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