On November 6, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his call for creating a “European army,” “real pan-European armed forces.” According to Paris, the EU needs an army to protect itself, “taking into account Russia, China and even the United States”. Speaking at the European Parliament a few days later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel generally endorsed Macron’s idea reiterating Berlin’s proposal for the creation of a European Security Council. US President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were quick to criticize the Franco-German initiative, emphasizing the need to maintain the priority of the North Atlantic Alliance. Austria and the Netherlands have also spoken against.
High-ranking officials in France and Germany have been increasingly in favor of bolstering the “European defense identity” since May 2017 when, in the wake of the first NATO summit, attended by the newly-elected US President Donald Trump, Angela Merkel said that Europe could no longer rely on America. Even though this caused an initial stir among European politicians and experts, the idea has since gained traction becoming a mainstream one. The outcome of the 2018 NATO summit only heightened Europeans’ fears that, after the end of the Cold War, the geopolitical interests of the United States in Europe are to undermine Europeans’ competitiveness in the world.
Moreover, in the context of current transatlantic relations, i.e. due to the upcoming changes in US foreign policy following the midterm congressional elections and the easily predictable clash with Democrats in the House of Representatives, fraught with bogging down the president’s legislative agenda, the international arena is becoming a place where Donald Trump can showcase his political adeptness to his.
Moreover, restoring trust with Europe and other traditional allies can not only smooth out inter-party frictions in Washington, but can also generate a positive emotional response from the American public. Having this in mind, Europeans would certainly need to show their determination to move towards strategic autonomy as an additional bargaining chip.
Another important tactical factor for the EU leadership and the leading EU countries is the coming year 2019, when Europeans will be electing a new president of the European Commission, president of the European Council, head of the ECB, and hold elections in May for a new European Parliament. The informal coalition of advocates of revival of national sovereignty is gaining strength in the EU. Backed by the governments of several Central and Eastern European countries, one of the leaders of the current Italian government, “nationalist” Matteo Salvini, may challenge the “globalists” led by French President Macron and turn the European Parliament into a bastion of euroskeptics already next summer. Under the circumstances, the agenda for creating a common army allows EU leaders to replace the subject of national sovereignty return with the one of gaining sovereignty for Europe.
Meanwhile, the issue of pan-European military construction has been studied for quite some time now and with good reason too. Despite all its strategic might and active formal involvement in the war on terror, NATO has proved itself incapable of playing a significant role in combating new threats to European security such as local network terrorism and humanitarian challenges. The avalanche-like influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, including victims of forced “democratization” of “rogue states,” some NATO members actively participated in, has left the European Union bitterly divided, precipitating Britain’s decision to leave the EU and even raising doubts about the very future of a united Europe.
Besides, Europeans have grown tired of being in a state of nervous uncertainty caused by Donald Tramp’s “blackmail of Europe with the US’ withdrawal from NATO.” The current situation where without the US NATO practically loses its combat capability, turns Europe into America’s hostage when it comes to security matters. This also prevents the EU from acting more independently even in Europe, let alone the world.
“European sovereignty” is thus becoming a major priority for the EU leaders. In late August, Emmanuel Macron and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas both emphasized the need for Europe to pay a new role and “strengthen” its position in the new balance of forces emerging in the world. Macron spoke about the need for the EU to “guarantee its own security,” and Maas mentioned a “sovereign and strong Europe” as a foreign policy priority for Berlin.
“I do not believe that China and the United States think that Europe has a level of independence comparable to their own. If we fail to build it, then we are preparing a dark future for ourselves,” Macron warned.
The two leading EU countries, Germany and France, are clearly concerned about the growing challenges to their leadership. Many in Europe traditionally perceive Russia’s and China’s growing assertiveness in the world as a “threat” and “increasing pressure.” However, even in NATO “with the exception of Poland and the Baltic countries, other members see no signs of Moscow planning an offensive. By contrast, NATO members in southern Europe insist on paying more attention to the southern borders of the alliance,” the German daily newspaper recently wrote . Moreover, it was not Russia that set in motion the process of scrapping the INF Treaty Europe has benefitted from for many decades.
