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SEPTEMBER 2020

European Union Work On Building Up Of Its Military Capabilities

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European Union Work On Building Up Of Its Military Capabilities

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Written by Colonel V. Olevsky, Lieutenant Colonel D. Klimov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront

The current military-political course of the European Union (EU) is determined by the desire of its leadership to transform this organisation into one of the world’s centres of power. In order to ensure the guaranteed implementation of this policy, a key area of EU activities in the field of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is the development of military capabilities and anti-crisis civilian capacities for the prevention and resolution of conflicts in various regions of the world.

The successful achievement of goals is hindered by the growing crisis phenomena in the European Union caused by financial and economic difficulties of the member states, the aggravation of the political and economic disagreements with the United States, the deepening systemic crisis and strengthening of centrifugal tendencies in the organisation.

The adjustment of views on the nature and sources of new threats to western countries had led to a revision of the fundamental principles of the functioning of the European community and ways to ensure the collective security. The EU’s focus on increasing self-sufficiency in crisis management in the area of common European interests has had a decisive influence on the development of the CSDP. In order to reduce dependence on the United States and NATO for conducting operations and missions within the framework of “force projection”, the leadership of the association has stepped up activities to develop its own military component.

This process is being carried out with the active support of Germany and France, which have consistently promoted the initiative to create the co-called European Defence Union. However, despite active efforts to expand military and military-technical cooperation within the EU, the declared goals of creating a “European Army” with collective defence functions that duplicate the status and activities of NATO seem difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future. This situation is due to the reluctance of the majority of member states of the organisation to transfer control over their armed forces to a supranational (pan-European) level.

In addition, the US opposition to the process of forming the European Defence Union and the limited resources available due to the absorption by NATO structures of the lion’s share of the defence potential of European countries, most of which are simultaneously involved in two organisations, do not allow the full implementation of EU political decisions on military construction. In this regard, we are only talking about giving a new impetus to military cooperation in order to increase the collective capacity to protect the territory and citizens of the states of the region. With that, the idea of creating a unified armed forces or supranational military authorities is not supported by the majority of EU members at this stage.

The most important concept document on military construction is the “EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy” (hereinafter referred to as the “Global Strategy”), which was adopted in 2016 and replaced the “European Security Strategy” (2003).

Based on the provisions of the Global Strategy, a set of policy documents on the practical implementation of the pan-European defence policy for the medium term was developed. It includes the “Executive Plan for Security and Defence”, the “Action Plan for European Defence”, as well as the implementation plan for the “Joint NATO-EU Declaration” adopted at the Warsaw summit of the Alliance in July 2017.

According to the Global Strategy the “level of ambition” of the European Union provides for the implementation of three strategic functions: responding to external security threats, ensuring the protection of the EU’s coalition structures and its citizens, and assisting partner countries in improving their military capabilities.

The new programme of intensive development of the military component of the organisation developed by the EU Military Committee for the implementation of these functions contains a number of measures divided into three areas, or three “baskets”: political (strengthening the position of the EU as a global player, developing interaction with partners), operations (building up the organisation’s military capabilities, establishing inter-ethnic interaction in this area) and economic (supporting the European military-industrial complex).

The main goal of the military construction of a united Europe is declared to be the expansion of the collective capabilities to conduct operations and missions, both on its territory and abroad. Stressing the global nature of the EU’s interests, the need to create favourable conditions for the free use of the “world heritage” – international waters, air and space – is emphasized. In this regard, an expanded list of typical operations and missions for which the EU “must have reliable, mobile, highly interoperable, sustainable and multi-functional military and civilian components” has been defined.

The basis of the military potential of the European Union and its most combat-ready component are the combat tactical groups (CTG) of the response forces. Taking into account the existing problems in the acquisition of CTGs, the EU leadership is seeking to improve the mechanisms for the use of these formations. The priorities of their construction include: increasing the level of combat readiness, developing expeditionary capabilities, improving the process of training and recruitment.

In accordance with the Global Strategy, it is also planned to improve the forms and methods of using the response force, supplementing peacekeeping and humanitarian missions with operations to enforce peace, establish no-fly zones, monitor compliance with the embargo regime, and protect air and sea communications.

