Security and Defence - Elcano Royal Institute empty_context Copyright (c), 2002-2018 Fundación Real Instituto Elcano Lotus Web Content Management <![CDATA[ What next in export controls? Updating criteria and methodologies in non-proliferation and arms control ]]> 2019-06-17T11:44:17Z

The impact of cumulative innovation in technologies requires policymakers and experts to update the current methodology, concepts and tools for non-proliferation, exports control, restrictive measures, arms control and disarmament mechanisms.


The impact of cumulative innovation in technologies requires policymakers and experts to update the current methodology, concepts and tools for non-proliferation, exports control, restrictive measures, arms control and disarmament mechanisms.


Military and CBRN technologies are evolving rapidly in a cumulative process of innovation, leading to a growing gap between 20th century military assets and modern systems. The accessibility to conventional and CBRN technologies for non-State actors further adds uncertainties to the spectrum of threats that States are likely to face in the years to come. These facts also raise the question of emerging challenges in arms control and non-proliferation policies, in particular for export controls. In a quest to match trade and security interests, policymakers, diplomats and military/technical experts are confronted with a number of specific challenges in multilateral regimes and initiatives: assessing the impact of new technologies on future military capabilities and WMD programmes; preventing a destabilising proliferation of dual-use technologies with military applications; and addressing the resulting conceptual and material outcomes of such an evolutionary process in the methodology for future arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament negotiations.


Cumulative innovation, intensive growth and commercial take-off

Past experience shows that technology usually evolves through a gradual cumulative process, based on a combination of new inventions and innovative uses of existing technologies, rather than revolutionary changes in industrial technology with immediate results. “Cycles of invention – commercial exploitation – innovation” develop gradually and usually take a long time to yield significant results. At an early stage, such innovative technologies have little or no relation with existing operational military equipment, due to a conceptual gap between their original design and their potential use in subsequent designs. The latter use has to be ‘rediscovered’ at a later stage, and many technologies are then gradually adapted to military needs, thus improving operational equipment. Such processes have led in some cases to success, followed by phases of technical progress, or to stagnation and even regression in other cases, eventually becoming commercially irrelevant.

The perception of technological innovation in industrial economies is based on the concept of intensive growth (technology as a factor for improvement) versus extensive growth (labour + capital + resources). The last two decades have already witnessed the emergence of new technologies that have transformed production systems and social habits, leading to important qualitative changes in industrial economies in recent years. Most probably, the take-off phase of an intensive growth based on new technologies is yet to come, but once it starts it is likely to fuel worldwide diffusion of dual-use technologies through global trade and off-shoring, resulting in growing challenges for non-proliferation export controls. One of the major reasons for this spread lies in the necessity for advanced technology firms to write off their often costly research and development (R&D) investments by expanding their markets, which implies promoting exports worldwide. Off-shoring policies help to reduce costs by shifting production, assembly lines or manufacturing of components to factories in countries with lower labour costs. Moreover, foreign direct investments lead to transfers of ownership of firms integrated in the supply chain of important defence contractors. All these factors gradually pave the way for proliferation risks, such as direct access to technology and production processes or ownership of sensitive patents by foreign entities and reverse engineering.

Modern innovation is transforming previously non-listed commercial items into dual-use technologies. In recent history, innovation has mostly been based on new ideas being applied to existing technologies and resources, in a process of gradual improvement over long periods of time. In the Information Age, the cumulative effect of such innovations becomes larger and faster, since each new cycle of innovation delivers a stronger technological impact due to synergies reached in combination with other technologies. Market globalization, intangible technology transfers, and off-shoring policies of private firms are among relevant factors that accelerate technology diffusion worldwide. While these trends are positive in terms of the improvements in productivity, expansion in trade and increase in economic growth, they also represent important challenges for supplier countries, which require adequate regulatory tools to effectively implement export controls.

Such knowledge and technologies may not be listed as controlled items at that stage. However, many dual-use technologies that are not listed as ‘military controlled items’ might be relevant for future WMD or conventional weapons programmes. Export control agencies, through international interaction, determine which weapons, sensitive dual-use technologies, and related materials must be controlled. The same logic is applied to technology-related restrictive measures.1 But innovation often transforms previous non-listed commercial items into present and future dual-use technologies. Technological change through cumulative innovation outpaces our ability to update lists of controlled items in national and multilateral export control mechanisms. This is particularly important in industries operating in the nuclear, chemical, biological, aerospace and military sectors.

While ‘traditional defence sector’ companies have always had a solid security culture, based on specific confidentiality regulations, this may not be the case for some commercial firms from the civilian dual-use sector, which may eventually become suppliers to defence prime contractors. Some of these challenges may lead to a proliferation of sensitive and dual-use technologies, including machine-tools. Commercial and market-oriented companies –especially those producing and supplying dual-use technologies– are more exposed to the risk of unintended sensitive transfers to destinations of concern.

In this regard, the production and availability of technologically advanced components and machine-tools is of particular relevance, since they play a primary role in industry, but also in the construction of advanced military platforms. Some examples of this trend are: software and computers; propulsion systems; video technology; robotics; nanotechnology; autonomous vehicles and remote-controlled systems; and technologies associated with space applications.

New materials, such as carbon fibre and graphene, are also essential in modern industry. New production systems, such as additive manufacturing, are used in different sectors of industry, building objects by adding ultra-thin layers of material one by one: plastic prototypes, ultrasound machines, gas turbines, aeronautics, medical implants, etc. The use of these technologies in the production of military platforms is growing, especially in aeronautics.2 The potential of new technologies in the defence sector is enormous. As a result, the control of all these technologies is becoming not only a commercial advantage for industry, but also a strategic asset.

New technologies, weapons and tools to make weapons: tangible and intangible

Our past experience in arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament methodology has been based on hardware, materials and physical platforms accounting and monitoring. The international agreements negotiated in the 20th century established quantitative ceilings to limit military capabilities and determine the rationale of strategic balances. Examples of this approach are the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 after the end of World War I; the Naval Treaty of Washington, signed in 1922; or, more recently, the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, since 1990. Other treaties in the second half of the past century established non-proliferation principles, where a quantitative approach to tangible assets was the method to determine compliance, based on measurable materials. Such is the case of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention, which rely on a verification and accounting system of safeguards and inspections, implemented by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons respectively. The Arms Trade Treaty follows the same philosophy in its information exchange mechanism: reporting on tangible transfers.

However, the impact of new technologies and intangible assets on conventional and WMD capabilities is likely to grow in the years to come. As an example, due to new trends in information technology, the use of cyber weapons against nuclear, chemical and critical infrastructure may become a threat that will be difficult to assess with current conceptual tools. Therefore, given the extensive use of dual-use applications and intangible assets integrated in modern military systems, the quantitative approach may not be sufficient in the future. The same rationale is applicable to export controls, where software, electronics and other non-lethal technologies determine the capabilities, precision and effectiveness of modern weapons systems.

Some of the risks described above also emerge in the form of intangible technology transfers associated with digital transactions: the transfers of technical data in a non-physical form, including available encryption software, email exchanges of documents related to sensitive information, online consulting, access to cloud-based technologies and other procedures in wireless telecommunications networks. Export control authorities in supplier countries face increasing challenges related to sensitive Intangible Technology Transfers (ITT) due to functional symbiosis of industry and academia, the presence of foreign nationals in domestic high-technology sectors, the mobility of qualified personnel or the access to global information technology networks and digital-electronic methods of intangible transfers.

At the same time, it is necessary to identify industry, research centres, universities and individuals that have access to sensitive technology in order to undertake targeted outreach efforts and, if possible, also promote self-regulation, based on cooperation with export control agencies, including by designing and implementing internal compliance programmes, encouraging appointment of export control points of contact and enhancing codes of conduct. Such measures supplement risk analysis procedures in visa-vetting methods, including profiles following the model used in granting licences for transferring defence and dual-use material, and sensitive areas which could make ITT possible or facilitate them. Furthermore, raising awareness and self-regulation in sensitive suppliers enables them to become the ‘first line of defence’, controlling sensitive technology at the source. This is already being done in many countries through ‘compliance programmes’ and ‘know-your-customer’ policies, but only when such companies are active in supply chains and exports that are already declared sensitive. Finally, these challenges require new tools for enforcement agencies, including national legal frameworks for special investigative techniques in the web in order to monitor electronic transfers of sensitive information, under judicial supervision, in accordance with national legislation.

Innovation and new applications of existing technologies: the conceptual gap

Throughout history there have been cases in which the original design and intended purpose of innovative technologies were used for specific applications, which were entirely different from their use in differing subsequent designs or systems. The latter use had to be ‘rediscovered’ at a later stage, and many of these technologies were gradually adapted both to commercial and military needs, thus improving operational equipment and commercial technologies. In the 18th century the steam engine was initially designed for the textile industry, but it was successfully adapted to trains and vessels in the 19th century. The GPS was designed for military purposes, and a few decades later became commercially available and widely used for civilian applications. Cell phones, specifically designed for wireless communications, have been used as remote-controlled detonators of improvised explosive devices in terrorist attacks. Between the original design and purpose of innovative technologies and their potential ‘rediscovered uses’ there is a conceptual gap,3 due to lack of awareness or purpose to use them in new and different applications.

This conceptual gap can be identified when innovation is not intended or focused on a particular goal at a given time and is conceived by a designer/developer unaware of its full potential. The analysis of a conceptual gap requires an assessment of the innovation process to compare the original purpose of the technology with other potential uses of the same technology as reflected in Figure 1. The need to expand markets and recover R&D investments leads to the search for new applications and functions of existing technologies. In this process, the interaction between designers and end users is essential, since it is often demand from the latter which leads to new findings. In this regard, innovation plays a role in two parallel functions:

  • Existing and new dual-use technologies are used to upgrade existing platforms and systems with new applications. The latter play the role of enablers.
  • New designs of technologies for innovative applications are used to construct new platforms and systems.
Figure 1. The development of conceptual gaps

The conceptual gap is bridged with a deductive and functional approach: a designer or researcher seeks existing technology that is able to perform a functional role that has been previously identified as a need by the end user. In this process there is an issue of particular relevance concerning capabilities for asymmetric warfare. While cases of “reverse engineering” of military and dual-use technologies by state-sponsored entities are widely known in the context of “technology flows” leading to industrial production, the acquisition path of sensitive technologies undertaken by non-state actors usually starts with commercially available items purchased off-the shelf or on the black market. These items are later redesigned and upgraded with other available technologies to produce derivatives – not replicas – adapted to their needs and resources. This product may be of a lower technology standard and performance compared to the original system, but it plays a similar functional role. Many weapons used by non-state actors in asymmetric warfare and terrorism are the result of “reverse designing” derivatives4.

In the context of asymmetric threats, the existence of such conceptual gaps in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) systems requires a specific approach. Often associated, rightly or not, to weapons of mass destruction, CBRN materials are part of a more complex system with production facilities, means of delivery, CBR agents, nuclear devices, explosives, detonators, guidance systems and particular vulnerabilities, eg, to sabotage through cyber-attacks. The outcome of innovative processes is diverted and integrated into existing CBRN devices, in which CBRN materials are part of a more complex system. The complexity of CBRN systems and their enhancement through integration of dual-use conventional technologies are usually ignored when the two –conventional and non-conventional technologies– are defined as separate categories.

Moreover, risk management –based on the safety/security standards implemented in a CBRN facility– is also a relevant factor in export control. If they are not protected, these technologies and materials can be stolen at the facility, diverted to other purposes or used against the receiving State or other countries (including the supplier country). As a result, two elements can be identified as characterising conceptual gaps in CBRN.

First, and from a technological perspective, CBRN systems cannot be conceived as an isolated category. They are integrated in a complex spectrum of technologies, ranging from conventional to CBRN elements, including dual-use technologies. CBRN systems differentiate conceptually from conventional systems due to their fallout and consequences, the legal framework in which they are categorised as well as certain ethical considerations, due to their usual association with WMD. But they are, in effect, integrated in a complex and comprehensive continuum of diverse technologies, where conventional and non-conventional technologies are blended and only then possibly formed into a CBRN weapon. Therefore, controlling the spread of CBRN materials is insufficient for achieving non-proliferation, since complementing conventional or dual-use technologies usable for the weaponisation of these materials need to be regulated, too.

Figure 2. From CBRN material to non-conventional systems
Figure 3. From conventional enablers to CBRN effects

This perspective is particularly important when dealing not only with terrorist threats but also in a hybrid war context: insiders, militia-type agitators and hackers can all use conventional systems to achieve harmful CBRN outcomes as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Risk management in CBRN facilities

Coordination and assessment of information through national prevention-defence-resilience hubs is important for monitoring critical infrastructure and improving situational awareness, enhancing the ability to connect seemingly unrelated events which might be symptoms of a hybrid attack.


The way ahead: measuring intangible assets and anticipating technologies’ potential outcomes

Weapons systems, dual use technologies, technical production systems and their different applications bear not only the legacy of knowledge, but also the traces of evolution in human behaviour. In this regard, the process is characterised by a tempo marked by relevant inventions and industrial highlights, as well as a long-term perspective of evolution where elements of a technical-industrial legacy find new roles assigned by human creativity. In summary, the time is ripe for considering a gradual update of the methodology for non-proliferation, exports control, restrictive measures, arms control and disarmament mechanisms. New concepts and tools will be required to assess the relevance of technologies and capabilities, both conventional and non-conventional, based on tangible and intangible factors.

The impact of cumulative innovation in technologies with potential use in CBRN and conventional weapons programmes, including manufacturing systems, has become a major challenge for policymakers and experts in the security, non-proliferation and disarmament community. In particular, export control authorities and military experts will need to assess the consequences of future innovation on existing controlled platforms.

At the same time, enforcement agencies will need to assess the parameters of compliance in an intangible space. Intangible technology transfers –where traditional customs and enforcement controls cannot be implemented– require a new approach to address new challenges for export controls, such as information transactions where the concept of national boundary either is blurred or simply disappears.

This intellectual exercise will also require a methodology to define the conceptual gaps between the 20th-century designed operational weapons systems and an innovative use of new technological resources or dual-use applications for military purposes. This implies reflecting on possible mechanisms to assess and identify the potential dual use of commercial technologies, which may not be integrated in existing controlled systems at present but might be relevant for future weapon designs and programmes.

Technological observatories, qualitative indicators of capacities based on innovative technologies, as well as new conceptual and impact evaluation models, would be useful regulative tools in this context. Further efforts in this area could include not only an assessment of the transfers to be monitored and the gaps to be bridged, but also a deeper analysis of relevant factors in technological proliferation.

