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Security Foreign policy Defense

A Greater Military Role for Germany?

Reichstag building Berlin view from west before sunset
Reichstag building Berlin view from west before sunset, Courtesey of Wikimedia Commons, Jürgen Matern

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 7 June 2016.

The German government will soon publish a new defense white paper, a strategy document setting out guidelines for German defense policy, the first since 2006.

This paper has already received some attention abroad, mainly in the UK in the context of the country’s referendum on EU membership on June 23, due to extensive press coverage of Germany’s alleged ambition to build an “EU army.” However, the improbable rhetorical aim of a European defense union obscures the more interesting aspects of Germany’s evolving defense policy and its growing significance for European defense.

Germany has long had difficult debates about its military role in European and global security, going back to the Social Democratic–Green government’s support for the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999. Germany’s military contributions since then have fluctuated from strong support for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan during the 2000s to its abstention from the UN Security Council resolution preceding NATO’s military intervention in Libya in 2011.

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International Relations Security Defense

US forces – Between Europe and Asia

Aircraft carrier USS George Washington near Guam.
Aircraft carrier at sunset, courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr

This article was originally published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) on 26 May 2016.

On 3 May 2016, with traditional pomp and circumstance, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti replaced General Philip Breedlove as commander of US forces in Europe (EUCOM), and at the same time became NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

General Scaparrotti assumes command in a very different environment from when his predecessor arrived in Europe three years earlier. Since the US ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific region was announced in 2011/2012, EUCOM has steadily lost resources and forces. During the peak of the Cold War, there were over half a million US personnel assigned to the European theatre of which 200,000 belonged to the US army alone. Today, around 65,000 US military personnel remain permanently stationed in Europe of which some 33,000 are US army soldiers.

However, recent developments to the east and south of Europe have pushed European defence back onto the agenda in Washington. A sign of this was the announcement by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in February 2016 to change military spending priorities with more support for NATO allies and more spending on advanced weapons. This reflects a new strategic environment marked by five big evolving geo-strategic challenges: Russian assertiveness; global terrorism and in particular the rise of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); China; North Korea; and Iran.

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International Relations Foreign policy Defense

Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper: ASEAN and the South China Sea

NUSHIP Canberra porting in Sydney, Courtesy of Crouchy69/Flickr.

This article was originally published by RSIS on 8 March 2016.

Synopsis

Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper may indicate a future strategic policy of reactionary assertiveness with significant consequences for Southeast Asia’s security, especially in the South China Sea.

Commentary

DESCRIBED AS ‘clear eyed and unsentimental’ by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP) reaffirms Australia’s strategic attention towards maritime Southeast Asia. While the 2009 and 2013 DWPs also had this focus, the 2016 DWP bluntly expresses Australia’s concerns over this area.

In the 190-page long document, Canberra pledges to increase capital investment in defence capabilities from the current AUD 9.4 billion to AUD 23 billion in 2025-26, mostly in the maritime domain. The concern is less what Australia will do with this investment than the consequences it will potentially bring to Southeast Asia, and its ASEAN grouping, in light of Australia’s reactionary assertiveness against China’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea.

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Security Defense

The Paradox of EU Defence Policy

EU and NATO Flags
Polish, EU and NATO Flags, courtesy Pawel Kabanski/Flickr

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 9 March 2016.

There is a paradox at the heart of EU defence policy. On the one hand the strategic demand for a more active and effective EU defence policy has been growing in recent years, mainly due to the increasing number of complex security crises in Europe’s neighbourhood. On the other, political interest in member-state capitals in EU defence policy has been declining. If this strange dichotomy continues, it will demonstrate the increasing irrelevance of EU defence policy for international security, and will hamper the ambition of the EU global strategy to have a full-spectrum set of foreign policy instruments and more comprehensive foreign policies.

Growing strategic demand

It has become obvious to say that the EU faces a number of security crises in its broad neighbourhood. This is not to say that the EU does not have global security interests, it does, for example maritime security in East Asia. But its role in East Asian security is likely to remain mainly a non-military one. In contrast, the EU’s extended neighbourhood is currently very turbulent, and crises there are causing a number of internal security challenges, such as the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks.