Thanks to all my visitors

I warmly thank all of you for visiting this site, although I would add one point: I would suggest you to join me on blogactiv.eu, where I have published many new posts.


Change of address

Good morning everybody.
In order to make it more simple, I invite you to join me on the other platform I make use of. This is the link you can click on. link.
The posts are exactly the same that you can read on this blog. The migration is only motivated by laziness: I do not want to administrate simultaneously to identical blogs.
See you soon (hopefully).


The appropriate size of future Bundeswehr.

There have been several press articles on the future format of German Armed Forces. In any case, manning will be trimmed again and make out of Bundeswehr the smallest one among the main countries. However one factor should be taken into account to moderate the mere figures.

In accordance with its fundamental law, the civilian part of Ministry of Defence is rather large and many tasks, which are traditionally devoted to the military in other European countries, belong to the civilian side of the ministry, in German the ‘Bundeswehr- und verteidigungsverwaltung’.

The figures made available in German media are the following ones:

-Army: 47.000 men,

-Air Force: 19.000 men,

-Navy: 9.000 men,

-Medical service: 11.000 men,

-Joint services: 26.000 men.

(source: Stern.de of 22. June 2010)

These figures do not mean that much, the most interesting will consist in the number of combat units that will remain, including their support and service support. As well, critical to observe will be the capability to commit effectively troops. For the time being, all the possible troops are declared to NATO. At least theoretically. However, when SACEUR needs reinforcements, or when the EU Council wants to launch an operation, reality is much more painful. Therefore, I would not criticize German figures until one can discriminate what they really mean.

For this reason, Mr v. Guttenberg words make sense when he declares to the Spiegel on 14th June: ‘It cannot be, with 252,000 soldiers, that we have already reached the limits of our abilities when only 8,000 soldiers are deployed at the same time’, which means that the Germans do not have their money worth.

So let us see how many soldiers the Bundeswehr will declare ready for deployment once the reform will start implementation. Thanks the support of the defence civilian services, it could work, but Germany will then have to fix what assets will be mutualised, with whom, and mainly with what conditions.


European Army really seems ton be on the move through the mutualisation of military assets.

Recent publications have shown that some European countries are looking for new paths in order to more involve their armed forces in their budgetary saving policy. Really fascinating thing is that bold initiatives are on preparation, without any real conceptual work being performed beforehand, but under the pressure of the current budgetary crisis. More precisely this new orientation is not the result of a need expressed by the Armed Forces but a pure political will, intending to fully involve the military in the struggle for balanced budgets.

When looking after a promoter of optimisation in defence spending, one can look towards the European Defence Agency, which already and clearly demonstrated some years ago that the 200 billion Euros spent yearly for Defence do not generate the efficiency that it should, because of the numerous redundancies, while some other domains are left apart by our nations, despite vows for a better future.

Now the politics have seized the initiative and decided to search for mutualisation or at least of some of the military assets, in order to have the armed forces contribute to the budgetary balance of their respective nations and limit the costly redundancies.

After the statements of Mr von Guttenberg, the German Minister of Defence (already published on this blog), came a statement of Mr Morin, the French Minister of Defence, during a hearing at the Defence committee of the Assemblée Nationale, while shortly after the public relations of the ministry issued a press release dealing again with this issue.

On 7th July, Mr Morin declared: “My British counterpart and I have decided to launch a quite ambitious operation. The new British government wishes that we analyse very thoroughly what competences and assets that each country should keep as an asset to exert full sovereignty, those which can be mutualised and those for which interdependence can be envisaged.”

Some days later, the French Ministry of Defence released that both French and German Ministers agreed to think over the possible pooling and mutualisation of assets between both countries.

This sentence is really meaningful, as this is close to a cut and paste of Mr Guttenberg’s statement on German Defence review, who explains in his ‘Tagesbefehl’ (order of the day) to Bundeswehr he that he will look for savings through a better task repartition within the Alliance.

On point must be made clear: at the moment you mutualise or even pool some assets, you are bound to your partner, who will have to clearly state whether he supports you in the operation you are planning for or if you should simply leave it by lack of support. At the moment our nations will have recognized that they can no more afford to own the full scope of capacities and assets to operate in autonomy, the European Army will be. May be not on the format of the traditional forces we know with the same uniform and the same patches, but it will be, with those non-visible and strong links which have already led to the European Union as it is today.


Bundeswehr: Germany to review carefully its founding principles (2)

As I already mentioned in my previous post, German Defence Forces, the Bundeswehr, has been created based on democratic principles, of which the conscription, the innere Führung and the home defence. The best way to secure the fundaments of this system was a strict control by the parliament, as mentioned in the constitution, the “Grundgesetz” and confirmed by the constitutional court in 1994.

During the Cold war, the Bundeswehr has built its reputation on the outstanding tactical level, exhaustive training and the quality of its equipment. By the way, the officers who created this new army were all former members of the Wehrmacht, therefore quite skilled. But that is not today’s issue.

Germany being at the border of Warsaw Pact and therefore on the front line against Soviet armoured divisions, this country needed to solve a complex equation, consisting in getting a large number of soldiers while avoiding any risk of creating an ideological army.

