05. September 2003
Shaping a Common Security Agenda for Southeast Europe
Center for the Study of Democracy & Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

Shaping A Stronger Europe - A Case for Interlocking rather than Interblocking Institutions

by Otfried Nassauer

Presentation for Panel II
"The Transatlantic Relationsship and its Impact on Regional Security"
of the Conference on

Shaping a Common Security Agenda for Southeast Europe
New Approaches and Shared Responsibilities

Sofia (Bulgaria), September 4-6, 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen,

thank you for inviting me to this conference. Indeed, the organizers are to be congratulated for their attempt to combine a discussion on external security with the impact of organized crime on security at the very same conference. This is not only a very timely attempt but also one that is of significant importance and foresight. Internal and external aspects of security are becoming ever more closely interconnected in the emerging security environment of the 21st century. The Balkans is one of areas strongly affected by this development and thus I do believe, that this conference is an excellent idea and opportunity.

I have been asked to discuss some of the impacts of transatlantic relations on regional security. This is important since most Balkan countries are seeking membership to both, NATO and the EU. So let me start off with a quick replic to John Hulsman’s statement.

If it comes to US expectations towards European contributions to global security, one can often hear contradictory demands and statements even from within the same camp in the US foreign policy elite. Sometimes the arguments remind me to catch 22 situations.

John Hulsman, representing the Heritage Foundation, one of the Republican Parties’ finest and most thought provoking think tanks, argued that todays Europe presents the US with the opportunity to apply a cherry-picking strategy, a strategy allowing to exploit bilateral opportunities for stronger cooperation targeted at US national interest. In a recent paper published by Heritage, John added, that it was one of the positive results during the recent diplomatic quarrels over Iraq, that there was no single Europe. This brings John into a direct contradiction to another prominent Republican foreign policy thinker, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger is reported to have been searching for years for the one European telephone number to call if it comes to foreign and security policy issues. However, cherry-picking requires the existence of several phone numbers to pick from. Thus, how many telephone numbers should Europe provide to the US?

Very similar, contradictory statements are to be heard from within Washington, if it comes to Europe reacting to US demands for Europeans taking up a larger share of the defense and security burden. There seems to be a longstanding Inside-the-Beltway-tradition that if and whenever Europe decides to spend on defense, to strengthen its capabilities – no matter whether we talk about the A400M transport aircraft, the Galileo satellite system or even something as conventional as the Eurofighter aircraft – Washingtonian voices are in urgent need of sounding concern if not displeasure: Each of these programs has been dubbed "duplication" and a waste of ressources. Some of our US critics, e.g. former Ambassador to NATO, Robert Hunter, have openly added, that it would have been cheaper and more effective to buy future European capabilities off the shelf of American defense contractors. However, is "strengthing the European share in the defense burden" identical to "buying American"? Again, similar reactions are coming from Washington, whenever European nations work seriously to integrate their security and defense policies and develop their common European Security and Defense Policy. As soon as some substantial steps forward seem to be looming, voices from Washington are to be heard that fear a duplication of NATO-efforts or even the European Union competing with NATO as a whole. So, lets be blunt: What is the goal? Should Europe become more capable a partner or should it just provide more legions for the American case?

Indeed, sometimes I can’t avoid the impression, that some in Washington perceive the mere existance of European attempts to integrate Europe`s foreign and security policies as competition as they perceive the mere existence of European defense contractors a competition to marketing opportunities for US defense contractors. That’s not exactly what I would expect transatlantic partnership to be. That’s not exactly how I’d expect transatlantic cooperation to work.

Let me address two more points to illustrate the problem:

First. NATO is currently developing a NATO Response Force. This rapid reaction force for worldwide deployments and engagements is intended to become a mainly European staffed force, a force made up primarily by European contributions. So far, so good, so possibly productive. However, the very same project could well become a problem in case the result would be a European force, funded by European taxpayers, widely equipped with systems procured off the shelf from US-contractors, but not or not automatically available if required for European security missions. In addition it might even transfer the existing transatlantic technological gap into the core of the developping European military crisis-management capabilities. Neither me nor somebody else could explain such a result to European taxpayers. Taxpayers can be convinced that their money is spend wisely if they can be convinced of the benefits of the spending. I simply cannot believe that this is only true on the European side of the Atlantic.

Second. Yes, Europe is only second to the US in the Western world to make substantial contributions to common security policy efforts, as long as we are talking military capabilities only. Yes, Europe could do more on defense if it integrates and spends both more wisely and more efficiently. Yes, Europe can succeed, but this will require a single European approach, not one hampered by cherry-picking strategies to exploit still existing national differences towards US national interest advantages. Cherry-picking, to use the language of the early nineties transatlantic dialogue, is likely to transform the transatlantic relationsship into one of interblocking instead of interlocking institutions.

