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.
What was the success-rate of the April 14th missiles against Syria?
The U.S. and Russia provide diametrically opposite accounts of the percentages of U.S.-and-allied missiles that hit their targets in Syria on the night of April 13th-14th.
On the 14th, Russia’s military said that 71 of the 103 U.S.-and-allied missiles were shot down by Syria. But on this very same day, the U.S. announced that 105 missiles had been launched and “none intercepted.” So: Was the U.S. side’s success-rate 100%, as America claimed; or, instead, 31%, as Russia claimed? This difference is, obviously, huge.
During the subsequent days, U.S.-and-allied media celebrated their side’s alleged victory; for example, on April 22nd, USA Today bannered “105 to 0: Why Syria’s air defenses failed to intercept a single incoming missile”, and reported that:
U.S., French and British forces launched 105 missiles from aircraft and ships at three chemical weapons facilities in Syria last weekend in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack launched by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russia claimed that Syrian defenses knocked down many incoming missiles, but the Pentagon said every weapon hit its intended target, dismissing the Russian comments as a disinformation campaign.
As of yet, the Russian side has not accused the U.S. side of a “disinformation campaign” about this. However, it has stuck to its guns and not backed down about its own, directly opposite, assertions; for example, Russia on April 16th gave a detailed breakdown of the results of the U.S.-and-allied bombing, and reported at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrLvhJnvZJQ (at 1:32:30), “a total of 103 cruise missiles were targeting the Syrian targets, and 71 [missiles] were taken out.” That claim would be a 69% Syrian-and-allied (defensive) success-rate, and a 31% U.S.-and-allied (aggressive) success-rate, on this event, which was the biggest direct military confrontation between Russian and American (and French and UK) forces, ever. This was also, therefore, arguably, the actual start of World War III.
The issue in the wake of the U.S. side’s invasion here — the crucial issue — is the relative functionality of the two sides’ conventional weaponries, and perhaps even more broadly of their militaries: the functionality of, and preparedness for, the conventional stage, preceding the strategic nuclear stage, in WW III. Presumably, after the conventional phase will have its ultimate winner and loser, the loser will suddenly unleash its nuclear forces against the other, so as to avoid defeat. The first side to attack will have the advantage to achieve a nuclear victory. The nuclear phase of the war will be over within around 30 minutes. In military matters, to ‘win’ means simply suffering less damage than does the opponent; and the first to attack will destroy some of the opponent’s retaliatory strategic weapons. Only conventional weaponry is involved at the present stage, the conventional-war phase; but, if things do reach the nuclear stage between these two sides, then even the side that ‘wins’ the war will be far more totally destroyed than even the loser has been in any prior war in history.
On April 25th, a Russian news-site headlined (as autotranslated) “The Russian military showed the remains of downed Coalition missiles in Syria” and reported that:
The Russian Defense Ministry showed the wreckage of the American Tomahawk missiles and European TOOL, the Storm Shadow. At the disposal of the military were large fragments of the engines and control systems, parts of the fuselage. And many of them show visible marks from shrapnel. This proves the fact that the missiles were intercepted by air defense systems.
Although the truth about this matter might not be of much interest to voters in any country, it will matter a great deal to the ruling aristocracies in any countries, such as Turkey, which are now making decisions between buying weapons made by the U.S. side, or else buying weapons made by the Russian side. And those decisions, in turn, will factor heavily into the choosing-up-of-sides in WW III, if neither the U.S nor Russia backs down so that a full-fledged hot war between U.S. and Russia results.
Consequently, the question as to which of these two sides is lying, is geostrategically very important. If Russia is telling the truth, then the sway will be favorable to Russia; if America is telling the truth, America will benefit.
Also: ever since the U.S. misrepresented the evidence regarding “Saddam’s WMD” in the lead-up to America’s 2003 invasion-and-occupation of Iraq, the question as to whether or not the assertions by the U.S. Government are lies is at least as severe as is the question as to whether the Russian Government lies. Presumably, both sides do (though one side might be lying far more than does the other); but, the question here concerns, in particular, military matters, and even the fate of the world. Lying in order to ‘justify’ an invasion is as serious a matter as exists, anywhere, anytime; and, if the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons will determine that the U.S.-and-allied invasion of Syria on April 14th was likewise based upon lies, then the consequences of what happened in that invasion will be even larger than merely the military competencies of the two respective sides.
