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The European security architecture: fit for purpose?

As Chapters 4, 5 and 6 highlight, the EU, NATO, and the OSCE have had to adapt to the post Cold War security environment. NATO’s transformation has developed in two directions. The first is in ‘going out of area’, by deploying expeditionary armed forces. This occurred initially in the Balkans in the 1990s. Significantly, however, NATO assumed leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2003 (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2015). It also launched Operation Ocean Shield, an anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden, in 2009, and Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011. This led to a debate regarding NATO’s balancing of roles between this and its traditional Article Five collective defence task (Bunde and Noetzel, 2010; Yost, 2010). This is particularly pertinent considering Russia’s current propensity to actively protect its sphere of influence, if necessary through the use of force, as the Ukraine conflict aptly demonstrated. Indeed, it appears that these two roles have been re-balanced in favour of the latter, which connects to the focus of some of NATO’s Central and Eastern Europe member states. The second area relates to NATO’s addition of a civilian dimension. Again, its Afghanistan experience was particularly instructive here. In particular, the creation of Provisional Reconstruction Teams, which began to be deployed in Afghanistan in 2003, integrated military and civilian personnel in order to carry out, inter alia, reconstruction tasks and humanitarian assistance (Maley, 2007). Indeed, the combination of military and civilian crisis management tools was stressed in NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2010, pp. 19-22). It has also involved NATO embracing UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security, surprisingly ahead of the EU (see Chapter 9). None the less, this has been done in a highly instrumentalised way to make NATO operations more ‘effective’ (Wright, 2016, p. 351). The question is whether both the civilian dimension and gender mainstreaming will be sidelined due to the renewed focus on collective defence, particularly as there is no consideration of gender in the latter. Indeed, NATO has returned to its Cold War focus.

The EU’s security and defence journey has been one of creating institutions and initiatives without always finding the subsequent necessary political willingness to create capabilities or deploy operations. From the high hopes of the late 1990s, the mid-2000s onwards have proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. The problem is that EU member states diverge on the use of force in particular, meaning that potential military operations that have come up for discussion have not always been deployed. This has led to an undermining of the perception of the EU as a security provider, particularly post Libya (Menon, 2011). EU member states’ failure to close defence capability gaps is also noteworthy, although the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the election of Donald Trump as US President and the UK’s decision to leave the EU (Brexit), has focused minds in Brussels. Hence, since June 2016 when the latter was announced, along with the publication of the EU Global Strategy, a raft of new and resurrected initiatives designed to increase defence capabilities has been announced (see Chapter 6). Therefore, the EU is moving once again in a military rather than civilian direction. Thus, both NATO and the EU are shifting away from the civilian dimension towards military considerations due to the security threats on Europe’s border.

With the unpredictability of Donald Trump, questions are being raised as to whether the transatlantic relationship, which Howorth (2010, p. 462) refers to as ‘that 20th-Century lifejacket for Europeans in distress’, can be relied upon. This leaves Europe with one option: to provide for its own security.

Once again this poses questions for EU-NATO burden sharing, and, in particular, unnecessary duplication between the two organisations. However, with NATO’s renewed focus on Article Five and deterrence it appears unlikely that duplication will occur. Moreover, despite the EU’s increased rhetoric around becoming more capable, this has yet to materialise in terms of increased political willingness to deploy substantive military operations. Indeed, of the 16 current EU missions and operations, ten are civilian, six are military and, of the latter, three are military training missions (European External Action Service, 2017, p. 2). Whether Europeans are becoming serious about defence will depend on the success of the current raft of capability initiatives to deliver results and subsequently to be used where necessary in conjunction with civilian elements. It is the EU’s comprehensive approach to security that is its ‘value added’ component, considering it is the only one of Europe’s institutions to possess both military and civilian capabilities.

The OSCE is the only European institution to incorporate both Russia and the USA. However, beyond this, the institution’s distinctiveness is being challenged. As highlighted in Chapter 5, NATO has taken over arms control discussions, while the CSDP has been making incursions into areas traditionally associated with the OSCE, not least in the frozen conflicts of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (Galbreath and Gebhard, 2010). Hence, we could argue that the OSCE is undergoing a ‘fight for relevance’ in the current security environment. None the less, considering the broad membership of the OSCE, and its specialisations in such areas as the protection of minorities and free media, as well as its ‘quiet diplomacy’ (see Chapter 5), the OSCE still has a role to play. However, the question remains as to how far Russian incursions into Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea have had an impact on the functioning of the OSCE.

