Defense Statecraft

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A 20 Year Reflection: From Oklahoma City to Ferguson

Several fire-damaged automobiles located in front of a partially destroyed multi-story building.
"Oklahomacitybombing-DF-ST-98-01356" by Staff Sergeant Preston Chasteen - (F-3203-SPT-95-000023-XX-0198). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Twenty years ago today, Oklahoma City was ripped apart in the early morning by a homegrown terrorist. He killed 168 people and injured hundreds. Terrorism, by definition, has to have a political dimension. McVeigh was upset over the 1992 FBI standoff at Ruby Ridge and the 1993 Waco Siege and decided that bombing a federal building was the best response. They targeted the federal building in Oklahoma because it would have the least “civilian” causalities.
This caused a change in the FBI’s priorities when a shocked nation asked “Why? How did you not know?” The FBI began investigating domestic terrorism focusing on the dangers of the extreme right. Then came 9/11 and a shift to radical Islam, ignoring the far right. According to the ADL, right wing extremists are responsible for 120 different attacks or attempted attacks between 1995 and 2014.
Both 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing led to increased domestic policing power. Many articles have come out lately linking the increased militarization of American police to the increased public awareness of violence against blacks. As cited in the ACLU’s “War Comes Home” report, “Police militarization has been defined as ‘the process whereby civilian police increasingly draw from, and pattern themselves around, the tenets of militarism and the military model.’” Many of these large purchases have come from federal funds and driven by a surplus of military equipment. Some programs to mention are: Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s grants to local law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program and these are fully investigated in the ACLU’s report, all of which have little oversight besides a simple request to a state coordinator.

A further example is the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. It looks like this:

These are the same type of vehicles that the US military uses in Iraq and Afghanistan. And police in America say they need them for “public safety.” These vehicles have been used in protests/riots in Ferguson, MO to parades where Santa throws candy from the vehicles. “Those vehicles have been used to transport citizens, officers and equipment when the roads are closed due to snow, flooding and severe weather,” Andy Skoogman of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association said.
The use of vehicles of war coincides with the increased use of SWAT teams, as documented by the ACLU’s report, to serve search warrants rather than respond to emergency situations such as hostage situations. In a country where there are more guns than people, the police are right to be cautious that every encounter could turn deadly for them, but does Florida really need “7 mine-resistant vehicles, 36 grenade launchers and more than 7,540 rifles” or  Tennessee “31 mine-resistant vehicles and seven grenade launchers”?
This is the question asked by the White House recently. While the report did make the point that most of the “military equipment” that is transferred from feds to locals is routine office stuff, it also came up with a series of recommendations to its various departments to increase oversight. Further, Obama asked his administration to develop an executive order due to him this month containing concrete reforms.
The increasing militarization of domestic police forces is something that every American should be interested in, for both domestic and foreign policies. When the US is advising other countries, or condemning them, on their use of “excessive” domestic force- critics will be able to use the oft abused phrase when relating to America- hypocrite- if policies are reformed.

A panoramic view of the memorial. In the center is a large stone structure shaped as a gate with "9:03" at the top. At the center of the gate is a large hole and through it a road can be seen. The Regency Towers building is visible on the right of the image in the background. The gate is reflecting in a pool of water in front of it, and grass and trees are visible to the left and right of the pool.
"Oklahoma City memorial" by Oklahoma_City_memorial.png: Mark Pellegrini derivative work: Diliff (talk) - Oklahoma_City_memorial.png. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The cyber-threat to Federal employment

Anyone who’s looked into working for the Federal government recently has noticed a strong push for IT professionals, and know they could be out of luck if they don’t have that background.  For example, current students interested in an internship with the FBI during the summer of 2015 realized quickly that the only internship available is the “Cyber Internship,” which is closed to anyone not studying a cyber-related field.  So why the push for IT professionals? 

