Tag: France

Citizens of seven EU states polled: 58% Europeans support Ukraine’s joining NATO, 48% for Ukraine’s joining EU

Some 58% Europeans support Ukraine’s joining NATO, and only 48% are for Ukraine’s joining the European Union.

This is evidenced by the findings of an opinion poll held by KANTAR PUBLIC and commissioned by Yalta European Strategy (YES).

Citizens of seven EU member states were polled within the survey – Germany, France, Italy, Lithuania, Great Britain, Poland and the Netherlands – based on a sample that was representative for each country (more than 1,000 people per country).

The findings of the public opinion poll were presented today, on the 16th of September, at the plenary session of Yes 14th Annual Meeting “Is This a New World? And What Does It Mean for Ukraine?”

Similar opinion polls, commissioned by YES, had been held in 2005 and 2007. 12 years ago, when the first poll was held, the situation was different: majority was for Ukraine’s becoming an EU member: 55% Europeans polled.

Today, the idea of Ukraine joining the EU is best supported in Lithuania and Poland (68% and 67% respectively), and least supported in the Netherlands (27%). The level of support in France, Germany and the UK is less than half of the people polled.

“Those who are against Ukraine’s joining the EU are explaining it using various reasons. One-third of the people polled believe that at this stage of development, the EU cannot afford a further enlargement. And a comparable number (31%) think that Ukraine’s accession would cause economic issues in the European Union,” the press release says.

Some 40% of those who support Ukraine’s membership believe that Ukraine is part of Europe. And 34% of the accession supporters stress that this step would boost democracy in Ukraine.

With regards to Ukraine’s joining NATO, the situation is different. In almost every country where the survey was held, most people are for accepting Ukraine as a member of the North-Atlantic Alliance.

“Even in France and the Netherlands, there are 49% people supporting this, and in other countries, the level of support is higher. In Lithuania and Poland, this number is 72% and 76% respectively,” the press service says.

The main argument for Ukraine’s integration with NATO, according to the Europeans, is its countering Russia (40% of those who support joining). Also, there are 8% who believe that Ukraine’s joining NATO will boost the ability of Europe to counter the Russian aggression.




The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Baltic Post.



French and US troops head to Gothenburg as Sweden’s biggest military drill in 20 years kicks off

French troops are heading to Gothenburg to join their U.S. and Swedish counterparts in Exercise AURORA 17

The biggest Swedish military exercise in over 20 years has started in Gothenburg, with French and US air defence units as well as other overseas troops joining the Swedes in the Aurora 17 drill of more than 20,000 military personnel.

Taking place between September 11th and 24th, Aurora 17 involves a total of 19,000 Swedish troops, as well as 1,435 soldiers from the US, 120 from France, and other units from Finland, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia. The exercise starts on Sweden’s west coast and will also cover the Stockholm area, Mälaren Valley and Baltic island Gotland.

The first event, practising “Host Nation Support” in Gothenburg, involves testing the “capability of receiving and providing support to other nations, an important element at a time of crisis”, according to the Swedish Armed Forces.

Starting on September 11th and running until the 20th, around 1,200 Swedish personnel as well as 200 from French and US air defence units are taking part in the first phase at Gothenburg’s Landvetter Airport, as well as the city’s harbour and Hisingen island.

The show of force comes in a period where Swedish defence is in sharp focus following an increase in military activity from Russia in the Baltic region. In June, Sweden summoned Russia’s ambassador after an SU-27 jet flew unusually close to a Swedish reconnaissance plane in international airspace above the Baltic Sea.

Sukhoi Su-27 Russian Aerospace Force, Air Superiority Fighter

Sweden’s coalition government recently agreed a new defence deal worth 2.7 billion kronor ($334 million) per year until 2020 with two of the centre-right opposition parties. Conscription has also been brought back to strengthen the number of troops available to the Swedish Armed Forces after recruitment drives failed to deliver results.