Logically Germany chose the model of a conscription army for which they developed the concept of citizen in uniform. From the mid 50s until the mid 90s, this model has shown particularly valuable, as the only perspective of German soldiers was to defend the fatherland and democracy against the Soviets. During the same 40 years, British and French Army had been committed in several operations, or even wars, like in Suez, the decolonization, the Falklands, Africa, Lebanon, Cyprus, etc. Those conflicts maintained in France and the UK an expeditionary know how, within the ministry of Defence and of course at the head of state level, while Germany was looking at the Iron Curtain.

In order to make sure that this powerful army could not be diverted from its role of bulwark of democracy, the fathers of Bundeswehr established several firewalls, one of them being the parliamentary control described in my previous post, the second one being the Innere Führung.

Currently the conscription is no more needed to defend the German borders. As well the conscripts cannot be committed in operations abroad if they do not volunteer for it. In the 91, just after the reunification 211.000 young men were called to duty. Now, out of an 80 million people nation, only 68.000 are called for duration of 6 months.

One can see very easily that the current organization of conscription involves every year a small minority of Germans and is not able to give them a meaning to their duty: their only role is to support the professional army that nobody wants to declare publically as the real working body of Bundeswehr.

In fact the real meaning of German official conscription army is no more a military one. Its only role is a political one: to show to the German people that their army remain the army of citizens in uniform of the 50s, when Germany was setting up a democratic system. This obsession of democracy is not to underestimate and that is why some of the projects for the new Bundeswehr still desperately include a conscription army with 20.000 conscripts. Just to keep the symbol alive.

Such a decision, if more feasible to the eyes and understanding of the German citizens, who are profoundly pacifists, would blur, internally as well as externally the image of Bundeswehr.

The citizens would have the impression that their beloved and traditional Bundeswehr is still alive, although it has really turned into a professional army,

The defence organization being still built around conscription, the different laws and regulations would not be adapted to fit with a more flexible and responsive army,

The partners of Germany would not accept jeopardize their responsiveness capacities by mutualising some assets with a country presenting shy and legally constrained defence forces because of conscription.

Consequently, the German equation to reform Bundeswehr is really complicated and quite not easy to solve.


Bundeswehr: Germany to review carefully its founding principles.

As the German government has decided to review largely its defence organization, even stating that some more communality of capacities should be looked for with its European partners, let us have a look at what German Defence forces could look like in a near future. As a consequence of the planned reform, the future structure of Bundeswehr, its size and recruitment system, will lead to a careful review of some of its founding principles, which are, among others, the defence of home country, the citizen in uniform, and the code of conduct or ethic rules, the latest being a concept impossible to translate, named in German “innere Führung”.

As the results of the study order by the Minister of Defence, Mr von Guttenberg will be made available to the public in autumn we still have time ahead of us to scrutinize some points of this reform. The official documents are rather scarce. But the German press broadcasts interesting news, which give a good insight of the fierce debate between the different political parties.

To sum up, what I consider as the founding principles of the modern German Defence Forces are:


-Home Defence,

-Innere Führung, or code of conduct. As this concept is almost impossible to translate with accuracy, I will keep it in German.

-Strong parliamentary control

Those principles have been established from the very beginning of Bundeswehr, in the 50s, in order to build up armed forces which guarantee that they could never be used against democracy and peace, as a reaction to the former Prussian militarism accused of being at the origin of the previous world wars. These they are completely intricate: German Defence forces would recur to conscription in order to focus on Home Defence and to make out of the soldiers “citizens in uniform”, support by educational programs based on Innere Führung.

As from the legal point of view, Bundeswehr has been built up from scratch, the whole legal body and all manuals are conceived in that direction, included the different paragraphs of the German Constitution. The paragraph 87a deals with the Defence forces; the civilian part of the ministry being dealt with in para 87b. I will outline one sentence, one at the top of para 87a: “the Federation sets up Armed forces for defence”.

Furthermore on 12th July 1994, the Constitutional Court authorized the Federal Government to commit troops abroad, but with a major restriction: the Bundestag should approve any commitment of troops abroad prior to the operation. The only exception being the emergency case, when life of German citizens is directly threatened. In such a situation, the Government is entitled first to act and subsequently inform the Parliament.

Both points are the expression of an intrinsic rejection of the expeditionary warfare, which is the privilege of nations having a strong executive power, like the USA, the UK or France. In the current articles on the future reform of Bundeswehr, politicians from all sides reject a professional army, arguing that this would create a force in the hands of the government, thus weakening the parliament and developing temptation to make use of for Bundeswehr for other purpose than defence of the country, or support to the alliances to which Germany is part. This approach is far from representing only a minority of the population, included in the Defence forces. A few years ago, Germany refused firmly to support France in the operation EUFOR in Chad and Central Africa. The main reason for that refusal to support an ally is linked to both German constitution and Constitutional Court decision.

Some pragmatic people would suggest changing the German constitution. I sincerely do not think this to be possible. Historically, Germany has been authorized to build up its forces at the prerequisite that they are maintained under strict democratic control. Control by the parliament is the way hence chosen. This model is so anchored in German political cultural that a support neither by the population nor by the military can be reached for the time being.

Then, the discrepancy between the German rigid constitutional framework and the expeditionary culture of its neighbours will make extremely difficult for this country to find major partners ready to mutualise capacities. The only countries ready to go forward with them would be countries for which the army is firstly used for national defence and not overseas adventures. France and the UK would not take the risk to bind their hands to please German savings plan. May be they would accept to share secondary assets, but in any case, would they renounce to those who create the conditions for contingency planning.


