New European Security Initiative

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Publication Date June 2017
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If ever a reminder were needed, a succession of recent crises – Ukraine, refugees, terrorism – has demonstrated that Europe cannot hope to stand apart from global security challenges. And looking at what is already coming its way, this belated realisation will only be reinforced by cyber threats, tensions in the Pacific, or polarisation in the Middle East and north Africa.

The European Council on Foreign Relations believes that Europe would be better off as an effective security actor on the global stage, rather than as the geopolitical plaything of others. This is why, since our foundation ten years ago, ECFR has been working extensively on security-related topics.

But what Europe is faced with now is not just a continuation of the same old challenges Europe has always faced. Those challenges have evolved, and expanded too, from old conflicts to new threats; from the classical question of relations with major powers such as Russia and China to the new face of the transatlantic partnership and the consequences of Brexit. From an international environment where it thought it could project stability into our neighbourhood it had moved to a situation where the interdependence at the heart of the liberal order is being weaponised at its expense.

But, in the face of these challenges, there is also a new impetus to take them on. Policymakers’ attitudes are beginning to change. Influential member states are changing as well. While Germany is showing a growing willingness to take on more responsibility, France is coming to terms with the inescapable need for more European military solidarity. Beyond these, other partners are participating in military overseas operations against terrorist groups. And discussions on flexible forms of defence and security cooperation will hopefully allow all European Union member states to contribute, and to cooperate with some of its closest partners such as post-Brexit United Kingdom.

ECFR’s New European Security Initiative – NESI – has been created to tackle the questions that emerge at the meeting point of these two trends.

NESI will work on all four levels of European security: the threats, the capabilities that are needed, the coalitions and institutions that should deliver security, and the internal dimension of security cooperation within Europe. Its goal with this new ECFR initiative is to build on the cutting-edge expertise from all of its programmes and national offices to share in-depth analysis and innovative recommendations.

Its work will rest on a firm military analysis, the deep wealth of regional expertise, and understanding of newer dangers of connectivity and emerging technologies. In true ECFR fashion, it will be grounded in the domestic politics of European states as well as in the complex decision-making of the EU. And it will break out of the compartmentalised frameworks of the past.

But this new impetus raises many questions. What are the threats that Europe faces? How does Europeans’ understanding of security need to change? What precisely do we mean when we insist that the nexus between internal and external security needs to be addressed? How can we embed the traditional ideas of European defence efforts into a broader and more comprehensive understanding of what Europe’s security, and Europe’s contribution to global security, imply? What capabilities and equipment does Europe need to tackle future challenges? What forms of flexible cooperation, within and outside the EU, can we build that would help tackle current threats and challenges without undermining the EU’s cohesion and solidarity? These are some of the questions that NESI will tackle head on. A new initiative launched in June 2017 by the ECFR. As in June 2017 the following essays were available:

+ The era of Mutually Assured Disruption, by Mark Leonard

+ Now or never on European defence by Nick Witney

+ Europe’s war on terror, by Anthony Dworkin

+ A European approach to military drones and artificial intelligence, by Ulrike Esther Franke

+ Cyber attacks: Understanding the basics, by Stefan Soesanto

+ Signal, constrain, and coerce: A more strategic use of sanctions, by Manuel Lafont Rapnouil

+ Russia’s quiet military revolution, by Gustav Gressel

+ Libya: Security through politics, by Mattia Toaldo

+ Coming to terms with China’s maritime power, by Mathieu Duchâtel

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