Cyber threats are at an all-time high, with the recent attacks against civilian targets such as Sony, Target, and Anthem emphasizing the danger.  Even more worrisome is the actions of state actors such as China (here, here, and here).  The high threat environment means that the US government needs to increase its capabilities, which means it needs to hire more people.  Unfortunately, they can’t compete with the civilian sector.   

The NSA is bleeding talent at an alarming rate.  There was a higher incident of federal cyber professionals leaving the government than those being hired for the second straight year in 2014.  The most worrisome statistic, however, is the composition of those leaving.  Almost 50% of the NSA’s workforce is over 50 years old, and less than a quarter of them are under 30.  In what is generally understood to be a young person’s game, there aren’t very many young people interested in what the government is offering.  It’s all about the money.  The NSA will pay entry-level employees $66,568 a year, but after working there for a few years, employees can hop the fence to make twice as much, and sometimes more.  In the tradition bound bureaucracy of government work, seniority is the only way to receive pay increases, and this is unappealing to younger employees who see how much their skills are valued on the outside.  Thus the Federal government is becoming a training ground for cyber-professionals to gain valuable experience, training, and security clearances, and then jump ship for bluer waters. 

There is no quick fix.  Even with the approval of Congress to allow the NSA to avoid the standard federal hiring procedures and to grant substantial retention bonuses among other benefits, they are still losing people.  The entire IT market is suffering from a shortage of personnel, and until the civilian market comes closer to filling its needs, the government is going to be competing against a glut of companies that are capable of giving individuals substantial amounts of money.  This is similar to the recruiting demands that the military had in the midst of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, when E-1 privates just out of high school were being offered $40,000 signing bonuses for enlisting, and some military jobs were getting $150,000 as a retention offer.  Throwing money at the problem was an effective method then, and it seems to be the only option the US government has to compete with the civilian sector, which means fewer available to hire non-cyber professionals.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Question and a Murder: Russian Security Politics

Sergei Karpukhin - Reuters - Moscow Times

Following the February 27th murder of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov within sight of the Kremlin, a public display of whodunit has shone a spotlight on many aspects of the power structure of the modern Russian state.  Despite his persona as an iron-tight autocrat, President Vladimir Putin has carefully manipulated a complex web of personal relationships, institutional loyalties, and bureaucratic structures to accomplish his objectives.  Comprehending these political dynamics and potential sources of instability are useful in predicting the future of Russian foreign and security policy.  Additionally, with figures such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky running around the legislature of the second-most nuclear capable state in the world, the stakes could not be higher.

 Shortly after the murder of Nemtsov, five north Caucasian-origin Russian nationals were arrested and appeared before a judge who accused the group of plotting and carrying out the murder.  While the details of their activities were initially only vaguely described, Russian state media and the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, clumsily pushed the narrative that the prime suspect, Zaur Dadaiev, was motivated by Nemtsov’s statements of support for Charlie Hebdo in the aftermath of the Paris attacks by Islamic extremists.  Dadaiev, a ten-year veteran of Kadyrov’s interior ministry, claimed that he was forced to confess under torture and currently professes his innocence.  As many Russia-watchers would agree, finding concrete truth about internal political struggles is a tall order that can take decades to fulfill.  However, the Chechen connection highlights an intriguing trend in how President Putin seems to have hedged his bets and looked outside the traditional Russian security structure to underwrite his own power.

Ramzan Kadyrov (left) and President Putin - AP - Jamestown

Kadyrov has an intriguing past himself.  He succeeded his father in 2006 after the Russian military crackdowns in Chechnya as an eccentric (just check out his instagramming habits) former-warlord who professes complete fealty to Moscow, and President Putin himself.  He has ensured stability in Chechnya through a combination of intimidation, political assassinations and other human rights abuses.  It's fair to describe Putin and Kadyrov’s relationship as mutually beneficial.  In the arrangement, Putin garnered long-desired stability in a region of the north Caucasus, and Kadyrov obtained great personal wealth, as well as the ability to run his fiefdom as he pleases without too much policy interference from Moscow.