On April 25th, Russia’s Sputnik News bannered “OPCW Finds No Chemical Weapons at Syrian Facilities Bombed by US – Russian MoD”, and so it’s not only the U.S. side’s military competency that is yet to be determined, but — again, as had happened in 2003 Iraq — whether or not the U.S. now routinely lies in order to ‘justify’ its invasions. That might turn out to be an issue of interest not only to the ruling aristocracies, but to their respective subjects.
Perhaps neither of the two sides will back down as between there having been an American missiles-success-rate of 100%, or of 31%, but the OPCW represents a higher authority than does any nation; it represents, in fact, 192 nations. If the finding by the OPCW turns out to confirm the U.S. Government’s accusation (that Syria’s government had used chemicals on April 7th against its own people) which was used to justify the April 14th invasion, then the invasion will retroactively thereby receive at least some degree of moral, if not legal, confirmation. But if the finding turns out to disconfirm that accusation, then the April 14th invasion will be seen instead as a smaller version of George W. Bush’s and Tony Blair’s clearly illegal and unjustified 20 March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Repeating that type of invasion, now, even though far smaller than happened in 2003, would indicate to the entire world that the United States is an enduring and systematic threat to world peace. The stakes are high for both sides, regardless of what the finding by the OPCW turns out to be.
Negating Nuclear Bluff
The war of words between India and Pakistan’s militaries prove that both South Asian nuclear states are intertwined in a traditional security competition. Indian Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, while delivering the annual Army dinner, stated:”We will call the (nuclear) bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff.” Such statements of calling the ‘nuclear bluff’, ‘increased cross- border firing by Indian forces, which coupled with the proclamation of surgical strikes can lead to crisis instability in the region.
Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor responded to the Indian army chief’s ‘nuclear bluff’ assertion by saying that such statements are unbecoming from a person of a responsible stature. He further stated that “Well, it’s their choice. Should they wish to test our resolve they may try and see it for them..…Pakistan’s credible nuclear deterrence is the only thing stopping India from a war.” Such statements by the Indian military officials, and a quick calculated response from Pakistan, have raised the concerns of security analysts regarding the regional security and strategic dynamics.
It could be an appropriate tactic of General Bipin for securing finances for the modernization of the Army, but an absurd and destabilizing statement for the strategic stability in South Asia. According to the analysts, such statements by Indian military officials can lead to crisis instability and force the Pakistan to hasten its evolution towards war fighting nuclear doctrine. Another alarming reality is that General Bipin has failed to realize the repercussions of misreading Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability and too much confidence in India’s Cold Start Doctrine. Hence, Pakistan’s successful test of the ‘submarine-launched cruise missile Babur (SLCM Babur)’ can be viewed as a befitting response to India.
According to Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Babur is submarine-launched cruise missile with range of 450 km. It was fired “from an underwater dynamic platform” and “successfully engaged its target with precise accuracy; meeting all … flight parameters”. The development of Babur (SLCM) is a significant component of a “credible second-strike capability” and a step towards reinforcing Pakistan’s policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence through self-reliance and indigenization.
Previously, on January 9, 2017, Pakistan conducted its first successful test of indigenously developed submarine launched cruise missile Babur-III. Babur-III is also advanced, mature and indigenously developed series of cruise missiles. The First test of Babur-III was considered by Pakistan’ security planners as a major milestone and a right step in right direction towards reliable second strike capability. After the successful test of Babur-III, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, while congratulating the nation and the military on the first successful test-fire of the Submarine Launched Cruise Missile stated: “The successful test of Babur-3 is a manifestation of Pakistan’s technological progress and self-reliance.” He added: “Pakistan always maintains policy of peaceful co-existence but this test is a step towards reinforcing policy of credible minimum deterrence.” Therefore successful test of Babur-III, submarine launched cruise missile finalized the triad of Pakistan’s nuclear forces and second test of Babar on March 9, 2018 has enhanced Pakistan’s deterrence based on Second Strike Capability.
Another significant factor which forced Pakistan to acquire Second Strike Capability is India’s doctrinal transformation as it is clearly transforming its Nuclear Doctrine. New trends are emerging in India’s nuclear strategy as it is moving towards a ‘first-use’ or even a ‘first-strike nuclear strategy’. India’s nuclear doctrine is based on the ‘strategic ambiguity’, therefore it has been anticipated that India is shifting its nuclear strategy towards ‘counterforce targets’ rather than ‘counter value targets’. The second emerging trend is that India is moving towards the strategy of “First Use” or “Preemptive strike” from the “No-First Use strategy”. The abandoning of no first-use, development of missiles defense shield, fake claims of surgical strikes and calling the nuclear bluff are developments that are perilous for the regional security. Indeed, such events have forced Pakistan to maintain deterrence through qualitative and quantitative developments in nuclear forces. In the strategic landscape of South Asia, the presence of Pakistan’s credible second-strike capability is imperative for the continuity of the strategic stability between/among strategic competitors: India and Pakistan.