Germany: the first steps towards a European Army.

The German federal ministry of Defence has made available on its website several key documents, which can help for a better understanding of what the future Bundeswehr will look like in the next years.

Of course, this new development is not initiated by a open-minded approach linked to the previous German statements aiming at setting up in a far future a European army. By the way, one comment: Germany, well known all over the world for its capability to create consensus (at least inside its borders), has reached a consensus on this topic. All political parties aiming to seat sooner or later at the government’s table support the objective of a European army.

Indeed the main reason for which the Federal Republic of Germany is accelerating its will to create the embryo of a European Army is to be found in the documents available on the ministerial Website. Those documents are:
Tagesbefehl des Bundesministers der Verteidigung (here)
Leitlinien zur Ausplanung der neuen Bundeswehr (here)

As usual, for those who cannot read German yet, I will develop my post on the basis of both documents.

Well, the reasons which have lead the German government to this defence review are the following ones:
-Adapt Bundewehr to the operations and the reduced budgets. Indeed we meet here the direct impact of Afghanistan and the financial crisis on the German Defence model. I mean that due the History, the Bundeswehr could not renounce in its organization to the “Landesverteidigung” (defence of national territory), as this is the cornerstone of the alliance between the Army and the Nation. However, the reality of Afghanistan forces Germany to review the principles of Bundeswehr as the expeditionary warfare will dominate the next years.
-The financial crisis is driving the events and the decisions. At the time the Euro was introduced, Germany was extremely reluctant and finally joined at its conditions. The seat of the European Central Bank being in Frankfurt was the sign of its strong will to dominate the Euro-zone. However the governance model of the Euro failed with Greece. Focussed on social stability through economical development, Germany could not accept jeopardize its social pact. Strong and painful decisions are necessary, among which a drastic reduction of the defence budgets.

In this framework, Germany is preparing a complete review of its defence system, including the first steps towards a German Army. Most important points are:
-In the future the only German national operations will be: evacuation of non-combatants, release of hostages and rescue German citizens. In fact, this is not new. I already met this concept in the early 2000s.
-Quite new is that Germany is ready to renounce to some capacities. In the guidance to the committee in charge of studying the structure reform, the Bundeswehr will have to find cooperation cooperation in education, logistics and structures for daily business and commitments, without creating political constraints or mutual obstacles. As well it will evaluate what tasks could be performed in common, abandoned to the allies, or taken over on behalf of the allies.
This is the core issue: one of Europe’s main countries seems ready to renounce to some elements of sovereignty as abandoning some capacities could mean a loss in autonomy of decision.

Isn’t it the first step towards a European Army?


NATO: the decreasing importance of the military alliance.

The future NATO concept has raised a lot of interest within the military community. Among those who wrote on the topic, I could find some comments on the reinforcement of the security in Europe thanks the enlargement of the Alliance or its prominent role in world’s stability and security.

This has been true until Warsaw Pact collapsed and afterwards during the instability which succeeded to the fall of Berlin Wall. Since then, as everybody knows, no European country is really threatened at its borders, except in the 90’s in the Balkan area. Of course, many of the European countries still feel threatened by Russia and are eager to feel the US umbrella over their territory.

But this is no more a reality, or at least, with the conventional assets. Most of the US troops hence spread over Germany have now redeployed to the USA, the most symbolic one being may be the 1st infantry division, now based in Fort Riley (Kansas). The US military presence has logically been decreasing for years in order to adapt to the new status of Europe, which does not have any more an immediate and major threat at its border, for the very first time of its history.

Therefore, beyond the political correctness, by which some people insist on the better security in Europe with the enlargement of NATO, one should really look at the added value of the new NATO members. Due to their aging tanks, communication systems, airplanes, ships inherited from the former times, their contribution cannot be regarded as a military one, excepted some infantry or special forces for Afghanistan. Those countries, closer to the Caucasus and Middle East than German Bases offer interesting platforms to US Air Force and other units that are tasked to operate in this area, including missile defence.

The weak military relevance is illustrated by the percentage of those armies in the overall figures of forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of course, at the level of those countries, their commitment represents a huge effort, and furthermore, a cultural revolution: in a 10-year time span, they have redirected their troops for a conventional warfare in Europe towards counterinsurgency. The blood shed in those countries implies that they largely deserve US support to their defence. However, the international situation is such that, with the exception of some episodic Russian provocations, they do not risk that much. In any case their situation is not to be compared with Georgia.

In such a situation where the threat is no more at our borders, the military is looking at other directions. One of them could be represented by the rogue states or the failed states. Including this threat in the NATO concept could be interesting: the military has a role, far beyond the borders and furthermore, those countries are not capable of presenting an effective threat against whole NATO. In the worst case, they could initiate one or some localized terrorists attacks. Of course, such attacks would be a tragedy for the victims. Nevertheless, this would not be a vital threat against this very country.

