1. EAST-WEST DIVISION
BSSB.BE esjnews.com 25/12/2018
France Germany Ex-USSR
* Obstacles in strengthening Transatlantic security – its asymmetrical nature, European weakness and fragmentation.
There is no need to rehash the long list of developments that have undermined European security in the last few years and led to the expansion of European integration into this sensitive area. What is, however, needed is a constant reevaluation of the direction the European foreign and security policy takes.
This first of the three parts of the series will focus on the overall dynamic of Transatlantic relationships, including European East-West division in industrial and defense policy terms and the EU-NATO synergy (or rather lack of it) in planning and division of tasks.
- The European security infrastructure based on NATO is weakened. The technological, strategic and political superiority of the Alliance is deteriorating , a worrying trend that could be blamed on its inequitable relationship, a militarily weak and divided Europe and the absence of synchronization between NATO and the EU in defense terms.
- “The old continent must find a way to make its case for Transatlanticism more appealing to Washington.”
Politically, low European defense spending, inequitable contributions and overall complacency as an unaddressed issue were easily hijacked by Donald Trump’s disrupt-and-see foreign policy to politically weaken the Transatlantic bond. The first two years of his presidency under the stable guidance of the Atlanticist trio of generals John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and James Mattis morphed into a more radical unilateral foreign policy with the entrance of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton into the White House.
This development has solidified Europe’s unease over its reliance on the United States, which has granted a justification for the interpretation of the EU’s Global Strategy goal of Strategic Autonomy as independence from Washington. Politically, these efforts were conflated with the growing popular demand for security exerted by the Russian-Ukrainian war, the migration crisis, instability in the Middle East and North Africa and terror attacks in Western Europe. However, the dominant narrative of autonomy that now serves to build European capacities can also be very dangerous and harmful to the future of Transatlanticism. The Transatlantic bond remains the strongest political, economic and security partnership in the world.
If Europe wants to preserve it, it ought to pick up the slack and improve the relationship instead of escaping to utopian visions of its full autonomy in times when the US dares to question its utility. The Transatlantic partnership is not a given to the geographically protected United States that has historically been rather isolationist. The old continent must find a way to make its case for Transatlanticism more appealing to Washington.
We should be able to recognize that while Trump’s assault on multilateralism does constitute a threat to the Europe Union, an entity based internally and externally on this principle, it is also partially a symptom of the troubled NATO relationship.
Europe is the weak link in a partnership that needs a renaissance. Technologically, European weakness is lowering the credibility of NATO’s deterrence policy, especially in the face of Russian Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD)capacities and the overall local battlefield advantage in the Baltics. Further, the inability to quickly transport Alliance follow up forces to the Eastern flank is undermining the deterrence even more.
The way towards lowering Transatlantic asymmetry lies in overcoming European fragmentation without the illusion of autonomy and finding a working EU-NATO framework.
The ongoing task of strengthening the European pillar is unlikely to be achieved without joint and united efforts. However, the oft-repeated East-West division in the EU in regards of political capital, wages, economic convergence or food quality has also seemingly spread into the defense area from a policy and industrial perspective, further constraining the European defense capacities build up.
- Only two of the initial 17 Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects were led by a newer EU member state (MS). The second wave of PESCO projects, which is due in November 2018 and is being discussed between MS and the European Defence Agency, shows a similar trend.
- As a majority of Eastern European countries tend to look for an explicit and credible focus on the Eastern flank in the EU defense policy, their failure to gain support for their projects could cause them to deem EU defense initiatives futile.
- Without EU projects reflecting their strategic interests (i.e. to deter Russia) their influence on EU defense, industrial and planning efforts would be thus lowered.
“Eastern Europe seems to struggle with being proactive and providing sufficient political assistance to garner support across Europe, whether for PESCO or EDF.”
The EU defense initiatives, especially the €13 billion European Defense Fund (EDF), offer an immense opportunity to support the industrial defense sector. However, while PESCO is decided on by unanimity , the EDF projects will be awarded by the Commission.
The EDF money is open to competition and not allocated according to national specifics like cohesion funds. Eastern small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as remnants of formerly vast Warsaw Pact industries thus need to go out and compete for this big pool of money with more successful Western counterparts. This carries the risk that most of the funding will flow to bigger Western defense conglomerates at the expense of Eastern European SMEs that do not possess sufficiently big lobbying and political power.
In general, national governments in Eastern Europe seem to struggle with being proactive and providing sufficient political assistance to garner support across Europe, whether for PESCO or EDF. It is not only of their own making. The French pro-European defense integration is sometime accused of being used as a great tool to push forward Paris’ industrial interests through the EDF, European Defence Agency or PESCO.
This Western dominance has the potential to result in stronger anti-Brussels rhetoric stemming from frustration over the weakness of the Eastern European voice in the EU in comparison to their experienced Western states. Meanwhile, the alternative to simply rely on the US to provide security and assuring it via the bilateral Buy American approach (mastered especially by Poland) is weakening attempts to focus defense spending into the single European defense market to build up a consolidated European industrial base and develop indigenous defense capacities.
- 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: esjnews.com