Theories abound regarding the relationship between Putin, Kadyrov (along with his Kadyrovtsy, a 5,000-strong internal security force), and the FSB.  Russian media speculated on scenarios on the murder that ranged from an attempt by Kadyrov to garner goodwill from Putin by eliminating an (albeit distant) political rival, to an orchestrated FSB plot to frame Kadyrov and to drive a wedge between the two leaders.  However, Kadyrov’s acceptance of the prestigious “Order of Honor” from Putin in March solidified the view that Kadyrov was untouchable and under Putin’s personal protection.  The rule of law and the prevention of unapproved violent actions are important to the FSB and the Russian security system as a whole.  Additionally, as reported by the Moscow Times, a pro-government paper stated that the accused had been following Nemtsov for months, which would nullify any motive regarding the Charlie Hebdo statements.

Looking ahead, it’s likely that observers will witness those accused of the assassination to go to prison for life, unlikely to be heard from again.  Like many journalist and activist murders in Russia, the case will be closed and any larger conspiracy will fade into time.  Sustainable political freedom and stability in Russia will continue to be evasive in this climate.  As recently-exiled Ilya Ponomarev, the lone dissenter in the state Duma on the Crimean annexation vote, asked in the New York Times, the question for reformers is, “Is it better to stay and fight from a prison cell, or to change things by applying pressure from the outside?"  Unfortunately, I would add a third location, the grave.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Striker convoy, operating as part of Operation Dragoon Run – March 2015 - Source

Last week, as a portion of Operation Atlantic Resolve ratcheted down in the Baltic nations, Operation Dragoon Run was launched, featuring a convoy of 120 armored vehicles and over 500 American soldiers barreling down highways in Eastern and Central Europe back to their home base in Vilseck, Germany.  While Atlantic Resolve is focused on improving NATO interoperability and demonstrating solidarity with US allies, Dragoon Run tested the 2nd Cavalry’s ability to, as Stripes puts it, “conduct a long and complex movement, with troops rambling along small country roads and major highways.”  Additionally, it presented an opportunity for photo ops with local townspeople, who may have never seen American soldiers and their equipment with their own eyes.  Despite the widespread protests that Russian media expected, Reuters reported that in the Czech Republic, most locals on the streets celebrated the Americans’ presence.

At the heart of the matter, the US is interested in expressing her solidarity with her NATO allies, especially those new members who experienced Russian (then Soviet) occupation in Central and Eastern Europe.  A key strategic issue is the vulnerability of the three Baltic nations.  Since the shenanigans in Ukraine, many commentators have expressed concern that the Baltics are next and that the Kremlin will decide to test NATO by sending “polite green men” into Estonia or Latvia.  They ignore many reasons that this would be a poor decision by President Putin.  From my perspective, the cards are stacked against Russia if she were to eye the Baltics as her next territorial acquisition.

Hostile Natives
Any Russian military endeavors with territorial intent would be much more costly for the Kremlin in the case of the Baltics rather than in the Donbass.  The cultural memory of Soviet occupation remains fresh in the Balts’ cultural consciousness.  While the Russian military dwarfs all three Baltic states’ forces conventionally, guerrilla insurgency, targeted attacks, and allied reinforcements would be the primary method of Baltic opposition. 

Commentators have oftentimes entertained a scenario a-la the Crimean seizure method, where “polite green men” would arrive and “protect” the ethnic Russian populations within Baltic territory.  This is inherently a false assumption, and not only due to the NATO membership of the Baltics.  Ethnic Russian residents in Narva, Estonia can just as easily travel across the Russian border to view the nearby city of Ivangorod to see what societal benefits are waiting for them under Kremlin control.  The city resembles a typical, regional Russian settlement where unemployment is high, infrastructure is crumbling, and institutions are weak.  Despite not being true Estonian citizens, grey-passport-holding ethnic Russians enjoy Schengen zone visa benefits in addition to visa-free travel to Russia and CIS nations.  It is likely that polite green men would not be welcomed by their ethnic compatriots in quite the same manner they were in Sevastopol.