Gonzalo de Salazar
Senior Advisor for Strategic Affairs and Sanctions Policy Coordinator at the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation

1 Some UNSC resolutions on sanctions use the annexes of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime as technical references for the implementation of restrictive measures.

2 New generations of machine-tools function in combination with advanced programming and simulation software to manufacture flat, mild curvature, complex shapes and high-contour aerospace components. Computer-controlled additive manufacturing machines make lighter parts and components in a faster process, reduce production costs, and yield significant fuel savings for aircraft.

3 Gonzalo de Salazar Serantes (2018), Crimen y conflicto armado, MAEC, Madrid, p.199-201.

4 An example of this process is the ability of some guerrillas to transform commercial UAVs and use them on the battlefield, surface-to-air missiles adapted to surface-to-surface functions or portable rocket launchers based on modified models of self-propelled grenades, built with plastic components using injection moulding machinery, steel and aluminium.

<![CDATA[ The US and the Iran Nuclear Deal: rejoining is wiser than destroying ]]> 2019-05-09T08:49:34Z

Twenty one Directors and Senior Fellows of leading European think tanks calls on the US to reconsider its approach to the JCPOA and preserve the nuclear deal.

A European joint call on the US to reconsider its approach to the JCPOA.

One year ago, on 8 May 2018, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would cease compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement struck in July 2015 by the United States and Iran, along with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union. 

President Trump has argued that the JCPOA’s provisions are insufficient to block Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapons capability, do not address Iran’s expanding missile arsenal and do nothing to counter Iran’s activities in the Middle East. He maintains that a strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ is the only way forward and has consequently re-imposed all the US sanctions that were suspended under the deal, including measures targeting foreign companies doing business with Iran (so-called secondary sanctions). 

President Trump’s concerns are not entirely misplaced. Withdrawing from the deal, however, will hardly contribute to achieving any of his stated objectives. In fact, his decision has been harmful in several respects. 

First, it has undercut global non-proliferation efforts. The JCPOA is a technically sound agreement that has established significant constraints on Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapons capability. As certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, and publicly acknowledged by top officials from the US intelligence community, Iran has continued to comply with the deal. However, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement that Iran is ready to restart certain activities prohibited by the JCPOA shows that, following the US withdrawal, the benefits to Iran of staying in it diminish by the day. If Tehran restarts the full nuclear programme and limits the IAEA’s inspection powers, that would leave only far weaker mechanisms for monitoring its work, including the work reflected in the nuclear archive that Israel claims to have seized from Iran. Other states in the region – notably Saudi Arabia – might be tempted to emulate it and engage in a regional nuclear arms race. 

Second, President Trump’s decision has undermined the value of multilateral diplomacy. The JCPOA is a significant instance of effective multilateralism and successful diplomacy, involving countries with very different foreign policy outlooks such as the US and its European allies, Russia and China, and Iran itself. Whereas sanctions coupled with dialogue have proved to be effective in several international crises, the US choice of ‘maximum pressure’ over compromise devalues diplomacy as an effective way to address international disputes among rival states. 

Third, the decision has weakened international law and institutions. The JCPOA derives its legitimacy from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bans Iran from ever seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and its authority from the United Nations Security Council, which has endorsed the deal through its Resolution 2231. By reneging on US commitments without proper cause, Washington has conveyed the message that international obligations can be disposed of at will. 

Fourth, it has harmed transatlantic solidarity. The JCPOA was the culmination of over thirteen years of hard, unremitting transatlantic coordination. By pulling out from it and, worse still, by threatening to punish EU companies and banks for doing business with Iran, President Trump has shown utter disregard for Europe’s foreign policy interests and eroded trust in the transatlantic partnership. 

Fifth, it has contributed to exacerbating regional tensions. The JCPOA has removed the imminent prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran from a regional landscape deeply fraught with geopolitical tensions. By replacing it with a strategy of ‘maximum pressure’, the US has galvanised Iran’s rivals and reduced the appeal of compromise solutions in Tehran. If Iran leaves the JCPOA, there will be far fewer diplomatic avenues to contain the risk of a military escalation that would plunge the region into further conflict. 

Sixth, President Trump’s decision has inflicted undue pain on the Iranian population, whom he claims to support. The JCPOA was supposed to end Iran’s economic isolation in exchange for strict and verified limitations on its nuclear activities. By re-imposing sanctions with extraterritorial effects, the US has scared companies and banks around the world into reducing, ceasing or not starting business with Iranian counterparts. Ordinary Iranians have seen living standards decrease because of a combination of inflation, higher costs for imports, scarcity of available goods (including food and medicine), and the impossibility of finalising transactions that were started before the re-imposition of sanctions. 

The JCPOA is doing what it was designed to do: preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. As such, the deal is too important to be allowed to die. Although all remaining parties to the JCPOA say they are committed to the agreement, current efforts to sustain it have not been enough to guarantee its survival. 

Europeans should be applauded for the implementation of a Special Purpose Vehicle, called INSTEX, to help facilitate humanitarian trade. However, they should do more to ensure businesses have the clarity they need to conduct trade and should speed up the participation of other countries in the special vehicle. Europe should work to establish another special purpose vehicle expanding the scope of trade to include oil imports from Iran, again open to participation by other countries. Europe should also deepen its technical and political consultations with Iran to reduce risks and build resilience on a range of topics including regional flashpoints and disaster relief. 

Overall, JCPOA supporters across the world should increase coordination to make sure that US sanctions do not hamper the economic stability and technical nuclear cooperation Iran needs to comply with the deal. 

Most importantly, JCPOA supporters in Europe and elsewhere should re-articulate the merits of the agreement to various US audiences – in the administration, Congress, the expert community and media – so it is clear that the only way to reap the full benefits of the JCPOA and build upon it is for the US to rejoin it. 

A US return to the JCPOA would help contain the negative consequences mentioned above. It would also recreate a more cohesive international coalition applying pressure on Iran to curb activities – specifically its development of ballistic capabilities and support to its proxies – that contribute so much to instability in the region. That pressure would then be combined with a credible diplomatic attempt to lay the groundwork for détente and lead to a regional initiative on missile threats and an intra-regional dialogue on a security architecture for the Gulf. 

All of this stands a much better chance of success if the US reconsiders its approach to the JCPOA. Much as Europeans spearheaded the process that eventually led to the agreement, so they could lead the way on any future diplomatic initiative with Iran. But for multilateralism to be effective, international law and agreements must be respected. 

The signatories of this Joint Call have signed it in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in the text do not reflect the position of their institutions of affiliation.

Charles Powell
Real Instituto Elcano / Elcano Royal Institute

Nathalie Tocci
Istituto Affari Internazionali - IAI

Des Browne
European Leadership Network - ELN

Adam Thomson
European Leadership Network - ELN

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj
Bourse & Bazaar London

Steven Blockmans
Head of EU Foreign Policy
Centre for European Policy Studies - CEPS

Ian Bond
Director of Foreign Policy
Centre for European Reform - CER

Ondrej Ditrych
Institute of International Relations - IIR

Thanos Dokos
Director General
Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy - ELIAMEP

Michel Duclos
Special Advisor
Institut Montaigne

Thomas Gomart
Institut Français des Relations Internationales - IFRI

Charles Grant
Centre for European Reform - CER

Mark Leonard
Co-founder and
European Council on Foreign Relations - ECFR

Pol Morillas
Barcelona Centre for International Affairs - CIDOB

Robin Niblett
Chatham House

Laura Rockwood
Executive Director
Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation - VCDNP

Daniela Schwarzer
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswãrtige Politik - DGAP

Andris Spruds
Latvian Institute of International Affairs - LIIA

Teija Tiilikainen
Finnish Institute for International Affairs - FIIA

The initiative was coordinated by:

Riccardo Alcaro
Research Coordinator
Istituto Affari Internazionali - IAI

Shatabhisha Shetty
Deputy Director
European Leadership Network - ELN

See also: Instituto Affari Internazionali.

<![CDATA[ Natural partners? Europe, Japan and security in the Indo-Pacific ]]> 2018-11-12T12:06:30Z

There is momentum for increased security cooperation between Europe and Japan. Europeans and Japanese are ‘natural partners’ who consider a liberal and rules-based international order to be a core interest.


Europeans and Japanese are often described as ‘natural’ partners. As liberal democracies, market economies and close allies of the US, they have similar world views and share many interests. They also have a long history of cooperation, whose foundations go back to Japan’s embracing of modernisation and industrialisation in the late 19th century along European lines.

Both during and after the Cold War, Europeans and Japanese have worked closely to uphold and promote the institutions that make up the liberal, rules-based international economic order, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the G7. In more recent years, Europeans and Japanese have shown a keen interest in extending their cooperation to the security domain, both on a bilateral basis (ie, between Japan and individual European countries) and through the EU and NATO.

Given their shared values and interests, the foundations for a meaningful security relationship between Europe and Japan appear strong. Yet both sides continue to focus primarily on their immediate neighbourhoods and their respective relationships with the US. For Japanese and Europeans alike, the US has played an equally vital strategic role: guaranteeing security in their respective regions and upholding a liberal international political and economic order from which they have benefited enormously.

In recent years, significant geopolitical developments have altered the context in which both Europe and Japan operate, and may force the two sides to change the way in which they look at each other.

Russia and China have begun to challenge more openly and forcefully the rules-based liberal international order, both regionally and globally. The Russian and Chinese regimes are attempting to build an international order that is more in line with the political and economic interests of their ruling elites. They both seek to modernise their military capabilities and are engaging in acts of political intimidation and economic blackmail that threaten to disrupt the status quo in Europe and East Asia, respectively.

At the global level, Moscow and Beijing reject the notion of a liberal and open system, a level playing field where economic and political actors can compete freely. Instead, they prefer a controlled, top-down order. Geopolitically this translates into spheres of influence, whereby great powers call the shots and medium and small powers have no say, losing the certainty and protection offered by international rules and organisations and being left with nothing but the prospect of submission.

At the same time, it has become less clear in recent years –especially since the election  of Donald Trump as President– to what extent the US is willing to underwrite the current global trade and economic order. This has implications that are global –witness the Trump Administration’s seeming disdain for the WTO– as well as regional, given the US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its equivocal position in relation to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

When it comes to security, concerns about China’s rise, Russia’s growing assertiveness and the prospect of a relative US decline have sparked some doubts amongst Europeans and Japanese about America’s commitment to preserving deterrence in their respective regions. Uncertainty has been further fuelled by Trump’s rhetoric on alliances.

The developments mentioned above are compelling both Japanese and Europeans to adapt their respective foreign policy strategies. In recent years, Japan has adopted an increasingly active diplomatic and security role in East Asia, a process dubbed by some ‘normalisation’. Certainly, Tokyo has not abandoned the principles that have shaped its (pacifist) identity in the past decades and it continues to see military force as a last –defensive– resort. However, an increasingly threatening regional environment has led Japan to increase its defence budget, ease the legal restrictions on its Self-Defence Forces, strengthen its bilateral alliance with the US and expand its diplomatic and security ties with several countries across East Asia and the broader Indian Ocean region. This is reflected in Prime Minister Abe’s vision of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP).

Japan’s FOIP is partly a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an attempt to re-order the Indo-Pacific and Eurasian spaces according to China’s priorities and rules. Moreover, in view of the growing uncertainty about Washington’s vision on trade, Tokyo has embraced the flagship of global free trade –including a robust defence of the WTO– and taken a leading position on TPP after the US withdrawal.

On the European side, a new debate has emerged around the concept of European ‘strategic autonomy’, underscored by the 2016 European Global Strategy. In this context, Europeans have embarked on a number of new initiatives aimed at strengthening European defence cooperation, both in the context of the EU (eg, Permanent Structured Cooperation, European Defence Fund, Coordinated Annual Review on Capabilities) and outside it (eg, European Intervention Initiative).

Moreover, Europeans remain committed to reinvigorating transatlantic trade and economic ties, and the notion that such ties can help raise global standards in key areas such as free trade and environmental protection. Indeed, after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s meeting with Trump in July 2018, the idea of some form of ‘TTIP light’ has emerged.

Against the backdrop of these broader geopolitical changes, Europe and Japan have shown a growing interest in strengthening their strategic ties with each other. The progressive normalisation of Japan’s foreign and security policy and opening up of its defence industry has paved the way for greater security and defence cooperation with Europe. The UK and France have led the way, stepping up their military and defence-industrial cooperation with Japan in recent years, and countries like Italy and Spain are following suit. Germany, for its part, has developed a growing diplomatic and economic interest in Japan, a country with which it shares a preference for rules and multilateralism.

The rising cooperation in European-Japanese relations goes beyond individual countries and has also affected Europe’s collective institutions. The EU and Japan have recently concluded the negotiation of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the biggest bilateral trade agreement ever negotiated by the EU. The EU-Japan EPA promises important direct economic benefits for both parties. More broadly, however, it signals that the EU and Japan consider free trade to be the backbone of a multilateral liberal order. In addition to the EPA, the EU and Japan have concluded a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) that aims to lay more solid foundations for deeper political and security ties between Japan and the EU. The SPA will be ‘a legally binding pact covering not only political dialogue and policy cooperation, but also cooperation on regional and global challenges, including environment and climate change, development policy and disaster relief, and security policy’.

Japan has also taken a number of steps to strengthen its relationship with NATO. This has resulted in a number of practical initiatives in recent years, such as the secondment of a Japanese Self-Defence Forces officer to NATO headquarters and the official designation of its Embassy to Belgium as its Mission to NATO, which was accepted by the North Atlantic Council in June 2018.

The strengthening of Europe-Japan relations –perhaps best illustrated by the EPA-SPA–  is a timely phenomenon. With a US President following a disruptive approach towards international trade, and an uncertain US commitment to the global economic order, Japan and the EU –the two other key pillars of the liberal global economic order– are not only holding the fort but deepening their economic, political and security ties. The shared challenge in the years to come is to engage the US and bring it back into the fold of the liberal, rules-based international order. After all, and despite current problems, the US remains essential to the security of both Europe and Japan, as well as for the integrity and stability of the liberal international order.

The big shadow looming over European-Japanese relations is China. For many years Europeans have looked at Asia –and the broader Indo-Pacific region– primarily as a place for business. European business, especially German, has built strong ties with China and such economic ties have paved the way for political and diplomatic links between Europe and China. Thus, a key question for the future is how Europeans will balance their economic interdependence with China and their growing interest in developing security and economic ties with Japan, especially as Beijing’s neo-mercantilist approach and challenging of international rules clashes with Tokyo’s vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

About this Policy Paper

Against the backdrop of these geopolitical changes, and given the growing interest on both sides, it is appropriate to take stock of the European-Japanese relationship and explore the potential for increasing cooperation. This paper’s aim is to explain how Europe’s key players and institutions are approaching Japan, and to outline some possible ways to move the relationship forward.