READ ALSO: New defence deal agreed in Sweden

Aurora 17 will cost Sweden around 580 million kronor, about twice as much as the Armed Forces usually spends on military exercises in an entire year, according to SVT. The Swedish Government argues that a worsening security policy situation in Europe means that Sweden’s defence capabilities and cooperation with other nations in the area need to be strengthened.

“Aurora is the biggest operation in 23 years where the army, air force and marines collaborate in a drill. The exercise is an important defence policy signal. It raises the threshold against different types of incidents and provides an important foundation for evaluating our military capabilities,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said in a statement.

Stridsvagn 122 bataljonen förberedd för AURORA 17

Sweden is not a member of Nato, but has strengthened ties with the alliance in recent years in the face of Russian warnings that an expanding Nato would be seen as a “threat”. The Nordic country has a Host Nation Support Agreement (HSNA) with Nato which means helicopters, aircraft and ships can be transported by members across Swedish territory upon Sweden’s invitation.

In July, US Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who is a commanding general of the US Army in Europe, singled out the importance of Gotland, saying “I do not think there is any island anywhere that is more important”.

READ ALSO: No island as important as Gotland, US military chief says

At the same time as Aurora 17 gets going, Russian and Belarusian forces are preparing to start their own major joint military exercise on September 14th. Zapad 2017 (“West 2017”) will start in Russian enclave Kaliningrad, then move to Belarus and finally into mainland Russia.



Poland’s defence chief to hold talks in Paris Today

Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz (UAWIRE)


Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz will travel to Paris today for talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly, against a backdrop of strained relations between the two countries.

The visit followed an invitation from the French defence minister, the Polish ministry said late Tuesday, adding that the two would discuss cooperation and other matters.

French and Polish officials have been trading barbs over President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to overhaul a controversial EU rule on sending workers abroad.

Poland fiercely opposes any change to the so-called Posted Workers Directive, since it would make it harder for thousands of Poles to work elsewhere in the EU.

Last week, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo accused Macron of “trying to introduce protectionism,” dismissing claims from wealthier European countries that the measure creates unfair competition on labour markets.

Poland is also facing the ire of the European Union over concerns about the country’s planned judicial reforms, which the EU says pose a “systemic threat” to the rule of law.



Informal meeting of Ministers of Defence of the European Union

Photo: LT Robert Suchy

On Thursday in Tallinn took place an informal meeting of Ministers of Defence of the European Union devoted mainly to issues related to cyber security.

The talks, which also concerned  the assumptions of the common defence policy, security on the eastern and southern flank, were also attended by representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

The EU Ministers of Defence meeting which has just ended, politically was focused on Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) – which was the most disputable part of some offensive being pursued by countries centered around France, Germany, partly Italy, but it also has skeptical observers.

Some countries, especially from Central and Eastern Europe are afraid that this initiative will lead to the creation of a two-speed Europe in the defense area. It is visible a great effort Mrs. Federica Mogherini and her associates to remove and neutralize these concerns – said Minister Macierewicz.

– The point is not to make an effort to duplicate our financial obligations within NATO so that, as part of our defence industry’s involvement, financial support will not be direct only to the largest French-German-Italian-Spanish industrial giants, but to guarantee the financing of the small or medium defence industry.

We do care  not only  to promote the southern flank, but also include the eastern flank. This is the position of Poland and it is convergent with the position of all states of Central and Eastern Europe – stressed the Head of MOD.

As noted Minister Macierewicz today’s meeting shows that the process of strengthening the integration has been continued and, unfortunately, exists a phenomenon relayed on mechanism that the greater the threats of disturbance and threats to peace, the more the Central European countries are presenting their common positions in common issues. –“ This is a good sign, because it affects the effectiveness of the action. It also influences on our biggest project – Three Seas Initiative – the most important political project that Poland needs to be continued” added the minister.

The Head of the Ministry of National Defence also referred to the decision game in which all Ministers of Defence took part during the meeting. This was the first decision game that kind and it was based on the scenario involved a cyberattack on a hypothetical EU quarter.

