Claudia Major, deputy head of the International Security Research Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, and Jana Puglierin, program officer at the Future Forum Berlin of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), published an analysis of the changed security situation in Europe, in the German foreign policy magazine IP.
The analysts said that Europe would have a better chance for peace if it succeeds to bind Russia into a cooperative order. They conclude that thus far, the reactions of the EU, OSCE, NATO, and their allies to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine have fluctuated between determination and helplessness.
“There is a distinct impression, however, that the Western world is merely reacting, while Russia sets the pace; rather than proactively managing the development of the conflict, Europe seems to be limping behind,” Major and Puglierin said in the article.
The analysts said that the Ukraine crisis has substantially and perhaps permanently altered Europe’s security structure.
“Europe is now much less secure, and its security architecture altogether less stable, more confrontational, and less predictable. Individual states, along with NATO, the EU, and the OSCE, must now address the deficiencies in this new order. At the same time, Europe has a better chance to exist peacefully if it succeeds in binding Russia into a cooperative order – as demanding as that will be,” they said.
The analysis points to the fragile unity and lack of a united approach in Europe, citing the French hesitation in relation to Mistral class helicopter carriers sale to Russia, and Hungary's decision to cut off gas deliveries to Ukraine, as prime examples.
“The fact is that many EU states consider the global economic crisis to pose a far greater existential threat than the conflict in Ukraine. And at the other end of the spectrum, in view of the Russian threat, states like Poland fear being abandoned, but also see themselves vulnerable to accusations of escalating the situation and calling too vehemently for military response,” it said, concluding that throughout Europe, public opinion has in some instances voiced more sympathy for Russia than criticism.
The analysts think European unity risks going to pieces entirely if, for example, the consequences of the economic sanctions against Russia start to be felt in the EU, if Russia reduces energy deliveries to Europe, or if the new Ukrainian government makes decisions that are difficult for its Western partners to stomach.
The report says that the altered security order has led to a renewal of NATO’s role as both a defense alliance and a form of a life insurance, taking precedence over the EU, but this means that the alliance must catch up in the areas it has neglected over the previous years.
“NATO needs to adapt its military capabilities, plans and posture so that neither its members nor potential opponents doubt the security guarantees that NATO promised it article 5 of the Washington Treaty,” it said, while taking a skeptical view on NATO's ability to follow up its promises. “As impressive as that may sound, the limits of this response are obvious. There is a certain irony in the fact that, while the defense alliance was essentially revived by this emergency, it is notoriously difficult to organize effective alliance defense against hybrid scenarios and to credibly provide alliance defense to exposed regions, especially the Baltic States. When it comes to hybrid scenario, NATO does not have all the necessary capacities: military means such as tanks or missile, can do only so much to stave off cyber-attacks, anti-NATO propaganda, infrastructure disruption, or “little green men” – Russian soldiers operating in Ukraine without insignia.”
The analysts predict that in order to meet the new security challenges, it will no longer be possible to avoid taking on more debt in national budgets.
Major and Puglierin suggest a more central role for Germany in order to solve the crisis.
“As Europe shapes the new security order, Germany must be a central player not only in moral terms but also economically and politically. Even taking into account the recent tensions between president Putin and Merkel, the German chancellor remains a central person to establish the contact to Moscow. Simply defined, Berlin’s goals include preserving German and European unity and strengthening resilience, avoiding isolation of Russia – even while criticizing its behavior – and supporting Ukraine and other countries in similar circumstances (such as Moldova and Georgia),” they said.
“European unity would prevent Russia from exploiting fissures between European states. What this means, really, is strengthening the resilience of EU member states. The traditional military principle of deterrence – that is, the prevention of an enemy attack – will no longer rely purely on military means but extend to robust and largely unified economic, infrastructural, and social policy. Scenarios like those recently seen in eastern Ukraine and Crimea can best be prevented by integrating ethnic minorities so well that they cannot be exploited as a pretext for invasion,” adding that Germany should also maintain a close alliance with the United States. “Without the US, the entire European negotiating position is weakened, politically and militarily. Unity is thus not only the organizing principle within Europe but also within the transatlantic relationship,” they said.
The analysis concludes that it is essential to preserve contact with Russia, but offers to cooperate with Russia must not, however, lead Europeans into accepting new spheres of Russian influence or throwing their principles overboard.
“The inviolability of international borders as the basis of international law and guarantor of peace on the European continent is not negotiable. As the Ukraine crisis shapes the new outlines of European security, Europeans are well advised to ensure that the new structures point in the right direction,” the authors said.
Read the full analysis here.