With security at the centre of the exercise, the paper more specifically focuses on the Indo-Pacific, a concept so far officially embraced by the Japanese and US governments but that offers much potential to Europeans –to the extent that the Indian Ocean remains Europe’s main gateway into what some argue will be an Asia-Pacific century. However, we approach the Europe-Japan relationship through the lens of one of the sides: Europe.

In a way, the question of how to frame security cooperation with Japan in the Indo-Pacific is a proxy for a broader question: how will Europeans position themselves at a time increasingly defined by the shift in the global centre of strategic and economic gravity towards the Indo-Pacific?

In this paper a group of experts address these questions from the viewpoint of Europe’s main powers and institutions, using Japan and the Indo-Pacific as a compass. How will Europe’s key players and institutions balance their relationship with China and Japan, and how will they navigate their competing approaches to rule and order in the Indo-Pacific? Put differently, how will they balance their economic interest in strong ties with China and their political and strategic interest in Japan, and their (supposed) alignment with Tokyo’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific? In addressing these broad questions, each of the authors has been given the editorial freedom to approach them through the lens and specificities of each individual case.

In the first essay, Céline Pajon examines France’s efforts to step up its security cooperation with Japan in recent years. In particular, France’s military and defence-industrial prowess, its maritime capabilities and its status as an Indian-Ocean power open up important opportunities for greater security cooperation with Japan. In the second essay, Philip Shetler-Jones depicts the UK’s relationship with Japan as a ‘quasi-alliance’ underpinned by a long history of cooperation and their common nature as sea-borne powers.

While France and the UK –two maritime powers with global interests– have stepped up military cooperation with Japan, Germany is also increasingly interested in deepening ties with Tokyo but is primarily stressing diplomacy and shared norms, as explained by Ulrich Speck in the third essay.

Europe’s other maritime powers (Italy and Spain) are also showing an increasing interest in the security of the Indo-Pacific and in building stronger security ties with Japan. As Alessio Patalano’s contribution shows, Italy sees Japan as a like-minded country and is sympathetic to Tokyo’s vision of upholding a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. In particular, Italy has shown interest in working with Japan in East Africa, where its longstanding economic and political ties converge with Tokyo’s emphasis on connectivity and infrastructure development. Similarly supportive of the concept of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific is Spain, which has signed a Strategic Partnership with Japan in 2018, as detailed by Mario Esteban and Elisa Lledó.

In the sixth essay, Jacek Bartosiak looks at Japan and the Indo-Pacific from the point of view of Poland. While its continental location may make the connection with Japan (and the Indo-Pacific) less obvious, Poland’s condition as Europe’s gateway to China’s BRI makes it an interesting case. More broadly, as Bartosiak points out, there is a significant parallelism between Poland and Japan, as they are both emerging as the centrepieces of the US-led regional deterrence architecture in Europe and East Asia, respectively.

Europe’s multilateral institutions have also shown a growing interest in Japan. As Lisa Picheny points out, NATO and Japan consider themselves ‘natural partners’ and have a history of cooperation in the Alliance’s mission in Afghanistan. And in recent years NATO and Japan have strengthened their cooperation even further as they now hold annual consultations and are cooperating on a number of specific projects, including in the area of cyber-defence.

In the final essay, Daniel Fiott discusses the EU’s growing interest in Japan in the context of the EPA-SPA and looks more closely at the potential for greater security cooperation. Certainly, Brussels continues to look at Japan primarily through an economic and diplomatic lens and is trying to maintain a degree of neutrality with regard to territorial conflicts in the Indo-Pacific. But the revamping of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and the EU’s growing interest in defence research and innovation could open up greater opportunities for engaging with Japan.

Luis Simón & Ulrich Speck


Europe’s security and ability to remain a global player hinge in no small part on its ability to project influence in the Indo-Pacific space, for that is emerging as the central nervous system of both the global economy and global geopolitics. Europeans have a direct stake in the preservation of a rules-based liberal order there. And that means they cannot remain on the side-lines in the unfolding process of great power competition in the area.

In order to project their interests and values in the Indo-Pacific space, Europeans need partners. This is where Japan comes in. Japan is of key importance to Europe for two main reasons. First, because Japanese and Europeans hold common values and have shared interests in relation to the Indo-Pacific as well as globally; secondly because among the several like-minded partners Europeans have in the Indo-Pacific, Japan stands out because of its critical mass, in particular its economic muscle, but also its diplomatic and security potential. In this context, Japan’s progressive normalisation of its security policy and its growing interest in the Indo-Pacific maritime axis open up a number of opportunities for Europe.

One of the main points emphasised in this report is that Europeans have indeed a growing interest in the Indo-Pacific and in strengthening their security ties with Japan. To be sure, Europeans do not want to become embroiled in territorial tensions in places like the South or East China Seas. Even the two European countries with a stronger military and global profile –the UK and France– insist that they do not want to take a firm stand on sovereignty-related questions. However, all of Europe’s key players and institutions have a position on matters of principle: in particular, they embrace the notion of an open and free maritime domain, free trade and a multilateral and rules-based approach to conflict resolution. These principles stand in sharp contrast to the notion of exclusive zones of influence, mercantilism and unilateral approaches to territorial conflicts.

It is the defence of these broader liberal principles that bring Europeans and Japanese together. In recent years, Japan has stepped up its security profile and emerged as one of the bastions of a free and open rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. Its position stands in contrast to China’s increasingly assertive approach to territorial claims and neo-mercantilist efforts to re-order the Indo-Pacific space.

An important driver of Europe’s growing interest in Japan is the realisation by most of Europe’s key powers and institutions that China is unlikely to accept a multilateral, rules-based approaches to conflict resolution, as Beijing continues to assert its territorial claims with little regard for the interests and views of its maritime neighbours. The moment this became clear was when China reacted to the South China Sea Arbitration to the case brought by the Philippines against China under Annex VII to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), concerning certain issues in the South China Sea including the legality of China’s ‘nine-dotted line’ claim. When on 12 July 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of the Philippines, China flatly rejected the ruling, putting an end to the hope that international law could halt China’s challenge to the status quo in the region.

Besides Chinese assertiveness, there are other factors driving the current European-Japanese rapprochement. One key factor is the leadership role played by the UK and France. The two countries have a long history of engagement in the Indo-Pacific and have shown a growing interest in cooperating with like-minded powers (such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and India in recent years). They both see the Indo-Pacific as a key strategic arena and, as major military powers with a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, they feel the need to show their presence.

Additionally, there is the promise of cooperation in the defence industry domain. Japan’s edge in new generation technologies (e.g., autonomy, cyber, robotics, etc.) could be a key asset for Europeans as they seek to grapple with the challenges of military-technological innovation at a time when the US is embarking on its so-called third offset strategy. Greater cooperation in defence-industrial matters could help Europeans and Japanese diversify their partnerships in that field, reducing their technological-strategic dependence on the US, and reap mutual benefits in terms of defence innovation. In this regard, Europeans should explore how they can leverage the work of the European Defence Agency and the Commission’s newly established European Defence Fund to further their defence research and industrial cooperation with Japan.

Beyond security, another important driver of a closer Europe-Japan partnership is the sense that other dimensions of the liberal international order are also threatened. That includes, in particular, the free and open economic order that has allowed globalisation to thrive, and the institutions and norms that have enabled it to do so (such as the WTO and the broader principle of free trade). It is in this area where Germany has been particularly active by pushing for closing the EU-Japan trade deal and by offering Tokyo a closer partnership in the framework of the so-called ‘alliance of multilateralists’.

Regardless of the general openness and interest on Europe’s part to strengthen cooperation with Japan, there are also a number of important obstacles going forward. One of them is lack of unity. While there is a broad agreement among European players, forged in such forums as the EU and the G7 summits, each of them is moving ahead individually according to its national or institutional priorities. Overall this leads to a fragmentary approach. Alignment of Asia policies among Europeans could become even harder after Brexit, especially if disengagement is not balanced by new mechanisms for the coordination of foreign and security policies.

Another limiting factor is the need to balance support for the liberal order and like-minded countries in the region with the relationship with China. Europeans do not want to be put in a position where they have to side with one party or the other in the event of a heated territorial conflict in the Indo-Pacific. While there is increasing scepticism about the compatibility of the Chinese model of governance with the liberal order, the European economy remains deeply interconnected with China’s.

Last but not least there is geographical distance. Most European countries are focused primarily on their geographical neighbourhood. And in recent years the number and urgency of conflicts there has increased, from Ukraine to Syria. Only a few of the bigger European countries really feel that they have an important stake in the Indo-Pacific.

On balance, there is momentum for increased security cooperation between Europe and Japan. Europeans and Japanese are ‘natural partners’ who consider a liberal and rules-based international order to be a core interest. They are both particularly interested in the Indo-Pacific –a key lifeline for European-Asian trade– and in preserving a liberal and rules-based order there. They are both equally worried about the seemingly unwavering US commitment to multilateralism. And, critically, they both believe that greater engagement on their part could serve to both hedge against the prospect of US disengagement as well as constitute a powerful incentive to bring the US back into leading the liberal, rules-based order.

Luis Simón & Ulrich Speck

<![CDATA[ Relations between the US Intelligence Community and US Presidents, including the Trump Administration ]]> 2018-07-16T12:20:53Z

Technology and covert operations have been the driving forces in the Community’s evolution, which has been tremendously divided since its inception and has moved progressively towards its own centralisation with the aim of improving coordination and efficacy.

Original version in Spanish: Las relaciones de la Comunidad de Inteligencia de EEUU con sus presidentes y con la Administración Trump


Summary – 3
(1) Technology and covert operations: the main dynamic forces of the US intelligence community – 3
(2) Why does the US President need an intelligence community? – 6
(3) The President’s Daily Brief: what kind of intelligence does the President need? – 11
(4) In search of greater effectiveness through better coordination with, and within, the intelligence community – 14
(5) In search of difference: the presidential relationship with the intelligence community from the Obama Administration to the new Trump Administration – 17
(6) Conclusions: challenges and opportunities for the Trump Administration in its relationship with the intelligence community – 18


Intelligence is the main response to the risks and threats facing the national security of a country. The relationship of the intelligence community with decision-makers is the key to the correct way for undertaking intelligence work. In the US case the relationship between the producers and consumers of security is not immune to polemic and throughout history a number of conflicts have developed between the US intelligence community and the White House.

This working paper analyses the historical evolution of the US intelligence community (also referred to in this paper simply as the ‘Community’), including its structures and its products. Technology and covert operations have been the driving forces in the Community’s evolution, which has been tremendously divided since its inception and has moved progressively towards its own centralisation with the aim of improving coordination and efficacy. This paper also analyses the interaction between different Presidents and the Community, especially the latter’s relationship with the current President, Donald Trump.

Very often we were critical of what we were getting,
but we weren’t very clear in demanding what we needed.’
—Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski

Gustavo Díaz Matey
PhD, Adjunct Professor at Madrid’s Complutense University (UCM) and Intelligence Manager at ICEX, the Spanish Board of Foreign Trade and Investment (ICEX España Exportación e Inversiones)

<![CDATA[ Turkey in and out of NATO? An instance of a turbulent alliance with Western institutions ]]> 2018-06-11T04:19:31Z

Turkey’s links with its Western allies have steadily deteriorated over the past few years. There have been major developments over the past decade that need to be looked at in order to explain the current estrangement with NATO.


Turkey’s links with its Western allies have steadily deteriorated over the past few years. There have been major developments over the past decade that need to be looked at in order to explain the current estrangement with NATO.


Turkey’s problems with its Western allies have frequently been on the table over the past few years. Its accession negotiations for EU membership are unofficially frozen. In relation to the US, the need for a new strategical framework became obvious following the Cold War period. Association with NATO has become ever more complex over the decade due to three major developments: the Arab Spring, the failed coup attempt in Turkey and the improvement in Turkish-Russian relations. This paper looks at these major developments in some detail and concludes that even if there is no clear sign of Turkey dropping out of NATO, the need for a new positive impulse is clear.


Introduction: an uneasy alliance from the start?

After the Second World War, the leaders of the Turkish Republic unequivocally anchored Turkey to the Western alliance of states and, among other reasons, justified their decision by linking compliance with democracy, the rule of law and basic freedoms with the country’s security in its immediate neighbourhood. The goal was supported by the US in an attempt to improve Turkey’s status as a potential balance to Soviet power in the region. While Turkey became part of the European Recovery Program (the Marshall Plan) and the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (the predecessor of the OECD), the US also supported Turkey’s associate membership of the European Economic Community when it first applied in 1959. Thus, in the context of the day, US support for Turkey’s membership in NATO in 1952 –as one of its earliest members– was not in the least surprising.

Despite the promising start to Turkey’s links to the Western alliance, its place in NATO was uneasy at certain periods in its history. The primary cause was Turkey’s relations with its NATO ally Greece and its dispute with the latter over Cyprus. President Johnson’s letter of 1964 marked perhaps the nadir of relations due to the Greek-Turkish conundrum. In his letter, the US President warned the Turkish Prime Minister against engaging in military operations in Cyprus and warned that NATO might not be able to protect Turkey in the event of the Soviet Union taking advantage of the conflict.1 Indeed, in 1974 Turkey entered in the north of the island and the US placed an arms embargo until 1978, inflicting ‘great harm to Turkey’s armed forces’.2 On the US side this was a low point and, since then, the troubled relations have continued with ups and downs.

There have been also other reasons for tension between NATO and Turkey. When Yugoslavia was breaking up, for instance, Turkey demanded that NATO and the UN intervene more swiftly and forcefully against Serbia, and there was a clear difference of approach until NATO finally intervened in Bosnia-Herzegovina in August 1995.3 NATO-EU cooperation was a similar case that led to tension on several occasions. While the EU wants to use NATO assets on its missions, Turkey, as a non-EU country, is worried about the involvement of Cyprus and the possibility of it gaining access to NATO information. This was an issue, for instance, in the EU mission in Kosovo in 2007-08, when Ankara blocked EU-NATO cooperation.4 There are many such ups and downs in the history of Turkey’s alliance with NATO.

Despite the tensions, however, it is also important to explain that Turkish-NATO relations have not really been unduly affected by the various military coups in Turkey since it became a member.5 Such NATO and US acquiescence was the basis of many conspiracy theories underlying the recent decline in relations. That the 2016 coup attempt harmed Turkish-NATO relations shows that the alliance has entered a new scenario that had not been seen before. This paper will look at the main reasons behind the decline in relations since 2011, including the coup attempt, and discuss possible consequences it might have for the future.