During a visit to Tallinn the Head of MOD met with UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

Discussions focused on increasing the participation of Polish soldiers, mainly officers, in UN missions. As Minister Macierewicz emphasized, the Polish ministry is ready to discuss about the proposals that the United Nations has offered to Poland. Under-Secretary-General was interested in our presence, among others. in Mali, South Africa, areas which are considered to be the places and sources of migration waves threatening Europe.

Minister Macierewicz also met with an Advisor to the President of the European Commission of the EU Defence Industry Mr. Mihnea Ioan Motoc, who indicated that Poland’s presence in the PESCO mechanism is crucial to the European Union. – “We have arranged for further consultations within the next month. I hope that what has been presented during the talks will be confirmed in the official EU position” – said Minister Macierewicz.


French Defense Minister in Tallinn: Zapad is ”strategy of intimidation”

French Defense Minister Florence Parly

French Defense Minister Florence Parly on Thursday condemned a major upcoming Russian military exercise Zapad 2017 on the borders of the EU and NATO as a deliberate “strategy of intimidation”.

The Zapad 2017 exercise which Russia will hold from next week in Belarus and its western exclave of Kaliningrad has caused alarm in the Baltic states and Poland and drawn criticism from the US and NATO for a lack of transparency.

Russia has said the exercises will involve about 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops and are “purely defensive” in nature — an assessment rejected by many Western observers.

Parly, speaking at a gathering of EU foreign ministers in Tallinn, said it was clear Moscow was pursuing a “deliberate, intentional” strategy of showing off its military might.

“It is particularly important in this context that we reaffirm our presence in the face of this expression and this demonstration the Russians are making which is a strategy of intimidation — we must not hide that fact,” she said.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was clear that Zapad was in fact about showing off Russian force.

“It is undisputed that we see a demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians. Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of the participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than 100,000,” she said.

To counter growing Russian assertiveness in recent years, particularly since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, NATO has stationed about 4,000 troops in the three Baltic countries and Poland.
Parly said the deployment sent a clear signal that the Baltic states and Poland were covered by the NATO alliance.

AFP – Baltic News Service.

Russia mobilizes for ZAPAD 2017. But how prepared is the Baltic Region?


A pair of Sukhoi Su-24M Heavy Strike Aircraft

The Russian practice, known as Zapad-17, seems to be the biggest exercise in the history of the Russian Federation. Ukraine’s Security Council has concluded that a total of 230,000 to 240,000 people will participate.

Western reviewers have talked about up to 100,000 participants.

Zapad-17, which starts officially on September 14th, can be described as a seizure exercise in which Russia’s ability to mobilize and go to war quickly will be practiced. The exercise takes place every four years, where the main exercises rotate between the different Russian military areas.

At the 2009 exercise, Russia was pursuing Warsaw in Poland with tactical nuclear weapons. Outside the exercise period, but the same year as Zapad-13, Russia practiced tactical nuclear weapons attacks against Sweden.

This year’s training activities are located both to neighboring Belarus and to Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Pskov and Smolensk oblast, as well as in the Baltic Sea.

Russia will also put its rail system on trial, as well as cyber-fighting units and nuclear weapons forces.

Officially, Russia is hacking up its exercises, all in order to avoid current Western inspections. According to the OSCE’s Wi-Fi document, more than 13,000 exercises have to be pre-advertised, as countries such as Sweden and Finland, as well as the NATO Alliance, have the right to send their own observers.

But this border is on the side of Russia, and takes advantage of the opportunity to test preparedness.

Emergency preparedness checks need not be pre-notified in accordance with the Wiendokument and are without obligation to invite observers. So what the paper is a little exercise, or several small ones is in fact a giant exercise that Russia keeps visitors away from.

And here’s an important difference between NATO’s open, transparent and long-term practice and Russian secret culture.

The exercise also means full mobilization in Kaliningrad, and that the reserves for the 76th airland division in Pskov have been called up.

