1. Looking at the obligation of the European countries specially in NATO ( for example NATO SG Rasmuseen said - There will be other missions in future for which only NATO can fit the bill) do you think it is a right time for the cuts?
2. Europe or EU is not perceived by most as the military power. Do you think Europe should play also this role, and why, and if yes how to achieve it?
Jean-Marc Rickli, President of the Geneva University Strategic Studies Group
1. Concerning your first question regarding the timing of the cuts: as an introduction, the German military is still clearing off the remnants of the Cold War. The german armed forces are based on the conscription system. Since the end of the 1990s, Germany has committed itself in international operations, which were forbidden by the German constitution until then. By participating in these operations, Germany has realised that professional soldiers would be more efficient than conscripts. Yet, both Germany and the UK and other European countries are cutting their defense expenditure nowadays. This is the second wave of defence cuts after the Cold War. The first one was due to the so called “peace dividend” that stemmed from the end of the Cold War. European states did not see any major threats that called for the maintenance of the Cold War defence budget. So they started to cut down their budget. 9/11 changed this situation by providing a new rationale for the use of armed forces, through the fight against terrorism. Yet the 2008 financial crisis has put huge economic burden on western states. At the same time, European states have become disillusioned with the war in Afghanistan to which most of them contribute. Thus, for instance, some states such as the Netherlands have pulled their forces out of Afghanistan. The combined effect of having to find cash and losing the momentum in Afghanistan has led European states to disinvest in their defence capabilities.
Is the time right? Well, financially European states do not have much of a choice, they need money. As there is no direct threat to their survival, one can make the point that disinvesting in the military to reduce the debt will bring more in term of stability for the country than investing in defence. From a strategic point of view, this is rather bad. The Americans have set July 2011 to end the surge in Afghanistan. Europeans should help them on that. Losing Afghanistan is a very dangerous calculus in the long term. Can we afford the disintegration of Pakistan if the Talibans take over Afghanistan? I don’t think so. So in short, not a good time for budget cuts but they are needed. Thus, European should really use this constraint toget rid of their Cold War infrastructure and better cooperate and integrate their armed forces into a European army. This however run against the core principle of sovereignty of each European states. Thus it is very unlikely to happen.
2. Europe as a military power has started in December 1999 with the St Malo summit in France where both France and the UK pledged to develop a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The first ESDP operation took place in 2003, in Macedonia (EU taking over NATO operation Allied Harmony). It was followed by an operation in Congo. Thus far, the EU has I think conducted 27 ESDP operations (double check the figure, I am not sure on this). Thus militarily, the EU exists. Is the EU a strategic actor? Well, this is less clear cut. The main problem for the EU are capabilities. It is linked to what was said above, European armed forces can only send 10% of their capabilities in international operations. Thus, though, the EU countries has more troops combined than the US their output is far less. This implies first and foremost a bigger integration between the EU member states’ armed forces. This however is unlikely to happen because that would mean a specialisation of states’ armed forces and therefore the traditional function of the states could no longer be guaranted by one state but should be the business of the EU as a whole. As you know, ESDP depends on the 2nd pillar of the EU which is the intergovernmental pillar and therefore each member state has a veto power. Thus, there is a contradiction. Integration means specialisation which means giving up some traditional security function but this can only work if the EU becomes supranational in defence matter which it is not. In short, the EU is military active but it is not so far a strategic actor because it cannot speak with one voice. This is not surprising when you have 27 members. This conundrum will only worsen with further enlargement.
Ryan Hendrickson, Professor of Political Science, Eastern Illinois University
1. I think that cuts in military spending to considerable damage to NATO. Such cuts will weaken European states’ ability to play a contributing role in NATO and the EU.
2. Europe is not perceived as a military power, but the important point is that European states must have the ability to deploy and sustain military operations abroad, and with military spending already low, it is difficult to see how additional cuts can be seen as beneficial to NATO and especially the EU.
Filed under: Europe, Military, Politics, Security Tagged: | Afghanistan, Europe, European Union, Germany, Jean-Marc Rickli, Military, NATO, Ryan Hendrickson, Security, Security policy, United Kingdom, United States