The CSS Blog Network

Relax, NATO Isn’t Going Anywhere

We stand on guard for thee

Courtesy of Dea Bee/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 16 January 2017.

Donald Trump’s election caused consternation at home and abroad. Outside of the United States, perhaps nowhere is the shock of his victory more keenly felt than amongst our longstanding allies in Europe. No doubt European leaders were still grappling with the aftermath of this development and possible ramifications when they met last month for the final EU Council meeting of the year to discuss the general security situation.

During the campaign, Trump’s anti-NATO rhetoric was met by many with a mixture of scorn and amusement. Now, many longtime transatlantic security watchers are sounding the alarm. Lost in all this, however, are several positive developments which point not only to the staying power of the collective defense norm but the wider transatlantic security relationship as well.

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For America, 2016 Was the Year of the Commando

Special Operation Soldiers of the United States Army Special Operations Command

Courtesy USASOC News Service/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was published by War is Boring on 5 January 2017.

They could be found on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, supporting local militia fighters, and in Mukalla, Yemen, backing troops from the United Arab Emirates. At Saakow, a remote outpost in southern Somalia, they assisted local commandos in killing several members of the terror group Al Shabab.

Around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, they partnered with both Turkish soldiers and Syrian militias, while also embedding with Kurdish YPG fighters and the Syrian Democratic Forces. Across the border in Iraq, still others joined the fight to liberate the city of Mosul. And in Afghanistan, they assisted indigenous forces in various missions, just as they have every year since 2001.

For America, 2016 may have been the year of the commando. In one conflict zone after another across the northern tier of Africa and the Greater Middle East, U.S. special operations forces — aka SOF — waged their particular brand of low-profile warfare.

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The EU’s Winter Package for European Security and Defence

Marauder Blueprint

Courtesy of Pascal/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in December 2016.

The security and defence of of the European Union touches on a core area of national sovereignty. Lack of political will and mutual trust among EU member states has long been an obstacle to achieving the treaty objectives and has blocked the framing of a policy that could lead to a common defence. In recent years, defence budgets all over Europe have been slashed in an uncoordinated manner, hollowing out most member states’ capabilities. For this reason, the leaders of the EU member states meeting at the December 2013 European Council decided to buck the trend. But delivery has lagged behind.

Tapping into the political momentum generated by the fraught security climate in and around Europe, the prospect of Brexit and the unpredictability injected into US foreign policy by the election of Donald Trump, the European Council has now endorsed a ’winter package’ to strengthen the common security and defence policy of the Union. It has urged speedy implementation by institutions and member states alike.

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Samuel Beckett’s European Army

Wait

Courtesy of John Keogh/Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 16 December 2016.

Explaining EU defense policy is not easy. But poor communication by the Brussels-based institutions plays into the hands of Euroskeptics and can damage public trust in union policies. In particular, there is no more misleading or damaging phrase than “European army.”

Federalist politicians, like European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, often declare their support for this idea. But like Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, they will wait for an eternity before an EU army becomes a reality.

There can be no European army without a European state. And a federal superstate is not in the cards. Those who propose a Euro-army may think that they are furthering their federalist fantasies, but it is not a credible solution to today’s security challenges. If anything, it is easily perceived as either an evil plot or a useless distraction—or both.

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China’s Military Reforms: An Optimistic and a Pessimistic Take

Terracotta Army

Courtesy Shawn Kinkade/Flickr

In today’s blog, Michael Chase and Jeffrey Engstrom face off against Roger Cliff on China’s ongoing military reforms. The two ‘optimists’ believe the reforms will help blunt corruption, strengthen civilian control over the PLA, and modernize the armed forces. Roger Cliff, in contrast, argues that the reforms won’t resolve two of the PLA’s most glaring weaknesses – its limited joint capabilities and the continued dominance of the army.

China’s Military Reforms: An Optimistic Take

This article was originally published in Joint Forces Quarterly 83 by National Defense University Press on 1 October 2016.

China is implementing a sweeping reorganization of its military that has the potential to be the most important in the post-1949 history of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).1 Xi Jinping, who serves as China’s president, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), seeks to transform the PLA into a fully modernized and “informatized” fighting force capable of carrying out joint combat operations, conducting military operations other than war (MOOTW), and providing a powerful strategic deterrent to prevent challenges to China’s interests and constrain the decisions of potential adversaries. Scheduled for completion by 2020, the reforms aim to place the services on a more even footing in the traditionally army-dominated PLA and to enable the military to more effectively harness space, cyberspace, and electronic warfare capabilities. Simultaneously, Xi is looking to rein in PLA corruption and assert his control over the military.

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