Subsequently, harsh statements by Indian military, its shifting nuclear doctrines and maturing sea based/ballistic missile defense developments capabilities are threatening for Pakistan. Such developments by India have been countered by Pakistan by carrying out two tests of nuclear-capable missiles, ‘Babur-3’ submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and ‘Babar’. Pakistan’s tests of SLCM has further reinforced the debate on South Asian maritime security, second-strike capability and missile defense technologies in the regional landscape. To conclude, it’s impossible for the Indians to alter the strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. Though Islamabad is not matching the Indian conventional military buildup, yet it is gradually advancing its nuclear arsenal. Hence, Pakistan’s successful test of indigenous Submarine Launched Cruise (SLC) Missile ‘Babur’ has negated India’s desire to call Pakistan’s ‘nuclear bluff’ and has augmented the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence strategy. Addition of ‘Babur’ in Pakistan’s military inventory confirms that Pakistan armed forces are prepared to thwart any kind of Indian armed forces military adventurism.
A Likely Path to Nuclear Annihilation
U.S. President Donald Trump asserted on the morning of April 12th, “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” This statement from him is interpreted here as constituting a public promise from him to start the overt phase of America’s invasion of sovereign Syrian territory, no longer just continue the prior phase, which has relied instead upon America’s proxy forces, which originally were the ones that were led by (U.S.-Saudi-Qatari-UAE supplied and armed) Al Qaeda in Syria, but increasingly now are Syria’s Kurds, which have taken control over a third of Syrian territory, in Syria’s northeast. This area includes the oil-producing region, from Deir Ezzor northward, and the conquest would cripple Syria’s economic future, so that U.S-Saudi control of the entire country would be only a matter of time.
On April 4th, Emily Burchfield, a program assistant at the Atlantic Council — NATO’s leading PR agency — headlined the following, in order to explain the U.S. military’s (i.e., NATO’s) objectives in Syria (and the whole headline-bloc is quoted here, because it succinctly states the article itself): Analysis: Washington Still Has Work to Do in Former ISIS Territories
Before the U.S. pulls out of Syria, Washington needs to address a governance gap left in some former ISIS territories. Otherwise, marginalized Arab communities will likely ally with the Syrian government or extremist forces, writes Emily Burchfield of the Atlantic Council.
The U.S. military, in other words, cannot accept that “marginalized Arab communities” will “ally with the Syrian government.” Analogous within the United States itself would be if some foreign power refused to accept that “marginalized White communities” will “ally with the U.S. government.” In other words: this is clearly a military demand (a demand that came to be expressed here by a paid employee of NATO’s top PR agency, the Atlantic Council) to break up the country.
Whereas the prior U.S. President, Barack Obama, had tried everything short of all-out direct military invasion — as contrasted to indirect invasion by U.S. proxy armies of jihadist mercenaries — in order to conquer or at least to break up Syria, the current U.S. President, Trump, is resorting now to the direct military invasion route: he’s taking the path that Obama had declined to take.
Syria’s allies are Iran and Russia. These allies have enabled Syria to survive this long, and they all would be capitulating to the U.S. if they accepted the U.S. military invasion of Syria. For them to do that, would be for them to display, to the entire world, that the United States is their master. The U.S. Empire would, in effect, be official, no longer merely aspirational.
In the case of Russia, since it is the other nuclear super-power, this would be not just a surrender to the other nuclear super-power, but also Russia’s doing that without even waging a conventional-forces war against the U.S. Empire. That is extremely unlikely.
Consequently, Russia is probably now (on April 12th) coordinating with Iran, and with its allies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, a conventional-forces war against the invaders.
If that conventional-forces war inflicts more damage to U.S.-and-allied forces than they inflict against Syria, that would, in military terms, constitute a “military defeat” for the U.S.
This would leave the U.S. only two options:
Either accept that Russia is another nuclear super-power (which the U.S. Deep State has refused to accept), and end the previously subterranian war to conquer it that was started by George Herbert Walker Bush on the night of 24 February 1990, or else blitz-attack Russia itself in order to eliminate enough of Russia’s retaliatory weapons so as to ‘win’ the nuclear war — i.e., inflict even more destruction upon Russia than Russia would still possess and control the surviving weaponry to inflict against America in response.
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