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February 7, 2023

Ukraine: A test for Europe II

Therefore a ‘naïve’ Europe who believes that – being dedicated to the use of soft power in providing international security and, by that, ‘naively’ neglecting the military power – should not develop the ‘hard power’. The contemporary world is by no means the kind of world where the coercion of an enemy can be restricted to economic sanctions or ‘a charm offensive’ accompanied by generous financial gifts, trying to make it give in. We have, of course, the example of some barbarian king ’ho accepted to forgive and not occupy Rome, convinced by the requests generously accompanied by precious gifts, but things like that rarely happen, for reasons often related to the ‘soft force’, and therefore remain in history as exceptions to the rule of torrents of military gross and unforgiving force which, in fact, deteriorates the evolution.

The EU Security Strategy (1990) states that international security & stability relies ‘ on the quality of the governments that are its foundation’, and the best protection of European interests is building a world ‘of well-governed democratic states’, and ‘spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights are the best means of strengthening the international order’. Or, by placing itself in this position, the EU is only creating issues to itself and actions guided by such philosophy can actually become a bonus encouraging the use of ‘hard power’ by those who upset international order. If the latter category – international terrorism, ISIL or Russia – put themselves in the role of ‘revisionists’ who shape the change of global order through the use of ‘hard power’, the European Union occupies the position of a global power dedicated to the status quo, without necessary military means to support it. Interviewed on the matter, Daniel Levy, says ‘Europe and the United States have wisely avoided deploying ground troops in Iraq and Syria. But the airpower-led military operation being undertaken to counter the Islamic State sometimes resembles Noah’s Ark, with each coalition ally donating two military aircraft.’ In the above example, the US use ‘Noah’s Ark’ as an initial phase of the mentioned operation, given the fact that it is under the pressure of the public opinion after Iraq and Afghanistan with regard to the use of land military force. The question ‘Why does Europe has this kind of ‘soft power’ orientation?’ is answered by Gianni Riotta, member of the Council on Foreign Relations: ‘European scepticism about hard power, aka ‘defence’, has bitter roots and was not born out of the feelings of cheesy peaceniks. Europeans have fought for centuries, at home and abroad./…/ The same ancestral scars cover the European psyche, soul, and mind and make the union wary of war. A less noble sentiment is rooted in the post–Cold War zeitgeist: the United States will continue to foot the bill for defending Europe, but instead of praises, Europeans will offer schadenfreude./…/Few European capitals meet NATO’s defence spending threshold of 2 percent of GDP, and even France and the UK have decided to trim their defence budgets. Hard power is expensive and ambitious.’ This is one of the reasons for which, at the recent NATO summit in Wales (4-6 September) the leaders of the member states committed themselves to soon reach the level of 2% of GDP allocation to the defence sector. It is still to be determined to which departments of the defence sector these allocations will go. If the expenditure is allocated to the personnel department – wages and retirement benefits – instead of increasing the effectiveness of the military instrument – equipment and training – the ‘hard power’ vs. ‘soft power’ ratio in the whole of the EU will not experience a genuine and substantial improvement.
But in Europe – James Rogers, one of the biggest European defence strategists and the author of a very interesting blog where acclaimed experts in the field state their views, points out ‘perhaps with the exceptions of the UK, France, and a few other countries—not least Russia, insofar as it is in Europe—Europeans generally seem to dislike talking about power in any shape or form. Power is seen as a Bad Thing. It is Europe’s hostile “other,” to be pressed down and forgotten.’ Europe’s hope – Rogers believes – is to manage to globally broaden the European character (in line with the trends in the EU security strategy, which is ‘a noble’, yet ‘unsustainable ideal’, as the world beyond Europe is ‘a hostile jungle’. Left free, such ‘jungle’ is prone to expanding into the civilised world.
In spite of this ‘naiveté’, it doesn’t mean that European powers are unaware of the way in which the international system operates, in other words that they don’t understand the importance of ‘hard power’. ‘Having a credible military threat in one’s toolbox gives a state weight on the international stage-Ulrich Speck, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, says. In most cases, states don’t need to use that threat; it’s enough that others know it exists. But the threat must also be credible: others must believe that a state is ultimately willing and able to use it if there is no other choice.’ France, Belgium, the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland demonstrate they are not at all naïve in respect of the importance of ‘hard power’ in today’s world. But what Europe has not is Germany’s commitment to this crucial component of power: ‘Go to any gathering in Germany—sports club, dinner party, or parliament—and declare that ‘war is not the solution’, and you can be sure that everybody will applaud you. A politician who openly challenged that consensus and came up with arguments such as those above wouldn’t last long in German politics today and would be dismissed as a warmonger. Germany’s brief flirtation with military power in Kosovo and Afghanistan is long over; the country is back to the cosy fundamentalist pacifism that it developed over decades under the U.S. security umbrella.’ In not so many words, in the simplicity of twitter, ‘The more Germany dominates EU foreign policy, the more military power will be sidelined’ or: ‘An EU dominated by Germany will continue to need the United States to supply hard power to Europe.’ Under the American security umbrella, Germany develops ‘a cosy fundamentalist pacifism’. Not only Germany, but the entire Europe, where the country plays a fundamental role due to its economic strength. As another interviewed, Stephen Szabo, Executive director of the Transatlantic Academy, points out, ‘Much of Europe has enjoyed a prolonged period of peace. A number of generations have come of age during this period, and many people have taken a united and peaceful Europe to be the natural state of affairs. The protection offered by the United States has also been a buffer, sheltering Europeans from the need to think about hard power.’
Is there a way out of this state of affairs characteristic of contemporary European generations? Especially since Ukraine, engaged in a war the protagonists hesitate to define – oscillating between ‘civil war’, ‘war between Russia and Ukraine’, ‘war against terrorism’ – at the gates of the European Union shows to the old continent that it cannot afford to remain the prisoner of a post-modern philosophy on internationals security base don good governance, rolling out democracy and prosperity.

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