Bit by Bit: Cybersecurity and disruptive innovations as driver for NATO´s Future

Written and published the workshop on „NATO’s Future“, organized by the Young Atlantic Treaty Association Germany.

Today, NATO faces two major problems: The first is the question of legitimacy and the second is internal division. Since the end of the Cold War, the former has been the subject of debates many times. It is problematic that the first leads directly to the second. Through an unclear mission, the reality of NATO fails because of the different and sometimes opposed interests of member states and all citizens involved. This division can be seen to a striking extent in the debate on the 2% target. Actually, the implementation of a target agreed on by all member states should be implemented quickly. The opposite is the case. „Bit by Bit: Cybersecurity and disruptive innovations as driver for NATO´s Future“ weiterlesen

Supremacy of EU Law

1. Controversy about primacy of EU Law
When the British Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Nigel Mills claimed “we need to take some real action and that is why we should at least be reintroducing the restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians” he jiggled on the one hand on the principle of free movement within the European Union (EU), furthermore doing so he also put the doctrine of supremacy of EU Law into question. The supremacy of EU Law is one of the most debated and most controversial issue within in the European Community from its beginning.
The EU is a unique entity. 28 Member states, 28 national parliaments, 28 constitutions, but also one European Parliament, one Commission and one European Court of Justice (ECJ), all working together for one aim: The Common Market. From an economical point of view, several different jurisdictions are not desirable and lead to too much insecurity. From an ethical point of view 28 different handling of e.g. employment right lead to injustice and discriminative humans worth, which is against article 20 of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union “Equality before the law”. As a consequence of step-by-step integration and not full legislative competence of the Commission supremacy of EU Law is not cleared thoroughly. One could mention that this is only a problem of traditional euro-sceptical Britain, but it is always a matter of judicial interest, when there is uncertainty about implementation of EU Law. To clarify the concept of “supremacy” we will examine its basics. The interpretation of the authority of the ECJ is controversial, we will exemplify divergent interpretation as following step.
„Supremacy of EU Law“ weiterlesen

The ‘Return of Geopolitics’ and the Revival of Russia?

The Case of Syria

Since Daesh raised out of the troubles of the Syrian civil war and it established as an international actor, the Western respond was clear: the defeat of the terror group and the replacement of the Syrian government. Nevertheless, the US-led coalition had difficulties to agree on a reliable strategy for the future and the military mission, the Russian government rejected all attempts to overthrow the Syrian government. Furthermore, military efforts helped – deliberately or unintentionally – the Syrians’ regime to stabilize. The Russian engagement is one of the first major foreign interventions outside the territory of the former Soviet Union. Immediately, Russian engagement raised the question of the return of geopolitical strategies and the struggle of major powers. This brief essay will outline, why Russian intervention in Syria cannot be seen as the raise of geopolitics by outlining younger approaches on this topic, Russian foreign policies and its development in Syria. „The ‘Return of Geopolitics’ and the Revival of Russia?“ weiterlesen

Security Strategies Compared

The German “White Paper”, the Estonian “National Security Concept” and the “Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy”

White Books and Strategy Papers do have different objectives: They inform parliaments and the population, give orientation for other countries, especially strategic partners and provide a valuable source for further strategic communication of all security institutions. After 13 years, the European Union released its Global Strategy replacing its European Security Strategy paper of 2003. The same year, the German Defence Minister von der Leyen presented the so called White Paper (Weißbuch), 2016 replacing a ten years old concept. The Estonian National Security Concept – quite older – was adopted in 2010 by the Estonian parliament Riigikogu. It is the basis for following defense and military action concepts.
In this paper, I will analyze the three concepts and its formulated relation towards international institutions based on its background, the strategic orientation and strengths and weaknesses.

Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe
Just a few days after the United Kingdom voted against the EU, High Representative Mogherini presented the new, overall strategy of European foreign and security policy. Since the last strategy paper, the geopolitical situation and security environment has changed dramatically. Two developments were crucial: Conflict has many faces and is fought on different levels and the classical formula of conflict resolution – conflict, military action, peacekeeping mission – does not longer apply.
The new paper offers two solutions to work on: First, Resilience is the new magic word to tackle conflicts at its roots. Second, hybrid warfare is much more on the agenda than it was ever before.
Resilience is understood “as both the ability to repel attack and endure and repair damage, as well as the ability to create structures that prevent such attacks and harm occurring in the first place.” (Bendiek 2016: 2) Internally this means to strengthen European defense industry and harmonize military equipment. “The EU consists of 28 separate defense policies. [..] The EU has 1.6 million armed personnel […] but 70 percent cannot be deployed.” (Kerigan-Kyrou 2015: 18) Externally, the EU strategy is narrowed to the security aspect, not intervening in other states’ business.
Further, the Russian aggressions were considered as a new type of strategy “that all means are employed to assert one’s interests and that this is most effective if done in an orchestrated fashion” (Major and Mölling 2015: 1)
The paper abandons – contrary to the title – a global approach. Where it is global, it is vague and weak. Rather, it underlines a much more defensive approach towards security mainly achieved by cooperation. This is the true added value. By tackling many internal problems, an all-inclusive approach would be one step too big. Instead, by focusing on partnerships at specific policy fields it assures to use already existing knowledge and capacities. “Not only is there potential for NATO and the EU to work together, but there may indeed be a perfect synergy.” (Kerigan-Kyrou 2015: 19)

Weißbuch 2016. Zur Sicherheitspolitik und zur Zukunft der Bundeswehr
Due to international treaties, Germany has played a passive role in international security politics since 1945 with the exception of 1999. Highly contested, the military operations did not reach its aimed objectives. These experiences in mind, German participation in the War on Terror were cautious.
At his opening speech at the 50th Munich Security Conference, President Gauck observed multilateralism in crisis and claimed “Germany must also be ready to do more to guarantee the security that others have provided it with for decades.” (Gauck 2014) With the beginning of 2014, the principle of military caution was challenged by the highest German leadership, including Chancellor Merkel and Minister of Defence von der Leyen. After the dominant role, Germany had during the European financial crisis, a re-orientation of Germany’s foreign policy was considered leery by many international observers. However, the White Book of 2016 is the result of the new debate of German’s security policy in a changed global environment. Nevertheless, it is just a first step and the anchor for upcoming debates on security policy in Germany and Europe. Retreating and emerging global powers – as it is painted out – have forced Germany into a more dominant role and therefore, the new security policy deals with the increasing demand for Germany as a more global acting power, shaping and securing international order. Traditionally, Germany is member of several international and regional organizations (IOs), two thinkable ways to act as a rising power are to contribute more to IOs or to seek ones’ fortune outside of cooperation. The White Paper stresses, Germany will increase its commitment to the United Nations (UN), followed by NATO, the EU and the OSCE. The importance of the UN for Germany, the White Paper is assuming, is surprising. Even though in the past Germany was a partner for safeguarding Human Rights and peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations on paper, in fact, Germany’s distribution to the UN is financially high, but personally on a low level. However, the global trend is, deploying more and more peacekeepers (GPI 2016: 37).
Given the declining influence of the United States, it must be questioned, whether Germany can behave as a provider of stability at least in Europe and which institution might fit better. Both NATO and EU are in crisis, members cannot or are not willing to contribute their responsibilities. Especially, the CSDP has not yet reached its potential. The White Paper underlines efforts to use synergies effects instead of concentrating on one or the other. In times, NATO and EU are challenged by several actors, this is a cautious compromise. Reform or radical changes must wait. Overall, Germany’s strategy is rather defence and seeking international leadership by cooperation.

National Security Concept
The concept paper underlines the importance of the EU and above all NATO and the transatlantic security links. Partially mentioned is the OSCE, while the UN is not mentioned at all. As a small state Estonia does not have ambitions to shape global policy and is more concentrated on the Baltic region.
Relations to Russia have always been a controversial topic in Estonia. On the one side, Russia still has close links to the country, energy networks, investment and minorities exposed for Russian speaking media and propaganda. However, the country is clearly orientated towards the West. Close relations with Russia do not play any part in the Security Concept. As its biggest neighbour, Russia is defined as a threat, capable to use military but also energy resources to reach political and economic objectives.
Relations to other neighbours are strong, although the Nordic-Baltic security environment is described as a “conundrum” (Major and von Voss: 3) and more vulnerable than other European states. Firstly, neighbouring countries do not share same memberships in international organizations. In case of emergency, NATO will have difficulties in providing security as it has to use bases in Sweden and Finland. Both are not NATO member states and have to confirm right of usage, which can cost time and effort. Additionally, Norway and Denmark are not part of CSDP, constraining a regional security concept. Furthermore, Estonian geography is “missing strategic depth” (ibid.). Although developments after the Crimean Annexation were not foreseeable and geopolitical circumstances have changed since 2010 – when the Paper was written – Estonia underlined the importance of contributions to NATO and the national defence expenditure. The aim of 2 per cent expenditure as a share of GDP is one of the highest in the alliance. Further, Estonia supports NATO and EU enlargement processes as crucial for security and prosperity in Europe.