The Russian Federation enclave of Kaliningrad.

Exercise in Russia has also been used several times to mask future military operations against other countries. During Kavkaz-08, the Russian troops remained in the field to shortly attack Georgia.
Zapad-13 was used to pinch and plan for the aggression against Ukraine, which was then carried out in 2014.

Center-15 was used as “cover up” to hide what kind of help was sent to Assad in Syria.

Last week, two Russian fighter aircraft violated Swedish airspace east of Gotland. It is based on this experience that nervousness in the West is particularly great, what really happens after the exercise? US Commander in Europe, General Ben Hodges, has been warned that Zapad may be a “Trojan horse” that places Russian soldiers and equipment in Belarus and can then be moved on.

And there are signs of increased number of provocations. Last week, two Russian fighter aircraft violated Swedish airspace east of Gotland.

Russia’s attempt to send the Kruzenstern school ship with 164 cadets on board to Mariehamn on Åland during Zapad-17 was stopped this week. Åland’s demilitarized position means that Finland is responsible for the defense of Åland without being allowed to prepare for this in peacetime.

The Russian Navy Cadet Training Ship Kruzenstern

But Finland also has the power to deny “state ships” to call at Åland. What is now used with Kruzenstern. The Finnish Chief of Staff has announced refusal, without further explanation. The most likely is Russia wanted to test Finland’s reactions with the visit, although a nightmare scenario is the ship would have been used for “green men”. “Green men” refers to masked soldiers in unmarked green army uniforms and carrying modern Russian military weapons and equipment that appeared during the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.

Åland’s demilitarized status and the legal basis of the 1921 Åland Convention and the bilateral peace agreement with the Soviet Union in 1940 (as confirmed in Paris 1947) makes the island’s vulnerability at least as great as Gotlands in the increasingly hot Baltic region.

Instead, the Russian propaganda now learns to grind additional laps of fears of terror from the event surrounding the school ship.

The official reason behind the planned schooling visit was a visit because Mariehamn wants to host Tall Ships Race 2021. Instead, the Russian propaganda now learns to grind additional laps of fears of terror from the event surrounding the school ship.

But already the week before the current visit, Åland is visited by a Swedish-Russian “peace action”. There, activists from Sweden and Russia will conduct activism during an escalating scenario. From Sweden, two environmentalist parliamentarians, Carl Schlyter and Annika Lillimets participate.

No participant from Finland is expected to have a strong reaction to being just an external influence on Åland. “Peace activists” thus help to increase the security policy tension.

Finland has also announced that it is running local defense exercises to improve government cooperation, among other things. It should also be read in plain text to be able to handle “green men”. The troops practice in Kajanaland, South Karelia, South Savolax, Southern Finland and Satakunta.

Finnish Civil Defence Exercises are underway as of 30 August 2017

The message that Finland is close to its friends was strengthened when President Niinistö visited Donald Trump in the White House on Monday evening, Swedish time. There, the US President stressed the ties to Finland and that the USA was “very protective, extremely protective” in the Baltic Sea Region.

At the same time, Trump avoided direct questions if he regards Russia as a threat, yet stressing that if threats appear “we’ll handle them.”

“We are doing everything to preserve peace in the Baltic Sea area,” said President Sauli Niinistö from the Speaker’s Court in the White House. “When I met Putin a few weeks ago, I asked about the Chinese navy practicing Russia. Putin replied that that exercise was not aimed at anyone. Then I found out that we are practicing with the United States and Sweden, and it is not aimed at anyone either. ”

Prior to Zapad’s practice, NATO has strengthened with, among other things, 600 skid hunters in the Baltics. It is not an impressive numeral but should be seen as a signal to Russia that if one finds something, one gets to fight with more Americans, and in itself it can be war-restrained.

In Sweden, Zapad partially coincides with its own defense defense exercise Aurora 17 (18-27 September), where almost half of the Swedish defense team participates in 19,000 people together with connections from Finland, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania, France and the United States.