Overall, post Cold War, the European institutional security architecture has undergone a degree of overlap and, thus, potential competition, regarding their security and defence roles as well as geographically where they operate. Despite this, there are still clear distinctions between them and recent events have iterated these. NATO has returned to its Article Five, territorial defence focus. Primarily, this is due to Russia’s increased interest in militarily protecting what it considers to be its sphere of influence. However, it also reflects the completion of ISAF in Afghanistan, which was its primary out-of-area operation. In contrast, the EU has the comprehensive approach to security that combines both military and civilian tools. None the less, despite recent rhetoric it is still primarily a civilian actor operationally. Its geographical operational sphere is focused on Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa, which also sets it apart from NATO. Finally, the OSCE has a broad membership that enables it to engage with these members on areas that the other two institutions do not, as highlighted above. Whether this institutional division of labour provides for Europe’s security is far from certain, considering the external crises engulfing the European continent.

Finding the way out of the (in)security quagmire: security leaders wanted

One of the major problems in finding a way out of Europe’s inactivity relates to the lack of innovation, leadership or adequate response to the serious threats currently undermining European security. What is clear from the above section is that political willingness is the fundamental element that enables or prevents action. However, this has been lacking, particularly in respect to closing European states’ well-known capability gaps, which focus on strategic enablers or deploying rapid reaction operations. While the Ukraine crisis may have partially galvanised NATO into action, the EU is still at the declaratory initiative stage. Here, we need to focus on European leaders, that is, those heads of key NATO, EU and OSCE member states.

As previously highlighted, the election of Donald Trump has proved to be problematic, not least due to a lack of predictability in the USA’s actions. Trump has raised the issue of American-European burden sharing; particularly in the context of defence spending (White House, 2018). As Table 12.1 demonstrates, only five countries, including the USA, currently reach the 2% GDP NATO defence-spending target. However, asking Europeans to do more is neither new nor denotes a desire to become involved in European security issues.

Table 12.1 Defence expenditure as a share of GDP and annual real change

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017 e

2018e

Share of real GDP (%)