Meanwhile, Washington is clearly trying to drive a wedge between Berlin and Paris. And also supports euroskeptics throughout the continent. As a result, Germany is “balancing on the brink of a trade and economic war” with the United States, and from within the basic foundations of European unity are being challenged by “populists and supporters of authoritarianism.” Thus, Germany objectively needs a more “thorough” military policy in order to be “taken seriously”, both in Europe and elsewhere in the world. In his turn, French President Emmanuel Macron seems to be quickly losing illusions about his ability to build “partnership” relations with the current occupant of the White House.
Finally, Paris, Berlin and Brussels have not yet abandoned their plans for further centralization of power in the EU. However, in this case Germany would inevitably increase its clout. Meanwhile, mindful of their extremely controversial “historical legacy” the majority of Germany’s neighbors, namely the “small” European countries, are increasingly gravitating towards the United States – even to the detriment of the European agenda. The EU needs a structure capable of providing its members with “political protection against each other” comparable to that of the US. Hypothetically, the “EU army” is capable of playing exactly such a role. In any case, Paris and Berlin are apparently mulling a similar option.
That being said, there still remain a number of serious obstacles on the way of practical implementation of the plans for independent military construction in Europe. Therefore, it is absolutely unclear if anyone in the EU is able to assume the role of the military-political leader of Europe. Britain has always been opposed to the idea of a European army. However, being the strongest military power among all EU countries, it has served as one of the main guarantors of the Union’s security. But Britain is now leaving the EU. The German defense policy is in a state of prostration, and some of the leading political forces now want to mend fences with Russia. France’s military resources are increasingly focused on fighting the terrorist threat, both at home and in Africa.
Besides, the EU’s two leading powers – Germany and France – are deeply divided over the issue of European military construction. Paris’s foreign ambitions, especially under the new president, are way bigger than Germany’s, fueled by the country’s nuclear potential, the status of a permanent member of the UN Security and the size of its GDP. In the case of Germany, however, any drastic unilateral military buildup can only add to fears of the revival of the “German diktat”. As a result, while generally supporting the French idea of the “European army”, Berlin is strongly opposed to its use outside the EU. France, in turn, is skeptical about Merkel’s ideas about the EU getting a seat on the UN Security Council and the formation of a European Security Council with a view to enhancing the EU’s role in global politics.
Not all EU members endorsed the recent initiatives put forward by Macron and Merkel. Austria has already officially rejected the idea of a European army, citing its neutral status, and the Netherlands has proposed maintaining NATO’s leading role in European defense policy. In the US, there is an opinion that the European project is on the brink of collapse. Under these circumstances, Washington is being invited to present NATO as a new unifier of Europe since even Hungary, Poland and Italy, which are getting increasingly skeptical about the EU, the idea of NATO membership remains “very popular”. And last, but not least, Poland’s persistent desire to deploy a US military base on its territory outside the framework of the formal mechanisms of the North Atlantic alliance is an indirect sign of mistrust of the military prospects not only of the EU, but even of NATO.
At this point in time it is hard to foresee what exactly could have unpredictable consequences for European security – the EU, which is cracking at the seams and “grasping” at NATO’s “straw, or an EU “reformatted” under the auspices of an autonomous military machine with an ambitious French “driver” and a solid German “engine”. It seems that acquisition by the EU of its own military capability could help Europeans get rid of a number of geopolitical hang-ups, above all vis-à-vis Russia. At the same time, this would not enable Brussels to singlehandedly “maintain or stabilize peace” on the continent. Acting alone, Western organizations, such as NATO or the European Union, cannot adequately respond to security challenges, because they do not include all European countries. Unilateral military alliances or coalitions only weaken the “unity of the common security space.”
Russia’s position remains constructive, unchanged and consistent: European security is indivisible, and attempts to “ensure its security at the expense of others” are doomed to failure.
First published in our partner International Affairs
Nuclear Weapons: How Safe Are We?
Some sixty years ago, American psychologist Abraham Maslow formulated a five tier hierarchy of needs. First, food and shelter followed by safety and so on, not that each need had to be satisfied fully to move to the next.
It might explain why thousands marched in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1950s when bellicose threats by leaders were not uncommon. Among the more notorious was Khruschev’s, ‘We’ll bury you,’ in 1956 during the Suez adventure by Britain, France and Israel. They seized the Canal after the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had nationalized the controlling Suez Canal Company. Receiving no support from President Eisenhower, they somewhat shamefacedly retreated.