However, the existing gap between US and European capabilities is not and probably will not become large enough to convince European populations, taxpayers and governments that Europe’s role in making decisions about how to deal with a crisis, that could involve the deployment of military forces, is limited to being consulted by the US while not having a say in the dicision itself. From a European point of view that’s among the core problems recently to be wittnessed during the Iraq quarrels. If Washington decides to reduce NATO’s role from a joint decision-making body to a joint consultational body, European populations are likely to begin to think twice. If a stronger EU is perceived in Washington primarily as a potential competitor and not a serious partner for mutual cooperation, European populations again are likely to begin to think twice. While an American might pledge, that American interests are identical to the interests of Europe, no serious European intellectual or expert is likely to make that same argument. Europeans will agree, that the vast majority of our mutual interests are in line with each other, no matter on which side of the Atlantic we live. However, they would not agree that all of our interests are identical.

If Europe is to become stronger, according to European views, it also should become more capable. Indeed it must also become more capable to act autonomously in case the US decides to not have an interest in a specific crisis. No more early nineties Balkan quagmires! If Europe is to spend more and develop additional capabilities in the defense field its only natural that those who work to earn the money to be spend on that issue, the taxpayers, want to see their governments having increasingly capable means to provide them, the taxpayers, with additional security, where and whenever in Europe’s interest and under ever decreasing levels of dependency on US help.

Having made these points, it is obvious that I don’t believe the distinction between the"old" and the "new" Europe introduced by the US-Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, to be terribly helpful. I also don’t believe that the French President, Jacques Chirac, was extremely helpful when criticizing Central, Eastern and South-Eastern European nations for signing the "Letter of the Eight" on Iraq. And again, I don’t believe that Bruce Jackson was extremely helpful either while initiating or while orchestrating this very event.

If Europe and the US are to continue to be partners in developing a secure, peaceful and prospering world, if they wish to continue to shape the future world order around the common values they share, they will need each other as true partners and they might need each other as even stronger partners in future. Neither should wish the other to become or remain weak. To the opposite: A strong America needs a stronger Europe. And a strong America is very much in the interest of Europe. There’s not too much Europe these days, there’s too little Europe. It should be in the interest of the US to encourage, not to distract European nations from developing their own joint security concepts and adequate capabilities. Washington should encourage European capabilities for autonomous crisis management and action. It should encourage the development of these capabilities by the whole of Europe, including both the "old" and the "new" Europe". Europe will succeed to make a stronger contribution to joint security and stability efforts the easier, the sooner and the more effective the more it joins forces as a whole and across the limits of current EU membership. Taking a look at the requirements most likely resulting from the emerging security environment of the future, strengthens that case:

Which tasks will most likely shape the future needs for a European security policy and the capabilities needed therefore? This requires a quick look at the risks and threats first. While the cold-war-aera was characterized by mutual threats of annihilation, the post-cold-war-aera is shaped by much different demands. No matter whether we are looking at the risks resulting from terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime or crisis-management and post-conflict nation-building, all of these risks

  • do not directly threaten the very existence of our nations
  • can be reduced but probably not entirely eradicated
  • require multilateral and/or multinational cooperation to effectively deal with them, since no single nation can handle them on its own and within its own borders
  • require the integrated response by many different means states have at their hands and thus the integration of a large variety of policy instruments across the traditional distinction between external and internal affairs; and
  • can be fought in most cases more effectively and much better while applying non-military means. Actually they are pretty good examples for the argument that the use of military force is a last resort, while primarily non-military means with need to be applied and this has to happen preventively.

The types of military involvement European nations are likely to have to decide about are

  • First peace-keeping and or peace-enforcement operations on behalf of the UN, the OSCE or other international institutions,
  • Second, multilateral interventions to fight terrorism and or the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (in most cases on request of the US)
  • Third, nation-building operations following a US-intervention (in most cases on the request of the US or international institutions)
  • And possibly fourth as a more remote likelihood, deployments for purposes of jointly deterring limited regional aggression. (Widening EU-membership might highlight this option again.)

Thus, the overall consequence of this short survey is all too obvious. The challenges of the 21st century will require a wider definition of security. A definition, which goes beyond the traditional understanding of defending territories by primarily military means. And as a consequence there also needs to be a wider definition of burdensharing. Non-military contributions to stability, to fighting the roots and causes of possible future military conflicts and thus for safeguarding the security of our nations on both sides of the Atlantic against the new types of risks will be required much more widely and on a much larger scale. They will have to become part of the transatlantic burdensharing equation. And they will highlight the need for proactive, preventive policies. To take this point intentionally a bit beyond the discourse considered to be rational: Would it really help, if Europe were able to send several corps-sized expeditionary forces lets say to Indonesia, Malayisa and the sub-saharan Africa at the same time? Would such a capability really help our common transatlantic security, if at the same time there was a serious lack of ressouces to effectively engage organized crime, illegal migration, drug-trafficking or deliver comparably small infusions of developmental aid necessary to de-fuze an upcoming major crisis around the globe? (I’m perceiving a few million death-toll in Africa a major crisis trying to preempt others calling me a Eurocentrist.) The new security environment indeed will require a very different mixture of tools in our toolboxes and in some cases even entirely different tools – both on the national as well as on the multinational level.

