built on large-scale transfers of technology, training and maintenance operations. With the long-term goal of reducing its dependence on imports and developing its own local arms industry, India’s requirements thus extend beyond the mere procurement of platforms. Instead, they involve a unique opportunity for the world’s foremost arms manufacturers to gain a long-term foothold within the Indian market, while simultaneously investing in the country’s rapid economic growth.
These aspects are clearly evident in Lockheed Martin’s most recent sales pitch to India regarding the F-21 Fighter Aircraft. Offered as an exclusive India only upgrade of the widely used F-16fighter aircraft, the F-21 is being marketed as a highly viable solution to India’s modernization needs. With its production line planned on being based in India, Lockheed is aiming to build on last year’s announcement that it would be transferring the production of the F-16’s wings to its joint facilities in India by 2020.
If carried through, these developments are likely to have a serious impact on the trajectory of US-India relations for many decades to come. This in turn would also significantly affect both China’s and Russia’s approach to South Asia, particularly with respect to Pakistan. In fact much of the discourse on the development of Indo-US military ties is already based directly on the US’s strategic rivalry with China over the Indo-Pacific region. They very raison d’être for the Quadrilateral alliance, and the re-designation of the US Military’s Pacific Command to the ‘Indo-Pacific Command’ are all cases in point.
However, going back to President Eisenhower’s warning over the encroaching influence of the US’s Military-Industrial Complex, the above developments assume a slightly different context when viewed from the perspective of the US’s powerful defense lobby. That while the benefits of supplanting Russian defense contractors with US ones within India’s growing arms industry may not be stated as an explicit policy objective by the US State Department or the White House ;there are definitely many in Washington that would wholeheartedly welcome such a scenario.
From a purely realist perspective, many would consider the above developments simply as one of the many instances of real politik that characterize our world today. However, for the few idealists left amongst us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assess whether the US’s major arms agreements are serving as a subordinate corollary to, or a key determining factor of its foreign policy choices. As a super-power that has long predicated its actions on the ideals of maintaining peace, freedom and stability, it is quite troubling to witness its foreign policy so increasingly and unabashedly driven by power, greed and profitability, especially in this day and age.
IISS Research: Europe cannot defend itself without U.S.
International research institutes very often provide assessments which cause just a revolution in the thinking of ordinary people and even politicians. Such reports give impetus to decisive actions and revision of existing strategies and politics.
One of such reports is “Defending Europe: scenario-based capability requirements for NATO’s European members” made by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). An independent open-source high-level assessment of how the defence of Europe, would look if the United States had left NATO and did not contribute militarily has been published in May.
Though it is stated that research paper “does not intend to predict future conflicts nor the intentions of any of the actors involved”, it gives Europe the reasons to rethink situation and take some actions.
The 50-page report applies scenario analysis to generate force requirements, and assesses the ability of NATO’s European member states to meet these requirements.
The experts give two scenarios for the development of events in the absence of financial support from the U.S. The first scenario examined deals with the protection of the global sea lines of communication (SLOCs). In this scenario, the United States has withdrawn from NATO and has also abandoned its role of providing global maritime presence and protection, not just for its own national interest but also as an international public good. It thus falls to European countries to achieve and sustain a stable maritime-security environment in European waters and beyond, to enable the free flow of international maritime trade, and to protect global maritime infrastructure. The IISS assesses that European NATO members would have to invest between US$94 billion and US$110bn to fill the capability gaps generated by this scenario.
The second scenario deals with the defence of European NATO territory against a state-level military attack. In this scenario, tensions between Russia and NATO members Lithuania and Poland escalate into war after the US has left NATO. Russia uses its ally Belarus to deploy troops in its territory.
Belarus (borders Poland and Lithuania) puts its armed forces on alert, its military and air-defence command and control (C2) structures are integrated into Russian networks, and there is a limited mobilisation of reserves. Russian logistic, air defence and C2 units deploy to Belarus, as does the full 1st Guards Tank Army and an air-assault brigade.
This war results in the Russian occupation of Lithuania and some Polish territory seized by Russia. Invoking Article V, the European members of NATO direct the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to plan Operation Eastern Shield to reassure Estonia, Latvia and Poland, and other front-line NATO member states, by deterring further Russian aggression. European NATO also prepares and assembles forces for Operation Eastern Storm, a military operation to restore Polish and Lithuanian government control over their territories.