Analysing the paper, it must be recognised that a common European security policy was not fully developed in 2010. Although Estonia promised full support of a Common Foreign and Security Policy, it does not see the EU capable of delivering full protection. Almost seven years later, it can be assumed that made premises still count: As shown in the meantime, Russia is using military force to obtain objectives and the only strategy in sight for Estonia will be military force as a counter weight. Ongoing NATO operations such as Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania and other Baltic Countries proof this.

All strategy papers do have different approaches to similar crisis. What is striking is, that all papers underline the importance of NATO safeguarding security and defence. This might be surprising enough for NATO, which was regarded useless for a long period after the end of the Cold War. It seems, states are willing to give NATO a chance cooperating with the EU, rather than relying on national approaches.

Bendiek, A. (2016): The Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy. SWP Comments 38. August.
Gauck, J. (2014): Speech to open 50th Munich Security Conference. Accessed: 25.01.2017.
Global Peace Index 2016. Institute for Economics and Peace.
Kerigan-Kyrou, Dr. D. A. (2015): The EU & NATO. Promoting Collaboration Between two of the World’s Most Powerful Organizations. In: Per Concordiam, 6, 3: 16-21.
Major, C. and Mölling, Dr. C. (2015): A Hybrid Security Policy for Europe. Resilience, Deterrence, and Defense as Leitmotifs. SWP Comments 22, April.
Major, C. and von Voss, A. (2016): Nordic-Baltic Security, Germany and NATO. The Baltic Sea Region Is a Test Case for European Security. SWP Comments 13, March.
National Security Concept (NSC; 2010)
NATO (2016): Defence Expenditures of NATO Countries (2009-2016). COMMUNIQUE
PR/CP(2016)116. 4 July.
White Paper 2016: On German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr. Federal Ministry of Defence. Berlin.

Picture: Christos Barbalis

Inaction in Syria and its consequences

When in late February 2017 the Astana process called for more peace in Syria, the European Union (EU) was outside of the negotiation table. Above all Russia, but also Turkey and Iran, brought the Syrian government and representatives of the armed opposition groups back on the table. Even UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and US Ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, were only allowed to participated as observers. How long the agreed ceasefire will last, must be evaluated, but it is a first step for further direct talks. The Astana Process stands in a long row of peace talks organized by different organizations, but for the first time all parties involved were included.

From the very beginning of the conflict the EU tried to influence the outcome of a rebellion unleashing the most efficient and feared terror group, Daesh. The by the EU in 2016 presented Global Agenda promised, “we will foster dialogue and negotiation over regional conflicts such as those in Syria and Libya.” (EU 2016: 34)

In the following I will outline briefly steps taken by the EU to intervene in the Syrian conflict with an interim conclusion that the EU has largely been inactive. In a second step, I will analyse two direct effects of passiveness in Syria.

EU engagement in Syria
Although US strikes against the Syrian government were discussed (Rosniey 2013: 5), from the beginning, it was clear that the EU is not in favour of any NATO-led military operation (Gowan 2012). Security concerns over the stability in the region were predominating concerns of human rights violations.

One factor was the unclear internal situation: Although ruled authoritarian, Western officials were optimistic to convince the regime for some concessions. “Assad made some gestures in this direction but opted to unleash the army on protestors instead.” (Gowan 2012) The political opposition was scattered and with unclear loyalties.

Further, doubts were raised how Turkey and Israel were acting. For a long time, Turkeys borders were officially closed for Syrians and de facto open for fighters and assistance of Daesh. Kurdish involvement in the conflict and a strengthen Kurdish autonomy movement both in Syria and Turkey, raised fears of an own Kurdish state. All initiatives supporting Kurds in Northern Syria might raise tensions with Turkey. On the other hand, the conflict in Syria had huge impacts on unstable states, such as Lebanon. Many fighters for the Syrian government were recruited in the neighbouring state. Any involvement might confront Western military with Lebanese militias. An aggravating factor were the unclear role, Iran and Saudi-Arabia have taken. All military action might provoke tensions with and among both aspiring powers. With Iran, the West was dealing for an agreement over its nuclear facilities, a prestigious project and major security concern. Saudi-Arabia is a longstanding partner of the West. Any situation, worsening cooperation with the ultra-conservative rules monarchy could have unforeseeable consequences.

