2008/07/31

European defense policy

Discussions about European defense policy usually concentrate on the issues of getting the diverging government intents and the different armed forces together.

That's a somewhat strange focus; so much effort required for such a dubious outcome.
Diversity offers advantages as well as inefficiencies, and the lack of a European identity that could challenge national thinking would make a common European monopoly army almost hostile to European ideas of freedom.

We have become lazy about alliance thinking during the Cold War; there was blue and red, no real alliance policy necessary besides adding some late-comers like Spain to the alliance. We merely administered the present alliance and the USA focused on containment.

Defense policy is foremost alliance policy; few nations are powerful enough to defend themselves in 'bad case' scenarios. I believe we should think preferably about allies, friends and conflicts. Budgets, ability to deploy a brigade to the end of the world and multi-national institutions - that should be secondary.

Let's have a look at the environment for European nations:

East: Russia, Ukraine
Classic opponent of the Cold War, dominant in Eastern Europe but only marginally influential in Central or even Western Europe till the end of WW2. Possible hot spots of conflict as long as the zones of influence of NATO and Russia aren't finalized.

Southeast:
Turkey
A nation between orient and occident, between Europe and Arabs, a NATO ally with 2nd class forces at this time, small conflict with Greece and Cyprus

South: Arab nations
The relationship isn't heartily at this time, simple trade connections (oil for industrial goods mostly), separated by the Mediterranean

West: North America
Economically rich countries, NATO allies at this time, close connection especially to the UK, separated by the Atlantic

North: Arctic
No nations there, but good terrain for resource war fiction.

Overseas: India & PR China as great powers
Too distant to be 1st rate threats.

I'm not really sure that the NATO alliance will last for one more generation. It has been detrimental to European national security in the past few years - the USA is acting as a shit magnet with its foreign policy, and its allies catch a share of the shit. I was 99% sure that GWB would lose in 2004, but it didn't happen. If McCain wins or Obama turns warmonger, the tolerance of Europeans for their Allies' actions would test the bonds of the alliance. WEU and EU are ready to replace the NATO as premier European alliance.

Let's use a NATO split along the Atlantic as a scenario.
How should European defense policy look in that scenario, or in preparation for it?

My best guesses:

A)
Fair resolution of conflicts in the East. Keep Russia away from PR China in diplomatic terms. A Sino-Russian alliance would only provoke a costly and useless arms race.

B)
Arabs as allies isn't necessary and considering the close relationship of some European nations with Israel not easy anyway. It appears as if the power of Arab countries (which isn't really big anyway) might enter a downturn in the next decades due to the consumption of their oil reserves. They're probably irrelevant in the (very) long term. It would be nice to keep them from becoming foes in the medium and long term, though. They might unite and become emboldened and more powerful by doing so, but even that would not change much if such an united Arab nation had no major allies (like Russia & PR China).

C)
Turkey. That's a difficult case. To add them to the EU would pretty much remove the "E" of "EU" in the mind of many (if not most) Europeans. The critical border is the one between Orient and Occident. The Turks are on the other side - who cares about their possession of a tiny piece of geographically "European" soil?
The Turkish geographic and cultural position is still very interesting. It's (together with Iran) the connection between Europe, GUS, Arabia and South Asia (India).
Turkey cannot really be a problem in itself, but would be a very unpleasant part of any other alliance.
Turkey as an ally would be the most comfortable solution in the long term.


The unpleasant part of this is certainly that the largest NATO allies' (USA) foreign policy seems to be unnecessarily inflaming both at the Southern and Eastern frontiers of the EU. Being allied with the USA has become a burden for Europe.

The EU should take the lead and actively seek to minimize the troubles in places like Georgia and Ukraine. Let's acknowledge that Abkhazia isn't really Georgian and that the Russians are right in their support for the resistance fighters there. The case is strikingly similar to Kosovo. Such a reasonable behaviour might be part of a deal that includes a permanent neutralization of Ukraine.

The other - southern - frontier is even more troublesome. There's actually no real reason for the tensions between Europeans and Arabs. The tensions aren't significant on the state level yet, so it might be possible to revert the silly trend of hostility (terrorism, cultural).
The Mediterranean is an effective barrier, and even the Arab emigrants in Europe won't become politically decisive (no matter what some Americans seem to believe).
I believe that the hostility could easily be neutralized - but our politicians don't really try it.
How often do European top politicians speak to the Arab public? Think of some symbolic friendship moves, appearance in Arab TV channels, meeting/honouring some Arab intellectuals and artists and such. The participation in the Iraq war 2003 and the following occupation was a pre-1960's-minded idea, easily the dumbest one in European foreign policy of the past decades.


European defense policy shouldn't be about organizations, but about classic shaping of the alliance landscape and about care for international relations.

Sven Ortmann

edit:
Btw, this was post No.100 on this blog (and I forgot to party)!

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