To borrow a phrase from Timothy Snyder, the Baltics’ location in the historic bloodlands as small, sparsely populated nations has cultivated a historical tradition of unconventional military resistance against larger, more conventionally powerful invaders.  The Lithuanian resistance to Soviet occupation is a prime historical example of this.  By largely not joining the Germans in their 1941 march eastward like many Latvians and Estonians, Lithuania retained its pool of young men.  Following the Soviet re-capture of the territory, these young men ventured into the forests in the thousands to begin a nearly ten year resistance to Soviet control.  Despite being untrained and loosely commanded, they ensured that Lithuania remained designated a “zone of active conflict” by the Politburo, thus dissuading Russian settlers and contributing to Lithuania having the smallest percentage of ethnic Russians out of all the Baltic states today.  The Lithuanian Ministry of Defense holds insurgency as a primary aspect of doctrine today.  The challenge for the Russians would not be in taking the region, but in holding it.

Breakdown of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states by region - Source

The NATO Factor
With the Russian economy failing due to a myriad of factors, such as low oil prices and economic sanctions, a direct conflict with NATO is not in the Kremlin’s interests.  Per Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, any attack on the Baltic states would be considered an attack against all NATO members.  With NATO scrambling to remember its founding mission as an anti-Soviet and anti-Russian alliance, now would be a poor time to test her commitment to Article 5.  It’s unlikely that the world will witness an attack on a NATO member in the short term.  However, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that a hypothetically weaker NATO may be attacked in the future.  Trends are not complicit in this view.  If anything, NATO is growing stronger in light of this new threat to European security.

Is it worth it, Vova?
Despite the potential challenges and costs for the Kremlin, there are plenty of reasons for Russia to take the Baltics.  As Russia remains primarily landlocked with the exception of easily-denied ocean access, having the Baltic coast would open up a large swath of valuable land to be exploited for naval purposes.  Additionally, more buffer space from potential adversaries is always welcomed in the Russian security realm.  Kaliningrad (formerly Konigsburg) may finally get the chance to become contiguous to the motherland.  Many of these benefits would be largely nullified by the economic costs of the military operations and international condemnation, isolation, and potentially intervention.  Many commentators also float the hypothesis that much of the recent Russian revanchism is due to pressure on President Putin domestically.  Despite his authoritarian control of the security services in the country, it’s unlikely that he would survive as a political force following an outbreak of military confrontation with NATO and the west over the Baltics.  Additionally, once the returning bodybags are in such numbers that state media cannot ignore, President Putin’s grassroots public support will likely degrade.

As we live in a chaotic world, these factors can change both in the short as well as the long term; however I don’t lose any sleep over the threat to the Baltics just yet.  That isn’t to say that this opportunity to re-invigorate NATO should be squandered, quite the opposite, it should be taken advantage of.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

A Few Thoughts on Judgement Day: How the Current Drone War is a Poor Indicator of the Tough Decisions to Come

Reading P.W. Singer’s perspectives on both cyber warfare and the revolution in drones and automated systems over the past two weeks, it’s difficult not to consider some of the intersections between the two technologies and the future of warfare. I agree with Singer, that we are in the bi-plane/telegraph era of these two technologies. Moore’s law, and the history of warfare itself, compels a brief (and somewhat hodgepodge in this case) consideration of some of the challenges to come, not just for the hardware and platforms of militaries, but also the political bodies that regulate and utilize them.  A common theme appears to be that the unconventional/asymmetric aspects of the War on Terror are not fully revealing the moral and systemic challenges and opportunities to come.

Closing the Gap and Accelerating the Kill Chain

As the ability to directly affect the strategic aspects of warfare through tactical level decisions continues to make its way up the chain of command, the political entities that are legally responsible for carrying out policy will be faced with challenging ethical and bureaucratic questions.
One aspect of the proliferation of information and direct control over drone equipment will be the challenge of streamlined and effective military operations when one is tempted, by the information available, to micromanage ongoing military operations. In the US, for example, the executive will have to determine what level of engagement they feel is appropriate in order to maintain an effective chain of command and allow the professional military to function in the way it is structured to.
Moral quandaries may increasingly present themselves as military Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) reaches a level of competence in which it can carry out missions with little direct, tactical input from commanders. This “acceleration of the kill chain” will place a great deal of responsibility on programmers, military leaders at the operational and strategic levels, as well as civilians in government.

Rudimentary A.I. may make mistakes, or advanced A.I. may be too efficient in carrying out its job. These issues might not manifest themselves fully or only make a marginal impact in the peculiarities of the US War on Terror, but they could take on a new significance if there is a major war between technologically advanced nation-states. The amount of information required to carry out that type of conflict, and the decision making density associated with it, may seriously challenge both the human chain of command and the web of things, dependent on the cloud of raw and synthesized information vulnerable to manipulation and disruption by the opposing force.

The Thinking Web of Steel

If automated military equipment becomes the new norm of national defense, then the relationship between security structures and the society they protect will change forever. The military, and its function, could become fully integrated into the internet of things.

The upshot of this is that the lives of young people will no longer have to be put in harm’s way in order to maintain the security of the nation. The possible downside is that the military will increasingly look like as an inanimate tool, and may be treated as such.

This rapid automation of the military may also bring with it interesting (and probably intrinsically disturbing) questions about the nature of the killing associated with kinetic operations themselves. Questions about what makes killing on a battlefield necessary are often the product of a function that includes the priority of the target, the immediacy of its threat, and the technological limitations of the system engaging that target. As weapons systems and their platforms become more efficient, more programmable, and more autonomous, the complicated aspects of killing during war will need to be increasingly defined, or outright ignored. There will be obvious and important moral implications associated with the decision taken at this juncture.

The Conventional Vulnerability of Populations

These types of decisions tend to directly affect the population through the feedback loop of the strategic violence associated with major wars. Case in point would be the escalation of the air war between Britain and Germany during the Second World War.

While military operations exist on a broad spectrum that forms itself to the varied objectives of the state (including counterinsurgency and limited strikes), all out warfare for national survival tends to draw in the population more so than other variations, particularly if their support for the opposing government is sound. In this case, cyber war and drone technology will once again present their moral and strategic challenges.

The unmanned nature of strategic strike capabilities, increased accuracy in weapons targeting and effect calculations, along with the non-lethal possibilities inherent in cyber warfare capabilities and the opportunity to take infrastructure out of the chain production with little bloodshed, will force governments to fully reckon with the potential outcomes of their strategic planning. With so much control (whether perceived or actual), the output of strikes, and the civilian suffering that they cause (due to the common integration of civilian and military systems), will become a manifestation of national policy. The excuses provided by ineffective weapons and targeting, along with exultation of the skill and determination of our fighters to carry out their crucial mission objectives, will no longer be able to distract from the nature of the results. The thinking web of steel will be the massive fingerprint of civilian war-time decision making. Policy makers will have to confront that by either acknowledging the substance or justifications of their calculations, or through reclassifying what it means to be a civilian.

By some accounts, this may be one of the legacies of the use of drones in the War on Terror that makes its way into future inter-state conflict. The reclassification of civilian causalities as combatants could continue the tradition of addressing the true nature of major wars obliquely, by acknowledging that all persons living under the opposing force’s system of governance and security are truly integral parts of the larger threat and must be treated as such. The moral quandaries associated with this, and the strategic concepts that piggy back on it, it will be another political and philosophical challenge provided by the evolution of defense technology.

