The CSS Blog Network

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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The Order of Battle of the Ukrainian Armed Forces

Kiev

Courtesy of Adam Reeder/Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

This article was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on 9 December 2016.

The United States and its partners can improve regional security and stability in Eastern Europe by supporting the modernization and reform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine more aggressively. Ukraine has suffered from consistent Russian military aggression since Russia occupied the Crimean Peninsula and militarily intervened in the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in 2014. The overall unpreparedness of the Ukrainian military and its inability to match the capabilities of Russian forces allowed Russian and Russian proxy forces to gain a foothold in eastern Ukraine from which they continue to destabilize the entire country. The Ukrainian armed forces have been partially restructured and strengthened in the face of this constant pressure, enough to stabilize the front lines for a time.  They require significantly more support of all varieties, however, if they are to stop the advance of Russia and its proxies permanently, to say nothing of reversing the armed occupation of Ukrainian territory.

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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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Slow-Motion Coup in Venezuela

Courtesy Antonio Marín Segovia/Flickr

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group on 5 August 2016.

Nicolás Maduro was elected president of Venezuela in April 2013 by a narrow margin. His term is due to end in January 2019, unless the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance can force a recall referendum this year – and win it. But does President Maduro really run the country?

In recent weeks Nicolás Maduro appears to have taken a back seat to Venezuela’s top general, defence minister Vladimir Padrino López, who also – unusually – holds the post of operational commander of the armed forces.

On 11 July, Maduro announced that he and Padrino would jointly head a newly-created “Civilian-Military Presidential Command”, charged primarily with resolving the country’s acute shortage of food, medicines and other basic goods. All other ministries and state institutions have been subordinated to this body, whose functions not only cover stimulating production, controlling prices and overseeing distribution and imports of food, but also the country’s security and defence.

The prominence of the military in determining Venezuela’s political future was illustrated once again by the appointment on Wednesday of Néstor Reverol as interior minister. Unlike Padrino, who rose through the army, Reverol hails from the National Guard. His alleged criminal connections – he was promoted to the post of minister after being served a US court indictment the day before for assisting drug traffickers – suggests that different factions in the military may now be jostling for shares of influence in the state.

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