Written by Colonel A. Lavrentiev; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2020 #11, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
Taking into account the changed military and political situation in the world, the leadership of the European Union (EU) considers it important to adapt approaches to the implementation of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
Brussels considers the need for the organisation to become a global “centre of power”, the intensification of global rivalry (primarily between Russia, the United States and China), and the emergence of fundamentally new security challenges as ground for launching this process.
The leading role in determining the priorities of the military policy of unification belongs to France and Germany. In the context of the UK’s exit from the European Union, the Franco-German tandem secured economic and political leadership in the EU and was able to promote solutions that were previously blocked by London.
In 2020, the Defence Ministers of France F. Parley and of Germany Kramp-Karrenbauer (both women) made a number of policy statements confirming the coincidence of their assessments of current threats and the future direction of the CSDP.
In particular, it was noted that the European Union in modern conditions is not able to protect its interests against the background of the return of “a number of powers” (meaning Russia) to the “policy of projecting force that violates the existing world order”. European unity is also undermined by the unpredictable course of US President Donald Trump and the activities of “populists” within Europe itself, who promote national isolationism and advocate unconditional national sovereignty in making foreign policy decisions.
According to the Franco-German assessment, a sign of the destruction of the existing system of ensuring European security is the scrapping of the treaty framework in the field of arms control. We are talking primarily about the termination of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Short-Range Missiles, the expected withdrawal of the United States from the Open Skies Treaty, and the uncertain prospects for extending the Russian-American agreements on strategic offensive weapons.
According to Berlin and Paris, asymmetric threats (international terrorism and organised crime, the migration crisis, the risks of pandemics and the consequences of climate change) are particularly acute. In addition, attention is drawn to the emergence of military-technological dangers, including the development of new-generation weapons (hypersonic, laser) by the leading world powers. The vulnerability of information and communication systems and critical infrastructure to “unfriendly actions in the cybersphere” is emphasized.
Both France and Germany agree that the Alliance will remain the “cornerstone” of the European security system for the foreseeable future. At the same time, Paris believes that NATO is currently in a deep crisis due to the aggravation of internal contradictions.
With this in mind, the following main objectives of the CSDP are formulated: to increase the EU’s ability to independently solve military tasks without relying on the Alliance’s resources; to develop new principles of interaction between the EU and NATO; to expand the role of “United Europe” in crisis management and the fight against international terrorism (especially in Africa).
Priority efforts are also proposed to be directed to the creation of a military-industrial complex corresponding to new threats, independent of the United States. The emphasis is on expanding cooperation between the organisation’s member countries in the interests of developing promising types of weapons, increasing investment in means of fighting in space and cyberspace, as well as in innovative technologies (artificial intelligence, robotics, processing large amounts of data).
Based on the above estimates, the European Union has initiated the development of a new EU fundamental document in the field of defence, called the “Strategic Compass”. The goal is to doctrinally consolidate a single list of threats, clarify prospects and detail activities to achieve the “level of EU ambitions” in terms of the CSDP.
The document, which is scheduled for adoption in mid-2022, is expected to focus on the following issues:
- crisis management (how to ensure the effectiveness of EU operations and missions, increase readiness to respond to a sharp escalation of tension in the organisation’s areas of interest, optimise the staffing processes);
- improving the resilience of member states to external influence (how to reduce the effect of using “hybrid warfare” tools against the European Union, take into account the emergence of innovative technological developments and technologies, and introduce experience in combating the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic);
- development of military capabilities (what requirements should the EU response force meet to neutralise modern threats, what new initiatives in the field of defence integration need to be implemented, how to ensure the relationship between them);
- cooperation and support for “third countries” (how to use the potential of partners to solve the military tasks facing the EU, how to help strengthen the capacity of their security structures, develop relations with NATO and the UN).
Commenting on the work on the “Strategic Compass”, the Minister of Defence of Germany, A. Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that the document is important to define a “common vision of Russia”, its goals and outgoing dangers, the perception of which among the EU member states allegedly “varies greatly”. The politician also believes that the European Union is not able to provide guarantees for the protection of territory and citizens, currently provided by the Unites States and NATO. However, Brussels should be prepared for scenarios where European security will be out of Washington’s focus.
In addition to the work on the “Strategic Compass”, in the near future the EU members states plan to discuss mechanisms for implementing the provision of the Treaty on European Union concerning mutual assistance in the event of aggression or an emergency. The French and Germans are promoting this initiative in order to create a full-fledged analogue of Article 5 (“On Collective Defence”) of the Washington Treaty of NATO, which can be activated if the United States refuses to participate in solving Europe’s security problems. This possibility was confirmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against which the United States demonstrated its willingness to be guided by its own needs at the expense of European interests.
The European Union is also consulting on the adjustment of the concept of combat tactical groups (CTG) of the EU response force* in order to ensure that decisions are made on the use of CTGs in a crisis situation for a maximum of 5 days. It is considered unacceptable when, due to complex bureaucratic procedures, these formations have never been involved in real operations.
*Formations of ground forces numbering about 1.5 thousand people, which are ready for deployment within 5-10 days after the adoption of a political decision. Every six months, two battalion task groups take up combat duty on a rotational basis.
In light of the experience of COVID-19, it is envisaged to optimise the algorithm EU military governance in the event of crises.
In order to coordinate assistance to the civilian authorities through the armed forces, it is planned to create interdepartmental operational groups under the leadership of the military headquarters (MH) of the European Union, which will operate around the clock.
