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EU Defense Is Not Just for Diplomats

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This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 24 August 2017.

Since the 2016 British vote to leave the EU, European governments have agreed on a number of new initiatives to improve their military cooperation. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in June 2017 that the EU had “moved more in 10 months than in the last 10 years.” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen went even further, claiming that Europeans had made more progress on defense issues in six months than in the previous sixty years.

These statements are exaggerations. But, Brussels bluster aside, the EU has recently agreed on some useful ideas to improve European military cooperation. They cover a range of activities, from funding for military research to better planning for EU operations, which could add real value to European military efforts.

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The Time for European Defence Has Come: Rome Must Step Up to the Task

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This article was originally posed by the Istituto Affari Internazionali on 3 August 2017.

When it comes to European defence, more has been achieved over the last year than in the past decade. Some would go as far back as 1950, the fateful year in which the French Pleven Plan on a European defence community was rejected by the French themselves. In turn, the Union’s founders devised a roundabout to make war on the continent unthinkable: the integration of coal and steel, which kicked off the functionalist logic at the heart of the European project six decades ago. Seventy-seven years later, talk about a European defence union is rife within and beyond the Brussels bubble. But what does such a union consist of? Why is it coming about now? And how should Italy position itself in this process?

The EU Global Strategy (EUGS) presented by High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini to the European Council in June 2016 triggered renewed work on a security and defence union. As noted by the EUGS: “The EU Global Strategy starts at home”[1]: the first priority for the EU’s role in the world is the security of the Union itself, achieved through systemic defence cooperation. The implementation of the EUGS in its first year concentrated heavily on security and defence. The establishment of a permanent headquarters – a military planning and conduct capability in Eurocratese –, and the preparatory work to activate a coordinated annual review on defence between member states, or a permanent structured cooperation between a group of member states (PESCO) are all mentioned in the EUGS. These are necessary tools to travel the long and bumpy road towards a European security and defence union, which would feature more systematic defence cooperation as a first step, potentially going all the way to a common defence, as allowed for in the Lisbon Treaty.

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China, Russia and the Shifting Landscape of Arms Sales

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This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 5 July 2017.

Following the end of the cold war and the break-up of the Soviet Union, there were rapid decreases in Russian military budgets. Soviet military expenditure had stood at almost USD $350 billion in 1988. However, by 1992 it had fallen to USD $60 billion and in 1998 was only USD $19 billion. The more flexible parts of the budget suffered the most, such as those for procurement and operations. At the same time, the Russian arms industry saw several major clients for its weapons disappear, chief among them the former Warsaw Pact members and Iraq. By 1992, the arms industry Russia had inherited from the Soviet Union was in serious trouble. Most of its internal market and part of its export market was gone.

In parallel with this development, China was embarking on a serious military modernization. Boosted by its rapidly growing economy, it began to implement a long-planned reorganization of its armed forces and the acquisition of advanced weaponry. (This modernization had been planned since the 1970s and was given extra impetus by the poor performance of China’s armed forces against Viet Nam in 1979.) Chinese military spending has increased almost every year since 1989, the first year of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data for China, from USD $21 billion in 1988 to USD $215 billion in 2015. With this surge, China overtook Russia’s spending in 1998 and within five years had become the second largest spender globally behind the United States.

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The Anglo-German Addiction to American Defense

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This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 6 July 2017.

Germany and the UK are likely to remain dependent on U.S. defense, because the alternatives are currently too daunting for Berlin and London.

It is obvious that the European members of NATO depend on the United States for their defense. And why wouldn’t they want that dependence to continue? Only Russia currently poses a direct military threat to Europe. However, for all its meddling—both military and nonmilitary—in European NATO members, Russia would hardly want to risk a shooting war with the United States, the world’s only military superpower. Plus, American protection allows Europeans to spend relatively less on defense and more on other things.

Yet, because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s vacillating rhetorical commitment to NATO’s mutual defense, it is becoming fashionable for some European politicians to argue that Europeans will increasingly have to look after themselves. Explaining the rationale behind the need for the EU to expand its military role, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told an audience in Prague on June 9 that the United States was “no longer interested in guaranteeing Europe’s security in our place.”

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How Brazil’s Political and Economic Crisis Affects its Military Spending

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This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 22 June 2017.

SIPRI’s recently published data shows a decrease of 7.2% in Brazil’s military expenditure in 2016 compared to 2015. The reasons behind this cut are quite complicated, since the country is embroiled in a mix of a political and economic crises. This blog post briefly discusses some of the features driving Brazil’s military spending downwards and how the current context may affect the future.

Brazil’s economic growth—and crash

First, we need to understand why Brazil’s military spending went up in the first place. Between 2000 and 2010, Brazil had significant economic growth, especially during President Lula’s term in office. Not only did the country’s economy grow, but inequality dropped. For instance, in 2007 the national Gini coefficient–an index created to measure income inequality–reached its lowest level in 30 years. These outstanding growth results enabled the government to allocate large resources to military projects, like the KC-390 aircraft, the Integrated System of Border Monitoring (SISFRON) and the Guaraní armoured vehicle production. In fact, between 2002 and 2013—the year Lula took office and the beginning of Petrobras corruption scandal, respectively—Brazil’s military spending increased by 28%.

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