This enemy, formed by this category of rogue or failed states not being a vital issue, I would bet that NATO members would dare to draw all the consequences of the concept. If they would, then they should build up expeditionary forces, in order to be able to address the issue. They are not ready for it, as their only concern is still security at their borders. Why? Because their population do not feel that much involved by overseas adventures. Let’s us look at the firm and definitive German refusal to participate to Eufor in Chad. The Polish participation was more to look at as a visible sign of support to European Defence than a sudden interest for the stability of the former French colony. A further and may be the major issue is the cost of the transformation of their defence forces. They cannot afford it in less than 20 years.

In such an environment, the military relevance of NATO should go on decreasing, and more than a integrated military structure, it should transform towards a coordination body, providing expertise and support to defence forces willing to adapt to the new challenges. One or the other Headquarters would remain to provide this coordination, standardization, and expertise. One or two HQ would remain to command one or the other operation, the rest being disbanded, like the US forces are already doing in Europe.

Identify what elements of the structure (civilian and military) could be reduced would be of course much more difficult: military efficiency being of secondary interest compared with the supposed visibility given by a flag post or the location of a HQ. I prefer to leave this to our politicians.


Unmanned Aerial Systems: Europe challenged by Israel

On past 8th July, Olivier Jehin reported in Europe Diplomacy and Defence on the conference on Unmanned Aerial Systems organized jointly by the European Defence Agency and the European Commission. This conference has illustrated the capabilities of Unmanned aerial systems to be of dual use, military and civilian. While the military use of UAV is well known through Afghanistan, the civilian side is not that much covered by media. On the EDA website, some detailed information can be found on this civilian use of UAS (here).

As all the necessary pieces of information are available on the net, being introduced in UAV (for instance, in French language here) is quite easy.

Today, we will have a look at one peculiar topic: Israel, small country of some 7,5 million inhabitants is challenging Europe and its more than 300 million people in a sector, that will represent in the next years a market of some more 10 billion dollars a year. Well, one might that this is just a niche, and that there are much more strategic domains where Europe stands at the cutting edge. May be. Nevertheless, what is taking place with UAS is a vivid symptom of the consequences of traditional European divisions and of its difficulty to gather and fight side by side on innovative issues.

The international market of UAS is shared in some four segments: micro-UAS, mini-UAS, medium and long endurance UAS. Usually, the cruise altitude and the weight of the payload grow with the wingspan and weight of the UAS. As well the bigger the UAS is, the more complex is its technology. The current situation is that:

-European industry owns significant capabilities on micro and mini UAS,

-For the time being, Europe has still some capabilities on medium UAS, but EU countries need Israeli assistance and partnership when they procuring something modern.

-Long endurance UAS are still at R&D level in Europe, while they are already produced at industrial level in Israel.

The other leading country in UAS issues is USA, but I would say ‘as usual’, especially in aerospace industry, one of the best-known fields of excellence of US industry. However, being outclassed by Israel, even if this country owns as well some first class capacities, is somewhat surprising. All the more surprising that Europe was really a leader in the field of UAS, until the late 80’s.

What did happen?

I see several reasons for Europe losing its rank. As well this can be regarded as an example of what can happen in some other domains.

-Usually the innovations driven by the military are then converted into civilian applications. However, European defence forces, strangled by the reduced R&D budgets concentrated their efforts on some key weapon systems, neglecting by the way some other niches, assessed as not critical for the coherence of their defence system.

-In addition to this, the same relatively poor R&D budgets were scattered between all the 27, every country being eager to develop or assess, or modify an equipment that they wanted exactly fitted to their very needs, instead of trying to mutualise. Just have a look on the infinity of Armoured Infantry Vehicles or light weapons.

-Then, which is more boring, the defence staffs have been for a while impregnated with the remnants of Cold War organization and equipment. As a weapon system needs usually at least 10 years between ignition and deployment, European countries have taken some additional delays to discriminate what their weapons and systems should look like in the future. I am not sure whether they have yet completely turned the page of Cold War.

-Furthermore, make UAS fly in Europe requires an adaptation of the current regulations, at least to make the skies more accessible to unmanned systems. In the name of air security, which is very often used as a pretext against changes, and because of the lack or reliability of European UAS, civilian airspace was kept largely closed. While UAS could fly over Israeli cities (in a country where life of the citizens has the same value than in Europe), the same ones where relegated in the empty areas or military training camps. Furthermore, the European airspace not being fully unified yet, every country will apply its own rules for the use of UAS, thus hampering the development of their use by making very difficult, in some countries almost impossible, the emergence of a European civilian market.

UAS are not at the core of European interests. However, this is a growing market, which could contribute to Europe’s welfare if regulations, markets and defence forces were somehow more integrated in their respective fields. Once again, including in the field of Defence, division is weakening Europe, and this is the reason why European Commission and European Defence Agency try to have Europe play at its level and not in the second league. In a word: it’s much better, even in UAS, to be compared to Spain than France.


Invent a successor to the Western European Union Assembly

On 15th June, Mr Robert Walter, Member of the British Parliament (Conservative) and President of the European Security and Defence Assembly (formerly known as WEU Assembly) pronounced a speech at the occasion of the 58th session of the assembly (here).

Despite the decision of Member countries to dissolve the WEU assembly, Mr Walter would like this forum to further exist, in order to preserve the capability of National Parliaments to scrutinize the now Common Security and Defence Policy. His views come not only from his intrinsic political opinions and orientations. Taking into account that CSDP is first of all an intergovernmental issue and the primary responsibility of the national parliaments is to control their governments, he has identified a potential crack in the European Defence architecture.