Aurora is the largest Swedish exercise of nearly a quarter of a century and an important reconciliation in the work of getting a defense consisting of two brigades. This is comparable to the fact that the Swedish defense in 1971 had 31 brigades.

Preparations are in full swing for the Swedish Armed Forces exercise Aurora this September. All Swedish air wings will participate.

But despite the fact that the Russian exercise is expected to be closer to five times as big as the total Swedish defense and twelve times as high as Aurora-17, the Swedish debate and media reports are more dominated by various peace activists demonstration plans and questioning of Swedish practice.

One who walks in these footsteps is Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt who equals the level of provocations between the Russian offensive nuclear weapons exercise with the defense force’s defense exercise.

Some major protests against the Russian aggressive exercise, including nuclear weapons, we can not see from the peace movement in Sweden. So Gudrun Schyman, Sven Hirdman, with several teachings, continues to wear shades, earlobes and eyelashes to continue living in another reality.

And as the Ukrainian Security Council notes on its website: “Zapad-17 is another step for Russia to promote confrontation on the European continent. It requires a truly serious response from both West and Ukraine. The state leadership, Ukrainian defense and other security and detention agencies are now taking the necessary steps to protect our state. ”

The warning for autumn storms in the Baltic Sea area is thus here. There may be a lot of cold to handle both accidental and deliberate incidents.

By the way, Peter Hultqvist is the best defense minister Sweden can have in this position.

Swedish Defence minister Peter Hultqvist and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

By Patrik Oksanen, security and defense policy consultant for several of the MittMedia Group’s liberal and center party leader pages. Oksanen is a daily editor of Hudiksvalls Tidning and currently a political editor at ÖP.







UK agrees new military training programme with France


Over the next few months over 2,500 British troops will train with their French counterparts, participating in exercises spanning Eastern Europe to Kenya.

The Defence Secretary will agree the new programme of UK-French training during his first bilateral meeting with Florence Parly, the newly appointed French Minister for the Armed Forces in Paris later today.

In September, over 1,500 British soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade will be joined by troops from 11eme Brigade Parachitiste on NATO exercise Swift Response in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. Meanwhile, French troops also plan to join 1,000 UK personnel from 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment on Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya in November, training on the prevention of instability and the spread of violent extremism.

During the visit, the Defence Secretary will also praise the French troops who have been deployed to Estonia as part of the UK-led enhanced Forward Presence battalion in the country since April this year.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

The UK and France have a long enduring relationship and that will continue as the UK leaves the European Union.

We are deployed together in NATO, fighting against Daesh in Iraq and Syria and training together across the globe.

This announcement is the latest in a string of partnerships that highlight the enduring strength of the UK-French defence relationship.

Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon and French counterpart visit to Exercise Griffin Strike. Salisbury Plain. It is the biggest French/UK military exercise.
Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence talks to French soldiers after the exercise.

Earlier this year, the UK and France signed a €100million agreement to develop future long range weapons and are working together on an unmanned combat air system. And as the UK prepares for HMS Queen Elizabeth to reach operational capability in 2020, France is expected to play her part in supporting the Carrier Strike Group, as the UK did with the French carrier Charles De Gualle in the Gulf during 2015 when HMS Kent was integrated into her task group.

The UK and France also run a personnel exchange programme. Improving how we work together, there are currently over 40 personnel working in reciprocal roles across the three services.

The Defence Secretary has also announced that the RAF Red Arrows will start their European and Gulf tour in France on 15th September, Battle of Britain Day, with a flypast in Cannes.


Finnish Defence Forces to Participate in AURORA 17 in Sweden

Finnish army NH-90


All of the three services of the Finnish Defence Forces will participate in the AURORA 17 exercise organised by the Swedish Armed Forces. The exercise will be take place in areas around Stockholm, Gotland and Gothenburg and in the southern Baltic Sea 11-29 September 2017. Approximately 19,000 soldiers and other authorities from Sweden are participating in the exercise, as well as troops from Lithuania, Norway, Poland, France, Denmark, Estonia and the United States.

