The CSS Blog Network

In Praise of NATO’s Dysfunctional, Bureaucratic Tedium

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This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 7 November 2017.

A year after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, the furor around his approach to transatlantic security has predictably calmed. Part of the reason is saturation. Like antibiotics, provocation of one’s allies loses its potency when used excessively. Part of the reason is that the president has found a more willing and compelling foil, in the form of Kim Jong Un, than those buttoned-up European leaders he accuses of freeloading. Certainly, part of the reason includes the administration’s Russia-related scandals and Robert Mueller’s investigation. The president’s hostility toward NATO has always felt more like a sop to Moscow than a matter of principle and thus not a good look with indictments swirling.

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Two Sides of Europe’s Defense Coin

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This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 2 November 2017.

If Italy and Poland developed a strategic consensus and acted accordingly, it would be a revolution for European defense.

Toward the end of 2015, a few defense experts raised their eyebrows at a Credit Suisse report on the future of globalization. This wide-ranging assessment contained a short analysis of global military power, ranking the top 20 countries in the world. Weighing six elements of conventional warfare, the Credit Suisse analysts considered Poland a stronger military power than Germany, and Italy came ahead of the United Kingdom.

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An Effective Antidote: The Four Components that Make Finland More Resilient to Hybrid Campaigns

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This article was originally published by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) on 3 October 2017.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine reminded many that states use a mixture of tools to achieve their political objectives. Analytically troublesome but politically useful terms such as hybrid war emerged. Russia’s neighbours were thought to be particularly vulnerable. Yet Finland is structurally relatively resistant to hybrid campaigns due to a foundation created over decades.

First, Finland is fundamentally a stable and functioning state. On measures of democracy, the rule of law, anti-corruption, free speech and the media, education, and socio-economic equality, Finland scores well. In the Fragile State Index (compiled annually by the Fund for Peace and consisting of over one hundred individual measures), Finland is ranked year after year as the most sustainable country. Trust in the authorities is also high. » More

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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Forget the Subs: What Taipei Can Learn from Tehran about Asymmetric Defense

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This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 6 April 2017.

Ahead of the Donald Trump-Xi Jinping summit this week at Mar-a-Lago, Taiwan is understandably anxious. Trump’s ascendance to the American presidency has injected uncertainty into the U.S. approach to China and Taiwan — an element of foreign policy that is traditionally carefully calibrated to avoid upsetting the precarious cross-strait arrangement. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s unprecedented phone call with then-President -elect Trump in early December seemed to herald a new, more muscularly pro-Taiwan approach. This impression was subsequently belied by Trump’s suggestion that Taiwan could be traded away as part of a grand bargain with China. Speculation about Trump’s interest in upending this long-standing U.S. policy died down after the president affirmed his support for the “one China policy” in his first conversation with Xi. The next month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson adopted China’s verbiage regarding a “new model of great power relations” during his trip to Beijing.

Whether and how Trump and Xi will address the one China policy remains to be seen. “We are preparing for every scenario,” one unnamed Taiwanese official told The Washington Post. Yet the underlying problem is clear. As Taiwan’s recently released Quadrennial Defense Review argues, Chinese military power is increasing at the same time as the new administration’s plans for “the United States’ Asia-Pacific strategic direction and troop deployment” remain uncertain. These shifting geopolitical currents come at the same time as growing strain between Taiwan and China. Beijing regards Tsai’s traditionally pro-independence political party as antagonistic to its interests and, since her inauguration last May, has undertaken a campaign of increased economic, political, and military pressure.

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