The European Council, controlled by the 27 governments may decide of an action and will subsequently express guidance to the relevant EU services to make it real. Then they will turn back to their national administrations to set up a force. I will focus on the military issue. The EEAS will have some limited responsibilities: in a military operation, most of the costs are charged against the participating countries. Regarding the unfolding of the operation, most of, if not all, the political risks will be taken over by the governments and their coalition in the respective national Parliaments.

The commitment of troops will remain anyway a national decision as the nations pay for their armed forces and nobody else, and as well, if the operation goes wrong, the government can loose the next election. In the current legal situation of the EU, such a political risk does not exist for the European Parliament.

However, a national decision to commit or not troops, to go or not to an operation, will never be a purely national decision. The participation will always be the result of a compromise, taking into account, of course, national considerations as well as international pressures, including influence from the European partners. As a consequence, one could legitimately accept that the Member of a national Parliament keeps in touch with colleagues from other parliaments to understand better their own perception of the operation, or any other topic to be debated in the European instances.

This way of doing is not redundant with the European Parliament tasks: the EP has no formal responsibility regarding the commitment of troops or defence equipment and budgets. May be the European Parliament owns larger prerogatives by civilian missions, but in no way by military ones. At least, not yet, except the Athena program, which represents only a fragment of the real cost of an operation.

As currently, European Defence is stuck in sand, Mr Walter’s initiative is not a comeback to previous situation. I would rather interpret it as a pragmatic approach of the current political situation of Europe, where many countries get back to purely national considerations when dealing with defence issues. My only hope is that Mr Walter’s stance will have only a tactical effect to set again in movement European defence and not a strategic one by redesigning European Defence for the 20 next years as a pure coalition of interests.


What can be expected from Belgian presidency of the European Union.

Traditionally as founding member of the EU and seat of many European institutions, Belgium is very active in the fields of Defence and Security. To have a good insight of Belgian intend during the next six months, the best is still to have a look at their program. This document is of course available in different languages on the Belgian government website. For French language, you can click here, for the other ones, including English, click here.

Well, in such a document, one should not expect that more space than strictly necessary be given to defence. There are so many topics to deal with, that defence cannot be more than one paragraph long.

The integral text of this paragraph is the following one: ‘ The implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon in terms of a Common Security and Defence policy will also require special attention. Notwithstanding the progress made in recent years, the European Union still does not possess the civil or military capacity to match its ambitions. Permanent Structured Cooperation as the European architecture for the planning and command of crisis operations, the capacity for rapid and coherent reaction, including for relief operations, civil- military cooperation, the training of civil and military personnel for crisis management, the strengthening of the European Defence Agency, and the strategic relationship between the Union and NATO are among the key themes requiring special attention’.

What can we say about it?

The analysis on European Defence is pretty short, but clear: despite the progress, the EU is far from having reached it optimum. However, Belgium does not seem believing in significant progress with this issue. The best they can do is to convey a ‘special attention’ to European Defence. In the past years, this country has always been at the avant-garde of ideas, propositions and negotiations. Currently, the topic is to be handled with so carefully, that, may be for the very first time, Belgium has nothing concrete in its propose.

Some could be tempted to put shame on the current electoral situation of Belgium and the difficulty to form a government. I do not think so. If the political visibility is not here, traditionally, high ranking officials take over and make projects go forward, waiting for the new governments to endorse the ideas and proposals made by their administration. In the particular case of Belgium and its consensus on the development of European Defence, this is for sure what would happen if there were some opportunities to make steps forward. But all the recent presidencies remained stuck in the sand, meeting huge difficulties to reach any agreement in key issues, like a permanent OHQ or the permanent structured cooperation, foreseen by the Treaty of Lisbon.

In the current situation, where all the attention of European countries is focused on the financial and budgetary crisis, a strong and long-term political effort cannot be expected. Therefore the only way to go forward would be a bottom up approach, leaving some freedom of action to the military, or more precisely to the Chiefs of Defence willingly to wake up some interest among their colleagues. However, governments will never allow technicians take such arrangements on their own as such issues belong undoubtedly to national sovereignty, some of European leaders still nourishing the utopia or national independence in Defence.

To conclude on Belgian presidency, looking at their level of ambition, nothing new and essential is to be expected in the current international context.


Security and Defence: what results for Spanish presidency?

When Spain took over its presidency of the EU Council, some six months ago, one could see that its objectives were very limited, but, in a way, realistic. At that time, Spain goals were very limited, but in a way, realistic due to the fact that 6 months are a very short period of time, and that the lack of unity of views between the countries had closed the way to a larger ambition. More concretely, Spain objectives were to realize a qualitative jump in promoting more efficient and flexible EU battle groups, consolidating the association between the EU and the NATO and going forward in the civil-military cooperation.

What was reached?

The financial and budgetary crisis, and the rescue of Greece have diverted our officials from this chapter of European construction. Nothing at all is to be read except some declaration supporting the sanctions against Iran. This is really the minimum of what the European Union could do. Of course, it seems that the EU could go forward on the organization of the external action service of Mrs Ashton. However, the cancellation of both summits EU-USA and Mediterranean Union let assess that the European countries were not attractive enough to make president Obama visit again Europe and make the Mediterranean countries find a way to progress on peace.