If one presumes all of those tensions were over with detente, then political and economic rivalries compounded by spheres of influence and their expansion have been overlooked. Thus to Ukraine with President Vladimir Putin unable to retreat further when NATO attempted to plant a dagger in the heart of Russia.
Well, some of the tensions have returned, and while an all-out nuclear war is still unthinkable, it can happen by miscalculation. For example, when one side deploys tactical weapons that a commander in an asymmetric war is unable to resist using against a large grouping of elusive combatants.
If fewer nuclear weapons are more desirable, the question remains, how few? Hence the START treaty signed by George Bush (Senior) and Mikhail Gorbachev although proposed originally by Ronald Reagan. It removed 80 percent of their nuclear weapons. So how many nuclear weapons are there in the world thirty years later, and how safe are we?
According to the latest count, Russia possesses 6,257 nuclear weapons of which 4587 are operational. In numerous ICBM silos and 11 nuclear submarines that can patrol close to U.S. shores, it is a formidable arsenal.
Of course the world has changed and Russia has removed all of its nuclear weapons from Ukraine. At the same time, it is developing new weapons and new delivery methods. This includes the very serious threat of a nuclear-propelled cruise missile with unlimited range. A very serious threat because cruise missiles can fly close to the ground under the radar. There is also Sarmat, a new ballistic missile capable of carrying up to 15 nuclear warheads, each with its own target. Thus a single missile could destroy just about all US major cities.
So what has the US been up to? It has 5600 nuclear weapons of which 3700 are operational. ICBMs based both in the US and the territory of its NATO allies place some of these next door to Russia. The very limited warning time requires a hair trigger response and should give us pause. Let’s hope Putin is not enjoying a sauna at the time and some general frightened with a use-it or lose-it scenario decides to let loose and save his motherland.
Then there are the other countries: UK (200 nuclear weapons), France (300), China (350), India (160), Pakistan (165), Israel (90), and last but now least North Korea (45). With all of this, how safe does one feel? An exchange between any of them — India and Pakistan come to mind — would cause a nuclear winter and mass starvation.
The real problem is that a small country with a large more powerful neighbor — again Pakistan and India — achieves a measure of equality or perhaps a stalemate through nuclear weapons, and thus security. It would be very difficult to persuade Pakistan (or for that matter Israel) to relinquish its nuclear arsenal. Perhaps the best safety lies in an inclusive non-threatening world.
CSTO anniversary summit: New challenges and threats
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has marked its 30th year, at anniversary summit hosted by Moscow, with renewed multilateral documents strictly tasking its members forge a united security bloc to fight for territorial sovereignty and integrity, and against the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). At least, one of the landmarked achievements is, if anything at all, its establishment and existence in the political history of member states.
After the collapse of the Soviet era that consequently witnessed all the 16 Soviet republics attaining their political independence, only six of them by agreement became what is referred to as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It is a dreamed replica of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
During the meeting held on May 16, at the suggestion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the CIS will receive observer status at the CSTO, according to various official reports. It implies that CSTO will undergo steadily, of not urgent expansion in numerical strength. Despite the sharp political differences, vast levels of economic development and all kinds of social difficulties, the CSTO currently is made of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
Reports say the Collective Security Treaty Organization stands for solving international problems by political and diplomatic means, a statement by the CSTO Collective Security Council on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the organization said.
“With the appropriate capacity to ensure the security and stability of member states, the organization firmly believes that there is no alternative to the solution of existing international problems by political and diplomatic means and gives priority to the development of coordinated approaches to the problems of improving the international situation, countering threats and challenges faced by Member States of the CSTO,” the statement published on the Kremlin’s website reads.
The statement notes that the peacekeeping operation in Kazakhstan in January “has confirmed the readiness of the collective forces (of the CSTO) to effectively solve the problems of ensuring the security of its member states,” and demonstrated to the international community the ability to quickly deploy and conduct missions, “thereby demonstrating the high status of the CSTO in the system of international and regional organizations.”
At the same time, according to the statement, during the period since the signing of the Collective Security Treaty, international relations in conditions of fragmentation of the world community “are increasingly characterized by the aggravation of tension.”