Declining relations since 2011

There has been a gradual decline in Turkish-NATO relations since 2011 and an even swifter deterioration since 2016. Although partly due to the absence of a new framework for Turkish-US relations,6 there are three interrelated reasons that have speeded up the decline and help explain the current situation: (1) the Arab Spring and the Syrian War; (2) the 2016 coup attempt; and (3) Turkey’s cooperation with Russia.

The Arab uprisings and the Syrian war

Turkey has had regional power aspirations since the end of the Cold War. With the rise to power of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002 these aspirations in the Middle East have become even more visible. Turkey believed that it could use its co-existing Western and Muslim identities, as well as its geographical location, as an asset and be an ‘example’ in the Middle East. After 9/11 the US also supported such a vision of Turkey as a model Muslim democratic country, especially under AKP rule.7

These regional power aspirations were crushed by the Arab Spring. Turkey wanted to lead democratic change and supported groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It hoped that ideological affinities with the new movements in the Middle East would allow it to become a true regional leader for previously repressed populations. Yet the Arab Spring failed in its goals in the Middle East except in Tunisia, with which Turkey had no substantial links. The 2013 coup in Egypt epitomised the failure of Turkish foreign policy in jumping on the bandwagon of change in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood’s defeat was also a failure for the AKP’s ideological vision for the region and reminded Turkey’s leaders of their country’s unsavoury past of military coups and their own victimisation by the secular military in the late 1990s. This prompted Erdoğan to make bitter public declarations against the coup in Egypt and even to refuse to sit at the same table as Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi at a dinner organised by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in the UN.8

The war in Syria has certainly had more serious implications than Egypt for Turkey’s regional power ambitions, security and relations with the US and NATO. Similar to its policy towards Egypt, Ankara insisted that the regime in Syria had to change and that Bashar al-Assad had to go. However, this put Turkey at odds with the reality on the ground and gave the impression that Turkish foreign policy was based on unrealistic assumptions that al-Assad could be defeated over a short period of time. Turkey’s position on Syria also jeopardised its relations with the US since Washington has cooperated with the Kurds in Syria against the Islamic State. Turkey views the strengthening of Kurdish forces as a direct threat to its territorial integrity and considers the Democratic Union party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as affiliates of the PKK, officially considered a terrorist group also by the US. In turn, Turkey supports other radical groups in Syria, some of them of a more religious bent with the aim of counterbalancing the YPG in the region.9 The mismatch has caused a conflict of interest with the US. Furthermore, the ambitions of both Russia and Iran in Syria have led to fluid alliances, questioning Turkey’s devotion to its NATO partners.

To date Turkey has engaged in three military operations in Syria. In February 2015, in a limited intervention, the Suleyman Shah tomb was relocated to Turkey. The second, stretching for almost a year between the summer of 2016 and the spring of 2017, had as its aim to clear ISIS and certain Kurdish units out of parts of the area west of the Euphrates. The most recent operation, named Olive Branch, began in January 2018 against Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria. Turkish troops took Afrin, with indications that there might be a further move towards Manbij, controlled by the PYD/YPG supported by US forces.10

Although Turkey officially welcomed the US, French and British air strikes in April 2018,11 its own operations independent of its NATO allies are jeopardising relations. Any attempt to advance further into Syria might bring Turkish and US forces face to face, increasing the tension between the two partners. What happens in Manbij and the possibility of a sustainable agreement between Turkey and the US with the recent appointment of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State have given rise to significant expectations. Indeed, an agreement between the US and Turkey was announced regarding Manbij following meetings between Pompeo and his counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. However, as Amberin Zaman notes, ‘differences in interpretation as to [the] actual substance [of the agreement] are … casting a shadow over the latest stab at salvaging US-Turkish ties and rekindling trust between the two countries.’12

The 2016 coup attempt

The second critical event for Turkish-NATO relations was the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 that aimed to topple the AKP government. The unsuccessful coup was orchestrated by a small military clique, most of which were air force personnel.13 The government accused Fethullah Gülen, a cleric with millions of followers worldwide, of being the mastermind while at the same time arguing that the US supported him. The alleged evidence for such a claim was: (1) that the US İncirlik air base was used for some of the planes that took off on the night of the coup;14 (2) that the US was slow in its response to condemn the coup;15 and (3) that Gülen is resident in Pennsylvania and that, despite Ankara’s official requests, Washington has taken no action to extradite him. The narrative of the coup concocted by the Turkish government and circulated by the mass media establishes a direct link between the putsch and the US Administration and celebrates the ‘heroism’ of ordinary citizens on the night of 15 July, portraying them as resisters against foreign occupation. The coup attempt has had serious consequences for democracy in Turkey.16

Following the coup, relations were further strained by the FBI’s arrest of Hakan Atilla, the Deputy Director General of Halkbank, during a visit to New York. Halkbank and Atilla are accused by US prosecutors of violating US-imposed sanctions on Iran and engaging in banking fraud. The case against Atilla was based on the confessions of an Iranian-Turkish businessman whose relations with Turkish government officials have already been exposed. President Erdoğan himself has been accused, particularly by Gülen affiliates, of cooperating in the affair. Hence, Atilla’s arrest and trial were seen as a Gülenist conspiracy with the support and collaboration of US officials.17 With the Turkish economy in continuing decline, sanctions on Halkbank could cause even further distress. Furthermore, the arrest of the American pastor Andrew Brunson –who has been living in Turkey for more than two decades– on terrorism charges has had a big impact on relations and was seen as Ankara’s way of retaliating against Atilla’s arrest. In addition to Brunson, the arrest of local embassy employees has caused frustration in Washington, giving rise to tension and difficulties in the process of issuing visas.

Aside from leading to problematic relations between Turkey and the US, the coup has also had other consequences affecting NATO. First, ever since the coup Turkey has been accused of backsliding towards an authoritarian regime. This has strained relations with certain European countries. In the case of Austria, Turkey vetoed Vienna’s cooperation with NATO in retaliation for the deterioration in bilateral relations.18 Tensions between Ankara and Athens have also steadily increased following the coup and after eight pilots fled to Greece and sought asylum. The Greek Supreme Court refused Turkey’s demands to have them repatriated, giving rise to criticism from Ankara and re-kindling the disputes over the Aegean Sea. As in the past, rising tensions between Greece and Turkey have the potential to further strain the latter’s alliance with NATO.19

A final implication of the coup for NATO is the result of a series of changes within the Turkish armed forces. It was argued before the coup that the military were already split into factions with differing loyalties, ideological positions and convictions regarding Turkey’s foreign alliances. While one group was said to be ‘Eurasianist’, advocating closer relations with non-Western countries such as Russia and Iran, another was argued to be pro-NATO.20 Loyalty to the AKP government, support for democracy and/or adherence to the Kemalist ideology based on the secular and republican principles of the founding father of the Turkish Republic could cut across the various groupings. In the aftermath of the coup, however, thousands of military personnel were expelled and drastic changes were made to military schooling. Should these trends continue, the result might be a military that is against NATO ideologically and more supportive of cooperating with Russia, and perhaps more conservative in outlook, in contrast with the more secular military of previous decades.

Turkish-Russian relations

The third reason why Turkey and NATO have drifted apart is Turkey’s closer friendship with Russia. Although relations between Turkey and Russia have fluctuated over the past few years and the two countries do not necessarily share the same interests in Syria, ever since the coup they have raised their level of cooperation. Russia recently started to build Turkey’s first nuclear plant, worth US$20 billion, at Akkuyu, Mersin.21 Since the coup attempt in 2016, relations have been marked by an ‘intense diplomacy’ with Putin and Erdoğan having met at least 11 times face-to-face and having been in frequent communication by telephone.22

For NATO, one of the most problematic consequences of Ankara’s cooperation with Moscow is the possible acquisition of the S-400 air-defence missile system that Turkey intends to purchase from Russia. NATO argues that the system would not integrate into NATO’s systems and would require Turkey to share information with Russia.23 The US has been putting pressure on Turkey to cancel its plans to buy S-400s from Russia.

What does Turkey expect from its cooperation with Russia? First and foremost, it has a bargaining chip to be used against its Western partners. This type of flirtation threatens the alliance and forces the NATO powers to support Turkey’s agenda in Syria. However, Turkey is aware that Russia is an unreliable partner and that in the long-run it is no benefit to be outside NATO. That is why, for instance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs declarations continue to stress Turkey’s place in NATO and why Turkey continues to support its NATO allies’ air strikes against Damascus. It seems that if Turkey is pressed to decide between NATO and Russia, it will continue to choose NATO.


Turkey’s relations with the West are troubled. The country’s democratic deterioration, the use of populist rhetoric against its Western partners and its fluid alliances in the Middle East while facing many global crises have led to a stalemate. Meanwhile, Turkish foreign policy has also been de-institutionalised. As a result, accession negotiations to the EU have been unofficially frozen. Transatlantic relations are in need of a new framework. The current relationship with NATO is another part of this complex jigsaw. Turkey’s association with NATO has been in decline since 2011.

The aftermath of the Arab Spring, the failed attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016 and collaboration with Russia during the past few years have contributed to creating a stalemate. Although Turkey is one of NATO’s major contributors, its equivocal relationship with the US and its current intention of buying defence technology from Russia can very well lead to further problems. Turkey does not consider Russia a reliable long-term ally but it benefits from the perception that there is a rapprochement. The current situation of Turkey’s relations with the EU completes a picture of anti-Western attitudes. The country is seeking a different international family after decades of being devoted to the West. The current status of its relations will continue to be a source of uncertainty unless an acceptable common –and workable– framework can be devised.

Furthermore, Turkey is located in a highly volatile dynamic neighbourhood that faces multiple challenges. The fluid liquid alliances of the Middle East imply that there are changes in the ground-rules from time to time. Thus, relationships must be based on trust and not on satisfying short-term interests.

Yaprak Gürsoy
Lecturer, Aston University
 | @ygursoy

Ilke Toygür
Analyst, Elcano Royal Institute and Adjunct Professor, Carlos III University of Madrid
 | @ilketoygur

1 For the original letters, see ‘President Johnson and Prime Minister Inonu: correspondence between President Johnson and Prime Minister Inonu, June 1964, as released by the White House, January 15, 1966’, Middle East Journal, vol. 20, nr 3, Summer 1966, p. 386-393.

2 Ali L. Karaosmanoğlu (1983), ‘Turkey’s Security and the Middle East’, Foreign Affairs, vol. 62, nr 1, Fall, p. 157-175 (quote from p. 158).

3 Didem Ekinci (2009), ‘The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkish parliamentary debates (1992-1995): a constructivist approach’, Uluslararası İlişkiler, vol. 6, nr 22, Summer, p. 37-60.

4 Meltem Müftüler-Baç & Yaprak Gürsoy (2010), ‘Is there a Europeanization of Turkish foreign policy: an addendum to the literature on EU candidates’, Turkish Studies, vol. 11, nr 3, September, p. 405-427, specifically p. 411-414.

5 For the reactions of the US and the EU to the 1980 coup, see Senem Aydın-Düzgit & Yaprak Gürsoy (2013), ‘Turkey: the counterintuitive transition of 1983’, in Kathryn Stoner & Michael McFaul (Eds.), Transitions to Democracy: A Comparative Perspective, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

6 Nick Danforth & Ilke Toygür (2017), ‘How to dull Turkey’s autocratic edge’, Foreign Policy, September.

7 Aslı Aydıntaşbaş & Kemal Kirişçi (2017), ‘The United States and Turkey: friends, enemies, or only interests?’, Turkey Project Policy Paper, nr 12, April.

9 Francis Ricciardone & Aaron Stein (2016), ‘Mitigating US-Turkish Disagreement over the PYD’Atlantic Council, 24/II/2016.

11 Pınar Tremblay (2018), ‘Turkey’s response to US-led Syria strikes: not enough but welcomed’Al-Monitor, 15/IV/2018.

13 For more information on the coup attempt see Berk Esen & Sebnem Gumuscu (2017), ‘Turkey: how the coup failed’, Journal of Democracy, vol. 28, nr 1, January, p. 59-73.

14 For details of the indictment of what transpired on the night of the coup at the İncirlik base, see Sedat Ergin’s three-part editorial titled ‘July 15 and İncirlik Air Base’ published by Hürriyet between 15-17/VIII/2017. The first part is available in English.

16 Ilke Toygur (2016), ‘From a failed coup to state of emergency: democracy in Turkey today’Expert Comment, nr 38/2016, Elcano Royal Institute, 22/VII/2016.

18 See ‘Turkey referendum: Erdogan rallies not welcome in Austria’BBC News, 27/II/2017; and ‘Nato hit by Turkish veto on Austria partnership’, BBC News, 23/V/2017.

19 Yaprak Gürsoy (2018), ‘The recent crisis between Greece and Turkey: two NATO allies on the brink of war, again’, The Foreign Policy Centre, 24/IV/2018.

20 The divisions in the military were already evident during the Ergenekon investigations that began in 2007 and implicated hundreds of military officers with planning to overthrow the AKP government. See Yaprak Gürsoy (2012), ‘The changing role of the military in Turkish politics: democratization through coup plots?’, Democratization, vol. 19, nr 4, August, p. 735-760.

<![CDATA[ The US and North Korea: will their Presidents shake hands? ]]> 2018-04-26T06:24:43Z

The best news that we can hope for is that the summit does finally take place and that it serves as a new call to an essential negotiation process capable of achieving concrete results in terms of nuclear non-proliferation goals and East Asian stability.

Original version in Spanish: EEUU y Corea del Norte: ¿sus presidentes se darán la mano?

The agreement to hold a meeting between the US President Donald Trump and the North Korean President Kim Jong-un has recently dominated the world’s headlines. Before March 2018 the headlines were occupied by alarming news suggesting the possibility of military conflict and an escalation of a latent conventional conflict into an open nuclear one. The balance of evidence seemed to point to the risk of escalation provoked by North Korean nuclear and missile tests and by President Trump’s strongly-worded statements. Indeed, most analysis of the Korean conflict has focused on such risks, ignoring the possibility that other non-military means –and not just the lever of economic sanctions– might have positive effects. To the contrary, the Elcano Royal Institute –in addition to analysing the significance of ongoing events for the delicate balance of regional stability– has also maintained that the situation could be contained through discrete bilateral diplomacy between the US and North Korea.