Everybody can understand that the Spanish agenda for its presidency has been overwhelmingly influenced by the crisis and the vital need to restore confidence and belief in the economical and financial system. In such situations nobody will claim being neglected.

Therefore, let us see what will happen with the Belgian Presidency, effectively and if the absence of long time government will influence the results that could be reached.


Common Security and Defence Policy: the Website

Today, thanks the WEU website I went to the EU council webpage on CSDP (former ESDP).
Even if it is the official voice of the EU, it is worth having a look at it.
You will get access by cliking here

Africa: can the EU contribute to peace and security?

The football world cup has given to most Europeans a new idea of Africa. Of course, one or the other country cannot give a good idea of this gigantic and multi-faceted country. However, this world event has shown that Africa is not only the continent of poverty, starvation, civil wars and massive emigration.

The image of Africa I would remember from this World cup, when looking at the different teams, like South-Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Algeria, are the words dynamism, life, courage and will, a strong will to win and to express national pride devoid of any aggressiveness.

Even if there is, according to Pascal Boniface geopolitics of football, we did not speak that much on geopolitics during the last weeks. Therefore I would come back to the relations between Africa and Europe, from the perspective of European Defence, of course. As I would not pretend being experts on those issues, I will try to share some views, based on an article I recently read in ‘Defence Review’. This article deals with the relations between the EU and sub-Saharan Africa and is written by Bastien Nivet. If you want to read it (in French) it is to be found here.

One of the major difficulties I met while reading this article was to identify the effectiveness of European support to African security. Many issues are intricate and prevent any significant step forward.
-While the EU is cooperating with the African Union, the latter suffers of its deficient structure and lack of assets. Furthermore the African Union is in competition with some regional organizations, which strive to establish direct links with the EU.
-Some European countries are not that much interested in Security issues and are mainly present through support to development or via the European Union programs. For instance, Germany refused to participate to Eufor Chad at the level of its financial contribution to the EU budget.
-Other countries have historical links with Africa and have built up influence networks that work well, and may be much better than purely institutional and structured relations.
-Initially, the EU action program to development support was not related with security. It was only part of a broader program including as well Caribbean and Pacific countries. Anyone would understand that this might be difficult to find synergies between those three areas. Anyway this ACP program could not directly contribute to security, as, at that time, European External Policy did not play the role it has now.

For more than ten years, the EU has been working on the reinforcement of African peace support capabilities. As usual, there has been a mix of European and national initiatives, which do not give a good visibility of the European action to the eyes of the citizens we all are. Even if Europe support were more coherent, one can be far from thinking that results would have been better. One of the poor results originate from different but converging causes:
-even if African Union and regional organizations give an impression of unity, they poorly dissimulate behind this image a huge diversity of national interests, cultures, ways of doing, as well as a poor governance of those organizations. This weakness of the organizations does not only originate in the lack of assets. It comes firstly from this diversity, which is, at least for the time being, much stronger than the will of unity.

Therefore what could the EU do to achieve a real improvement of the security situation in Africa? May be one solution would be not to glorify too much the latest operations by showing every time only the bright side of those. If some of them have been finally successful, the question remains, for how long? A second question could be: what is really a EU operation? Many of them, are still carried to the altar of CFSP to make it happen by hiding the strong national participation of one or two nations, while the other ones just put one or two officers in order to see their flag among the other ones without dedicating any military asset. Regarding the results of an operation, use of armed forces is useless without a long term and efficient development support. However looking at the poor governance of some of those states, this development support should not exclusively cover the economical side of if. It should include the political and social sides as well.

But this is not that simple: such an integral support could be as well considered by the African countries as a neo-colonialism. Such a perception can encourage some countries to undermine EU efforts to develop Africa. This undermining could even come from European countries willing not be regarded as such.

Therefore, I would express serious doubts on EU capability to really support from a global perspective the improvement of security situation in Africa. Probably the most efficient way of doing could consist on supporting punctually one or the other country to stabilize a sub-region during a short period of time, just waiting for a stabilization of the area, but keeping in mind that European contingents could be back in the same area some weeks or months just after the end of the operation.


Finally duplication is in the NATO

Frequently European Defence opponents like casting a stone to European bureaucracy and inefficiency, taking NATO as a model. Sure, it is a little bit late, nevertheless, I enjoyed reading in EUobserver.com, the article written by Valentina Pop and titled “Nato to make cutbacks amid budget crisis”.

Finally, everybody admits that the duplications are in the NATO and that drastic cuts in its operating costs will give to NATO some ability for competition and challenges. I am really longing to see how our Nations will succeed in reaching an agreement.

Firstly, nobody wants to loose key posts in the command structure.
Secondly, nobody is really willing to let a headquarters be disbanded, unless it is in another country.
Thirdly, the real waste of money lays in the duplications between the countries which want, each of them, keep in their hands most of the tools while they will operate, anyway, with the same allies, whatever the situation is. Sooner or later this will have to be addressed, as it could effectively facilitate significant savings.
And what about France? Will France accept to disband SACT, in Norfolk, while this country got a short time ago the commander’s post in the wedding basket for its come back to the structure?
The conclusion sentence of this article is not so amusing: quoting the ministers of Defence the journalist reports them to have declared: “We will continue to demonstrate the alliance's capability to provide a visible assurance of Nato's commitment to collective defence. We are determined that our national decisions on defence programmes and budgets will take into account what we need as an alliance”. It does not seem to me that they will really act to reform rapidly their own defence systems towards a more integrated and therefore cheaper defence organisation. It rather sounds in the style “business as usual”.

