IV.6 Defence and security issues in Europe



IV.6 Defence and security issues in Europe

The violence of the age of the networks, the violence of the time of the empires, has every chance of being more diffuse, less extreme, but not at all more rare. The traditional distinctions hitherto considered fundamental will become blurred. Internal security and external security will no longer be in opposition. (Jean-Marie Guéhenno 1995: 117)

While in the post-WW II period the hegemonic power, the USA, could impose its will to shape the world, this is no longer possible in the era of networks as power has become more diffuse (Kissinger 1994: 809). After WW II, the traditional European security complex had been overlaid by the political and military presence of the two superpowers (Buzan 1993a: 6). This familiar and stable bipolar meta-conflict is then replaced by localised conflicts in the periphery and semi-periphery, and by societal insecurity in the core countries. “Consequently, a ‘metapeace’ will be replaced by a ‘conflictual peace’” (Rusi 1991: 132).

In this section we will first study the consequences of the hegemony shift for security in Europe, and then we will see how the new security challenges are being met during the Empire without Emperor SCA.

IV.6.1 New actors

The decreasing role of the nation-state is also felt in security issues. This makes space for the emergence of new actors and new threats that are not nation-state based (Glaser 1998: 69). The new actors are those that can integrate with and take advantage of the networked society:

– Transnational companies, with wealth comparable to that of small states, conduct business across borders. nation-states are increasingly unable to control their activities[45].

– Crime cartels with vast resources connect across national boundaries. Due to its scale, crime can destabilise peripheral states (with whole regions outside statal control in South America or in the Far East, perhaps even in Russia (LaFeber 1997: 358), and damage the social tissue in core states (Glaser 1998: 70-73). Large private armies lead to a blurring of the distinction between crime and war (Rifkin 1995: 215, Bellamy 1997: 131, Guéhenno 1995: 118).

– Small, committed groups. These can be as diverse as traditional terrorist groups, animal rights extremists, eco-warriors, religious, anti-abortion, para-military “Armageddon looming”, and various other single-issue groups. While the activities of these groups are similar to guerrilla war, they have easier access to mass destruction, cheap, chemical and/or biological weapons and constitute a highly asymmetric threat (Glaser 1998: 73-75, Bellamy 1997: 131).

– Ethnic groups whose identity does not coincide with national borders.

– Supranational institutions such as the EU.

– World media, that can shape (core) world-wide public opinion and lead (core) governments into action they would not otherwise undertake (Bellamy 1996: 160-161; Glaser 1998: 58).

IV.6.2 Military threats

Similarly, the new security issues are now more diffuse (Sjursen 1998: 97). They can be divided in two main groups, military and civilian threats. The former includes:

– Direct military attack. Besides Greece, this is unlikely, although it could be envisaged that unresolved difficulties between Russia and her former satellites (including Russian minorities in the Baltic states) might lead to confrontation. An enlarged EU could be directly involved. Traditional deterrence is still effective in this case (Federal Trust 1995a: 27).

– Proliferation of mass destruction weapons (mainly nuclear but also chemical and biological). This problem is exacerbated by the disintegration of the USSR: Difficulties in the control of stocks, possible exodus of scientists to states eager to obtain nuclear expertise (not only rogue states such as Iraq but possibly countries such as India and Pakistan, whose expertise and capability is limited), and even to crime cartels as nuclear weapons are now easier to produce (Bellamy 1996: 130, LaFeber 1997: 358). So far, generalised proliferation has not occurred (Glaser 1998: 77-83,86, Bellamy 1997: 131), but nevertheless the problem of how to control the ultimate power when power is fragmenting remains unresolved (LaFeber 1997: 363).

– There is much scope (also within Russia) for nationalistic conflicts involving minorities, ethnic groups seeking self-determination, and irredentism (Emerson 1998: 55-57, Lieven 1993: 81). The causes are several (Hobsbawm 1998: 426-428): Resistance of nation-states against demotion vis a vis powerful blocs such as the USA or the EU; egoism of wealth, e.g. in Croatia’s and Slovenia’s pressure to leave Yugoslavia; and most importantly the fact that identity groups (based on exclusive ethnic membership) do not coincide with nation-states; all this underpinned by the defreezing of nationalisms following the collapse of the USSR, and by the fact that ethnic conflicts tend to be zero-sum games and hence hard to solve (McGarry 1993b: 15-16).

– Conflict over scarce natural resources (e.g. “water wars”). This is unlikely to happen in Europe in the near future, but already affects neighbouring regions such as the Middle East, including Turkey, with possible destabilising effects in Europe (Bellamy 1997: 136-142).

IV.6.3 Non-military threats

The ‘civilian’ threats are:

– Crime and terrorisms as described above.