After ruling out other measures for stabilising the conflict as unviable, a May 2017 ARI on how to avoid a military conflict on the Korean peninsula indicated that ‘given the situation, even a sub-optimum accord that seeks to freeze, rather than to eliminate, nuclear weapons is preferable to the continued status quo in which North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile delivery capacities at a rapid pace’. This conclusion was consistent with the arguments deriving from a research visit to Pyongyang in September 2016, and later confirmed by researchers and think-tank analysts from Asia and Europe at a seminar in June 2017 at the Elcano Royal Institute. The publication synthesising the conclusions reached at this seminar, ‘Windows of opportunity in the Korean peninsula’, reiterates that ‘the most realistic option to face the DPRK nuclear crisis is to reopen a process of political dialogue’ and that ‘the best and most plausible scenario would be the opening up of negotiations based on a North Korean moratorium on nuclear and missile tests’.

This conclusion differed substantially from the mainstream analysis of the strategic community at the time, but it was based on solid objective arguments setting it apart from more speculative analysis and which time has continued to confirm. The Institute’s line of argument is that once the unacceptable risks of a military option, the insufficiency of economic sanctions and the impossibility of a dialogue that could lead to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korean are recognised, the most realistic option is to start a new diplomatic dialogue without any preconditions unacceptable to Pyongyang with the aim of searching for pragmatic agreements beneficial to all sides involved and that can contribute to regional stability.

As indicated in these analyses, the crisis demands an urgent diplomatic response to avoid the escalation that would come as soon as Pyongyang demonstrates to the world its capacity to hit the West Coast of the US with nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles; and, in addition, a negotiation framework is needed that would allow for the current nuclear levels to be later reduced, ideally even to achieve full, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

“Moon has always demonstrated his willingness to dialogue with Pyongyang, but without falling into the two great policy traps of the Sunshine Policy (1998-2008)”

Although he has been in office for less than 10 months, the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, seems to understand the situation perfectly, and he has become a leading protagonist in the attempt at a diplomatic solution between the US and North Korea. In contrast with his two predecessors, Moon has always demonstrated his willingness to dialogue with Pyongyang, but without falling into the two great policy traps of the diplomatic strategy towards Pyongyang known as the Sunshine Policy (1998-2008), which was not coordinated with the US and which rewarded North Korea simply for agreeing to talk.

The South Korean leader took advantage of the window of opportunity opened up by Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address expressing North Korea’s desire to send a delegation to participate in the Winter Olympic Games at Pyeongchang. The subsequent conversations not only realised this possibility, in the form of a joint Korean delegation, but also allowed a high level North Korean delegation to visit the South during the games. Kim Yong-nam, the official, formal North Korean head of state, and Kim Yo-jong, the sister and confident of Kim Jong-un, were among the North Korean delegation, and they invited President Moon to hold the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade and the first in which Kim Jong-un would participate. The South Korean President accepted this offer on the condition that it would be accompanied by a parallel process of contact between the US and North Korea. This bore fruit: during a meeting held in Pyongyang at the beginning of March with a South Korean delegation, Kim Jong-un expressed his desire to meet Trump and his commitment to stop all nuclear and missile tests, and to accept joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, during such negotiations. A few days later the same South Korean delegation visited the White House to deliver Pyongyang’s message and secured President Trump’s green light for a possible summit meeting with Kim during the upcoming month of May.

Although analysts insist on belittling their rationality, Trump and Kim are pursuing their own logic even if it does not coincide with that of most of the brainy strategic community. They both have a personalist idea of leadership which does not fit into the conventional analytical frames of national security advisers, and they believe they must take the initiative to lead their peoples to great moments and that the hour to do so has arrived. Kim has accelerated a process that has allowed him to negotiate from a position of strength and to prompt gestures of rapprochement, first from the leaders of South Korea and now, possibly, from his US counterpart. For his part, Trump has no military solution that can stop the will of the North to acquire superior nuclear warhead delivery capacity, but he believes that his policy of maximum pressure has now sufficiently weakened their economy to make the North Koreans willing to make important concessions. Both sides would like to leave such a meeting with some immediate result with which to reaffirm their personal leadership; and neither has anything to lose since they can always blame the other side for any failure.

“It should be remembered that this would be the first time in history that a standing US President has met the principal North Korean leader”

The announcement has been received with optimism and hope by most of the international community. It is widely seen as a singular opportunity to advance toward a solution to this conflict which has threatened the security of East Asia for decades and become a major threat to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. It should be remembered that this would be the first time in history that a standing US President has met the principal North Korean leader. However, some factors suggest that optimism should be moderated. The meeting might not take place, or it could yield little practical results, like previous rounds of negotiations; or it could be a complete failure that leaves us closer than ever to a military conflict.

North Korea has already made its first concessions, freezing its nuclear and missile testing and accepting joint military exercises between the US and South Korea. In addition, other gestures –like releasing the three US citizens detained in North Korea (along with a Canadian and Australian in the same situation) or moving towards a resolution of the case of the Japanese citizens kidnapped between 1977 and 1983– might be expected before or during an eventual Trump-Kim summit.

It is typical of the process of diplomatic negotiation that the summits between the highest-level authorities are the culmination points of a long undertaking of previous work in which the parties negotiate the differences in their positions. However, that this is not the case in this instance was made clear by the statements by Rex Tillerson from Ethiopia –just hours before Trump announced the upcoming meeting with Kim– that the US was ‘very far’ from starting negotiations with North Korea. We should not expect, therefore, that the meeting between the two leaders necessarily produces an agreement, which at this stage, at least, appears premature.

In the many declarations of the Trump Administration on the North Korean crisis, the emphasis has been placed on what the US was not willing do to in order to negotiate with Pyongyang, and not on what it might be willing to offer, beyond a simple subsequent withdrawal of sanctions, in exchange for the de-nuclearization of North Korea. Such a diplomatic offer limited to lifting sanctions is apparently not enough to produce any kind of agreement. Trump will have to risk something more if he wants to move towards a solution to the crisis. He will need to offer some form of security guarantees. These might range from the reduction of the joint military forces with South Korea, to the signing of a peace treaty, to the normalisation of diplomatic relations, or even to the withdrawal –if still improbable– of US troops from the Korean peninsula. Different kinds of economic and humanitarian assistance could be added to the offer to help stimulate economic development in a country that has languished for years due to many factors, and not just international sanctions.

Therefore, the best news that we can hope for is that the Trump-Kim summit does finally take place and that it serves as a new call to an essential negotiation process capable of achieving concrete results in terms of nuclear non-proliferation goals and East Asian stability. On the other hand, an abject failure of such a meeting could push Kim to re-double his efforts to develop his country’s nuclear missile programme and provoke Trump to consider the military option as the only possible way to prevent the US from falling within North Korea’s nuclear range. For this reason, we hope that both leaders are up to the task and that they do not bring us any closer to a terrible military conflict.

Félix Arteaga
Senior Analyst, Elcano Royal Institute
 | @rielcano

Mario Esteban
Senior Analyst, Elcano Royal Institute
 | @wizma9

<![CDATA[ The European Commission: an enabler for the European Security and Defence Union ]]> 2018-04-26T05:58:43Z

The European Commission has been pushing for deeper European cooperation in the security and defence sector for the past two decades despite the reluctance of the member states.


The European Commission has been pushing for deeper European cooperation in the security and defence sector for the past two decades despite the reluctance of the member states.


The European Commission has found its way into the European security and defence sector. To the surprise and scepticism of many, given that this sector has long been considered a domaine réservé of the Member States, ambitious Commission initiatives have come to fruition. Looking at recent developments, this paper examines the Commission’s leadership capacity to bring security and defence-related issues into the EU framework, giving a new impetus to this strategic area and ultimately enabling the European Security and Defence Union.



The European defence industry has long been regarded only at the national level, with potential bilateral and multilateral cooperation mostly outside the EU framework. Contrary to this tradition, the 2016 ‘European Defence Action Plan’ (EDAP) is clearly a turning point, if not a ‘revolution’.1 With the newly-launched European Defence Fund (EDF), proposed in the EDAP, the European Commission (hereafter Commission) can use the EU budget to support directly and entirely research projects in defence, and to co-finance defence capabilities.2 Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, presented the EDF as ‘a game-changer for the EU’s strategic autonomy and the competitiveness of Europe’s defence industry’.3 For the Commission, it is ‘the engine powering the development of a European Security and Defence Union’.4 Considering this, the French Defence Minister Florence Parly qualified the EDF as ‘cultural revolution in Brussels’ during the recent 2018 Munich Security Conference.5

However, the EDAP did not come out of the blue, as it is the culmination of several Commission attempts since the mid-1990s to encourage member states to move towards a common defence. Back in 1996 the Commission already proposed to address in a comprehensive manner the ‘Challenges Facing the European Defence-related Industry’, combining the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) with the existing Community instruments.6 In this spirit, the Commission proposed ambitious initiatives that have been endorsed through the establishment of the European Security Research Programme (ESRP) in 2007 and the adoption of the European Defence Equipment Market in 2009. Therefore, this paper evaluates the extent to which the Commission has become a key enabler in EU security and defence, exerting its leadership capacity, irrespective of the fact that this mainly intergovernmental domain is still not within its proper area of competence.

In order to measure the scope of the Commission’s contribution, this paper first examines its involvement in the debate and in the policy process for closer European defence cooperation. Then it analyses the Commission’s approach, focusing on the new key initiative, the EDF, which aims to create a defence research programme and support EU-wide cooperation regarding defence capacities. Finally, it assesses the Commission’s impact on the level of integration, on deepening the European defence market and extending dual-use item export controls. The analysis shows that by building on its competences (trade, research and innovation), the Commission has proved its ability to bring security and defence issues further into the EU framework, ultimately enabling the European Security and Defence Union.

Part of the debate, part of the policy process

The Juncker Commission (2014-19), like the Barroso Commission before, is actively engaged in the debate on the future of European security and defence. To strengthen the Commission’s contribution, President Juncker appointed for the first time a Special Adviser on European Defence and Security Policy in 2015-16. Michel Barnier, previously Commissioner in charge of the Internal Market (2010-14), was given the task as special adviser to ensure the continuity of leading key initiatives towards a more integrated European defence market. As Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker participated in the EU-NATO summit in July 2016. He signed the joint declaration with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO. This acknowledged the Commission’s growing involvement and relevance in the European security and defence sector. Against this background, and in support of the objectives of the ‘EU Global Strategy’s Implementation Plan on Security and Defence’ as well as the 2016 EU-NATO joint declaration, the Commission produced the EDAP. According to the Commission, the measures proposed in this plan should ‘lead to a stronger European Union in defence, which ultimately means a stronger NATO’.7

In addition, to develop its vision further and clarify its potential contribution, the Commission proposed different scenarios in its ‘White paper on the future of Europe’.8 Then, more specifically in its ‘Reflection paper on the Future European Defence’,9 it outlined various options towards a Security and Defence Union by 2025, according to the level of ambition and political will of the member states. In this regard, the Commission has repeatedly said that its objective is not gradually acquiring new competences but building on its assets to improve cooperation between member states, which remain in the driving seat in the defence sector. However, the Commission is obviously keen to take an active role in the debate, pointing at the added value of the EU in joint approaches towards policy fields of common interest.

In the perspective of the Global Strategy and its ‘integrated EU approach’, which supports the linking of the security and defence sector to other EU policies and tools,10 the Commission argues that it is well-equipped to foster coherence across EU instruments and to contribute to this sector. After the successful work and experience gained with its Defence Task Force (2011-13), it seems increasingly realistic that a Directorate-General (DG) for Defence will be created. This would help coordinate the Commission’s services, tools and actions, and facilitate the dialogue with actors in the sector, especially with the member states. Ultimately, a DG Defence would further enable the European Security and Defence Union to an extent member states consider appropriate.

The European Defence Fund: research and capability windows

The EDF, launched in June 2017, has broken a long-lasting taboo. It allows Commission actions with an EU budget in two key dimensions of the European defence industry with an urgent need for further development, namely defence research and capacity.

Towards a Defence Research Programme

Already in its 1996 communication, the Commission had proposed to officially include dual-use technologies in its ‘Research and Technological Development Programme’. A decade later, in 2007, it launched the ESRP. However, the ESRP was designed to deal with only the civil aspects of security, yet the dual use of some technologies meant that there had to be a broad definition of security. Following the idea that the programme should contribute to Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) activities, the Commission (in charge of security research in the civil sector) and the European Defence Agency (EDA, in charge of coordinating defence research activities) started to cooperate in 2009. Since the they have coordinated their work and promoted synergies within the ‘European Framework Cooperation for Security and Defence Research’.

Ongoing developments in the European airspace became an excellent field for this new type of cooperation, especially the emerging technology of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). Despite the still civil-only dimension of the EU’s ‘Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020’, the Commission stressed the need to

‘… explore synergies in the development of dual-use applications with a clear security dimension or other dual-use technologies like, for example, those supporting the insertion of civil RPAS into the European aviation system to be carried out within the framework of the SESAR Joint Undertaking’.11

Also, the EDAP promoted civil-military synergies through EU policies, and notably reaffirmed the importance of the aviation field, where the Commission had already encouraged the involvement of the military through the EDA in the development of the Single European Sky (SES). Especially, it underlined the necessary civil-military coordination regarding the integration of drones for security purposes in the European airspace as well as in research and development.12

Besides, the Commission proposed the evaluation through a preparatory action of a more comprehensive programme for the next EU multiannual financial framework (MFF) post-2020, including EU-funded defence research.13 Like the security research programme, it should directly and entirely be funded by the EU budget. Both programmes should be coordinated due to their complementarities, but the financing should remain separate.14 This European defence research programme constitutes the European Defence Fund’s ‘research window’ with a potential budget of €500 million/year after 2020. Its establishment pursued a two-step approach: first, the Preparatory Action (PA) on Defence Research over the 2017-19 period and, afterwards, the programme as such to be included in the next MFF. As a first step, based on the strategic advice of the ‘Group of Personalities’,15 including various stakeholders, the Commission launched in 2017 the PA with the first Pilot project on Defence Research to provide guidance for the upcoming programme. The PA implementation phase, focused on the selection of the research topics, is in line with the comitology procedures. For the PA it is even a double comitology: in an initial stage, a group of member-state experts evaluate the correspondence of proposals with EU needs; then, an advisory group (industry, research and technology organisations, academia, EDA and the European External Action Service) gives its assessment in the second phase.16 This approach confirms the inclusion of key stakeholders in the process and the close involvement of the Commission as well.

The Commission’s most recent initiatives also strengthen its relations with the EDA. On 31 May 2017 the two entities signed a Delegation agreement on the implementation of the PA annual work. Three first calls for proposals were announced in June 2017, regarding the PA on Defence Research for ‘projects in the areas of unmanned systems in a naval environment and soldiers systems’.17 They were managed by the EDA ‘on behalf of the Commission’ after it did so successfully with the Pilot Project.18 While the EDA has the competence and expertise for defence research, there is a risk here that EDA becomes a simple administrator in a process led by the Commission.