Europe and especially the European Union have a lot to offer if it comes to wider security and broader burdensharing. In many areas of expertise and capabilities required for the future security environment, Europa can make a stronger contribution to security than even NATO could. NATO lacks many if not most of the non-military means to deal with a crisis or to de-fuze it early on. This is in no way NATO’s fault. It’s just normal, since NATO wasn’t created to cope with such tasks. However, the EU has been developed to integrate on the supranational level many of the policy instruments that can and will proof useful and effective for such purposes. Thus the EU has a lot to offer – complementing the capabilities of the United States, rather than being perceived as a competitor to NATO. This latter perception does not make any sense, unlesss we would ignore entirely the changing character of the future security environment and continue to meassure our capabilities solely as military capabilities. Therefore Europe is not Liliputs in need of tieing down Guliver, if it comes to dealing with the risks that will characterize the future.

Yes, Europe does not yet possess much integrated "hard power" tools, such as substantial military forces fully adapted to future global requirements. After decades of having been tought, that Europeans should care about Europe, but not engage globally any longer, European nations are adapting to develop the some of the necessary tools. On a limited scale, basically as a back-up against coercion or blackmail, if non-military tools should prove insufficient. I perceive this a useful add-on to the European toolbox and a Europe that becomes increasingly capable of adding and complementing to US strengths. However, that’s different from imitating the US approach.

Let me finally turn to the Balkans for a quick moment. Most if not all countries on the Balkans want to become members of both, the EU and NATO. These processes will place substantial burdens on each of the Balkan countries, burdens of transformation, which will have to beared in light of scarce ressources. For all Balkan states there will be hard choices to be made and difficult decisions to be taken on prioritizing ressources and energy available. However, the job will need to be done for the sake of the overall benefits to peace, stability and prosperity that we all expect. In some cases the nations on the Balkans may be even presented with choices between demands oriented towards integration into NATO or into the European Union, just because ressources are too scarce.

Therefore let me ask a few provocative questions on priorities:

What is the future priorty for a typical nation on the Balkans? Spending a few millions on participating in a US-led intervention somewhere in South-East Asia by contributing a few hundred soldiers or spending the very same ressources on a proper customs service and border control?

What is the priority, if there’s money for upgrading only one airport to highest ICAO and NATO standards? Is the modernization taking place first on a military airbase or a civilian one?

What is the priority, if it comes to preparing for the adoption of common EU environmental standards versus agreeing to substantial exemptions and waivers on demand during discussions about the possible deployments of US forces in a specific country?

Such questions do not entirely come out of the blue. They need to be tackled if confronted with a cherry-picking strategy. For many in the current EU, e.g. it has been difficult to wittness Poland just having received approval for EU membership including approval for substantial financial transfers to support economic transformation without having to enter into too much new debt, a few days later taking the decision to procure a substantial number of US fighter aircraft at relatively high costs and probably causing such additional debts. (This was even more difficult for Germany, since Germany had recently contracted to provide Poland with its 24 westernized MIG-29 fighter aircraft as a gift and interim solution, to make costly procurements of new aircraft unnecessary for a while. Such decisions are not easy to sell to Western European taxpayers. Redcently the German government has been harshly criticized by its General Accounting Office, the Bundesrechnungshof for wasting taxpayers money in a similar move to cheaply transfer more than 100 Leopard tanks to Poland.)

Also, it came a bit as a surprise of a priority to me, when I recently read that Romania had decided to make its only national airbase upgraded to highest international standards, a military base, available to the US forces conducting the build-up against Iraq.

If the United States and Europe indeed are to work together successfully in shaping a world order for the post-cold-war aera, they will have to cooperate respecting their mutual strengths and needs. They will have to make a fortune of the fact, that they do have different strengths and weaknesses. They will have to avoid exploiting each others weaknesses. There is excellent opportunities to mutually benefit from each others strengths – however they need to be taken in account, when planning one owns strategy and consulting it with the other. The job we still face is to make them interlocking not interblocking institutions.

Making too sharp a distinction between hard power and soft power is not useful, since it is in disregard of the fact, that often it is soft power, that makes the use of hard power unnecessary and thus saves scarce ressources enabling governments to invest them into other more urgent and more efficient security programs or just into fighting the root causes of future risks.

The European Union increasingly becomes a player in the security field. It can do better than it does today. The more European nations contribute, the better it can do. The EU – especially since its Security and Defense Policy is emerging from a civilian-only institution – does have an excellent option: It can develop a balanced security policy – across the full spectrum of means and instruments. Finally European integration is about developing such a policy, since the EU is, what we could call an "emerging state".

There’s a useful distinction soccer-loving Europeans are making. It’s the distinction between the "Standbein", the leg you’re standing on, when kicking the ball, and the "Spielbein", the leg that you’re using to deal with the ball. It’s risky and you are probably playing worse if you constantly use your Standbein as your Spielbein and vice versa, when playing soccer. The European Union as well as it’s current and future members are likely to play worse and be a weaker partner to the transatlantic team, if they’d try to do so. Europe’s Standbein and strength is the European civilian crisis-management capabilities, not its military means. Military means may be the US Standbein, but sorry, Americans are much more likely to play football than soccer. However, that’s an entirely different game and most Europeans don’t even know the rules.


is a free-lance journalist specializing in defense and security issues and the Director of the Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security - BITS .