European Union Work On Building Up Of Its Military Capabilities

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Britain’s decision to withdraw from the organisation created the conditions for the promotion by members states of the sub-regional association “Weimar triangle” (Germany, Poland, France) for earlier initiatives involving the development of the military component of the European Union. As part of the revision of the concept, the CTG is considering moving from a six-month to one-year cycle of rotation of forces on duty, increasing the duration of “autonomous” actions on remote operational theaters, activation of operational and combat training. In addition, it is planned to develop common standards for planning and organising combat training events for all types of armed forces and branches of the armed forces. In view of the growing scale of illegal migration, smuggling and maritime piracy, the feasibility of creating naval combat tactical groups is being assessed. At the same time it is planned to deploy a certification centre for units of the armed forces of the EU member states in Italy.

In order to implement these plans, the European Union’s governing bodies are considering the following possible measures:

  • increase in the number of operational and combat training activities of the armed forces of the EU countries contributing to the CTG;
  • conducting exercises at the level of government structures of these states to develop mechanisms and procedures for making political decisions on the involvement of these units in crisis management operations;
  • introduction of the modular principle of CTG formations (each group is completed by including independent and coordinated land, naval, air and other units in its composition) and ensuring their high operational readiness to perform combat tasks;
  • review of the CTG financing procedure with a view to allocating EU budget funds and gradually increasing their share.

At the same time, work is under way to develop a multi-national set of capabilities for rapid response to crisis situations within the framework of the “European Intervention Initiative” proposed by France. The agreement of intent to participate was signed by Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. In the future, Greece and Poland may join this initiative.

The implementation of this project will significantly simplify the procedures and reduce the time for making decisions on the use of allocated forces. At the same time, this potential is expected to be used not only in the interests of the European Union, but also in the framework of NATO and United Nations operations.

To consolidate the leading role of the EU in the international relations the organisation’s leadership attaches special importance to the practical involvement in stabilising the situation in various regions of the world. Thus, Brussels is trying to avoid involving participating states in high- and medium-intensity conflicts that require the use of harsh instruments of force. This approach is due to the lack of necessary resources and the unwillingness to be drawn into prolonged military operations with difficult to predict outcomes that do not bring rapid and noticeable military and political results.

A special feature of the association’s anti-crisis activities is the coordination of its military aspects with NATO. This situation is linked to the position of the majority of member countries that the EU should assume responsibility for conducting operations only in cases where it is not appropriate for the Alliance to intervene. In this regard, Brussels adheres to two main options for using the peacekeeping potential – using the resources of the bloc (based on the “Berlin Plus” package of agreements) and based on the military capabilities of mainly one of the EU states acting as the host country.

The European Union currently conducts 16 military and civilian (mixed) operations and missions in various regions of the world, involving about 4,500 people. The greatest attention is paid to the “zones of instability” in North and Central Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and the post-Soviet space.

The overall operations of the European Union response forces are managed through a headquarters deployed at one the UE’s multinational operational headquarters, which are located in the cities of Potsdam (Germany), Mont-Valérien (France), Rome (Italy), and Larissa (Greece). Its commander is a representative of the armed forces of the state that has made the greatest contribution to the formation of the group.

In case of an operation involving Alliance resources, the strategic command and staff structures are formed on the basis of the permanent department of military planning and interaction of the European Union (80 people) at the headquarters of the strategic command of operations of the NATO Air Force (Casto, Belgium), which was established in accordance with the “Berlin Plus” package of agreements. Thus, the post of commander-in-chief of the group of troops (forces) will be assigned to the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO joint armed forces.

As part of the development of the EU’s anti-crisis capacity, much attention is paid to optimising the management system of the association’s military contingents abroad. In particular, the EU military staff has formed a centre for planning and conducting military operations and missions to guide the activities of military advisers and trainers in crisis regions and problem states. An agreement was also reached on the establishment of a special coordination council, whose task will be to organise the interaction of the created centre with pan-European civil anti-crisis structures.

