Brussels, Belgium. 10 December. The EU and NATO are in deep crisis. The EU because it is a) organised around Germany which for understandable historical reasons trades down military power as it trades up economic and political influence; b) Britain, one of its two serious military powers, is now so marginalised it is considering leaving; and c) the Eurozone cannot look beyond the Euro. NATO is in crisis because its major shareholder is being stretched ever thinner the world over. Like it or not, over-stretched and uncertain America will soon be unable to be credibly effective in both Asia and the Middle-East at one and the same time. China and Russia are making sure of that. Both are in crisis because too often Europe’s politicians confuse strategy with politics.
This morning I had the honour to address the Atlantic Treaty Association’s conference on NATO post-2014. At the conference I was asked to address four questions concerning the role of the EU in NATO’s Strategic Concept, actions the EU and NATO must take to increase co-operation and the concerns such co-operation creates to both institutions. This was illuminating because it was the nearest the conference came to addressing the real question facing Europe – how can Europeans close the hard power strategy gap that is growing by the day and which is destroying the ability of Europeans to influence, secure and if needs be defend even their vital interests?
The need is pressing. First, according to the International Energy Authority the United States will be self-sufficient in oil and gas by 2025. Second, according to a 2010 Citigroup report whilst Western Europe represented 48% of world trade in 1990, it is 34% in 2013 and likely to fall to 19% in 2030 and 15% by 2050. Russia aims to inject about $775 billion by 2022 for new armaments and a more professional military. Beijing grew the Chinese defence budget by 11.2% in 2012 the latest double digit increase since 1989.
In other words, (1) Europeans will need to do far more and be far more credible in future as security actors ‘in and around Europe’; (2) if Europe as a whole is to afford the tools of influence – diplomacy, aid and development and the hard military power upon which influence is built -it will collectively need to invest in capabilities and capacities and then radically re-organise. Sadly, the 19-20 December EU CSDP summit will be another missed opportunity in which very little will be presented as very much.
The EU-NATO Strategic Partnership should be established on a simple Euro-Atlantic strategic principle; keep America strong in Asia by filling the emerging strategy gap in and around Europe. That will better inform crisis management, capability development and political consultations. The retreat from this principle has Moscow scenting an opportunity to interfere the grand strategic and Euro-strategic consequences of which are all too clear in Ukraine.
What is happening instead is faced with political and institutional paralysis big power is stepping outside institutional frameworks. In other words, both EU and NATO need big power to function and big power to function properly together.
My prescriptions for EU-NATO co-operation are thus radical. Structure must follow power. First, the EU’s European External Action Service must be properly configured so that it moves beyond managing the daily crisis between the European Council and European Commission (not to mention the Member-States).
Second, both the EU and NATO should be seen for what they are; means to a strategic end for the states involved. Co-operation should thus be established on the pragmatic basis of the efficient and effective aggregation of power and influence. That will mean looking beyond the moribund EU-NATO Strategic Partnership (which is neither strategic nor partnership) to focus instead on a co-operation development plan between now and 2020 established on several programmes.
Programmes should include (inter alia) joint exercising and training based on lessons from over a decade of operations; promotion of procurement clusters; civil-military experimentation (the Comprehensive Approach), finding ways to spread the cost of military modernisation, investment in people through harmonised defence and security education; and for smaller European states the beginning of defence integration from the tail to the teeth. Such integration would be needed to close Europe’s strategy gap irrespective of either the EU or NATO. Indeed, the whole nonsensical debate over a European super-state is actually preventing defence integration not promoting it.
In November NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen said, “We need to develop capabilities, not bureaucracies…” In Europe today no-one talks power any more, one only talks institutions.
But here’s the rub; next week the much-heralded EU “European Defence Summit” is scheduled to take place. Part of its remit was to pave the way to more constructive EU-NATO relations at the September 2014 NATO Summit. Well-placed sources now tell me defence will not be discussed by Europe’s leaders until lunch on the second day, then only for 90 minutes and half of that will be devoted to defence-industrial matters.
EU-NATO - playing at defence.