According to the materials prepared by the Kremlin, the member states aim at deeper military cooperation and more efficient interaction on an entire range of current and new challenges and threats, including those emanating from Afghanistan. The focus is also on the problem of biosecurity, as well as on enhancing their collective security system, peacekeeping potential, and mechanisms of rapid response to crises, heeding the experience the organization gained during its peacekeeping operation in Kazakhstan.
Besides the group summit, Putin held separate bilateral interaction in a working breakfast format which was reportedly focused on forging ways toward deeping and strengthening military cooperation, and further on the situation in Ukraine. The Collective Security Council is the supreme body of the CSTO. It includes the heads of the states that are members of the organization.
It follows therefore that Vladimir Putin held these separate bilateral meetings with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov and President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon.
Putin at the bilateral meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, noted that Moscow and Yerevan saw a good growth in bilateral trade in 2021, and both agreemed to maintain regular contact “on all issues on the bilateral agenda and on regional problems.” Russia and Armenia plan to continue their joint efforts to settle the Karabakh problem in the trilateral format, together with the partners from Azerbaijan.
Putin at the bilateral meeting with President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov praised relations between the two countries, noting there are issues requiring further detailed discussion. “Now there is an opportunity to talk about our bilateral relations,” Putin said. “There are many questions, but I would like to note right away that, on the whole, our relations are developing positively.”
The president highlighted a “rather serious” increase in trade between the two countries last year, which climbed by more than 30%. “Russia confidently occupies the first position in trade by Kyrgyzstan. There are, of course, issues that require a separate discussion,” he said. “I am very glad that on the sidelines of our international event today we can talk about these issues.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko strongly suggested, at the opening of the summit, the CSTO members step up political cooperation to resist foreign pressures and further warned that “opponents and foes” were systematically shaking loose the basis and relations of alliance. “In this respect we play into the hands of the West in a sense. I am certain that if we presented a common front, there would have never been what they call ‘sanctions from hell’,” he stressed.
“Stronger political cooperation and coordination by the CSTO member-states. The effectiveness of the mechanism of foreign policy and security consultations must be increased. We should speak out on behalf of the CSTO on international platforms more often to make the organization’s voice and stance well-heard and seen. There must be a common voice and a common stance, the way they are in the West,” he said.
Lukashenko noted that the West has been waging a full-fledged hybrid war against Belarus and Russia. “The unipolar world order is becoming a thing of the past, yet the collective West is waging an aggressive war to defend its positions. It is using all means, including in our organization’s zone of responsibility – from threatening the use of NATO weapons along our western borders to waging a full-fledged hybrid war, primarily against Russia and Belarus.”
He described NATO as “aggressively building up its muscles” with the aim of seeking to include neutral countries and acting under the you-are-either-with-us-or-against-us principle and “is hypocritically continuing to declare its defensive nature. The Collective Security Treaty Organization’s really defensive and peaceful position stands in contrast against this backdrop. It is evident that not a single country is a threat to the North Atlantic bloc.”
On the Russia-Belarus Union, he noted that Belarus’ participation ion the Union with Russia and in the CSTO has sobered up its potential opponents in the West. “Otherwise, I am afraid a hot war might have been unleashed in Belarus. By the way, they tried to do it back in 2020,” he added.
According to a joint statement by the leaders that was adopted, it noted to ensure the security of its borders amid an alarming situation in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region. “The situation in Afghanistan and on other external frontiers of the CSTO member-states is alarming,” the statement said. “In connection with this, we express readiness to maintain security at the borders within the CSTO’s zone of responsibility.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, local Russian newspaper, reported that the attendees noted the significant role of the CSTO and peacekeeping forces in quashing the January insurrection in Kazakhstan, and also assessed the global situation and the topic of NATO’s expansion. President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus noted that the members of the organization do not have unity. Some of them support the West’s actions against Moscow. He stated that “Russia should not fight alone against the expansion of NATO.”
Director of the East-West Strategy analytical center Dmitry Orlov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the CSTO is still not active enough. “In general, the CSTO still justified itself, but with some nuance. Not all members of the organization quickly and unconditionally decided to participate in peacekeeping missions. In particular, Kyrgyzstan argued for a long time whether to send their military to quell the protests that erupted over economic problems. The CSTO showed that the only guarantor of the security of the Central Asian region is Russia, because it had the largest contingent,” the expert said, adding that the post-Soviet security bloc did not become a serious alternative to NATO.