Supporting defence capacity

Besides the ‘research window’, the other major innovation of the EDAP is the ‘capability window’ of the European Defence Fund. To be developed in the next few years, it will offer co-funding from the EU budget and the Commission’s technical support to member states for the ‘joint development and the acquisition of defence equipment and technology […] for example jointly investing in developing drone technology or satellite communication’,19 which are defined as defence capacity priority areas in the EU’s Global Strategy.

To promote joint development projects and to complement the ‘research window’, the Commission proposed a regulation in June 2017 to create a European Defence Industrial Development Programme.20 The European Parliament agreed to this legislative proposal on 21 February 201821 and the Council is expected to present its amendments soon in order to start the negotiations for its adoption in June 2019. This should allow first projects to be funded with a budget of €500 million (2019-20), probably on military drones and cyber defence. With a budget of €1 billion/year in the next MFF, it should offer different financial options, potentially also for countries that are now cooperating within the newly established Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in defence. In this regard, to give a clear leverage effect and encourage them, the Commission proposed that PESCO projects could receive an additional 10%, namely up to 30% of the total costs.22 Besides, financial contribution to the technological development and demonstration of projects, including prototypes, feasibility studies and testing facilities as well as dual-use products and technologies will be eligible for funding, including projects coordinated by the EDA.23 With the financial toolbox that the Commission proposed to support member states in the joint acquisition of defence capabilities, there will be substantial financial incentives for EU countries to move forwards towards the European Security and Defence Union if they wish to do so.

Consolidating the defence market and export controls of dual-use technologies

The EDAP also intends to consolidate the European Defence Equipment Market, which has included armament procurement in the EU’s internal market. The defence package, adopted in 2009, consists of the Commission’s Directive 2009/43/EC on ‘Transfers of Defence-related Products within the EU’, and Directive 2009/81/EC on ‘Defence and Security Procurement’, which restricts the derogation clause to very exceptional situations in order to address the protectionism issue in the hitherto nationally-structured defence industry. Already in its 2013 communication ‘Towards a More Competitive and Efficient Defence and Security Sector’, the Commission proposed a series of measures that the EDAP reiterated for the ‘effective implementation’ of both directives, applying strictly (even through enforcement, as confirmed by the infringement procedures against five EU member states launched in January 2018)24 to armament procurement and transfers of defence-related products within the EU, hence elevating arms-related policies again to a European level.

In the perspective of the European Security and Defence Union, the review process of Council regulation 428/2009 of 5 May 2009 ‘Setting up a Community Regime for the Control of Exports, Transfer, Brokering and Transit of Dual-use Items’, though not part of the EDAP, deserves to be mentioned as well. It might foster European integration in this key dimension of the sector through an increased role of the Commission: while arms exports are managed through intergovernmental coordination based on the Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008, the dual-use export controls regulation falls under the Common Commercial Policy, which lies in the exclusive competence of the Union.

In order to modernise export control, in September 2016 the Commission proposed a new regulation, ‘Setting up a Union Regime for the Control of Exports, Transfer, Brokering, Technical Assistance and Transit of Dual-use Items (recast)’.25 It mainly focuses on the ‘human security’ dimension in export controls and proposes expanding the set of controls on cyber-surveillance technology (having gained prominence as ‘spyware’ most recently) through the creation of an EU ‘list of items’. This might further aggregate the Commission’s ability to take the lead in adding items to the EU dual-use list, but more than anything, and for the very first time, it might create ‘an EU control list for dual-use items that is not drawn from one of the multilateral export control regimes’.26 A first step has been taken, as the European Parliament adopted its proposed amendments in January 2018, and 11 EU countries are already supporting the Commission’s proposal.27 The negotiations will take place in the coming months, once the Council has proposed its amendments. If things continue to develop as projected, the Commission will definitely have the opportunity to show its capacity as an enabler towards the European Security and Defence Union.


The Commission has been pushing for deeper European cooperation in the security and defence sector for the past two decades despite the reluctance of the member states in this intergovernmental domain. While important steps have been taken with the security research programme and the 2009 defence package, the EDAP definitively marks a qualitative leap with the launch of the European Defence Fund. Opening access to the EU budget for defence-related expenses has broken a taboo. It has occurred at the right time: Brexit has outmanoeuvred the British government’s traditional reluctance towards any kind of Commission role in this sector, US President Donald Trump’s pressure to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP to cope with unsustainable post-Cold War trends of limited defence budgets and the increasing security concerns in the EU member states from their direct neighbourhood (Russia, Ukraine, Syria and Libya, to mention just a few) undeniably offer a conducive environment for the Commission’s initiatives to enable more European defence cooperation.

However, the Commission has adapted its approach to complement and stimulate national efforts with financial incentives –and not to replace them28 or to only use directives with relative success through the 2009 Defence package–. In this endeavour, the Commission is still building its leadership capacity to facilitate and foster cooperation in defence under its competences. Nevertheless, it clearly recognises the role and responsibilities of the member states, which remain in the driver’s seat, are consulted and involved throughout the development process of the Commission’s proposals. An increasing and closer cooperation is also taking place with other key actors, such as the EEAS and especially the EDA for its competence and expertise in defence research. Hence, the Commission’s initiatives have certainly opened up a new opportunity for EDA activities, notably in research as well as in aviation security. Moreover, the planned coordinating mechanism between ‘legally distinct but complementary windows’, research and capacity, should include relevant stakeholders, namely member states, EDA, HR/VP, industry and Commission representatives.29 This shows the Commission’s willingness to enable cooperation between actors through an inclusive approach.

The debate is no longer about the Commission’s legitimacy and capacity to play or not a role in this field but on the scope of the implementation of the EU’s new tools. As discussed at the NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting and during the Munich Security Conference in February 2018, these initiatives towards the European Security and Defence Union have unexpectedly revived old debates and concerns from the US Administration about the scope of European strategic autonomy. US representatives have continued to say that EU initiatives should not duplicate NATO efforts and lead to the creation of a protectionist framework, especially regarding the defence market.30 This Europeanisation process in a competitive market has raised some concerns about access for non-European companies. This came as a surprise for many European officials, especially considering Trump’s ‘America First’ policy.31 Therefore, it remains for the EU’s officials to explain, as they have done for each previous step, the rationale behind the new European cooperation dynamics in the defence sector.

Chantal Lavallée
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Institute for European Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
| @username

1 Michel Cabirol (2016), ‘L’incroyable révolution de Bruxelles dans la défense’, La Tribune, 1/XII/2016; Nicolas Gros­Verheyde (2016), ‘Financer l’industrie de défense. Un tabou se brise’, Bruxelles2, 1/XII/2016.

2 European Commission (2016), ‘European Defence Action Plan’, COM(2016) 950 final, Brussels, 30/XI/2016.

3 European Commission (2017), ‘A European Defence Fund: €5.5 billion per year to boost Europe’s defence capabilities’, Press Release, IP/17/1508, Brussels, 7/VI/2017.

4 European Commission (2017), ‘Launching the European Defence Fund’, COM (2017) 295 final, Brussels, 7/VI/2017, p. 17.

5 French Ministry of Defence (2018), ‘Mme Florence Parly, Ouverture de la Munich Security Conference’, Munich, 16/II/2018, p. 5.

6 European Commission (1996), ‘The Challenges facing the European Defence-related industry’, COM(96) 10 final, Brussels, 24/I/1996.

7 European Commission (2016), ‘European Defence Action Plan’, op. cit., p. 3.

8 European Commission (2017), ‘White paper on the future of Europe. Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025’, COM(2017) 2025, Brussels, 1/III/2017.

9 European Commission (2017), ‘Reflection paper on the Future European Defence’, COM(2017) 315, Brussels, 7/VI/2017.

10 European External Action Service (2016), ‘Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe, A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy’, Brussels, June, p. 50.

11 Ibid, p. 11.

12 European Commission (2016), ‘European Defence Action Plan’, op. cit., p. 18.

13 European Commission (2013), ‘Towards a more Competitive and Efficient Defence and Security’, COM/2013/0542 final, p. 5 & 11.

14 European Commission (2017), ‘Launching the European Defence Fund’, op. cit., p. 4 & 7.

15 European Commission and EUISS (2016), ‘Report of the Group of Personalities on the Preparatory Action for CSDP-related research’, Paris, February.

16 European Commission (2017), ‘Launching the European Defence Fund’, op. cit., p. 6.

17 European Commission (2017), ‘A European Defence Fund: €5.5 billion per year to boost Europe’s defence capabilities’, op. cit.

18 European Defence Agency (2017), ‘2017 calls for proposals published for PA on Defence Research’, Press Centre, Brussels, 7/VI/2017.

19 European Commission (2017), ‘A European Defence Fund: €5.5 billion per year to boost Europe’s defence capabilities’, op. cit.

20 European Commission (2017), ‘Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council establishing the European Defence Industrial Development Programme aiming at supporting the competitiveness and innovative capacity of the EU defence industry’, COM(2017) 294 final, Brussels, 7/VI/2017.

21 European Parliament (2018), ‘Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Defence Industrial Development Programme aiming at supporting the competitiveness and innovative capacity of the EU defence industry (COM(2017)0294 – C8-0180/2017 – 2017/0125(COD))’, PE 608.022v01-00, Brussels, 26/II/2018.

22 European Parliament (2018), ‘MEPs approve first EU programme dedicated to the defence industry’, Press room, 98120, Brussels, 21/II/2018.

23 European Commission (2016), ‘European Defence Action Plan’, op. cit., p. 9-10.

24 European Commission (2018), ‘Defence procurement: Commission opens infringement procedures against 5 Member States’, Press release, Brussels, 25/I/2018.

25 European Commission (2016), ‘Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council setting up a Union regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items (recast)’, COM(2016) 616 final, Brussels, 28/IX/2016.

26 Mark Bromley (2017), ‘Export controls, human security and cyber-surveillance technology’, SIPRI, December, p. 19.

27 Catherine Stupp (2018), ‘Eleven member states back EU controls on selling spyware’, EurActiv, 21/II/2018.

28 European Commission (2016), ‘European Defence Action Plan’, op.cit., p. 7.

29 European Commission (2017), ‘Launching the European Defence Fund’, op. cit., p. 4.

30 Michael Peel, Katrina Manson & Mehreen Khan (2018), ‘Pentagon fires warning shot to EU over Nato unity’, Financial Times, 15/II/2018.

31 ‘US offer first reaction to EU defence PESCO pact’, EurActiv, 28/II/2018.

<![CDATA[ Coherence and focus on capability priorities: why EDA’s role in CARD, PESCO and EDF matters ]]> 2018-04-19T06:02:18Z

A coherent, priority-focused and output-oriented implementation of the new tools is indispensable to boost European defence cooperation. The European Defence Agency (EDA) plays an important role in this respect.


As part of the 2016 EU Global Strategy implementation, the EU launched a series of new initiatives to boost European defence cooperation through improved joint planning, development, procurement and operation of capabilities: the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). A coherent, priority-focused and output-oriented implementation of the new tools is indispensable to achieve the objective. The European Defence Agency (EDA) plays an important role in this respect.


The year 2017 has seen the launch of ambitious new EU tools on defence (CARD, PESCO, European Defence Fund) which now need to be implemented in a coherent and coordinated manner to make sure they complement each other, focus on capability priorities identified in the Capability Development Plan (CDP), involve industry and lead to joint projects which produce tangible, operational outcome in the form of an improved pool of forces and defence assets for Member States. As the secretariat for both CARD and PESCO (together with the EEAS and EUMS), the central operator for EU-funded defence activities and a privileged interlocutor and promotor of the European defence technological and industrial base, the European Defence Agency (EDA) is actively involved in all the initiatives with the aim of ensuring coherence, efficiency and a steady focus on capability priorities.


These are exciting times for European defence. Reinvigorated by the 2016 EU Global Strategy, defence has risen to the top of the EU’s priorities. A series of bold and truly unprecedented initiatives were launched in 2017 to boost defence cooperation through improved joint planning and prioritisation, development, procurement and operation of capabilities among Member States. The Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF), as well as a brushed-up and expanded EU-NATO cooperation built on the 2016 Joint Declaration, are all central pieces of a new defence puzzle in the making which, if correctly assembled, can provide EU Member States with better and more interoperable and cost-efficient defence capabilities.

The momentum created by these initiatives also offers a unique opportunity to overcome the national fragmentation of the European defence market affecting the industry’s competitiveness and impeding efforts to consolidate Europe’s defence sector. A robust, globally competitive defence technological and industrial base is indispensable if the aim is to strengthen Europe’s defence and reach the strategic autonomy objective set out in the EU Global Strategy.

Developing a more collaborative defence culture in Europe, underpinned by joint capability programmes and a strong industry, will take time. Important steps have been made in this direction with the launch of the recent defence initiatives.

Now it is time for their implementation because inventing and setting up new tools, however ground-breaking, is not enough. Equally crucial is how they are used and whether they deliver the expected results.

CARD, PESCO and EDF must interlock and complement each other in a coherent and coordinated manner. Ultimately, they must lead to joint projects and concrete output which genuinely respond to Member States’ capability priorities. The ambition must be to fill existing critical defence capability gaps in Europe and produce tangible, operational outcome in the form of an improved pool of forces and defence assets.

This requires close cooperation with industry, which must be innovative enough to develop the top-notch capabilities required by the Member States’ Armed Forces, now and in the future. Hence the need for a coherent, priority-driven and industry-supported implementation of all three initiatives.

This is where the European Defence Agency (EDA) comes into play. As the secretariat for both CARD and PESCO (together with the European External Action Service, EEAS, and the EU Military Staff, EUMS) as well as a central operator for EU-funded defence activities, the Agency is called to leverage its expertise and networks to ensure coherence, efficiency and a steady focus on capability priorities. EDA is prepared for this new task.

As a result of the Agency’s Long-Term Review (LTR) launched in 2016, Defence Ministers agreed in May 2017 to reinforce EDA’s mission on three crucial aspects. First, as the main intergovernmental prioritisation instrument at the EU level in support of defence capability development. With its Capability Development Plan (CDP, currently under revision) and its Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA), EDA is ideally suited for this task. Secondly, as the preferred cooperation forum and management support structure at the EU level for participating Member States to engage in technology and capability development activities. EDA has 12 so-called Capability Technology groups (CapTechs) gathering experts from Member States, industry and research organisations. Today, it manages no less than 97 ad hoc Research & Technology (R&T) and capability projects, 14 R&T and capability programmes, three joint procurement arrangements and more than 190 other activities related to capability development, R&T and the defence industry. Last but not least, it acts as the interface (coordinating military views in wider EU policies) and the central operator with regard to EU funded defence-related activities. Entrusted by the Commission to implement important EU programmes such as the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) and the Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in Defence, the Agency has already a solid track record in this domain.