While in the case of Libya, the Arab League requested international assistance for a military solution, some members had doubts in the case of Syria. But while many states supported international military intervention, Russia and China “have consistently warned against intervention in Syria, as have the IBSA countries (India, Brazil and South Africa). All these powers felt that they were outmanouevred by the US and its European allies over Libya, and have treated Syria as a chance to reassert their influence.” (Gowan 2012)

Under these circumstances, the European Union does not have ongoing missions or operations in Syria. Nevertheless, since 2015 the EU is part of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). The 25 members of ISSG working closely with the UN Special Envoy to Syria and is in fully support of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254: “The High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, upon invitation by the European Council, continues her outreach to key actors in the region on a political transition and on preparations for post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction once a political transition is in place, in line with the work of the UN Special Envoy.” (EU 2016: 1) Mechanisms used by the Union were: (1) Sanctions, such as travel bans and freezing assets of members benefiting from the Assad regime and continuing the suffering of the civil society. (2) Restrictive measures include the prohibition of trading with Syrian organization such as banks or petroleum products and the import of firearms or other material that can be used for repression. Furthermore, the EU strategy counts on appeals to all conflict parties “for an end to the unacceptable violence in Syria, which continues to cause the suffering of millions of Syrians and immeasurable destruction of infrastructure. Attacks on cultural heritage are also an unfortunate consequence of the conflict. The EU continues to condemn in the strongest terms the continuing violence and the widespread and systematic violations of human rights.” (ibid: 2) Additionally, financial efforts were undertaken, to respond to the crisis and to provide humanitarian assistance in Syria and neighbouring countries.

The sanctions had impacts and put pressure on the regime in Damascus. “[..]the damage to the economy has created strains within the regime.” (Gowan 2012) Nevertheless, a discordant acting international community delayed any further impacts. Observer missions in Syria were deployed with a weak mandate and diplomatic skirmishes. “[..] the UNSC was split over the terms of the mandate, with the West only willing to back a transition and the Russians wanting a power-sharing compromise.” (Hinnebusch, Zartman et al: 18)

Despite low international support of former missions, the ISSG agreed on a timeline for further diplomatic efforts of a settlement of the conflict. Within 18 months, democratic elections should take place, marking the end of the political transition. Indeed, in February, a ceasefire lasts for 24 hours. Though, tensions increased again and violence continued. In the meantime, Russia started – on behalf of the Syrian government – to intervene. With military help, the Assad regime could stabilize.

While fighting continued, the civil population tried to flee the country. All political and military efforts could not stop the suffering, more than 4.9 million people tried to escape. Most the people were hosted by surrounding states, but with collapsing sovereignty, as many people as never before tried to reach the EU. Whereas Russia creates precedents, the EU is overshadowing diplomatic failures by securing its borders.

Two actions could therefore be identified as direct consequences of the EU’s passive part in Syria: The EU-turkey Statement and Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean.

EU-Turkey Statement
The enormous raised number of unauthorized migrants to the EU seemed to weaken an already tattered Union. The political sentiment was fractured, while the one side claimed for moral responsibility and the other called for harder actions. Especially, countries of the Balkan and in Eastern Europe called for direct actions. Though, not in Syria, but at the borders of the EU. The short distance between Greece and Turkey motivated thousands of people to cross the passage. To stop the influx, the EU agreed on a deal with Turkey. For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek Islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU. The statement reenergized Turkey EU membership talks and included Visa facilitations for Turkish nationals (though, it was never implemented).

The deal bases on two wrong assumptions: Signed in March 2016, the EU was optimistic that diplomatic efforts could proceed fast and that negations would lead to an end of the conflict. Nevertheless, Syrian support was more effective in keeping Assad in power than opponent forces could replace him. Refugees still tried to escape to Europe, increasing the pressure on European states by being dependent on Turkey’s willingness to preserve European states from more arriving refugees. The second wrong assumption was tactical. As the EU need an instrument to elude dependency, it was assumed, that EU membership is still attractive the Turkey. Since at least Turkey is drifting ore and more towards an authoritarian regime, it is obviously, that Turkey is not further interested in joining the EU. The EU has no instrument in pressuring Turkey, vice versa, Turkey uses the refugee statement as instrument for political pressure (Hurriyet Daily News 2017).