In addition, France is promoting the idea of giving the EU MH the functions of managing rapid response units in humanitarian tasks (currently this body is mainly responsible for the preparation of concepts and long-term planning).
An important role in the development of the CSDP is assigned to the “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (PSC) mechanism, which was formed in 2017. In the framework of the countries concerned have joined forces to implement the most important projects of military development, including the creation of multinational formations, production of new models of weapons and military equipment, improved surgical equipment theater.
Currently, 47 joint PSC projects have been approved, including the formation of a set of forces and means for use in crisis management operations; the deployment of EU operations and mission management bodies; establishment of the European Military Medical Command; creation of a network of regional logistics points for troops (forces) in Europe, as well as training and certification centres of the European Union. Increasing the efficiency of military transportation, establishing the exchange of data on cyber threats and providing a response to cyber-attacks, combining efforts in the development of a sixth-generation fighter, unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced armoured combat vehicles, artillery systems, uninhabited underwater vehicles and a number of others are planned.
The “stumbling block” in the PSC process is how the United States will participate in the mechanism. Poland, the Baltic states, as well as a number of small countries that do not make a serious contribution to the development of modern weapons are in favour of unconditional admission of the Americans to the projects. In turn, the so-called “old Europeans” believe that the presence of Washington calls into question the achievement of the main goal-autonomy from the United States. This issue will be settled in the near future.
In order to increase the competitiveness of the EU military-industrial complex, the Franco-German tandem relies on the European Defence Fund (EDF), which is a new financial instrument to support joint European defence projects. It is supposed to invest in the most important military R&D. The resources of the EDF are planned to be distributed over the entire development cycle of weapons and military equipment, including the process of testing and approbation of promising prototypes.
Funds are planned to be provided in the form of grants, bonus schemes or loans. At the same time as the Fund is planned to cover not more than 20% of direct development costs of a prototype of weapons and military equipment and up to 80% on testing and launching into production. Indirect costs can be financed up to 25%. Projects under the PSC can receive an additional bonus of 10%.
The total amount allocated to the European Defence Fund from the EU long-term budget for 2021-2027 is 7 billion euros. Additional funding for the EDF will be provided by national contributions from EU member states.
Member states of the European Union and the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) will have access to the fund’s resources.
Consultations are currently under way on the possible inclusion of “third countries” in the relevant programmes, subject to the following conditions: the implementation of the project objectives cannot be ensured by the forces and means of the EU states; invited participants localise production on the territory of the European Union; the involvement of external partners does not pose a threat to national and coalition security.
The European Instrument for Peace (EIP) Fund, which is being created, is intended to increase Brussels’s activity in the area of crisis management. This mechanism will provide centralised funding for EU military activities abroad, including operations and missions outside the region and the implementation of programmes to help partners develop security structures. At the same time, it will include funds previously allocated for solving peacekeeping tasks in Africa (the African Peace Facility Fund) and for military operations (the Athena Mechanism). The total volume of the EIP is about 5 billion euros for the period up to 2027.
The European Intervention Initiative (EII), launched by France during the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council with the participation of Defence Ministers (Luxembourg, 25 June 2018), is being intensively implemented. The main goal is to increase the ability to respond to crisis situations, bypassing the complex “bureaucratic procedures” of the European Union.
The EII assumes: the formation of an interspecific grouping of troops (forces) by the participating countries for operational engagement in crisis regions, deepening of interaction between the main staffs of the armed forces, exchange of intelligence information, joint assessment of the situation and development of measures to stabilise it.
Special attention is planned to be paid to the “specialisation” of states in certain types of military activities. This is the actual combat component, air transportation, communications, intelligence, engineering support, medicine in disaster conditions. It provides for the possibility of sharing military infrastructure, including overseas possessions.
The current participants in the European Intervention Initiative are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. At the same time, it is possible to connect other European states to it, including those that have not become members of the European Union.
However, the consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic may have a significant negative impact on the development plans promoted by Germany and France. In the context of the growing economic crisis in the EU, due to quarantine restrictions, it was decided to cut funding for most defence initiatives.
Thus, when approving the EU long-term budget for 2021-2027, the total amount of allocations for the common security and defence policy was reduced to 13.1 billion euros (originally planned allocation of 19.2 billion). The volume of the EDF was reduced by 2 billion euros (from 9 billion), the EIP, by 3 billion (from 8 billion), the project for the development of infrastructure for military transport in Europe, by 4 billion (from 6.5 to 1.5 billion).
The level of military expenditures of EU member states is expected to decrease (in some cases by 5-10%). As a result, it is possible to postpone the implementation of most of the PSC projects, which were planned to be completed in 2022-2025.
At the same time, it is projected that the European Union will pay increased attention to joint programmes aimed at improving the ability to cope with possible epidemic risks. These include measure implemented within the framework of the “Permanent Structured Cooperation” to form a set of forces and means for rapid response to natural and man-made emergencies (Italy, Austria, Greece, Spain, Croatia), as well as to create a European Military Medical Command (Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, France, the Czech Republic).
In addition, it is possible to increase the military-medical component of the EU response force, as well as the capacity in the field of radiation, chemical and biological protection.
Thus, the European Union, with the leadership of France and Germany, has begun the next stage of the reorganisation of the common security and defence policy, designed to strengthen the influence of Europeans in solving global problems and to promote the development of its own, independent from the United States, military capabilities of the organisation. At the same time, the prospects for achieving the goals of this process will depend on the readiness of member states to further deepen defence integration with the active opposition of Washington, which is afraid of losing its position in the system of ensuring European security, as well as on the availability of the necessary financial resources in Europe.
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