The IISS assesses that European NATO members would have to invest between US$288bn and US$357bn to fill the capability gaps generated by this scenario. These investments would establish a NATO Europe force level that would likely allow it to prevail in a limited regional war in Europe against a peer adversary.
The matter is some of the capabilities provided by US forces, such as logistics and sustainment for land forces, may be relatively straightforward if not cheap to replace.
However others are almost unique to the US, and it would be difficult to substitute European capabilities.
One of the implications of this research is the enduring importance of the US in military terms for the defence of Europe. This study provides a reality check for the ongoing debate on European strategic autonomy.
The IISS assesses that the recapitalisation across the military domains would take up to 20 years, with some significant progress around the ten- and 15-year marks.
Europe should also take into account that though this scenario is only hypothetical, in reality Russia and Belarus continue intensive military training. In October they are going to conduct massive joint military exercise Union Shield 2019 simulating joint military activity in case of armed conflict. There is concern that Europe has capabilities to appropriately react on such activities without the U.S.
In other words, the authors of the report demonstrate the direct dependence of the European countries on the U.S. in military sphere and even prescribe a certain path of action to be pursued by European NATO governments. If Europe really wants to be independent, it should start with increasing its capabilities and break a deep dependence on the U.S. and its money.
Turkey is the Guarantor of Peace in the Black Sea region
The wider Black Sea region—which brings together the littoral states plus neighbouring countries—is experiencing a rapidly shifting security environment that combines large-scale conventional military threats, internationalized civil wars and protracted conflicts, as well as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) challenges. As such, a fragile set of states caught between the Euro-Atlantic community, on the one hand, and Russia and its allies, on the other, has emerged as a key interface between the two security communities.
Since the 1990s, most of the world’s identified cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials—fissile materials, in particular—have been located in countries around the Black Sea. The nuclear security situation in the region is further complicated by the existence of areas with unstable governance and protracted conflicts such as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and areas of Eastern Ukraine since 2014.
The Washington’s open, aggressive behavior in the international arena pushes traditional allies away from it. But despite the escalation of the conflict with Turkey, the United States, being the founding member of NATO, is still pursuing the goal of strengthening its presence in the Black Sea.
main allies of the White House in this region are the leadership of Georgia and
Ukraine, who dream of entry into NATO and accept all the imposed conditions.
However, for more than 80 years the presence of warships of non-Black Sea powers, that could enter the sea via the Bosphorus, has been regulated by the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. According to it, the total non-Black Sea tonnage, with few exceptions, is limited to 15 thousand ships. It prevents the emergence of something more significant there than a detachment of light forces, one or two large warships. At the same time for warships there are restrictions on the class and duration of stay. In particular, ships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the water area for no more than 21 days.
Any attempts to violate this document will be extremely negatively perceived by Turkey, that should be one of the leading players in the region. It is impossible to revise the convention without the consent of Turkey, and only supporting by Ankara country can provide overwhelming superiority in the Black Sea.
In such a situation, the Pentagon considers it possible to use the navigable channel of Istanbul for the passage of American aircraft carriers, that will connect the Marmara and the Black Sea. A channel of about 50 km in length will run parallel to the Bosphorus, while the Montreux Convention will not extend to it. The construction of Channel Istanbul will be completed in 2023.
By the end of construction, everything will depend on the leadership of Turkey. If Ankara concedes and allows the passage of the US Navy aircraft carriers through the new channel, it will surrender all its positions in the Black Sea to the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, NATO member countries (this is not about Bulgaria and Romania) maintain a military presence in the Black Sea region. The Sea Shield 2019 naval drills ended in mid-April, and the reconnaissance ship HMS Echo of the British Royal Navy continues to carry out its mission in the Black Sea.
The US Navy already has 11 atomic high-speed aircraft carriers, each with about 90 aircraft. If we imagine that a small part of them will be placed in the Black Sea, then Russia will receive a defensive response. And then all the terrible scenarios of hostilities are likely to happen.
There is a hope that the Turkish government has enough resilience and determination in confronting the harsh rhetoric of other NATO partners.
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