2. Europe as a global player
BSSB.BE gisreportsonline.com 03.09.2018
Danube Ex-USSR Germany
* The polite pretense that the EU is only a benign, inward-looking
The painful evolution of the EU’s security doctrine was charted by GIS expert General Stanislaw Koziej in a March 2018 report. The EGS approved in 2016 stressed “principled pragmatism” that attempted to “steer clear of isolationism and primitive interventionism alike.”
General Koziej tends to be an optimist, noting that the EU had “made a long, slow journey toward becoming a real player in security strategy.” Yet even he admits that if no consensus is achieved on defense, a multi-speed Union could precipitate a “European security collapse.”
Brexit will remove Europe’s biggest military and half of its nuclear deterrent from the EU
For now, the risks seem more apparent than the opportunities. Brexit will remove Europe’s biggest military and half of its nuclear deterrent from the EU, though some believe it could encourage a more active British role in NATO. Yet both sides have bungled a chance to soften the economic blow of the UK’s withdrawal in exit talks, as GIS expert Dr. Michael Leigh noted in February 2018. Within the EU, there is an ever-deepening north-south divide over finances, now combined with an east-west splitover migration and the rule of law.
- Even so, disagreement and divergence have been the norm in Europe and even in transatlantic relations, as Dr. Wohlgemuth pointed out in January 2018. Europe’s strength is its ability “to pool resources, coordinate efforts and agree on common objectives,” even if the process is slow and cumbersome.
- That is a useful skill on the world stage, especially if Europe sees its role as a defender of the multilateral structures undergirding the post-Cold War order.
In November 2013, Dr. Nerlich laid out Europe’s defense options: “D-1: More of the same; D-2: Regional capacity for intervention; D-3: Oceanic outreach; D-4: Global strategic power.” He argued that in the long run, the third or even fourth options were called for. But four months before Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Dr. Nerlich wondered whether this sort of pivot was even possible.
Over the next five years, Europe reoriented itself away from an expeditionary-based concept used in Iraq and Afghanistan and more toward self-defense, both against terrorism and territorial aggression.
This was primarily in response to Russia’s strategic challenge to NATO and EU expansion, which began in Georgia in 2008 and deepened in Ukraine in 2014. These changes are explored in a May 2018 GIS Dossier on NATOs strategic dilemmas.
It also ramped up military spending, mostly on home security and badly neglected conventional forces. But even this limited push to improve existing capabilities did “not overcome the fundamental problem, which is that Europe’s armed forces are designed to operate in an American framework that relies on U.S. headquarters, long-range strike capabilities and logistical support,” GIS expert Professor Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen noted in a February 2018 report.
For the first time, the European Commission’s plan for Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is investing serious money collaborative defense projects, while Germany is beefing up research and development efforts through bilateral procurement projects, as Professor Rasmussen noted in an October 2016 report.
Yet all this must be kept in perspective.
Four years after the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, seen as the turning point in strengthening Europe’s defenses, only five European members of the alliance – Estonia, Poland, Greece, France and the UK – met the defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, as GIS expert Professor Stefan Hedlund noted in a March 2017 report. Germany – the butt of President Trump’s complaints about free riders – spends just over 1 percent.
Europe is uniquely vulnerable to a shift in Russian doctrine on the use of tactical nuclear weapons
Europe is also uniquely vulnerable to a shift in Russian military doctrine, which adjusts for NATO’s superiority in purely conventional forces with a willingness to make first use of low-yield nuclear weapons on the battlefield, Professor Hedlund wrote in April 2017.
This strategy of “escalate to de-escalate” can only be countered by comparable Western capabilities, which even the U.S. has neglected. The nuclear forces maintained by France and the UK are purely strategic deterrents, without low-yield tactical weapons, as General Koziej noted in a May 2016 report.
Unless these capabilities are modernized, European military planners are left with the unpalatable choice of backing down after Russian first use or triggering a huge nuclear exchange.
Economic power: trade
Economically, the EU is a colossus, second only to China and larger than the U.S. as measured by purchasing power parity. Its internal market of 500 million consumers is for many the world’s most attractive, giving the bloc tremendous business leverage. This has become a go-to option for European policy makers.
In some ways, the bloc’s accomplishments have been impressive. Europe has made more progress in negotiating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) than the U.S., and could well take the lead in shaping future world standards now that Washington is slipping into protectionism, noted in GIS’s Michael Wohlgemuth in a January 2018 report.
But the bloc has shown no hesitation to use bare-knuckle methods of its own, aggressively going after U.S.-based multinationals on a variety of consumer protection issues, most recently the security of personal data.
Economic power: infrastructure
The EU’s cohesion funds and ability to tap the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other multilateral lenders gives it an enormous ability to upgrade infrastructure. This has spurred economic growth in the bloc’s new eastern members, and could potentially allow the EU to “project force” through development initiatives in Eastern Europe and North Africa.
Yet even when this financial leverage is deployed successfully, as in the EU’s gas diversification in response to Russia’s use of the gas weapon against Ukraine, politics has gotten in the way.
To preserve its market position and undercut competitors, Russia built costly new pipelines and adopted mercantilist pricing. Ultimately, this distorts competition on the European gas market and undermines efforts to diversify, as GIS expert Dr. Frank Umbach noted in a September 2017 report.
Yet Berlin has cooperated with Moscow on Nord Stream 2, showing “a stunning contradiction between Germany’s long-term narrative that it favors multilateralism and its unilateral energy policy.” Dr. Umbach noted in May 2017.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: gisreportsonline.com