I hope I make a mistake, but I do not expect a really significant change, unless our governments have a strong will to sacrifice the HQ they host on their soil, or the key posts that they own. Let us be confident.


Spain and Europe: 25 years of a success story.

As we are now in a period of European crisis, where some people believe that the European idea is near to be dead, I really enjoyed reading the analysis made by Mr Ignacio Molina for the Real Instituto Elcano. For those who read Spanish, this article is to be found here.

Well, Mr Ignacio Molina reminds us all what the European integration brought to Spain to consolidate its economy and, may be even more important, the democracy. One of his references is José Ortega y Gasset that he quotes, stating in 1910, “Spain is the problem and Europe the solution” so that “regeneration cannot be separated from Europeanization”.

Indeed, this Spanish point of view on European integration process is refreshing. I would rather think that the paramount influence of European Union for the successful democratization and pacification of Old Continent societies, like the Spanish one has been largely forgotten among all the historical 6 Members (France, Germany, Benelux and Italy). The idea of purely economical links between our countries can surely fit with the immediate interests of our citizens. However, a project can be built up only over generations, if there is any project.

Having read Mr Molina analysis, I would rather think that Europe is a project for Spain, and not only a process driven by the events or temporary interests. This could be an explanation for the enduring consensus on Europe that spreads over all the relevant political parties and among the public opinion, in which welfare, development, democracy and strengthening of the Nations are considered as being the fruits of European integration.

Finally, I would think that the comfort we are living in since 1945, at least among the 6 founding members, we tend towards forgetting some basic principles, like fragility of democracy and freedom. This is not the best way to handover a to our followers what we inherited from our fathers or grandfathers. Therefore, when some countries are still wondering whether European Defence is dead, I would take as a strong warning the statement of Mr Molina, according whom, Spain, sooner or later would be tempted to play its own role on the international scene, because of the stumbling European external policy. This temptation cannot be fully excluded: Spain has now turned the page of dictatorship since a while and is completely back on the international scene.

As for European Defence or in this case, European interests, refers, this would be painful: the traditional area of Spanish influence, Latin America and area of interest, Mediterranean Sea are both of interest for Europe as well. South America because of it emerging markets, for which we need stability and Mediterranean Sea where the migratory flow of population is all but to stop.


Sooner or later the EU relations towards Turkey will need some clarification

On 17th June, N. Gros-Verheyde published a post on the EU battlegroups, which still meet some difficulties for being committed. I will not discuss on the usability of those units, might it be from a political point of view.

In fact I would consider as any average citizen the readability of the Turkish presence within those battlegroups. Firstly governments always say that Defence is at the core of sovereignty, and that is one of the reasons for which European Defence cannot progress. So easily, on the other side, a great and major country, not EU member, takes part to it, although, formally it cannot attend the EU Council meetings where a decision for the commitment of the battlegroup could be met.

Furthermore, due to the disagreement on Cyprus issue, EU security clearance cannot be granted to Turkish soldiers. How could they plan and operate within the military structure, without having, already in peacetime some jobs? Many points show that this participation is not driven by military efficiency and not designed to become effective.

I would regard it exclusively as, either a heritage of the Turkish long time and patient candidature to the EU and as a way to show that the door is not closed. Furthermore, this is as well the illustration that some European countries still do not envisage to reject Turkish candidature and would like it to go forward, including in the field of Defence. The fact that this battlegroup raises some operational issues is as well the proof that European Countries did not agree yet to make it usable.

The only question would be the following: does really Turkish role in the battlegroups reinforce the concept or does it weaken it? If the EU wants its battlegroups really usable one day, it will have to let the citizen know what importance it gives to the efficiency of such units.

I would just add one remark: from a military pint of view I would not dare expressing a single criticism on the military value of the Turkish Defence Forces. They really constitute a major partner in the area.


Defence: EU Parliament goes on nibbling at EU Council freedom of action

One of my main references, Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, published on 17th June a post titled: “demands The Parliament some transparency for EU “Defence” budget. Supported by a resolution voted by the Parliament, his post illustrates the fact that the EU Parliament has not renounced to extend its power and not to forget the smallest piece of its prerogatives to the Council. Or at least what it has assessed to be its prerogatives.

Indeed, scrutiny of the External Action Service is a major issue when dealing with the EU Parliament, as the Lisbon Treaty reminds us that Defence is first of all a national issue. This is completely true, at least for the time being. As stated in the Treaty, more precisely in protocol N°10, “the common security and defence policy of the Union does not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States”. This means clearly that the Nations still decide on their defence policy, which is a normal thing. Currently, they still vote the defence budgets and the national political leaders decide to what operations they are willing to take part and in what extend, with what caveats they will.

However, the same countries, grumbling against the fact that they always are the same ones to contribute to the operations, or that they are the only ones to take risks, would greatly appreciate a fair burden sharing. However their way to see how to ideally share the burden is very simple, and in a way very sound (from the Nations point of view): the EU pays and the countries implement the policy.