Similar to the interwar period, policymakers, citizens and militaries are uncertain about what the most recent revolution in defense technology holds for future conflicts, particularly major warfare. The War on Terror, and the utilization of more primitive manifestations of these technologies in the civil conflicts of this decade, have been poor indicators of the issues associated with this dramatic movement towards more machine and information based warfare. Thought experiments, simulations, and scholarship would be preferable to the world as a classroom. Lesson learned there are absorbed, as the 20th century demonstrated, through great cost.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Cyber Sanctions?

Obama in Louisville, KY on April 2, 2015 at Indatus, a company that provides cloud based communication applications, hardware and infrastructure.

On Wednesday, President Obama signed a new executive order that "authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, to impose sanctions on those individuals and entities that he determines to be responsible for or complicit in malicious cyber-enabled activities that are reasonably likely to result in, or have materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, economic health, or financial stability of the United States."

In other words, if you hack the US government and cause a threat to the security (financial or physical), the government can now freeze your bank account or impose a visa ban. These are similar impositions, the White House claims, to counter-terrorism orders.

The way that Obama authorized this Executive Order is the same way that past presidents have done for the 1933 banking crisis or the Korean War or even a 1971 response to inflation.

But further, this order "blocks property of those found to be responsible" for the attacks or it could freeze the assets of of any company that is in the US that has used stolen US intellectual property for a commercial advantage. As some journalists have pointed out, if taken to its logical conclusions, the law could lead to a visa ban on some foreign executives or even the seizure of data centers.

They hope to deter potential attackers by giving them something to consider when deciding to illegally hack the US. In addition, they “don’t want to just deter those with their fingers on the keyboard but those who are funding and enabling those groups to carry out their activity,” said Michael Daniel, special adviser to the president on cybersecurity.

However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Errata Security both expressed concern over the administrations ability to arbitrarily seize their assets or indite researchers or security consultants who hack to determine vulnerabilities

What will be interesting in the coming years is how exactly this will be applied. Journalist, security advisers, and academics have been hard pressed to come up with examples. The Sony attack would not count. The denial of service attacks against banks might have counted. So what WILL count?

That remains to be seen.

The Bundeswehr: Scandal after Scandal

After the constant flow of news reports in recent months about the inadequacy of the Bundeswehr, I thought it interesting to examine the current problems that the Bundeswehr is facing. As a country that has led the way in deploying troops to conflict zones such as Afghanistan and the Balkans, a modern military is needed. In order to maintain its position in the E.U. as one of the leading fighting forces, the following problems must be addressed.
            One of the biggest debacles facing the Bundeswehr currently is the problem of the G-36 rifle. This rifle is the standard issue rifle of the Bundeswehr and soldiers have long complained about it having issues in firefights. The German Defense Ministry admitted this week that it has been proven through tests that when the gun heats up due to firing the accuracy rapidly decreases. It has been shown that the accuracy varies by up to half a meter during extended firing after multiple complaints from soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. Not only is this an embarrassment for the Defense Ministry, but also for Heckler and Koch, which has sold more than 180.000 of the rifles to the Bundeswehr.
            The German Luftwaffe is also having multiple issues which have been highly publicized in German media recently. The Eurofighter, produced by Airbus, was shown to have massive problems incurred during the production process. As a result of this, Airbus was forced to reduce the life expectancy of the plane from 3000 to 1500 flight hours. Moreover, only 42 of the 109 fighters are combat ready. The newest attack helicopter, the Tiger, is also not free from embarrassment. For example, due to problems with the fuel tank, an inspection is required after every 25 flight hours. Only 10 of the 31 Tigers are also combat ready. Pilots of the helicopter also are not very fond of it, as stated: “Not only must our pilots maneuver so, that the enemy combatants on the ground are exactly in front of them, but they must also fly much closer to the combatants than other helicopters. Due to that, the Tigers are the ideal target for enemy troops.
 One of the most present examples of the problems that the Bundeswehr has been facing recently is the MH-90. Used by the Deutsche Marine as a transport and rescue helicopter, it is not even permitted to perform one of the most basic missions that it was designed for: flying over the Baltic and North Seas. It is also not allowed to fly medical rescue missions as well. Other technical problems include issues with the engine, the fact that the seats cannot hold fully donned soldiers, lack of space in the helicopter and even the fact that soldiers with muddy boots cannot board, as the interior section is extremely sensitive to impurities such as dirt and mud.
            Until 2011, Germany, like several other nations in Europe, relied on the Wehrpflicht or general conscription in order to maintain its troop levels. Due to political pressure, this policy was reversed and now the Bundeswehr is beginning to feel the effects. In order to maintain the current active duty levels of 185,000 troops, around 13,000 new soldiers per year need to be recruited. Without the Wehrpflicht, a mix of recruits from all social classes is not achievable. Additionally, the German economy is experiencing a boom and potential recruits find better paying jobs in the private sector. One could also include the reputation of soldiers or the military in Germany in general when examining the problem of recruiting. When there is a large and vocal portion of society that is viciously anti-intervention and anti-military, potential recruits might lose interest due to social and societal pressures.
            All in all, if the Bundeswehr intends on maintaining combat readiness in a period where, as already seen, countries such as Russia are becoming more aggressive, drastic changes need to be made. An army is only as useful as its resources allow it to be, and when even the standard issue weapons do not function as required, it is doubtful how effective the Bundeswehr can remain.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A European Union Military?