In order to improve situational awareness in the European Union, a set of measures is being implemented to increase the exchange of information with NATO and with the special services of individual states, and to improve the personnel and technical support of the intelligence and analytical centre of the European foreign service and the intelligence directorate of the EU general staff.

Given the lack of forces and resources to conduct operations and missions, Brussels is interested in intensifying the military dialogue with partner states and involving their military units in the response force. The European Union uses the practice of involving military formations of “third” countries in its anti-crisis actions on the basis of bilateral framework agreements concluded with them. Currently, such agreements have been reached with Georgia, Moldovia, the Ukraine and a number of other countries.

In the process of implementing the partnership policy, the EU intends to continue to provide limited assistance to the relevant countries in the development of military doctrinal documents, the reform of national external and internal security bodies, training for law enforcement agencies, addressing issues of countering terrorist and cyber threats, developing border forces and means, and responding to natural and man-made emergencies. It is intended to identify partners who contribute to EU operations and missions in a special category and provide them with appropriate benefits. At the same time, the amount of assistance (primarily financial) will directly depend on the participation of these states in crisis managements operations.

The leadership of the European Union pays special attention to the deepening cooperation with NATO. The final declaration of the London summit of the Alliance (2019) confirmed the course to strengthen bilateral ties in the military field. Long-term plans for joint activities include more specific areas of cooperation. This includes coordinating long-term military planning processes, developing common mechanisms for responding to crises and emergencies, and increasing the number of joint military exercises, including those involving EU states that are not members of the bloc.

In order to improve situational awareness in the European Union a set of measure is being implemented aimed at expanding the exchange of information with NATO and the intelligence agencies of individual states, improvement of personnel and technical support to the intelligence and analysis centre of the European foreign service and the intelligence department of the EU military staff.

Considering the lack of resources for operations and missions, Brussels is interested in intensifying the dialogue on the military line with partner states and involving their military formations in the response forces. The European Union uses the practice of involving military formations in its anti-crisis actions.

In the process of implementing the partnership policy, the EU intends to continue to provide limited assistance to the relevant countries in the development of military doctrinal documents, the reform of national external and internal security bodies, training for law enforcement agencies, addressing issues of countering terrorist and cyber threats, developing border forces and means, and responding to natural and man-made emergencies. It is intended to identify partners who contribute to EU operations and missions in a special category and provide them with appropriate benefits. At the same time, the amount of assistance (primarily financial) will directly depend on the participation of these states in crisis management operations.

The leadership of the European Union attaches particular importance to deepening cooperation with NATO. The final declaration of the Alliance’s London summit (2019) confirmed the course on strengthening bilateral ties in the military field. Prospective plans for joint activities include more specific areas of cooperation. This includes coordinating long-term military planning processes, developing common mechanisms for responding to crises and emergencies, and increasing the number of joint military exercises, including those involving EU states that are not members of the bloc.

One of the priority areas is combating hybrid threats. In this regard, common requirements have been developed for the stability of the EU and Alliance member states to external influences, including ensuring the continuous functioning of government bodies, uninterrupted operation of external national services, and ensuring the safety of critical infrastructure facilities. It is planned to combine the potential of the two organisations to identify, analyse and neutralise “implicit” forms of aggression, develop the civil defence system and respond to emergencies, and intensify efforts in the field of strategic propaganda. Practical developments of the relevant procedures were carried out during the operational and combat training of the NATO Air Force and the European Union response force.

In order to further increase military and military-technical capabilities, the EU leadership has introduced new long-term mechanisms for interaction in the military sphere. The largest and most expensive programme is the “Permanent Structured Cooperation on Security and Defence” (PESCO), which provides for the pooling of resources of interested countries in the field of military construction, including the creation of multinational formations and military management bodies, the development and production of the latest weapons, military and special equipment, and the improvement of anti-crisis activities under the auspices of the European Union.

The PESCO Initiative is supported by 25 EU states (except Denmark and Malta), which are involved in the implementation of 47 organisational, staff and military-technical projects.

The development of the EU’s military-industrial complex (MIC) has been identified as a separate area of the CSDP. In order to preserve the further strengthening of the organisation’s MIC, the European Commission has developed an “action plan to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the EU’s military-industrial and technological base”. According to the document, the task of forming and strengthening the internal market for military equipment is supposed to be solved by organising control and improving the effectiveness of the EU rules for conducting tenders and procurement procedures, as well as ensuring the security of supplies of materials, goods and services in the interests of the military industry and the armed forces.