The Finnish Defence Forces’ total strength in the exercise is 300 persons. From the Finnish Army, the participants include a conscript infantry company in training in Pori Brigade’s Finnish Rapid Deployment Force, two NH90 transport helicopters, and staff officers. From the Finnish Navy, the participants consist of 15 staff officers from the headquarters of the Swedish-Finnish Naval Task Group. The Finnish Air Force contingent will consist of 6-8 F/A-18 multirole fighters operating from bases in Finland and Sweden.

An Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) F/A-18 Hornet

The exercise is a part of planned military cooperation between Finland and Sweden. The goal of the participation is to develop bilateral military cooperation between Finland and Sweden and to develop skills of operating in a multinational environment. Additionally, the services have their own operational goals.


Germany, France and Poland – The EU and NATO, a contradiction? or an opportunity for cooperation?


Germany is increasing it’s combat readiness in the face of increasing Russian and terrorist threats.

Germany is emerging as a major defense player in Europe. With the UK leaving the EU, Germany and France are now leading Europe’s efforts to secure the continent. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Stephen Szabo, a senior fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, about Franco-German defense coordination and Germany’s new heightened role in European defense.

The Cipher Brief: At this year’s Aspen security conference, German Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Wittig talked about how Europe can get a lot more bang for its buck if it synchronizes its defenses in support of NATO, and he also mentioned that Germany and France recently decided that common defense procurement is the way to go. Are there any concrete plans or examples of recent defense procurements between Germany and France?

Stephen Szabo: Last month, Germany and France unveiled plans to develop a European fighter jet, although they haven’t decided on joint procurement yet.

TCB: And would that be the first of this kind of agreement between these two countries?

Szabo: I’m not sure about this specific kind of Franco-German project, but the Europeans have the Eurofighter, for example. The Eurofighter aircraft began with a multinational collaboration program between France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain and was designed and manufactured by a consortium of European defense companies.

Royal Air Force Eurofighter EF.2000 Typhoon FGR.4

TCB: So is this idea not really new, but rather it’s being discussed more now because of the Trump administration and concerns over Trump’s policy toward Europe and NATO?

Szabo: Exactly. The Europeans have been talking about this for 20 years. They set up a common procurement agency, the European Defence Agency, in Brussels in 2004 to supposedly enhance European defense because of the reasons that Ambassador Wittig pointed out: they’re wasting their money on duplication of assets. So they’ve been talking about this for a long time, but it never goes very far, partly because people want to protect their own defense industries to the extent that they can, so they try to buy German or buy French, for example. And that makes it more difficult to get common procurement.

A couple years back there was a discussion about having a merger between Britain’s BAE Systems and Airbus parent EADS, but that fell apart because German Chancellor Angela Merkel basically vetoed it because she was afraid of losing jobs in Germany if they went through with this. The big player has been the UK; BAE is still the biggest player by far because they are one of the few European contractors that can do business with the U.S. and with the Pentagon.

That has hindered a joint European procurement effort because the American market is much bigger than the European market on defense. That might change a little bit if people actually start spending more on defense; but I think the problem has been that the biggest player is the UK. With Brexit, the UK’s role in European security is now questionable, which will have implications for European defense.

Another issue with the Germans is that they’re losing out on technology and technological spinoffs that come with developing your own systems. They’re way behind the U.S. in a lot of respects. The Transatlantic Academy just came out with a report, where we had an idea in there that the Germans ought to create a DARPA within the Germany defense ministry. We were trying to make the case that there is a lot of positive development and spinoffs from defense spending; it’s not a zero-sum game. You get not only technological spinoffs, but also you create jobs.

This is an old story that has not gone very far over the many years the Europeans have talked about it. Of course, there are different factors now that are new. I already mentioned Brexit. Another new factor is Russia and the shock with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And the final new factor is the election of President Donald Trump in the United States. With these three developments, the Europeans are talking more seriously now about this.