There have recently been calls for a more robust EU joint defense, to go so far as to have an EU military. The EU does not have a joint military- a military that is staffed and run on a supranational level.

Currently the EU member states cooperate between themselves and with outside alliances. Cooperation within the EU takes places under the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) which entered into force with the Treaty of Lisbon.In addition, 22 of 28 EU member states are part of NATO.

This creates a difficult security environment, one that does not have many successes (ex: the Balkans, many African cases, almost anywhere the EU has wanted to interfere).   Many states are against the idea of an supranational EU military, but others are for it. With the problems of Germany's military to the lack of 2% of GDP to their military that many NATO states don't contribute, an EU military is an alternative.

On March 8, 2015 the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker called for an EU military to help the world take the EU seriously. Further he advocated that “A common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.” His arguments also included that it would be more efficient to have a common military than each state paying to maintain it separately.

There was immediate backlash from the UK. Both the opposition and ruling party voiced their immediate displeasure with David Cameron (British Prime Minister) going so far as to say “it isn’t right for the European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and all the rest of it”. The next day Finland said that an EU army is "unrealistic," however the Foreign Minister said that an army composed of joint military units would be more possible. In addition, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia insist upon utilizing NATO rather than an EU military.

This is compared to Germany, whose defense minister stated that  “our future as Europeans will one day be a European army." France has also expressed support for the idea.

Javier Solana (former NATO secretary general) and Steven Blockmans (professor at University of Amsterdam) have pointed out that the EU's treaties allow for a common military. They argue that there are political, military, and economic benefits to creating a single EU military: "Member states could achieve much more value for money than the €190 billion that they spend to keep up 28 national armies."

Where John Schindler (former National Security Agency official), argues against creating an EU army because Europe already mismanages it military forces, so pooling them is a really bad idea. Further, he argues, many defense projects are already coordinated and European-wide projects so duplicating these things is not needed.

The Bigger Picture

However, this debate is not just about having an EU military or not having one. Rather it is on the future of the EU as a Union of European States or a Union of European States. If the 28 member states of the European Union want to create a full supranational union that has political, economic, and military power they will need to move forward on creating a single European military rather than simply coordinating their military.  If they want to stay as they are, with some cooperation in all areas but no real full integration, then an EU military is not needed.

As Solana and Blockmans pointed out, the EU has always been forged in crisis and the EU is facing a crisis now (think of them essentially being surrounded by conflict).

Whatever decision the EU makes on creating a military, and it is looking increasingly less and less likely, it will be a step down a road that precludes the other option (at least until another crisis or a widespread change of national governments).