In the French city of Brest on January 12, this year. a meeting of EU defense and foreign ministers on security issues took place. Ministers tried to work out a concept on security policy common to all EU countries. Its main focus is on achieving greater military independence of the participating countries.
In a January 13 article, the popular German newspaper Tagesschau noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had delivered a double message to European defense ministers from the NATO-Russia Council meeting on the French Atlantic coast in Brest. The first part of Stoltenberg’s message was worded in such a way that “NATO members remain ready for dialogue with Russia.” But immediately after the first came a second message from the NATO Secretary General: “No compromise on the fundamental issue of how each country can decide for itself which way to go.”
Thus, Jens Stoltenberg does not see the possibility of any rapprochement with Russia in the position on NATO enlargement to the East. Moscow sees the threat of advancing NATO’s border to the east for decades, while NATO sees it as a realization of the right of peoples to self-determination. Nor can there be any rapprochement over the deployment of Russian troops. For Moscow, it is a perfectly normal maneuver, but for NATO, the concentration of tens of thousands of heavily armed soldiers poses a hidden risk of war against Ukraine.
As the main forces of the warring parties have slowed down the main issues, it is now advisable to try to make at least some progress. NATO intends to invite Moscow to reopen embassies that have been virtually orphaned for several months. There is also an intention to return to the practice of developing confidence-building measures. For example, with the provision of open information on planned troop movements and military exercises, as well as with the resumption of arms control practices.
The Federal Minister of Defense of Germany, Christine Lambrecht, considers such measures to be moving in the right direction. “It’s about dialogue with each other, despite existing differences, and about finding solutions.” Transparency in action and a new disarmament initiative could be “just the right way,” said the German defense minister.
Will Washington and Moscow eventually make decisions “through the heads of Europeans”? This question arose last night in Brest, on the sidelines of the talks. But NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg rejected the assumption with unusual firmness and even some irritation. Stoltenberg told the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels that “there were 30 NATO allies at the negotiating table today, and 28 of them were European allies in NATO.” They sat at the negotiating table, Stoltenberg reiterated, and discussed directly with Russia the issue that was “most important for European security.”
At the same time, there is an impression that Europeans are not at the right level when Washington and Moscow are discussing European security issues, and this impression persisted after the meeting in Brest. Due to the lack of active position and role of the EU in resolving the crisis on the border between Russia and Ukraine, the EU initiated the introduction of a training mission for officers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which will be implemented by EU forces.
Strategic compass: what are the threats?
Today, ministers will try to push forward plans to ensure greater European independence in security policy. The project is called “Strategic Compass”, and the first question is what threats are really dangerous for Europe now – risk analysis varies from the crisis in Ukraine to cyber attacks. Then we will talk about what the EU can do on its own and without the help of the Americans, in particular in the military and diplomatic spheres.
France has long demanded greater European autonomy in the implementation of security policy. French Defense Minister Francoise Parly has repeatedly said that it should take place “naturally, within NATO”. France’s reassuring statements were aimed at avoiding possible criticism from Allied partners over Paris’s one-man intentions and efforts. However, many expect France to carry out its own Paris signature under the Strategic Compass, initiated by former German Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Obviously, it is also a matter of economic interests, namely joint investment in major armaments projects and, which would be close to the ideal for Paris, more funding from the EU to create a large security zone in Europe.