All in all, the Long-Term Review conclusions are a strong signal that Member States trust the Agency to play a central role in the new EU defence set-up, also echoing the EU Global Strategy’s call to make ‘full use’ of the EDA’s potential. Being a small and flexible agency, it has already shifted staff and resources to adapt to new priorities, for instance with the setting up of a dedicated CARD team and a PESCO Task Force.

But what is the Agency’s involvement in the new EU initiatives, and why does it matter?
Starting with CARD, the aim of the annual review, which is currently in a test phase (until the end of 2018), is to foster a gradual synchronisation and mutual adaptation of Member States’ national defence planning cycles and capability development practices, in the hope that this will lead to more systematic defence cooperation in Europe. For CARD to provide a realistic picture of Europe’s capability landscape, it is crucial to have the most up-to-date and detailed information possible collected from national MoDs on defence plans, including spending. The responsibility for information gathering lies with EDA, which, supported by the EUMS, is currently engaged in bilateral dialogues with Member States. Once collected, the information will be compiled by the Agency in a comprehensive CARD analysis report to Ministers that will include concrete recommendations for further defence cooperation. Lessons learnt from the trial run will be incorporated into the first full CARD cycle scheduled to take place from 2019 to 2020.

Directly linked to CARD is PESCO, in which 25 EU Member States decided to participate. For the first time ever, European MoDs are engaging in collaborative capability development projects based on ambitious and binding commitments. Here too, EDA acts as a secretariat with a supporting role at various levels.

First, in close cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), including the EUMS, it serves as a platform where PESCO-participating Member States nations can identify, assess and consolidate possible projects. It was in this context and at the request of Member States that the Agency supported the assessment of the first set of 17 PESCO projects formally approved by Ministers on 6 March. EDA’s input at an early stage of project assessment helps to ensure there is no unnecessary duplication with existing initiatives, also in other institutional contexts. This is crucial because we want and need to move away from a culture of duplication of efforts to more interoperability.

Secondly, EDA can support the practical PESCO project implementation at the request of Member States. This role is particularly well suited to the Agency as PESCO’s two-layer approach is similar to the project governance structure in EDA: Member States have full control of the project content, with the Agency serving participating nations as a facilitator and service provider.

Thirdly, EDA will play a leading role in the annual assessment of PESCO nations' contributions and respect of the binding commitments.

The practical implementation of the European Defence Fund (EDF) also relies to a large extent on EDA both in the research and capability domains. The Fund will coordinate, supplement and amplify national investments in defence research, in the development of prototypes and in the acquisition of defence equipment and technology.

The research window of the Fund will benefit from the lessons already learnt from the Pilot Project and the Preparatory Action on Defence Research, both managed and implemented by EDA on the basis of a Commission mandate. For the first time, through the Preparatory Action, the EU offer grants for collaborative research in innovative defence technologies and products, fully and directly funded from the EU budget: €90 million for the period 2017-2019. In 2018, the Commission intends to propose a dedicated EU Defence Research Programme (EDRP) for the period beyond 2020 with an annual budget of €500 million. This would make the EU one of the biggest defence research investors in Europe! The EDRP will mark a fundamental change in approach and be testimony to Europe’s commitment to do more for defence research, and to do it together. However, boosting joint defence research through the EDF’s research window (Preparatory Action now, EDRP in the future) only makes sense if the results are taken up and further developed under the Fund’s second leg: the capability window.

That is where the new European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) will be key. First, because it offers unprecedented EU incentives –grants, financial instruments and public procurement– in support of cooperation between undertakings in the very important development phase of defence products and technologies: definition of common technical specifications, prototyping, testing, qualification and certification of new and updated defence products, as well as feasibility studies and other support activities. Only collaborative projects involving several Member States will be eligible, and a proportion of the overall budget will be earmarked for projects involving cross-border participation of SMEs. Secondly, because EDIDP’s planned budget is substantive: €500 million for 2019-20, with the prospect of an even more substantial follow-up programme under the EU’s next Multiannual Financial Framework with an estimated annual budget of €1 billion. Depending on the use of the different co-funding rates foreseen in the regulation, EDIDP could leverage Member-State funding with an expected multiplying effect of five, potentially generating total investments in defence capability development of €5 billion per year after 2020.

A budget this size opens totally new prospects for collaborative capability development at European level, which bodes well for the future. But it involves a heavy responsibility: ‘too big to fail’, EDIDP must deliver. It cannot dwindle into an EU subsidy scheme for industry but must serve capability priorities identified at the European level in the Capability Development Plan (CDP). And it must benefit all Member States, big and small. Failure to do so could lead to EDIDP developing technologies or equipment that nobody needs and no MoD will buy. Hence the need for a capability priority focused implementation of EDIDP, with close involvement of EDA.

The Agency already plays a key upstream role by contributing to EDIDP work and supporting Member States to achieve a common understanding of the EU added value of cooperative projects or topics that they may consider for the EDIDP work programme. It involves strong synergies with the Agency’s prioritisation support role in PESCO and CARD, closing the circle.

The circle would not be fully closed, however, without recalling the overarching role and importance of the Capability Development Plan which remains the baseline of European collaborative capability development and the only prioritisation tool at the European level. Based on the EU Military Committee’s (EUMC) inputs, the CDP integrates the general shortfalls and risks identified to achieve military objectives, also taking into account operational aspects and the end-users’ views. It also takes into account the coherence with national plans and with NATO’s Defence Planning Process. Entrusted by Member States, EDA is the architect of the current CDP revision set to be approved in June. The revised CDP will feed CARD and PESCO and, if it is to remain coherent, should also guide future projects under the EDF.

The industry’s importance in translating Europe’s defence ambitions into action cannot be stressed enough. Aiming at strategic autonomy is more than a political or military objective; it is first and foremost a technological-industrial challenge as it implies the ability for Europe to develop, modify, operate and replace the required defence capabilities. The approach must therefore be capability AND technology driven. Both matter and must go hand in hand. What good are capability priorities agreed at the EU level if industry lacks the required technological know-how to develop, produce and deliver them? And how useful are the most cutting-edge defence technologies and systems developed by industry if they fail to fit the Armed Forces’ operational needs?

Europe’s strategic autonomy stands and falls on the quality and depth of its defence technological-industrial base. The latter, in turn, depends on how Member States and EU institutions engage and cooperate with industry. In the past, the standard division of roles was clear from the outset: Ministries of Defence came up with capability wish-lists which industry was asked to turn into reality, ie, into operational assets. Today, at a time of fast technological change, the cast is shifting. Whereas in the past, critical technology often emerged from the military first before being turned into civil-industrial applications, the trend has dramatically reversed: cutting-edge, high-tech innovations, including those with potential for military applications (think, for example, of Artificial Intelligence or Unmanned Systems), are driven by the civil commercial sector with start-ups and high-tech companies spending amounts on R&T which cannot be matched by the military. Already now, and even more so in the future, the quality of Europe’s defence capabilities depends on the military’s ability to engage and partner with the high-tech corporate world to develop new disruptive applications for the future. EDA’s different Capability Technology groups (CapTechs), which form an extensive network of experts from participating Member States and European industry dedicated to a particular technology area, offer an ideal and unparalleled framework to do exactly that.

Beyond that, support for and engagement with industry is a core mission of EDA since its creation in 2004. Based on a task entrusted by Defence Ministers (EDA Steering Board) in November 2016, the Agency developed a new structured dialogue and enhanced engagement with industry –not only prime companies but also national defence industry associations and SMEs–. The focus is on priority areas such as capability development, R&T, Single European Sky (SES) and Key Strategic Activities. The latter, Key Strategic Activities (KSA), are vital to ensure an appropriate level of European strategic autonomy. EDA was given the task by Member States to identify the core skills, technologies and manufacturing capabilities that must be safeguarded and supported on EU soil so that Member States investments and available EU funding can be directed more efficiently to supporting them. Importantly, the KSAs are identified out of the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) and CDP priorities, which provide the basis for joint capability development.

EDA makes sure industry is and remains closely involved throughout the KSA process whose outcome, together with the updated CDP priorities, will be a core ingredient for the first official CARD 2019, if so agreed. Together they should also guide the project selection under the EDF ensuring EU funding is only used for collaborative capability projects serving Europe’s needs and strategic autonomy.


EDA might still not generate the biggest headlines but its unparalleled technical expertise and unique institutional position –being an intergovernmental agency at the service of Member States while, at the same time, implementing defence-related EU programmes on behalf of the European Commission– make it THE unavoidable hub for European defence cooperation, defence-technological innovation and engagement with industry. Making full use of the Agency, as called for in the EU Global Strategy, is thus indispensable to carrying forward all new EU defence initiatives. This was recognised by the Council last November when it asked the Agency ‘to further support the coherent development of the European capability landscape, considering also the link between CARD, PESCO and the European Defence Fund’.

In doing so, EDA will keep in mind the capabilities that Member States require to meet the level of ambition that Heads of States and Government want for the EU. This is what CARD, PESCO and the EDF will be measured against.

Jorge Domecq
Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA)

1 Jorge Domecq, a senior Spanish diplomat, became the EDA’s Chief Executive in February 2015. He previously served as an Ambassador of Spain to the OSCE and the Philippines and held several positions within the Spanish Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence as well as at NATO. The European Defence Agency (EDA) is an intergovernmental agency of the EU Council set up in 2004 to support Member States developing European defence capabilities and military cooperation, to stimulate defence Research and Technology (R&T) and to strengthen the European defence industry. The agency is based in Brussels.

<![CDATA[ Strategic Communication (StratCom) policies ]]> 2018-02-26T01:57:01Z

The European and Japanese StratCom policies have been directed to a greater extent to foreign and international audiences rather than to reinforcing the cohesion of their own populations. A broader StratCom approach should be more inclusive and also cover internal perceptions.

The hybrid practices of Russia and China have highlighted just how vulnerable European and Japanese security and defence policies are. These external challenges are important in themselves because of the trouble they cause military planners. However, they would not be of such import if governments had adequate communications (StratCom) policies to counter their impact on their own national populations. But StratCom policies can be either cross-sectoral (governmental) or sectoral (agencies).

Based on the lessons learnt in Iraq and Afghanistan, counter-insurgency doctrines show that the centre of gravity, that is, the decisive action that gives the advantage to one rival or the other, is not on the ground where armed forces fight battles but in the hearts and minds of their supporters, which is where strategic defeats or victories are achieved. Hence, military planners have moved from a military StratCom based on the battlefield to a new paradigm based on influencing perceptions very far away from them. Military planners have tried out policy narratives to influence the perceptions and expectations of their national populations regarding the intervention of their armed forces, but had only mixed results. However, neither the Europeans nor the Japanese have managed to design comprehensive StratCom polices that can match the ‘best’ practices developed by Russia, China and ISIS to motivate national supporters and demobilise foreign ones.

“The European and Japanese StratCom policies have been directed to a greater extent to foreign and international audiences rather than to reinforcing the cohesion and resilience of their own populations”

The strategic goal of this new range of StratCom weapons –information warfare, disinformation, influence operations and fake news, among others– is to achieve political success, not military victory. Thus, a StratCom policy should mainly be directed at the political rather than military level. Responses to StratCom threats may be reactive and proactive, either in reaction to the initiatives of rivals or in implementation of national StratCom policies. The governments of European countries and of Japan are making greater progress in the reactive approach to security threats than in being proactive, and more in the military or cyber aspects than in strictly political ones. Furthermore, the European and Japanese StratCom policies have been directed to a greater extent to foreign and international audiences rather than to reinforcing the cohesion and resilience of their own populations. A broader StratCom approach should be more inclusive and also cover internal perceptions.

A distinction should be made between practice and concept. Any StratCom policy will inevitably entail failures and miscoordination that can be corrected later by a better application, but a mistaken StratCom concept cannot be offset later by good practice. A second distinction refers to the target. StratCom is all about influencing others, but which ones? In its more limited sense, the ‘others’ are hostile and foreign players; however, StratCom should go beyond reductionist terms such as China, Russia or ISIS when determining its target audience(s). Here the role of strategic intelligence applied to StratCom is to identify the right target audiences (public, private, individual, local, networks, groupings…) in order to diversify the content of the messages. Third, identity must become part of StratCom policies. In the past, feelings of identity and loyalty used to be fixed but in the present day they change very quickly, both in domestic societies and in proxies. Thus, StratCom policies cannot rely exclusively on the perception of external threats but must also rely on the resilience and cohesion of the societies of Europe and Japan.

The StratCom concept that the governments of Europe and Japan should adopt to counter foreign StratCom policies is a key issue. A concept is an answer to a problem that has to be defined, tested and modified before being adopted. Although each country must find its own StratCom concept in response to its own particular strategic, political or social context, there are some general considerations to take into account:

  • StratCom must be comprehensive, thus including all actors and dimensions of public communications (public diplomacy, public affairs, military public affairs, information operations and psychological operations) from the very start and be subject to political leadership. Thus, governments must have the initiative in integrating/leading communications policies (narratives must be conducted at the strategic level).
  • The target audience of the StratCom policies must be both public opinion and influencers such as politicians, celebrities, journalists, youtubers, social leaders or plain individuals.
  • The same can be said about both the traditional channels for StratCom policies (normal media and public statements) and the ‘new normal’ ones (Internet and social networks).
  • StratCom policies must be sensitive to strategic, political, social, generational or technological changes at both the national and international levels. They must be both reactive and proactive in order to adjust their narratives to the StratCom policies of their challengers. Thus, StratCom policies require instruments for fine-tuning.
  • Given the complexity of the actors and the variables affecting the influence of StratCom policies, the traditional tools available for public communications are valid neither for monitoring nor forecasting the evolution of perceptions in a timely and effective manner. StratCom policies require new tools to ensure an appropriate strategic and proactive approach, including the use of big data analysis and artificial intelligence, among others.
  • Changes also affect the profiles and skills of the human resources required for StratCom. This is a new policy that should not be constructed on the legacy of old public communications policies (analogical culture). A new layer of transversal/meta-cultural experts from the different fields of (digital) knowledge should be created at strategic levels of governance to integrate the various actors and fields of StratCom.
  • The quality and quantity of the required changes imply the transformation of StratCom culture, including doctrines, personnel, technologies and structures. Thus, StratCom planning needs to take into account previous strategies in order to identify long-term transformation processes and milestones. The degree of transformation is contingent upon the challenges confronting each country but strategies can depict scalable scenarios of change in order to guide StratCom policies.