TCB: Do you think that this confluence of factors – the UK leaving the EU, Russian aggression, Trump’s election – is going to provide the necessary impetus to actually move procurement and other defense cooperation forward?

Szabo: It should, but it probably won’t. Recently, the head of the French defense forces resigned because President Macron made substantial cuts in the defense budget in France, which is of course the biggest European military player now with the UK leaving the EU. The Germans are talking about doing more, but they are so far behind in terms of equipment and capabilities that it’ll take them a decade, even if they’re serious about this. And I don’t see a lot of support for this among either leaders or publics in Europe.

After a public spat with the new president, the head of the French armed forces has resigned Credit: REUTERS/Etienne Laurent/Pool

You’re right, this is a new strategic situation. But the kinds of security issues the Europeans are looking at go beyond Russia, which is still not a direct threat to core Europe, neither Germany nor France nor Italy.

The big issue for Europe is terrorism and securing the borders. There we’re already seeing the Europeans trying to do more and reinforce their borders. In the Mediterranean, for example, they’re trying to intercept boats that carry migrants coming over from Libya.

That’s where the EU does have to play a role, because NATO is not really equipped to do that, and even though NATO has tried to do a little bit in that area, they’re not the organization for the job. So in that area, we’ll see more action, but it’s not the kind of big ticket defense spending that people talk about.

Cyber is another big area. The Germans are investing a lot more in cyber now, and the Europeans are investing a lot more in cyber capabilities as well.

TCB:How much does Germany’s history still play into its ability or inability to take more of a leading role on defense?

Szabo: If you go to a place like Poland or Estonia and ask if they’re worried about the Germans becoming a stronger military power, they will say no; they’re happy that the Germans are now becoming a more powerful defense force. In Lithuania, the Germans are part of an enhanced forward presence force that NATO put together for the Baltics. So externally, it’s not a big issue.

Inside of Germany, it’s an issue the Germans like to bring up because a substantial portion of the public does not want to spend more on defense or do more militarily; they don’t trust the military, and so they use that as one argument not to do more.

TCB:When you say “they” inside of Germany, do you mean “they” the policy-makers and people working in defense, or “they” the general population?

Szabo: Both, though there has been a slight shift in public opinion in the last two years toward a readiness for more defense spending. The polls show close to a plurality that’s wiling to at least think about more defense spending. But there’s still an awful lot of resistance to it. The Social Democratic leadership has now made this a campaign issue, claiming the increases are being made to please Trump.

TCB:The defense conversation in Europe often revolves around Germany, France, and the UK. Discounting the UK, since it’s likely soon leaving the EU, are there other countries beyond Germany and France that we should be looking at to take more of a leading role in defense?

Szabo: Absolutely. Poland is number one because of the eastern front issues. Poland is spending substantial amounts of money on defense. They want to be a defense player, but they want to do that within NATO and they don’t trust the EU on Russia and on providing security – they still rely on the U.S. for defense against Russia. This is what complicates things. The Poles would definitely be a player in this, but they want to go the NATO route rather than the EU route, and that’s a big issue.

There are other countries that can play niche roles, like the Netherlands and Spain. But of course there are different strategic perspectives with the Spanish, the Italians, and the French to some extent, looking south at the migration problem, and with the Germans, the Poles, and the Baltic states looking more east toward Russia. So that’s another problem.

The different factor here is that the Scandinavians are now much more constricted by Russia. The Swedes in particular, the Finns, to some extent the Norwegians, and the Danes are all concerned about the Baltic area now – and they see NATO as the most reliable deterrent, not the EU.

TCB:Are there any signs of closer defense cooperation between Germany and Poland either within NATO or bilaterally?

Szabo: The fact that the Germans have put this battalion in Lithuania has been welcomed by the Poles. The Germans have also been doing some exercises with NATO in Poland, so there’s been limited defense cooperation there. There is a political problem between an increasingly conservative and authoritarian Polish government and liberal democratic Germany, but I still think we should expect to see more German-Polish military cooperation – as long as the Poles think the U.S. will remain engaged with them, even as Germany increases its engagement.