– Refugees and migratory movements. Instability and economic problems in neighbouring areas could lead to mass migrations to Western European countries. This is compounded by high population growth rates in Northern Africa (Gomez 1998: 139). However, most population movements are either within one country or from one peripheral country to another[46] (Bellamy 1997: 134, Glaser 1998: 208-209). Fears of mass migrations from Central and Eastern Europe into Western Europe did not materialise.

– Prosperity, or rather the lack of it, in the core. “The alienation of people in western inner cities today, and the growth of a ‘sub-culture’ cut off from enfranchised society in western democracies, could … (be) an ideal breeding ground for revolt” (Bellamy 1997: 80-81). This is of course a consequence of internalisation of the core-periphery structure, with the aggravating fact that the new underclass are worse-off than the periphery of the UK and US SCAs (colonies and third world), as they are by and large economically irrelevant (Rifkin 1995: 215), unable to participate in the consumer society, and even unwilling to undertake work (Bellamy 1997: 84).

– Environment. The potential for nuclear accidents is vast, as Chernobyl showed[47], while increasing awareness of shared security interests in this area (Rusi 1991: 111). Pollution, the green-house effect and the hole in the ozone layer have no boundaries and challenge the sovereignty of states (Camilleri 1994: 171-196; Collier 1998: 226-243, LaFeber 1997: 364-366).

– Attacks on the information system, which controls practically all aspects of life in the core countries. These could be either deliberate (Bellamy 1997: 237-238, Campbell 1998) or due to Murphy’s law applied to computer technology, e.g. the Year 2000 bug[48]. In either case the effects can be devastating.


All in all, these threats are not really ‘new’. For instance, externalisation of environmental costs is a UK SCA feature. However, in the EwE SCA they become central to security concerns, partly to replace the Soviet threat (Glaser 1998: 69), and partly because they have become more salient due to increased interdependence conducive to co-operative solutions (Rusi 1991: 112), while “none of the institutions and regimes which emerged out of the Cold War period were structured to manage these all‑European issues” (Miall 1993: 77).

It is clear that there are no direct military threats to Western military power. War is now for weak or failed nation-states (Glaser 1998: 69), with most conflicts being internal (Bellamy 1997: 34-35). On the other hand, the sharp distinction between military and foreign and economic policy disappeared (Allen 1998: 42), and the most likely causes of insecurity – both in that they may precipitate conflicts, and in themselves as they threaten the well-being of populations – are ‘soft’ (Bellamy 1997: 125). In the next section we will study the response of the political system to these threats.

IV.6.4 ‘Sick cells’ in the network

In a system that is no longer governed by a pyramidal and centralised hierarchy, one can certainly hope that no breakdown, no sabotage is decisive; the circuits, the networks, recompose themselves around the affected zone, in an almost biological fashion. Nevertheless, the architecture of the networks, while it multiplies the possibilities for connection, also multiplies the possible points of attack. … In a world in which there is no proportionality between cause and effect, the demands of security must be geared down. … The men of the empire, pursuing on all sides wars without fronts, will be neither the soldiers of the king nor the citizens at arms of the republic; they will be policemen, ever alert, ever ready to track down the different, the unknown, the inexplicable. (Jean‑Marie Guéhenno 1995: 120)

Weak and/or insecure states pose global security problems and are “holes in the fabric of the international order” (Gomez 1998: 139). They are ‘sick cells’ in the global network. The strategy of the core nations is dual-tracked: On one hand prevent the ‘illness’ from occurring, on the other contain it, i.e. not let it spread if it does appear.

This is reflected in the weakening of the centuries-old principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of nations (see section III.4.5). Human rights, made an international concern, become the hub of the ‘new world order’, as the security agenda becomes centred on the individual, not on the nation-states, providing a moral justification for intervention[49] (Miall 1993: 80, Glaser 1998: 166), even preventively (e.g. to hinder the development of mass destruction capabilities by ‘rogue’ states) (Bellamy 1997: 129).

IV.6.5 The role of the EU

The secret of capitalist success is to have one’s wars fought by others, if feasible costlessly and, if not, at the least possible cost (Giovanni Arrighi 1994: 38)

The EU is the main civilian actor in Europe. The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has been branded as “a convenient excuse for avoiding action” (Peterson 1998: 6). I would argue it is more than an excuse, it is a core element of EU’s strategy: The EU has a large capacity to prevent crises around it, which is essentially the main task of its foreign policy (be it formalised in the CFSP or not), by the use of long-term low-key strategies (Peterson 1998: 13). This is done through economic and political support to the states around it, in what is a co-operative approach to security (Sjursen 1998: 97). The consensus is that individual member states are not able to face the civilian threats described above (Camilleri 1994: 150), and that these are best solved through the EU and the Council of Europe (Federal Trust 1995a: 25-26).