For the time being, the European and Japanese governments have adjusted their StratCom policies to answer the strategic challenge they are facing. Narratives about defence and security policies became more significant in recent National Security Strategies given the visibility of the Russian, Chinese and jihadist threats. Thus, they continue to highlight to a greater extent external and strategic threats (hybrid, infowar, cyber and fake news) rather than reinforcing their common values and beliefs (political, economic or social). However, most of the national StratCom policies and agendas are exclusively devoted to diplomatic, military or security actors and issues. This approach is also visible in the NATO and EU collective concepts on StratCom. Hence, StratCom policies and concepts must evolve from the current approach towards a more comprehensive one including new actors, issues, procedures and instruments.

Félix Arteaga
Senior Analyst, Elcano Royal Institute
| @rielcano

<![CDATA[ NATO and the south: opportunities for coherence and integration ]]> 2018-02-13T05:28:28Z

The evolving security environment to Europe’s South poses important challenges to NATO, demanding coherence between projecting stability and collective defence.


The evolving security environment to Europe’s South poses important challenges to NATO, demanding coherence between projecting stability and collective defence.


Challenges from the south present opportunities in the context of Alliance adaptation and modernisation. Externally, shared interests in the south can catalyse further cooperation between NATO and its partners. Internally, requirements in the south can stimulate NATO’s process of integrating strategic and operational planning for an omnidirectional, multi-domain approach to the defence of Europe.


South is central

At their 2016 Warsaw Summit, NATO Allies drew attention to ‘security challenges and threats that originate from the east and from the south’. They noted that the Readiness Action Plan (RAP), agreed at the 2014 Wales Summit, ‘responds to the risks and threats emanating from our southern neighbourhood, the Middle East, and North Africa’, and established a ‘framework for the south’, aiming at improving situational awareness, strategic anticipation and projecting stability through partnership and capacity building.1

At their July 2018 Summit in Brussels, Allies will build on their work since Warsaw to further upgrade their collective defence, and to project stability in Europe’s neighbourhood. A shared understanding of the centrality of the south to both collective defence and projecting stability would help the Alliance modernise and solidify its relationships with partners, improving both coherence and cohesion.

When we talk about ‘the south’ in the context of NATO and Europe, we are talking about the Mediterranean world. It is difficult to overstate the centrality of the Mediterranean world, to Europe and to the entire transatlantic community. For most of human history, societies along the Mediterranean were more connected to one another than Mediterranean Europe was to Northern Europe. Even the new Atlantic world that arose in the 15th and 16th centuries –and which is embodied by the modern transatlantic community– is in many senses an heir to Mediterranean culture.2

It is also difficult to overstate the strategic centrality of the Mediterranean in the current security environment. Nine NATO allies (Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey) have Mediterranean coastlines, which means they directly share this ancient and critical line of communication with Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt on the Mediterranean’s southern shore, and Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the eastern shore. Two EU members (Malta and Cyprus) are Mediterranean islands. The Mediterranean is also a conduit between Europe and the broader Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Mediterranean was the top venue for short sea shipping for EU ports in 2015, amounting to 29% of the total.3

Migration –particularly irregular migration– across the Mediterranean remains a strategic issue. While Mediterranean Sea arrivals in Europe declined from their high of over one million in 2015 to just over 170,000 in 2017,4 the movement and integration of migrants transiting the Mediterranean remains a topic of major concern for Europe,5 and even for the US.6 Our collective understanding of the security implications of trans-Mediterranean migration is still evolving,7 making clear transatlantic consensus difficult to achieve.

NATO’s objectives in the south?

Given the importance of the Mediterranean, we might expect NATO to have identified strategic ends or mid- to long-term objectives for its southern and eastern shores. In a perfect strategic world, planners would align such clearly defined ends with available means and identify ways to achieve them. In the real world, however, strategy rarely functions like that. There is no ‘end’, and strategists function more like gardeners tending an ever-changing environment subject to endless variables, than like artists producing a final chef d’oeuvre and then moving on.

Ideally, NATO’s objectives for the south would be publicly announced after being formally agreed by the North Atlantic Council, deeply informed by a military-strategic vision emanating from NATO’s military authorities and by the objectives and capabilities of NATO’s partners in the region –including the desires of their citizens–. Those objectives would be an integral part of a larger strategic approach. In reality, NATO’s leaders do not have the luxury of such a neat, linear approach to strategy. Adversaries and events vote emphatically, leaving NATO and national planners to continually construct and maintain a strategic airplane while in flight, building consensus as they go under conditions of perpetual uncertainty.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg nonetheless summarised NATO’s broad objective for the south thus: ‘to protect our territory, we must be willing to project stability beyond our borders. If our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure’.8 Questions, of course remain, even as NATO begins ‘projecting stability’ to the south: do allies have a shared understanding of the meaning of stability? What is the relationship between stability and other interests and values Allies share, like support for liberal democracy and human rights? Are there trade-offs between these values and interests or are they mutually supportive? Who is to provide stability? The difficulty of these questions challenges consensus between 29 allies with differing situations and interests. NATO remains irreplaceable as a platform to reconcile those differences in the interest of a common approach.

Means required are not means available

This necessary ambiguity, at least in the near- to mid-term, means making do with means currently available. In the broadest sense, those means have increased since 2015, with allied defence spending rising in accordance with the pledge Allied Heads of State and Government made to one another at their Wales Summit: to halt or reverse declines in defence spending, and to move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence (and 20% of defence budgets on equipment modernisation) over the ensuing decade.

Identifying and providing the appropriate operational means to protect allied territory by “Projecting Stability,” however, is challenging. NATO is continually adapting, and the current iteration of this process is driven by dual developments in the international system. First, rising revisionist powers are challenging the post-Cold War order of which NATO is a cornerstone. They are doing so across the continuum of conflict: engaging in political warfare without geographic boundaries, unconventional and conventional military actions, and strategic –even nuclear– posturing. Secondly, non-state actors are posing increasingly complex challenges to Western societies.

It is tempting to conceptualise NATO’s approach to the south as related exclusively to this second development, but doing so risks an artificial fissure in overall strategic coherence and cohesion among allies, as well as an unnecessary resource challenge. NATO’s ongoing process of adaptation and modernisation provides ways out of this impasse, ranging from adjustments to NATO’s command structure to the integration of emerging operational plans.

Ways: making do and making it up

NATO has undertaken some formal and informal institutional adaptations aimed specifically at addressing Europe’s southern neighbourhood, generally explained in terms of addressing the root causes that we presume to be driving terrorism and irregular migration. At the same time, the Alliance is undergoing broader adaptation aimed at more global challenges. Bringing coherence to these somewhat disparate efforts is likely to help address some of the difficulties in identifying clear objectives in the south, and concomitant challenges in appropriately resourcing those objectives.

One useful step would be to broaden our understanding of NATO’s approach to the south to extend beyond the current focus on addressing urgent threats and challenges related to non-state actors and violent extremist organisations (VEOs). Specifically, the fact that revisionist state actors have proved willing and able to challenge NATO across domains, regions and functions means that the south is not just a place where allies go to help partners build capacity to mitigate threats from terrorists and VEOs. Rather, it is also an area in which rival states will challenge the Alliance across the spectrum of conflict. The likelihood of a permanent Russian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is but one instance of this phenomenon. Proliferation of ballistic missiles among both state- and non-state actors around the Mediterranean basin9 means that allied territory in the Central Mediterranean and key military and commercial transit points from the Bab-el-Mandeb, to the Bosporus, to Gibraltar, can be held at risk. Given these challenges, achieving coherence between approaches to state actors and non-state actors should be central to the process of refining and integrating NATO’s regionally-focused operational plans into a clear, 360-degree vision for the defence of Europe.

Effective integration also requires achieving coherence across a broad range of ongoing activities. NATO continues to refine its vision of Projecting Stability, requiring coordination between allies, partners and international organisations. NATO has actively engaged its wide network of partners to discuss military contributions to enhance stability in the south, while acknowledging the centrality of political, economic and social elements that can only be delivered by local governments –with help from organisations like the EU–.10 NATO’s ‘Framework for the south’ includes a ‘Hub for the south’ to enable such engagements.11 The Hub, along with initiatives to pool intelligence capabilities, also aims at improving situational awareness and anticipation.

But NATO’s role in and around the Mediterranean goes beyond Projecting Stability. For example, the Alliance is also revisiting its maritime posture. While many of the Alliance’s adaptations since 2014 have been land-focused, a vast majority of SACEUR’s Area of Responsibility is, in fact, water. The maritime domain is one area in which NATO can build coherence around the multi-domain nature of state-centric challenges –and allied responses–. During the Cold War, maritime power was central to NATO’s deterrence posture. During NATO’s ‘out of area’ period, characterised by actions outside of allied territory, allies saw sea power as a supporting effort for such actions.

Although NATO’s 2011 Alliance Maritime Strategy aligned NATO’s maritime posture with the three core tasks identified in the 2010 Strategic Concept, there was no particular emphasis on deterrence and collective defence. But the focus has begun to shift. Maritime power is particularly suited to address the 360-degree complexity of the challenge specifically posed by Russia, which Vice-Admiral Clive Johnson, Commander Allied Maritime Command, has described as ‘omni-directional and threatening of our freedoms and of our infrastructure, whether you see them as an enemy or not’, highlighting the extension of Russian area denial capabilities into the Eastern Mediterranean.12 A sharpening focus on maritime posture and capabilities from the perspective of collective defence may help NATO integrate its regional postures, and at the same time improve coherence between Defence and Deterrence on the one hand, and Projecting Stability on the other. Continued work on operationalising the Alliance Maritime strategy is thus key to addressing defence and deterrence in the south.

Improving relations with other organisations is also critical to NATO’s approach to the south. While working with organisations like the African Union to achieve a regional approach is important, success starts closer to home: with the EU.13 Twenty-two of NATO’s 29 allies are currently EU members. Not only do NATO Europe and the EU share essentially one set of forces, they also largely share one set of economic and diplomatic instruments. Inter-organisational coherence is elemental to a comprehensive approach to the stability of the south.

There are several areas in which coordination is critical. European allies’ capabilities depend largely on resource allocation decisions that are shaped by economic and fiscal policies agreed by EU members. An ongoing dialogue between NATO and the EU regarding the security implications of fiscal and economic policies (and vice versa) would benefit members of both organisations as they seek to develop critical capabilities in a resource-constrained environment. NATO’s recognition that stability in the south requires a whole of government or integrated approach implies coordination with the EU to avoid duplicative efforts.

Areas in which the EU has particular strengths and has identified a central role for itself are the promotion of good governance, democracy, rule of law and human rights; economic development; migration and mobility; and security. If NATO and the EU could build on initial cooperation on migration issues14 to successfully map and coordinate their efforts, and those of their members and partners, NATO would be able to focus on the areas where it can add the most value: collective defence (which it provides directly in the form of, for example, a robust maritime presence in the Mediterranean) and defence capacity building (which it provides in cooperation with regional partners). NATO is, in fact, already doing a great deal in the realm of Defence Capacity Building: focusing, for instance, on counter-terrorism in Tunisia, and further developing Jordan’s security forces and institutions.15

Local ownership of efforts across this spectrum is key to success. This requires NATO to facilitate coordination between partners in the region and between those partners and the EU where possible and necessary. Developing a common picture of the gamut of activities being undertaken on the ground has proved a significant challenge –conventional and special operations forces currently present can work in conjunction with diplomats to provide data for fusion into such a common operating picture–.

Such assets, of course, require effective command and control. While NATO’s Hub for the South and Framework for the South are beginning to support enhanced situational awareness, assessment and coordination, NATO’s work on adapting its Command Structure will need to bring such efforts into the Command Structure in a more formal way, likely emphasising the role of Allied Joint Force Command Naples. As NATO integrates regional operational plans and seeks to achieve coherence across domains and regions, it is appropriate to consider enhancing the regional focus of its operational commands.


The south is indeed central to NATO’s strategic future. The key questions facing the Alliance are how to define objectives for the region around which Allies can achieve consensus, how to identify and make available appropriate means to achieve those objectives and how to ensure coherence among various activities aimed at supporting them. There will not be an end point where all these key questions are answered to the satisfaction of all Allies, to say nothing of regional and organisational partners. But there is reason to be optimistic that ongoing processes of adapting NATO’s Command Structure, integrating Allied operational plans at the theatre level, focusing on a 360-degree maritime posture and systematically engaging front-line partners to take the lead in stabilising the region will yield incremental progress. As NATO develops its approaches to upgrading collective defence and projecting stability in its neighbourhood in preparation for its July Summit, a shared understanding of the centrality of the south to both of those projects can help achieve coherence, cohesion and strategic integration.

Jordan Becker
NATO International Military Staff
| @189JMB

This paper reflects solely the author’s views.

1 NATO (2016), ‘Warsaw Summit Communique’, 9/VII/2016, last accessed 29/I/2018.

2 Fernand Braudel (1949), La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II, Armand Colin, Paris.

3 Eurostat (2017), ‘Maritime transport statistics – short sea shipping of goods’, February, last accessed 18/I/2018.

4 UNHCR (2018), ‘Mediterranean situation’, 17/I/2018, last accessed 18/I/2018.

5 European Commission (2017), ‘Fifth Progress Report on the Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration’, Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, The European Council and the Council, European Commission, Brussels.

6 Although the US has accepted a relatively small number of refugees from the greater Mediterranean region in recent years, migration remains a salient issue in US politics. See, for example, Jennifer Epstein, Erik Wasson & Arit John (2018), ‘Senator calls Trump’s denial of ‘shithole’ comment ‘not true’”, Bloomberg Politics, 12/I/2018, last accessed 18/I/2018.

7 Vincenzo Bove & Tobias Böhmelt (2016), ‘Does immigration induce terrorism?’, The Journal of Politics, vol. 78, nr 2, p. 572-588.

9 Jean-Loup Samaan (2017), ‘The missile threat in the Mediterranean: implications for European security’, ARI, nr 79/2017, Elcano Royal Institute, last accessed 29/I/2018.

10 Petr Pavel (2018), ‘Opening Remarks at 178th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session’, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 16/I/2018, last accessed 19/I/2018.

12 Clive Johnstone (2017), ‘NATO’s maritime moment: a watershed year in Alliance sea power’, Allied Maritime Command, 17/I/2017, last accessed 19/I/2018.

13 The President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation noted the importance of such inter-organisational cooperation in their Joint Declaration Signed at Warsaw of 8/VII/2016.

14 NATO (2016), ‘Assistance for the refugee and migrant crisis in the Aegean Sea’, NATO, 27/VI/2016, last accessed 24/I/2018.

15 Jens Stoltenberg (2017), ‘Pre-ministerial press conference’, NATO, 4/XII/2017, last accessed 24/I/2018.