The statement weakens the standing and the political influence of the EU in its efforts shaping Syria.

EU NAVOR MED Operation Sophia
Like many North African countries, Libya has been a long-standing partner of the EU in the past, fighting unauthorized migration. Though, when the so called Arab Spring reached Libya, many EU member states supported immediate actions against the Ghaddafi regime. Not backed by Russia and China, the engagement was successfully in removing the regime but not enduring. Since them, the state is de facto a failed state with many groups fighting for power and control. The developments in Libya, although much closer to Europe, were hardly recognised by the EU. Nevertheless, the experience in Libya in mind, the EU was in Syria– amongst reasons mentioned above – more carefully. But while the EU was too much focused on Syria, it the situation in Libya worsened. Further, all efforts were concentrated on Syria, while capacities and the political will was lacking to deal with a second failed state. Furthermore, undetermined acting in the case of Syria, weekend once again the possibilities of the EU. Lacking will and possibilities easing the situation in Libya and further, Operation Sophia was launched to tackle the symptoms of a more defensive than pro-active EU. “Maybe […] a security based approach is easiest. It is more difficult to develop a plan and activities to integrate Sub-Saharan migrants than to eject them.” (UN official cited in Wunderlich 2013: 422)

Operation Sophia is developed to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers, in order to contribute to wider EU efforts to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks […]” (EEAS 2016: 1) It is further designed within the EU’s comprehensive efforts tackling conflicts and other pull-effects for migration.

Operation Sophia was launched in June 2015, when conflict resolution in Syria was unpromising. Additionally, the World Food Program released in June 2015 a statement, stating, “being forced to implement deeper cuts in food assistance for vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan because of a severe lack of funding.” (WFP 2015) More than $138 were missing, while the Operation Sophia was agreed on budget of €11.82. A low-cost alternative, that is missing the point. “Even unpicking the business model of the smugglers does not address the core problem – that is, the fact that people are migrating from all over Africa and the Middle East because of conditions in their own countries.” (Roberts 2015)

It has been shown, that the European Union is an actor in Syria. Nevertheless, its acting is not strengthening the position of the European Union as a provider of security and humanity, neither is the approach by the European Union improving the situation of the Syrian population. Efforts have been undertaken, but these efforts are not appropriate in the scale of the crisis. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue, that the EU is inactive in Syria.



EC (2016): MEMO: The EU and the crisis in Syria. December 23. Brussels.
EEAS (2016): European Union Naval Force – Mediterranean Operation Sophia.
EU (2016): Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy.
Gowan, R. (2012): The EU and Syria: everything but force? Opinion – 26 January. Last accessed: 05.02.2017.
Hinnebusch, R. and Zartman, I. W., et al. (2016): UN Mediation in the Syrian Crisis: From Kofi Annan to Lakhdar Brahimi. International Peace Institute, March 2016. New York.
Hurriyet Daily News (2017): Turkey blasts Greece for releasing coup soldiers. Last accessed: 05.02.2017.
Roberts, P. (2015): Militarising the EU Migration Plan: A Flawed Approach to Migration (7 July 2015): Last accessed: 05.02.2017.
Rosniy, S. (2013): Syrien: Vom Bürgerkrieg zum regionalen Flächenbrand? GIGA Focus. Nahost 8.
The Syria Institute (TSI; 2016): The EU and the crisis in Syria.
WFP (2015): WFP Forced To Make Deeper Cuts In Food Assistance For Syrian Refugees Due To Lack Of Funding. Last accessed: 05.02.2017.
UNSC (2015): Resolution 2254.
Wunderlich, D. (2013): Implementing EU external migration policy: Security-driven by default? Comparative European Politics, 11, 4: 406-427.

Was bedeutet der Sieg Donald Trumps für Europa?

Den am Ende überraschend deutlichen Sieg von Donald Trump hätten wohl nicht einmal eingefleischte Republikaner vorhergesagt.
Damit zieht sich ein roter Faden durch die bedeutenden Wahlen in 2016: Ein Ausgang, der von den meisten Kommentatoren verneint wird und von allen Umfrageinstituten verneint wird, wird plötzlich Realität. „Was bedeutet der Sieg Donald Trumps für Europa?“ weiterlesen