Institutional change of the EU after the end of the Cold War is then a security measure (Urwin 1998: 324, Federal Trust 1995b). Failure would imply security risks directly within its borders (e.g. the revival of a hegemonic Germany, economic difficulties, political fragmentation), as well as increased instability outside it (e.g. in Central and Eastern Europe with renewed prospects of mass migration). Enlargement becomes high politics, of which the economic dimension, and not CFSP, is the central element. “The production of networks of partnership and cooperation lends weight not to the emergence of CFSP, but rather to the politicisation of external political-economic relations” (Smith 1998: 91; see also Sjursen 1998: 98).

IV.6.6 Regional challenges

The implications for some of the areas involved are:

– As military power was devalued, economic power increased in significance, and Germany gained more political confidence (Gummett 1997: 216) (leading for instance to the unilateral recognition of Croatia – Paterson 1996: 140-142). The problem of a resurgence of a German threat is however solved with the linkage of German reunification to European integration (Miall 1993: 84-85).

– For Scandinavia, as the Nordic Balance is gone, Russia remains the main problem, but the threat of a direct attack is replaced by her instability (Lindström 1992: 18-19; Dörfer 1997: 6). For Finland and Sweden, after the end of the Cold War not only did neutrality no longer imply the impossibility of EU membership (Mäntyvaara 1996: 2; Tiilikainen 122-123), it was “no longer a viable line of action” according to the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA 1995: 58). The EU both provides security in an uncertain world as well as economic support, notably to Finland’s wavering economy after the loss of the Russian market[50] (Killham 1993: 276-277).

– No major changes occurred for the Southern EU member states. The main security problem in the region is still population growth and economic instability in the Maghreb. Expectations have been raised by the promise of a Mediterranean free-trade area by 2010 (Gomez 1998: 139, 150; Costel 1997: 49-52). The Middle East is also critical.

– The EU has beneficial effects on member states’ regions. For instance, instability in Scotland is reduced by the knowledge that even if the Scottish devolution process led to independence, it would still remain part of the EU with all the benefits linked to it (Bellamy 1997: 143). The same reasoning applies to e.g. Belgium. Further, specific EU regional policies can decrease local dissatisfaction.

– The disintegration of the USSR “left an international void between Trieste and Vladivostok…: a vast zone of disorder, conflict and potential catastrophe” (Hobsbawm 1998: 495). The response of the EU is to develop differentiated relations with Central and Eastern European countries. This keeps these countries attracted to the EU (including the prospect of membership, that is now closer for several ex-communist countries, including Estonia, an ex-USSR state), while denying them participation in key sectors (such as free trade on agricultural products, where some Central European countries are competitive) (Miall 1993: 89-90). This has probably been influential in avoiding a mass population movement to the EU. At the very least, uncertainty around what the boundaries of the EU will be means that the prospect of membership favours stability in Central Europe[51] (Grabbe 1999: 189, Federal Trust 1995a: 26). On the other hand, Central Europe, including the countries that will eventually accede to the EU (and including the ex-DDR) is probably relegated to a role of semi-periphery; while islands of prosperity can be created (i.e. non-geographic core as e.g. the workers in high-tech western-owned concerns such as the Siemens and AMD semiconductor fabrics in Dresden, or Volkswagen-owned Škoda in the Czech Republic), large parts of the population do not see the benefits, i.e. they remain peripheral[52].

IV.6.7 The role of NATO

As was said above, the EU has a vast capacity to prevent crises in the regions around it[53]. However, its foreign policy breaks down when a crisis does arise (Peterson 1998: 13) and traditional military action is needed. The “defence arm of the EU”, the Western European Union (WEU) has been mostly irrelevant to military affairs in Europe in the last years[54] (Sjursen 1998:100). In those cases, NATO has proved crucial. As NATO was a Cold War creation, it had to transform its role in European security and adapt to the new security issues, becoming “to an increasing degree … a finance provider and a crisis management organisation” (Petäjäniemi 1997; see also Kivimäki 1997).

This included military restructuring towards use in crisis management missions[55] (Sjursen 1998: 101), East-West dialogue through the Partnership for Peace agreements (Gummett 1997: 222), and the decision in 1992 to support peacekeeping operations under the authority of the OCSE or the UN (Sjursen 1998: 101). A strong, highly mobile, heavily-armoured Rapid Reaction Corps was formed in 1991 to intervene in localised disputes, including out-of-area operations (Urwin 1997: 308, Gummett 1997: 217). NATO then not only is no longer an “outmoded Cold War security structure” (Gummett 1997: 220), it is ideally suited to contain[56] those new security threats that are military[57].