It is planned to increase the competitiveness by further developing cooperation and regional specialisation within the defence sector. Within the framework of this initiative, common European standards for military and dual-purpose products have been developed, an optimal certification procedure has been introduced, a list of minerals critical to the military industry has been determined, and a programme of support of small and medium enterprises of the European defence industry has been approved.

There is still an acute problem of underfunding of military construction in the EU. The organisation’s management states that from 2005 to 2015, the consolidated defence spending of European countries decreased by 11 percent, and amounts to about 200 billion euros. Against this background, the European Union continues to fragment the arms markets, duplicate the processes of creating new models of military equipment, and the technological lag in the military-industrial complex.

In this regard, the European defence fund has been established to finance the most expensive projects for creating high-tech weapons. It is planned to allocate at least 13 billion euros from the EU budget for 2021-2027. In order to prepare a new financial mechanism, the European Union is implementing a “test” programme to support priority military R&D, called the “Programme for the Development of the EU Military-Industrial Complex for 2019-2020”. It selected 21 priority projects for which 497 million euros were allocated.

At the same time, it was decided to create the special extra-budgetary fund “European Instrument for Peace” in the amount of 10.5 billion euros for 2021-2027 in order to increase the capacity of the alliance in the field of crisis management. Some of these funds will be spent on conflict resolution activities (the project is intended to replace the current EU funding mechanism “Athena”), as well as on assistance to third countries in the development of power structures.

As an important factor in the development of the European Union’s military capabilities that affect issues of direct interaction with NATO, the need to increase the efficiency of cross-border military transport is considered, which reduces the time for the transfer of EU military contingents and cargo, as well as the timing of the deployment of troops (forces) to strengthen the Alliance’s joint armed forces in selected areas. In 2018, the EU leadership approved an “Action Plan” that defines the list and schedule of specific measures to create a “military Schengen”.

The main efforts of participating states are aimed at reducing the time required for obtaining permits to cross borders, as well as improving transport infrastructures. The EU budget for 2021-2027 includes 6.5 billion euros for the modernisation of existing transport facilities and the construction of new ones.

The necessary conditions for the functioning of the “military Schengen” are defined as:

  • bringing critical transport infrastructure facilities into compliance with technical requirements that allow them to be used by various types of wheeled and tracked vehicles;
  • adoption by the EU countries of amendments to simplify the procedures for crossing the internal and external borders of this organisation by troops and equipment (including non-European countries);
  • securing the legal status of national military contingents on the territory of EU and NATO allies, clarifying their privileges and immunities;
  • development of procedures for prompt notification of movements of military formations, as well as measures to reduce their impact on the functioning of the civil transport system;
  • determination of parameters for support of EU and NATO Armed Forces contingents by transit and final deployment countries (fuel, accommodation, medicine, etc);
  • coordination and exchange of information on military transfers between national and pan-European (coalition) authorities;
  • strengthening cooperation to protect critical transport infrastructures from hybrid threats. Special attention is paid to ensuring maritime security.

In November 2019, the concept of a “Coordinated EU Naval Presence” in important areas of the world’s oceans was approved. It is based on the principle of voluntary provision by participating states of forces and means of the national navy for the deployment of ship groups in the zones of operational interests of the EU, as well as the use of the capabilities of the merchant fleet of European countries.

The primary tasks of the formations are defined as monitoring the maritime situation in “high-risk” waters, protecting and escorting commercial vessels in conflict areas, conducting military, anti-terrorist, humanitarian and rescue operations. The north-western part of the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and the Gulf of Guinea are designated as geographical areas of responsibility.

In general, the practical activities of the European Union in the field of security and defence indicate a desire to strengthen its influence on international issues by developing its own military structures, increasing participation in crisis management, expanding cooperation with third countries and other organisations, and neutralising the internal problems of the commonwealth by uniting European states on the basis of the idea of joint counteraction to crisis situations and military threats to security.

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