After the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the security architecture in Europe must be rethought. What guidelines should it follow?
Kersti Kaljulaid, the former president of Estonia, asks when Russia will be able to restore its former military strength after the Ukraine war. According to her opinion and consultation with various experts, she expects this to happen within a period of no more than five years. That Russia is striving to regain its previous military potency, there is no doubt in her view. This opinion is widespread in the Baltic and Eastern European states, she said. General Christopher Gerard Cavoli, commander of U.S. forces in Europe, disagrees. For Russia’s military losses were different. While the land forces have suffered significant losses of men and material, other elements of the Russian armed forces have suffered little or no war. The threat from the world’s largest territorial state thus continues unabated. It was necessary to arm oneself against this danger.
Threat situation recognized in Germany and Europe
Thomas Bagger, the German ambassador to Poland, believes that this realization is slowly gaining ground in Germany as well. Before the war of aggression, Germany had lulled itself into a state of carelessness about security policy because of its embedded position in the middle of Europe. That Russia could invade Ukraine was considered economic suicide and consequently unlikely. The result of this lax attitude was economic connections and dependencies, which in retrospect had to be described as a mistake. However, consequences were drawn from this mistake. The willingness to invest in military transformation is high, even if the process takes more time than the Eastern European partners would like.
Pierre Vimont, former Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service, observes a similar change in mentality at the European level. He tells of a commission from the Sahel region that in 2011 asked the European Union to supply weapons to fight jihadists in the country. At the time, these requests would have been shot down. In the meantime, there are pots of money that have been earmarked for precisely this purpose. The situation is similar when it comes to strengthening the local arms industry. Whereas a few years ago companies had to rationalize away their defense sector, the European Commission has now allocated funds from the Structural and Investment Fund to this industry.
Concerns remain at different levels
Nathalie Tocci, director of the think tank “Istituto Affari Internazionali,” also recognizes a pan-European awareness of a threat emanating from Russia, but the extent to which this sense of threat extends varies greatly from country to country. Nevertheless, she expects a certain constancy in the unity in Europe resulting from the Russian invasion. The reason for this is simply that economic attachments have been reduced and a clear stance against Russia is no longer associated with economic costs.
Europe’s new defense role
The increasing military dependence of Europe on the USA, on the other hand, is a cause for concern. Although Europe is currently doing a lot, the deepening dependency relationship illustrates how much defense commitment and investment has been neglected in recent decades. “We are now paying the consequences for that,” Tocci notes. From Vimont’s perspective, the larger defense budgets also give rise to more responsibility. Moreover, with the paradigm shift, the issue of NATO and EU enlargement has returned, Tocci explains. An enlargement that – as the former secretary general of the European External Action Service notes – is taking place under different auspices than the previous ones. Whereas in 2004 the increase in membership took place in times of peace, the present is characterized by armed conflicts. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new strategies for action and an own foreign policy vision.
How big is the Western family?
This also includes the question of whether Ukraine should be seen as part of the transatlantic family, explains Daniel Fried. The former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs continues, “Ukraine made it clear at the Meydan where it locates itself.” After the attack, the West reacted more coherently and consistently than Putin would have thought possible. However, he says, it is necessary to ask where the joint Western engagement should lead. Fried gives a clear answer to this question. He strives for the integration of Ukraine into the “Western family. This is not easy, he says, but it is the only path that leads to a secure and free Europe. All the arguments against NATO accession had already been put forward in this form against the accession of Poland and the Baltic states