The future of the Common Security and Defence Policy and its impact on the Baltic Sea Region
by Juha Pyykönen
Security deficits in the Baltic Sea Region
The number of poles in the global system has changed four times during the Finnish independence. Today we are in a transit period toward the fifth one, as China is welcomed as a pole together with the USA. Other pole candidates are India, and with the caveat of a ‘confederation’, the EU. Russia is doing its utmost to elevate its status to meet that of the USA, but with limited economic, social and societal capacities it is failing. Consequently, and understandably but not acceptably, Russia utilizes aggressive foreign policies and military capabilities to have a say in the global security issues. Russia has been surprisingly successful in its neighbourhood and in the Middle East. It goes without saying that this results from the hesitant performance of the Western states.
In Europe, it has been NATO to respond with military to Russia’s military aggressions in Ukraine – not the EU. The EU responded with political and economic tools. This indicates that there exists a natural division of labour based on the diversion of capabilities between the two security organisations. It is a solid foundation for deeper cooperation between the two.
In practice, deficits are not necessarily in political, economic or even military capabilities, but in the lack of common interests and the reluctance to make political decisions in order to take a common action. Thus, the EU’s recent proposals do not hit the crux of the problem.
The enhanced role and impact of the Common Security and Defence Policy The basis for the current military cooperation stems from the Maastricht Treaty (1993) and the Lisbon Treaty (2009). So far, results of the EU defence policies and military cooperation could be described as ad-hoc based and modest when it comes to savings or improvements of capabilities. In November 2017 the EU member states decided to foster their defence cooperation through (re-)establishing the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to be “inclusive” and “modular.” Against the history of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the most probable result is a common agreement, but a selective participation. The main aims of this development are (1) a deeper defence cooperation, (2) the establishment of the European Defence Fund (EDF) to finance this domain, and (3) a better synchronization of the EU’s defence related planning with a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence. However, this will not touch contemporary structures or tools of the EU’s security policy, including political, diplomatic, economic, environmental, societal and human activities, policies and programmes.
In the current volatile situation, it is NATO which guarantees the hard security of the 22 member states of the EU. The remaining six non-allied EU states are a group of rather diversified entities. Two of them are minor by size with very limited geostrategic relevance followed by two small states with constitutional constraints regarding military alliances. Then we have Finland and Sweden situated in the BSR possessing a very important geostrategic location and the closest possible relationship with NATO and the USA. Pertaining to military security, only the last two could be suffering from hard security deficit. For almost two decades, both have been vigorously deepening military and defence cooperation within NATO, within the EU, with the USA and among the Nordic and Baltic Sea countries bilaterally, trilaterally and multilaterally.
In all these contexts, the novelty is the new focus on territorial defence among all the actors mentioned above. In plain English, this means more shared and synchronised military operational planning, common preparations, training and exercising together, common use of infrastructure, interoperable equipment and systems, coherent logistics and corresponding transport arrangements. Furthermore, all these activities will be more congruent, which alleviates the threshold of enhanced future military cooperation in the BSR.
The conclusion is that the expected deeper EU defence structure will primarily serve the direct security demands of the non-allied Finland and Sweden. However, this progress cannot bypass or overtake the security guarantees provided by the collective defence system of NATO, as clearly indicated in the Lisbon Treaty and in the recent EU Council decisions.
This equation indicates that in the EU there is no real demand for conventional military capabilities, such as a ‘European Army’, to defend the territory of the union. However, as decided already in St. Malo in 1998, and later in Helsinki, a set of military crisis management capabilities could serve the EU’s common security interest. Capabilities, processes and modalities to serve this goal have been available from 2001 onwards and these capabilities have been used in numerous operations. To date, crisis management has taken place only outside the territory of the union. In November this year it was decided that the EU must take an action to also defend its own citizens. This applies to the Baltic Sea Region as well.
The future of the Common Security and Defence Policy as a security tool
If implemented, positive consequences of EDF, PESCO and CARD prevail. However, there is a sense of calm before the storm as the French President Emmanuel Macron launched a new defence idea in his September 2017 Sorbonne speech. In his intervention, called as the European Intervention Initiative (EII), France is aiming at a broader defence cooperation outside the current EU format and area of interest. This could result to a new focus, which could further disintegrate and fragment the current EU centred approach. The model could look like a ‘coalition of the willing’, a concept used by the USA and NATO in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The criteria for participation could consists of political will and military capabilities to act jointly in a new framework outside the EU or NATO.
The EII focuses on operational availability, which could materialize as a more rapid and handy tool for the coalition partners than the EU’s or NATO’s weighty practices. On the other hand, the EII could also retard or even prevent progress made with the recent EU’s defence efforts. Which states would join the effort remains to be seen, but for France there are two obvious areas of interest – the Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. For the states north of the Alps, the effort may not be lucrative enough to join.
In a case where the UK and France, the two mightiest and most active military contributors in the Western Europe, deserted the emerging improvements of EU defence, the whole effort could lose its credibility, which could, in turn, materialize as diminishing the value of the union itself.
Juha Pyykönen is a security analyst and a retired Brigadier General at the Finnish Defence Forces. He has worked as the chairman of the NATO Partner Interoperability Advocacy Group in Brussels, and in many other posts in the field of international military cooperation in NATO, EU and Finland.