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November 28, 2011 |  7 comments |  Print  Atlantic Memos  

Memo 35

Goodbye to EU Prestige Thinking: Redefining the CSDP

Memo 35: The EU must restructure its Common Security and Defence Policy based on economic and operational realities. It should emphasize narrow, logistically feasible operations over broad outlines, clearly delineate its partnership with NATO, and take a longer term view when developing operational strategies.

All of the recommendations in this memo come from the comments on a recent article that argued for abandoning the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Atlantic Community members jumped to its defense, affirming the necessity of the CSDP to provide an outlet for strictly European defense concerns (Frost), as an option when the US presence would make NATO politically unpalatable, like in South Ossetia (Thew), and as a demonstration of Europe’s commitment to its own defense.

However, members agree that the CSDP as currently constituted is problematic for the practical application of the agenda, duplicates to little effect some NATO structures (McCartin), and, with its logistical issues, has failed at projecting the “prestige” of an independent Europe (Seidler). To this end, the recommendations below aim at redefining the CSDP to be a more effective and practical policy.

1. Define the CSDP by capabilities, not aspirations.

The current Common Security and Defence Policy has broad, ambitious goals, but has not had the capacity to realize them independently from the United States, and has resorted to extrapolating its wider potential out of smaller, more focused missions (Smyth). With most defense forces now cutting back in an unfavorable economic climate, this situation is unlikely to change in the near term.

Therefore, the CSDP should be redefined with a more specific mandate that takes into account two factors, cost and feasibility, for every goal it defines. Atlantic Community members believe that when these are fully considered, concentrating on more civilian-oriented missions like monitoring and policing (such as the current operations in Georgia and the former Yugoslavia) will be the most efficient use of available resources.

2. Develop a codified partnership with NATO which clearly defines responsibilities.

Though there have been numerous declarations of EU-NATO cooperation and coexistence, most notably Berlin Plus, there has still not been a clear definition of what a NATO mission looks like as opposed to a CSDP mission. Better realization of the exact makeup of the CSDP will help ameliorate this issue, but members believe that a more formal outline is needed to specify how the two organizations will interact.

Such an outline should include assigning civilian policing and monitoring missions to which the EU is best suited to the CSDP, and placing broader military action in the hands of NATO. This set-up would require defining more clearly the security arrangements of non-NATO EU members like Cyprus (Noniewicz). Priority should be given to codifying how the two forces will interact if assigned to the same mission or theater (Clapp). Berlin Plus should also be expanded to allow NATO to draw upon EU resources if it feels they are better suited for a particular mission (McCartin). Taking into account economic realities, territorial defense should be a primary NATO responsibility and, beyond basic readiness of national forces, efforts in this area should not be duplicated by the EU.

3. Integrate more fully the long-term goals of the EU and NATO into the CSDP.

In order for EU forces to be effective, they need clearly defined missions that serve a broader strategy. Setbacks like the EU police training mission in Afghanistan are often due to poorly articulated goals. The EU must first define its more general foreign policy outlook and what it wants to achieve, and shape the CSDP to fit this vision. In addition, the EU should be more transparent in its decision-making process with its NATO allies, as the potential for competing frameworks and counterproductive duplication is heightened when the two organizations do not properly communicate. Incorporating a coherent foreign policy vision would potentially require the EU to solve more acute organizational issues, such as its policy on further expansion, before turning to a restructuring of the CSDP (Hauss).

Atlantic Memos showcase the best ideas and arguments from debates in the Open Think Tank on atlantic-community.org. Please take the next step and help us spread the word. You can download a PDF copy of this Atlantic Memo to distribute to your local or national decision-makers. The recommendations expressed above come from your Atlantic Community.

Written by Jason Naselli

 
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Darrell Calvin Brown

November 28, 2011

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The EC/EU might want to send a delegate or two to the forthcoming NATO summit to be held in Chicago, IL (USA) and then wisely make decisions accordingly.
 
Darrell Calvin Brown

November 28, 2011

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I agree with the point being made in section 2, paragraph 2, sentence 3 that priority should be given to mapping out the subject of jurisdiction. Some members obviously have dual membership within the EU and NATO; not to mention the armed forces of the governments of these states. All of this could very easily create a conflict of interest within and between the members and the respective organizations to which they belong.
 
Jason  Naselli

November 30, 2011

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Thanks for your comment Darrell!

While you're right that dual membership could potentially cause issues, in practice this hasn't been the case for individual states so much, as, sharing as they do so many members, the EU and NATO often have broadly similar goals. What that sentence is instead getting at is making sure EU-led and NATO-led missions do not independently operate in the same theater whilst essentially ignoring each other operationally (as has happened in the past). This is a waste of resources, leads to counterproductive duplication and can put certain subobjectives of the two missions in conflict with each other.

Your point about member responsibilities I believe is covered more in the previous sentence. Where membership does NOT overlap, there should be a clear definition of the responsibilities and protections afforded to such a state. For instance, if the EU and NATO agree to merge their efforts more, how much is the NATO framework willing to be on the hook for a non-NATO EU member like Cyprus?
 
Jack  Bicker

December 1, 2011

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The very existence of the Berlin Plus agreement is firm evidence that NATO members are content to acknowledge the bi-polar nature of the alliance; namely, that the respective strategic and defence interests of the US and the EU are not always going to aim towards similar ends.