However, fed up by the principle of “the cost lie where they fall”, Nations, requested or accepted (I do not know) the Athena mechanism, which consists in providing some EU founds to support the operation and therefore alleviate the burden. This Athena mechanism is a very convenient Trojan horse of the Parliament to scrutinize the defence spending of the Council, as it illustrates the contradiction of the Nations. If they do not want to be controlled on the operations, the best is to renounce to any European money, but nobody really wants to.

Furthermore, as reminded by the author, the Parliament would like to scrutinize the EU Military Staff and other structures, but only from a very limited perspective: if the money is properly spent. Would the European Parliament have requested for more info on the operational side of their work, they would have gone too far and weakened their position. However, by looking at the budget, they use the back door to get into European Defence. A closer scrutiny of the spending, especially in the middle of the current budgetary crisis, can only be understood by the citizens of the virtue of the Members of the Parliament, at least as far as the Europeans are really interested in such issues.

Therefore as it has always been the case, the Parliament gets into things by nibbling new prerogatives, making use of its disturbance power to make the others bend and accept a reinforcement of its role. By the way, this resolution was passed by a majority of 607 votes, with only 54 against and 15 abstentions. Obviously the Parliament need for transparency supersedes national considerations of the Members on European Defence.


France back to the NATO structure: the cultural shock.

When French President Sarkozy decided to have France back within the NATO structure, many, at least in France, spoke about the French renouncement to its cherished independence and declared that France had sold its sold to the USA. The purpose of this post will not be to look again to this recent past, but to write down some comments on a very interesting article, titled “France in the NATO. The French Military Culture and the Strategic Identity in Question” and written by Anne-Henry de Russé.

Sorry, but it is written in French language. Nevertheless, I hope that this post will give you a good insight of this paper.

In the very first pages, the author already states that, being apart from the military structure more than 40 years long, the French military has developed a peculiar culture, characterized by a form of independent way of thinking and operating, which could be put at stake.

From his point of view, combined operations make converge the different national culture, much more the membership in an alliance. To support his statement, Mr de Russé refers to the expeditionary culture of France versus the Clausewitz influence in the US culture. French officer, he seems to strongly favour the French military culture, in which autonomy and polyvalence of the soldier are cultivated at the highest level.

The author stresses as well the danger of a strong NATO culture, which could encourage a decrease in the defence budgets.

A little bit further he thinks that the presence of a French general at the head of Supreme Allied Command Transformation would help for broadcasting the French concepts. Vice versa, the French people would acquire in NATO a planning culture as a complement to their conduct of operations natural inclination.

P. 28, Mr de Russé promotes what he defines as the French indirect approach against the direct approach, main feature of NATO culture. At one moment, as well, he wonders whether the orientation to a stronger interoperability will have an influence on French defence industry.

Really, this article is worth being read quietly, because he leads us to check again our impressions on NATO, and it conveys a good idea on the thoughts of a French officer who could be summoned up to an assignment in the NATO command structure, even it does not really fit with NATO countries way of doing business, in which nations are doing as if they always were compliant with NATO standardization agreements, while doing, anyway their own business.


Funding of multinational operations: a need for a radical change.

Might it be the NATO or EU, the countries taking part to multinational operations always meet the same problem, based on the motto: “the costs lie where they fall”. To the attention of newcomers, it means that a country, which sends troops upon request of an international organization, will pay twice for his contribution.

Firstly, his national defence budget will be charged with the supplementary costs caused by the deployment of troops abroad. For some countries, it can reach several hundreds of millions of Euros per year.

Secondly, if mission fails or situation worsens, the government of this contributing nation will run into political danger, as the casualties or some collateral damages could make the public opinion to reject the current foreign policy and lead to the loss of the next elections.

Therefore some countries have deliberately chosen to travel in Business Class while on operations: they select carefully the region in which they will operate, they implement such caveats or give such tasks to their forces deployed there that any casualty is avoided as far as possible, and if possible, you offer troops for the most media-friendly jobs. However, I will not put shame on any specific country: there is a sort of unofficial task sharing as, depending on the national interests having lead to the decision to deploy, one or the other country will be once very active, or the other time will just have a symbolic presence, the latter case being used when there is a need to give a token of solidarity.

Because of Afghanistan, far away from most of European countries’ areas of interest, source of daily casualties, countries are always more reluctant to contribute. The painful force generation process for EUFOR in Chad is still the worst example of an operation decided at the political level, without the political will to see it up and running.

Sooner or later, EU countries will have to think over the issue of cost sharing. I can only support the idea that the country, which pays, decides as well. Current Athena program, designed to share the costs that cannot be nationally identified is far from being sufficient to encourage Nations to contribute, mainly in areas of great danger or great logistical issues.

Some members of the EU Parliament have already worked on the topic. However, only very few countries are ready to go forward on the topic:

-A development of Athena principles to the whole operation would definitely reinforce the role of the EU Parliament and therefore would be regarded as an intrusion within national sovereign issues.

-If Europe proposes you to take over all the costs, it becomes much more difficult to refuse to commit national units. Another pretext is to be found.

Nevertheless, the latest financial crisis has left most of European countries is such a situation that their defence forces could be forced to gather their efforts and resources (or at least some of them) in order to face budgetary cuts imposed by their governments.

This could make a good opportunity for European Defence to wake up.