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EU Army: Desires and Capabilities – a Balancing Game

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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

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Defense

Israel continues its air strikes against Syria after Biden’s inauguration: What’s next?

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A family of four, including two children, died as a result of an alleged Israeli air strike on Hama in northwestern Syria on Friday, January 22, Syrian media said. In addition, four people were injured and three civilian houses were destroyed.

According to a military source quoted by Syrian outlets, Israel launched an air strike at 4 a.m. on Friday from the direction of Lebanese city of Tripoli against some targets on the outskirts of Hama city.

“Syrian air defense systems confronted an Israeli air aggression and shot down most of the hostile missiles,” the source said.

The Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported that there were loud sounds of explosions in the area.

In turn, the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on alleged strikes resulted in the death of Syrian citizens.

Over the past time, Israel significantly stepped up its aerial bombardment. This incident was the fifth in a series of Israeli air attacks on targets in Syria in the past month and the first after the inauguration of the U.S. President Joe Biden. Foreign analysts and military experts said that Tel Aviv intensified air strikes on Syria, taking advantage of the vacuum of power in the United States on the eve of Biden taking office as president.

While the Donald Trump administration turned a blind eye on such aggression, a change of power in the United States could remarkably limit Israel in conducting of military operations against Syria and Iran-affiliated armed groups located there. As it was stated during his presidential campaign, Joe Biden intends to pursue a more conciliatory foreign policy towards Iran. In particular, he unequivocally advocated the resumption of the nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. In this regard, Tel Aviv’s unilateral actions against Iranian interests in Syria could harm Washington’s plans to reduce tensions with Tehran.

By continuing air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, Israel obviously sent a massage to the United States that Tel Aviv will consistently run anti-Iran policy, even if it will be in conflict with the interests of the Joe Biden administration. On the other hand, such Israeli behavior threatens to worsen relations with the United States, its main ally.

In the nearest future, the US reaction on the Israeli belligerent approach toward Iran will likely determine whether the relations between Tehran, Tel Aviv and Washington will get better or the escalation will continue.

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India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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Defense

A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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