However, the organization may have a future, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin predicted the expansion of the association. According to him, the number of participants will increase to dozens of countries.
Chairman of the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly, Speaker of the State Duma (lower house of legislators) Vyacheslav Volodin congratulated the speakers of the parliaments of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan on the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty.
“The CSTO has proven its effectiveness as a guarantor of regional stability, protection of the independence and sovereignty of the member states. Today, the organization serves as a dependable deterrent to the challenges and threats posed by international terrorism and extremism. The CSTO contributes significantly to the battle against drug trafficking and weapons, organized transnational crime, illegal migration,” Volodin was quoted on the website of the State Duma.
Volodin stated that the CSTO peacekeepers’ efficiency in supporting Kazakhstan in stabilizing the situation in January of this year indicates the organization’s maturity.
The CSTO is an international security organization, which currently includes six member-states: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. On May 15, 1992, in Tashkent, the leaders of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (which is no longer a member of the CSTO since 2012) signed the treaty establishing the organization. In 1993, Azerbaijan, Georgia (both countries left the CSTO in 1999) and Belarus joined the organization.
Lithuanian MOD admits Armed Forces capability deficit
According to the last public opinion poll, the trust of Lithuanian residents of the National Armed Forces is continuously growing, and NATO membership is viewed in a highly positive light. The more so, it states that 88% of respondents support allied presence on the territory of Lithuania.
It should be said, that the last report published on kam.lt, the official site of Lithuanian Defence Ministry, was conducted on 16–29 December 2021 when the increasing military expenditures did not influence the national economy as much as they impact it today.
Despite positive reports, even last year the Defence Ministry admitted that the military’s requirement for modern armaments, vehicles, equipment and supplies remains high, given the former lack of funding, increased Lithuanian Armed Forces structure, obsolescence of armaments, equipment and vehicles, and modern technology introduction costs.
The rapid increase in the number of the Lithuanian Armed Forces personnel, the increased volumes of military training and the provision of support by the host country have highlighted the shortcomings of new armaments, equipment and machinery in the units and the existing infrastructure of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The challenges currently facing armament and infrastructure development are due not only to the need for significant financial investment, but also to the legal and technical constraints that need to be addressed.
The Ministry of National Defence admits in its report that there are critical goals that should be achieved to meet national and Allied needs in a timely and high-quality manner:
the critical task is the smooth development of three new military towns (in Šilalė, Šiauliai and Vilnius),
the military training infrastructure must be further expanded by continuing the development of the main landfills of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and making decisions on the establishment of a new landfill;
therefore the focus must be on the development of viable infrastructure, gradually moving to complex development of military towns and abandoning non-viable infrastructure. Systemic solutions are needed for the rapid, high-quality and market-based development of National Defence infrastructure, such as better regulation, in order to accelerate the implementation of projects necessary for national security.
Another big problem for the National Armed Forces is lack of their attractiveness for the youth and the motivation of the soldiers.
Lithuanian military leadership admits either that the National Armed Forces lack sufficient capabilities as a host nation. Thus, Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said capability deficit is a major obstacle for NATO battalion-brigade shift. He stated that the lack of capabilities may become an obstacle to turning battalions deployed in NATO’s eastern countries into brigades.
Lithuania, as well as the contributing countries that send troops to NATO’s forward battalions does not have sufficient capabilities itself. He made a conclusion that Lithuania needs to build them up and assured the allies in the willing to contribute to that as well.
“As if we have a brigade, we can also contribute our share of capabilities to that brigade, which is what the Estonians, for example, are doing”, the minister said.
Lithuania and NATO’s other eastern members are pushing for a decision at the Alliance’s upcoming Madrid summit in June to increase the size of the NATO multinational battalions deployed in the Baltic states and Poland to brigade-sized units. The battalions were deployed here in 2017, and increasing troops in this region is on the table amid regional security concerns.
Thus, the unsatisfactory provision of the Armed Forces and capabilities deficit prevent Lithuanian leadership from achieving its political goals and leaves nothing but ask for additional NATO help. The time is near when the Alliance gets tired of constant demands and will stop funding annoying countries. NATO’s authorities have repeatedly stressed that each country should make the most of its own resources and not rely only on collective defense capabilities.
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