NATO Europe

1.55

1.52

1.49

1.44

1.42

1.44

1.46

1.50

Albania

1.53

1.49

1.41

1.35

1.16

1.10

1.11

1.19

Belgium

1.04

1.04

1.01

0.98

0.92

0.92

0.91

0.93

Bulgaria*

1.32

1.34

1.46

1.32

1.26

1.26

1.27

1.56

Croatia

1.60

1.53

1.46

1.40

1.35

1.21

1.27

1.30

Czech Republic

1.07

1.05

1.03

0.95

1.03

0.96

1.04

1.11

Denmark

1.31

1.35

1.23

1.15

1.12

1.17

1.16

1.21

Estonia

1.68

1.90

1.91

1.96

2.05

2.13

2.08

2.14

France

1.86

1.87

1.86

1.82

1.78

1.79

1.78

1.81

Germany

1.28

1.31

1.22

1.18

1.18

1.20

1.24

1.24

Greece

2.38

2.29

2.22

2.21

2.31

2.41

2.38

2.27

Hungary

1.05

1.03

0.95

0.86

0.92

1.02

1.05

1.08

Italy

1.30

1.24

1.20

1.08

1.01

1.12

1.15

1.15

Latvia**

1.01

0.88

0.93

0.94

1.04

1.46

1.69

2.00

Lithuania**

0.79

0.76

0.76

0.88

1.14

1.49

1.73

1.96

Luxembourg

0.39

0.38

0.38

0.38

0.43

0.40

0.52

0.55

Montenegro

1.75

1.66

1.47

1.50

1.40

1.42

1.38

1.58

Netherlands

1.26

1.23

1.16

1.15

1.12

1.15

1.16

1.35

Norway

1.51

1.47

1.48

1.51

1.46

1.54

1.55

1.61

Poland**

1.72

1.74

1.72

1.85

2.22

2.00

1.89

1.98

Portugal

1.49

1.41

1.44

1.31

1.33

1.27

1.24

1.36

Romania**

1.29

1.22

1.28

1.35

1.45

1.41

1.72

1.93

Slovak Republic

1.09

1.09

0.98

0.99

1.13

1.12

1.10

1.20

Slovenia

1.30

1.17

1.05

0.97

0.93

1.00

0.98

1.01

Spain

0.94

1.04

0.93

0.92

0.93

0.81

0.90

0.93

Turkey

1.64

1.59

1.52

1.45

1.39

1.46

1.52

1.68

United Kingdom

2.40

2.17

2.27

2.17

2.06

2.15

2.11

2.10

North America

4.43

4.09

3.77

3.50

3.33

3.33

3.35

3.28

Canada

1.23

1.10

0.99

1.01

1.20

1.15

1.36

1.23

United States

4.78

4.42

4.08

3.77

3.56

3.56

3.57

3.50

NATO Total

2.97

2.81

2.64

2.48

2.39

2.40

2.42

2.40

(North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2018, p. 8)

Notes: Based on 2010 prices. Figures for 2017 and 2018 are estimates. The NATO Europe and NATO Total aggregates from 2017 include Montenegro, which became an ally on 5 June 2017.

  • * Defence expenditure does not include pensions.
  • ** With regard to 2018, these countries have either national laws or political agreements which call for at least 2% of GDP to be spent on defence annually, consequently these estimates are expected to change accordingly.

Indeed, as the Trump-Kim Jong-Un summit highlights, the Asian pivot remains a key component of American foreign policy.

The UK is currently focused on Brexit, which will bring about significant changes in British engagement in Europe, and also potentially in respect to the UK’s position on the world stage. Indeed, as only one of two major military actors in Europe (the other being France), this has the potential to weaken CSDP in terms of diplomatic clout. It also poses the issue of how to continue to develop European defence policy. If Europeans are to go it alone, there is no institutional basis left to act as a foundation, following the termination of the WEU in 2011. In an attempt to address this problem, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, created the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) in 2018 (see Box 12.1). However, creating yet another defence body also indicates the piecemeal nature of security and defence in Europe.

Box 12.1 The European Intervention Initiative (EI2)

Macron's Initiative brings together nine countries, including France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Estonia and Belgium (European Intervention Initiative, 2018). The idea is to enhance Europe's 'collective strategic response' and to

'develop a shared strategic culture, which will enhance our ability, as European states, to carry out military missions and operations' (European Intervention Initiative, 2018, p. 2). Importantly, it sits outside of any of Europe's security organisations, although it can be used in the framework of NATO, the EU, UN or ad hoc coalitions. Hence, it aims to bring together those countries that are able and willing to deploy force when the need arises, without being hamstrung by institutional structures and decision-making processes which hamper such rapid action being taken. It also ensures that the UK remains engaged in European defence as well as encompassing Denmark, which has an opt-out on EU defence policy.

While Macron has taken the lead here, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel - usually known for showing leadership in EU politics - has been slower to come to terms with the consequences of the new European security dilemma. While rhetorically she was quick to recognise the need for European strategic autonomy, Germany’s military has been underfunded for decades, has important operational failings in terms of equipment, and German citizens remain very reluctant to use military force. Germany has supported Macron’s EI2, although less than enthusiastically, and there have been Franco-German input papers relating to the evolution of EU defence policy (Koenig and Walter-Frank, 2017, p. 3; Moiling and Major, 2018; Westerwelle et al., 2013). Indeed, Germany’s focus has been on EU defence initiatives and there is a concern that these may be undermined by EI2 (Moiling and Major, 2018, p. 5). While the German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has altered the rhetoric around defence with the idea of‘leadership from the centre’, involving increased German contributions to defence, this has not always resulted in additional troops but, rather, in the deployment of civilian capabilities (Chappell et al., 2016, pp. 174-176). This demonstrates the differences Germany and France still have in respect to the willingness to deploy force.

So, where does this leave us? There are serious flaws in the European security order; the norms that have underpinned it are being flouted, the institutions are struggling and military capabilities are weaker than desired. Of Europe’s three main security powers, only France is showing much leadership beyond rhetoric. Nevertheless, there is a growing acceptance that reliance on the USA as the security guarantor, as (Western) Europeans have done since the end of the Second World War, must at least be matched by independent European security provision. Which, if any, of the current initiatives will prove successful remains to be seen.

 
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