TCB: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Szabo: There are certain defense issues that the EU is very equipped to deal with: counterterrorism and cooperation between intelligence agencies and police agencies within Europe and on border controls. But on Russia and broader issues, they still need the United States.

The EU, particularly Germany and France will increasingly need to rely on Poland with the UK leaving the EU, and they are still reliant on the United States and NATO for their security in the face of threats posed by Russia

Also, there’s better infrastructure at this point for defense cooperation within NATO than within the EU. You can create coalitions within NATO that are more effective than EU coalitions because they have better capabilities. You can then plug these into than the EU, which has been limited to small operations in Africa or little crisis reaction operations. NATO has been looked at as an American dominated organization, but actually the Europeans could do a lot with it if they want to.

The Author is Stephen F. Szabo

Dr. Stephen F. Szabo is currently a Senior Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and a Professorial Lecturer in European Studies at SAIS. He served as the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Academy and was Interim Dean and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and taught European Studies at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. He has published widely on European and German politics and foreign policies, including most recently, Germany, Russia and the Rise of Geo-Economics.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary’s relations with Ukraine

The Ukrainian-Russian war has prompted Bratislava, Prague and Budapest to take a new look at their eastern neighbourhood. Cooperation with Ukraine is gaining momentum, although relations with Russia are still the top priority for the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Diplomatic contacts with Kyiv have been rekindled, and the Visegrad Group has intensified its political support for Ukraine within the EU. The big success in the relationship between the V4 countries and Ukraine has been their booming energy cooperation.

However, the pro-Russian gestures made by some leading politicians from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary remain a challenge for relations between Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Kyiv. Co-operation between Budapest and Kyiv is further complicated by the dispute over the Hungarian minority in Ukraine.

Kyiv’s top priority in foreign policy has traditionally been cooperation with wealthier countries, as well as those states seen as the key players in NATO and the EU (especially the US, Germany and France).

Kyiv treats the Visegrad Group primarily as a useful forum for lobbying for Ukraine’s interests in the EU and NATO. On the other hand, it is less interested in using the V4 as a platform for strengthening regional and bilateral cooperation with the countries of Central Europe.


Jakub Groszkowski, Tadeusz Iwański, Andrzej Sadecki

Cooperation: Tomasz Dąborowski

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Royal Navy Merlins complete five-month stint aboard FS Mistral

FS Mistral, French Navy Landing Helicopter Dock Ship

A group of Royal Navy sailors and marines together with two Royal Navy Merlin Mk3 helicopters spent the past five months deployed aboard the French helicopter carrier FS Mistral during its Jeanne D’Arc mission.

FS Mistral, together with frigate FS Courbet, embarked Royal Navy personnel in March for a deployment that took the force as far east as Japan and Guam, as far south as the northern coast of Australia, with visits to Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Djibouti.

Commenting on the deployment, UK’s armed forces minister Mark Lancaster said: “From fighting Daesh in the Middle East to jointly operating in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, our enduring defence partnership with France is stronger than ever as we work together to tackle global threats.

This deployment has demonstrated the ability of our world class Royal Navy and Royal Marines to operate alongside our French allies and international partners as Britain delivers on its commitment to global maritime security.”

Merlin Mk3 of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), landing on the FS Mistral LHD Ship

Throughout the deployment, UK personnel worked closely with international partners to strengthen defence cooperation in the region. British troops participated in the first ever four-part maritime exercise involving France, Japan, the UK and US, where as part of a week-long practice assault, the two Merlins moved 330 troops from the four nations to and from the island of Tinian.

UK troops also met with the Vietnam People’s Navy in Ho Chi Minh City to compare national maritime operating procedures and exchange experiences, and during a port call to Egypt, British forces took part in a cross-decking exercise alongside French and Egyptian Armed Forces.