IV.6.8 Prevention and containment

This section has studied the new security issues in Europe under the framework presented in chapter III. The theory presented offers a consistent view of the security and defence situation both during the Cold War and after its end. The security and defence paradigm changed from a single identifiable threat towards diffuse ‘soft’ issues such as environmental damage, organised transnational crime, refugees and migratory movements, societal insecurity/creation of an underclass, or failure of the IT system. The seeming indeterminacy of these threats – there is no single front nor single enemy – is a key feature due to the nature of the new SCA, which is based on globalisation through local networks, where no cell of the network is indispensable but each one is vulnerable to attack.

However, the fragmentation scenario in which the European balance of power would reassert itself (although not with the traditional pre-1945 shape), leading to a major disruption of the process of European integration (Buzan 1993a: 8-10), is not likely to happen, and disruption will remain confined to localised areas such as the Balkans.

Both the EU and NATO are necessary to manage the new security issues in Europe, and they are both perfectly adapted to perform that function: The EU’s role is mainly to prevent conflicts through long-term economic policy, while NATO’s principal role is to intervene when prevention fails and localised crises arise, in order to contain the problem locally. Should the US withdraw or, more likely, reduce its commitment towards the security of Europe, the task of containment would have to be carried out by European forces. These would be either WEU (eventually integrated in the EU) or national forces (eventually joint forces of more than one country), depending on the degree of European integration reached and on the national interests of the more powerful EU states. With or without NATO, the shape of the new European security framework – prevention and containment – is already defined. It could be destroyed only by the resurgence of direct military threat by a reconstituted and aggressive Russia.



[45] The literature on this subject is too vast to quote. It must be however noted that globalisation only really occurred in the financial market (Hirst 1997), with some internationalisation in other areas and even increasing protectionism in other areas (such as free movement of people between core and periphery), and that states still have much scope to influence and shape economic activity (Weiss 1998).

[46] In contrast with the long UK and US centuries, where mass migrations of Europe’s poor to the New World allowed the geographical expansion of the core to new territories (mostly USA and Australia).

[47] Most nuclear reactors in the ex-Communist block are of the Chernobyl type (RBMK), i.e. of graphite-moderated, water-cooled, pressure-tube design. Often the decision is between shutting them down or freezing in the winter. In Western reactors Chernobyl-type explosions can not happen: “Many significant conclusions may be drawn from the accident. However, few, if any, … are likely to affect Western reactor design” (Bennet 1989: 256).

[48] Technically, the Y2K is not a bug, but an ‘undocumented feature’ of much software.

[49] Normally under the authority of the UN, and as long as the violations occur in peripheral states. Regular condemnations of core states by NGOs such as Amnesty International are regularly ignored.

[50] The 15% Soviet share of Finnish trade all but disappeared in 1989, including the important oil imports. This led to severe economic problems in Finland, not least an unemployment rate that reached almost 20% (Singleton 1998: 154).

[51] Notice that it is easier for Russia to accept EU than NATO enlargement to its borders and to ex-communist countries, because the EU is less of a Cold War structure (Federal Trust 1995b: 22).

[52] For instance, unemployment is consistently larger in eastern than in western Germany – Flockton 1996: 214-215). This is a consequence of the new core-periphery structure, as productivity is similar in the two sides, if compared within sectors of equal added value; most western German investment in eastern Germany was in low cost low productivity activities, with high-value added ones remaining in western Germany (Der Spiegel 5/1999, p. 18).

[53] The Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe is also geared to prevent conflicts, not to solve them. (Miall 1993: 99-100).

[54] This could change with the creation (on paper) in 1995 of Eurofor, a EU terrestrial rapid reaction force comprising 10.000 men and being able to draw on the 5.000 Eurocorps men, as well as of Euromafor, a maritime force of variable geometry (Costel 1997: 14). This would probably act in practice as the European arm of NATO.

[55] These missions are normally legitimated by the UN (even if a fortiori), the “supra-national authority potentially able to promote or enforce peace” (Bellamy 1997: 37).

[56] ‘Containment’ was, in the US SCA framework, the strategy to counter the Soviet block, using traditional NATO means – mostly nuclear deterrence. We argue that the same term is appropriate to designate the strategy to counter the new military threats (i.e. ‘sick cells’) using the new (NATO and the other international organisations such as the UN and EU) means – mostly peacekeeping, peacemaking, and humanitarian intervention.

[57] Under this theory, the EU involvement in Bosnia can be described as an almost unmitigated success: The conflict was successfully contained (it did not spread to Greece and Turkey nor led to a “clash of civilisations”); it kept NATO firmly in Europe when there were fears of American isolationism; and finally it helped reducing the expectations of the EU voters – they had been already convinced that their Nation States are mostly powerless regarding economic forces, now they know the limits of the supranational ‘state’ that was supposed to solve the problem of war in Europe (Hill 1998: 21), so they are ready to demand less from the EU.