The CSS Blog

An EU HQ? Let Them At It

EU Flags

Courtesy European Parliament/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on 11 October 2016.

The debate about the EU military headquarters is not as vacuous as some of its British critics claim, although it has undoubtedly been given a new lease of life by the Brexit vote. Still, the UK would be well-advised to drop its vociferous opposition to the scheme, even if it continues to entertain doubts about its viability.

During her recent visit to the UK, Germany Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen asked the British not to block EU efforts to build deeper security and defence cooperation. Her comments followed British criticism of Franco-German plans to build an EU headquarters and suggestions that London might block such a measure, as long as it remained in the EU.

There is a whole bundle of post-Brexit vote politics at play here, for which the HQ issue has become something of a lightning rod. The 27 other EU governments are keen to show some unity and that the bloc remains relevant for their citizens, especially for their security. Plus, although it is not entirely fair to blame the UK for the EU’s lack of progress on military matters, cheerleaders for EU defence policy – and not only in Berlin and Paris – have seized on the Brexit vote as a golden opportunity to relaunch that policy.

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The World Has Passed the Old Grand Strategies By


Courtesy Thomas Hawk/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 5 October 2016.

It’s grand strategy season in Washington, and with good reason. From War on the Rocks to Foreign Affairs to a recent spate of books, there has been a renewed argument over primacy, offshore balancing, and other contenders for the grand strategy crown. The debate is timely: The international order is in the midst of an epochal shift and a new administration will have to rethink basic organizing concepts for America’s role in the world.

Unfortunately, most of the debate has already begun to ring hollow. The default grand strategy concepts no longer capture the choices that America faces. The most important truth about grand strategy today is that the United States badly needs new options to choose from. The classic stand-off is between advocates of primacy or preeminence on the one hand, and restraint or offshore balancing on the other. There are dramatically different versions of each, and the terms can mislead as easily as they can inform. As Stephen Brooks, John Ikenberry, and William Wohlforth have rightly argued, for example, “primacy” can sometimes imply a straw man vision of hegemonic dominance that nobody really advocates.

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Twenty-Three Years after ´Black Hawk Down´, America is Back at War in Somalia


Courtesy AK Rockefeller/Flickr

This article was originally published by War is Boring on 3 October 2016.

Long before the debacles of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Somalia was the quagmire that Western militaries would have loved to strike from their records.

In the now-famous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993, overconfident U.S. forces blundered into an ambush in Mogadishu. Eighteen American soldiers and two troops from the supporting U.N. force died.

The West retreated from Somalia. To fill the security vacuum, the African Union deployed a peacekeeping force from 2006 onward.

The AMISOM peacekeeping force relies to a great degree on material and financial support from the United States and European allies, whose interest in the Somalia conflict increased again when Islamist groups gained influence in the country.

But the memory of the 1993 battle complicated direct intervention by Western militaries.

Gradually and quietly, this has begun to change.

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No First Use of Nuclear Weapons: An Option for US Nuclear Weapons Policy?

stencil NO

Courtesy Dr Case/flickr

This article was originally published by the E-International Relations (E-IR) on 28 September 2016.

In July 2016, reports in U.S. newspapers indicated the Obama Administration considered adopting a declaratory policy stating that the United States would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in conflict. Subsequent reports, however, indicated that the United States was unlikely to adopt this particular change in U.S. declaratory policy before the end of the Obama Administration because both military and civilian officials in the Administration oppose the declaration of a “no first use” policy. The press reported that, during deliberations on the policy change, Pentagon officials argued that current ambiguity provides the President with options in a crisis. For example, Admiral Haney, the Commander in Chief of Strategic Command, noted that the shift could undermine deterrence and stability in an uncertain security environment. The reports stated that Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Carter also raised concerns about the possibility that a “no first use” policy could undermine the confidence and security of U.S. allies. The press reported that several U.S. allies also weighed in against the change in policy. Some in the U.S. Congress, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, argued that the only moral use for U.S. nuclear weapons is as a deterrent to their use. Others, including Representative Mac Thornberry and a number of Republican Senators, argued that changes in U.S. nuclear policy could lead to a more dangerous world by undermining nuclear deterrence and “shattering the trust” of U.S. allies.

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EU Defense, Where Political Opportunity Meets Strategic Necessity


Courtesy Defense Images / Flickr

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 15 September 2016.

Since Britain voted on June 23 to leave the EU, it seems everyone has an idea for strengthening European defense. The cacophony of calls in the last month alone has included an Italian proposal for a “Schengen of defense,” a reference to the EU’s passport-free travel zone; a Visegrád Four appeal from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia for a “European army”; and a Weimar triangle declaration from France, Germany, and Poland on the need for more effective EU security and defense policies.

Ahead of an informal summit of EU heads of state and government (minus the UK) in Bratislava on September 16, the French and German defense ministers have prepared a paper containing a number of concrete ideas for deeper military cooperation—building on an earlier post-Brexit initiative by their foreign ministers for a “European Security Compact.”

Not to be outdone, EU leaders in Brussels have also joined the chorus. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, has said that she will produce a security and defense plan by the end of 2016, a follow-on document to her broader global strategy for EU foreign and security policies, which was published in June.

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