NATO was created in response to those tensions that soon grew into the Cold War. Article 5 of the treaty, by which an attack on any one member is to be regarded as an attack on all members, is the political equivalent of the nuclear deterrent. However, despite the level of comfort that this collective protection offers, it must be asked how vital/relevant this deterrent is in the current geopolitical climate? US defence secretary Robert Gates commented earlier this year, that "if current trends in the decline of European defence capabilities are not halted and reversed, future US political leaders… may not consider the return on America's investment in NATO worth the cost". Gates went on to lament what he and others in the US administration see as a lack of will, inefficiency and incompetent planning on the part of other NATO members. He cited the Libya conflict as an example of a venture undertaken by NATO members who, after not very long, required support and resources from the US in order to keep the mission running. Add to this the reluctance that greeted US attempts to garner support for its recent interventions in the Middle East, and a divergent picture continues to emerge.

For that reason I agree that CSDP decision makers need to formulate goals based on capabilities. However, as part of an ongoing assessment of the future of its own identity, the EU should also think hard about its strategic and security interests, and about the conflicts that it is therefore willing to involve itself in. From recent history, what may emerge is a foreign and security policy that is not altogether compatible with that of the US, and which will give rise to questions about who benefits from the arrangement. Peacekeeping, or crisis management operations, within the EU neighbourhood is of course of great significance to the EU's future; but how relevant are such operations to a US who now looks to China rather than Russia as its principal adversary, and is increasingly interested in the Pacific region as a result? The Berlin Plus agreement recognises and attends to this situation, but for how long can a pool of military resources to whom the US is the major donor, be expected to be spent on operations that do not bring about direct benefit to the US? For how long can the US be expected to fund an alliance to the tune of a reported 75% of its spending?

If the EU is not willing to fully support all US security objectives (which would otherwise offer considerable strategic benefit), then it must instead make steadfast efforts to strengthen the CSDP. In an increasingly polar world, the EU needs to possess a credible military voice, capability and strength to support its role in the geopolitical games that will define the next century, and it needs this without reliance on an increasingly distant US. If the NATO alliance is ailing, then long live the Union!
Tags: | NATO | deterrence | EU | Berlin Plus | US military | US | gates |
 
Jason  Naselli

December 1, 2011

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Thanks for the comment Jack.

Using NATO as a primary defensive apparatus does not mean having to "fully support all US security objectives." Those same EU nations were able to opt-out of the Iraq invasion easily enough. While NATO certainly has been wielded as a beacon of US power at times, the unanimity clause keeps it from really being hijacked in the fashion you're suggesting. While it may be prudent to think about some far future where the US and Europe have completely diverged and the EU needs to stand alone, in the current economic climate, it makes sense to consolidate what works, and the alliance still does on most days.
 
Jack  Bicker

December 2, 2011

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Thanks Jason,

I absolutely agree that EU members of NATO don't need to sign up to every bit of American foreign policy, and indeed, as both of us have noted, EU members haven't done so up until now. I also agree that a defensive apparatus can remain without EU members having to do so.

However, on this point my question instead might be about the different approaches... for example, different definitions of the word defence. "Preemptive defence" or preemptive war, was a central component of the Bush doctrine - an overt example of the US using military force to, in its own opinion, defend itself even against the possibility of a future attack. NATO members of the EU, for this and other reasons, were reluctant to follow this doctrine, and didn't fully support many of the Bush administration's operations during the first decade of the twenty-first century. My comment above focuses on the consequences of this; namely, US frustration. Defence Secretary Gates' having referred in 2011 to a "two-tier" Europe in which some nations are willing to fight while others are only interested in "talking" and peacekeeping, is reminiscent of Donald Rumsfeld's use of the terms 'New Europe' and 'Old Europe' in 2003, to describe those Europeans willing to support US foreign policy, and those who are not.

Whereas I agree in principle that "in the current economic climate, it makes sense to consolidate what works", it must be conceded the US is going through a considerable reappraisal of its military spending, with talk of a trillion dollars being cut from the US defence budget over the next ten years. Even if this figure is nothing more than a bargaining tool, it nevertheless represents a major shift in the way Americans think about defence spending.

Therefore, realising that the need for a defensive alliance in Europe is not as pressing a concern as it was during the cold war, and considering that the US is beginning to increase its strategic presence in the Pacific (eg. the recent announcement that 2500 US troops are to be permanently stationed in Australia), I can't help but think that NATO will become less and less of a priority for the US as the respective interests of the EU and US diverge.

I in no way advocate an abandonment of efforts to strengthen NATO, but I would also advise EU member states to also strategically prepare for a future in which NATO is not a central US consideration. As a result of which, they must consider now how it is that they will eventually project a European voice.

 
Mary  Einbinder

December 5, 2011

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The CSDP is a major element of European defense policy and military strategy. It is important was it falls under the jurisdiction of the EU solely and includes countries that are not NATO members.

The European Security Strategy is a document under which the CSDP falls under: it states that “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure nor so free.” It describes Europe’s main threats: terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, failed states and organized crime. It concludes that “the world is full of new dangers and opportunities.”

The EU should therefore united and have a united military and defense strategy. Europe does not have its own constitution and should therefore keeps CSDP in order to ensure security for Europe in a globalizing world. As “no single nation is able to tackle today’s complex challenges” it is a European duty to stay united. I therefore agree with you, CSDP needs restructuring.
 

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