The Prospects for NATO and EU Military Cooperation

Historical Background

NATO and the EU share common strategic interests. In a spirit of complementarity, both organizations consult and work together to prevent and resolve crises and armed conflicts. The decision to cooperate on security issues goes back to 24 January 2001 when the NATO Secretary General and the EU Presidency exchanged letters defining the scope of cooperation and the modalities of consultation between the two organizations. Cooperation has accelerated ever since. The “NATO-EU Declaration on ESDP”, agreed on 16 December 2002, not only reaffirmed the EU assured access to NATO’s planning capabilities for its own military operations, but also reiterated such political principles of the strategic partnership as effective mutual consultation; equality and due regard for the decision-making autonomy of the EU and NATO; respect for the interests of the EU and NATO members states; respect for the principles of the Charter of the United Nations; coherent, transparent and mutually reinforcing development of the military capability requirements common to the two organizations. Following the political decision of December 2002, the “Berlin Plus” arrangements, adopted on 17 March 2003, provide the basis for NATO-EU cooperation in crisis management by allowing EU access to NATO’s collective assets and capabilities for EU-led operations. At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, the Allies agreed on the necessity to improve the NATO-EU strategic partnership. This was reinforced by NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept which commits the Alliance to prevent crises, manage conflicts and stabilize post-conflict situations, including by working more closely with NATO’s international partners, most importantly the United Nations and its strategic partner – the EU. NATO’s Strategic Concept clearly states that an active and effective EU contributes to the overall security of the Euro-Atlantic area. Non-EU European Allies make a significant contribution to these efforts. For the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU, their fullest involvement in these efforts is essential. NATO and the EU can complement each other and mutually reinforce their roles in supporting international peace and security. The Allies are determined to make their contribution to create more favorable circumstances through which several things will be achieved. One such things is enhancing practical cooperation in operations throughout the crisis spectrum, from coordinated planning to mutual support in the field. Since the adoption of NATO’s new Strategic Concept at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, which identifies the need for the Alliance to address emerging security challenges, several new areas of cooperation with the EU are taking place, in particular energy security issues and cyber defense. In this context, NATO and EU staffs have been holding consultations in order to identify the specific areas in which the two organisations could enhance their cooperation in these fields.

Ukraine Conflict Influence

The ongoing instability in Ukraine presents a significant challenge for the EU, NATO and the new Ukrainian government itself. Russia has been following a well thought out plan, albeit a contingency plan – in November Moscow had good reason to believe that all of Ukraine would be part of its Eurasian Customs Union in return for a € 15 billion bailout. The fall of Yanukovych in February has forced it to step up its actions. Meanwhile, the EU and NATO have been outplayed by both the speed and decisiveness of the Kremlin’s actions. The EU was caught by surprise when Yanukovych reneged on the Association Agreement last November and again when he fled the country hours after signing an EU-brokered peace deal on the 21st of February. Both the EU and NATO were caught unawares by the Crimean annexation and appear to be having difficulty in responding to the continuation of that strategy in other parts of Ukraine. The sanctions policy pursued by both, with its emphasis on de-escalation and limiting the macro-economic implications has not to date proved effective in limiting Russia’s freedom of action. One area where a coherent Western response might begin to take shape is to build on the existing history of successful, if modest, security cooperation between Kyiv and the EU and NATO respectively. Although formally non-aligned since 2010, Ukraine has been an engaged partner with the West in security matters both with NATO, via Partnership for Peace which it joined in 1994, and directly with the EU in the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) formally since 2005. The origins of EU-Ukraine security cooperation are to be found in the 2004 “Big Bang” enlargement, after which the EU and Ukraine found themselves to be neighbors. The question was what shape their cooperation would take – further enlargement or something else? Ultimately, the EU appears to have opted for a different form of engagement with its new neighborhood which might best be termed integration without enlargement. From a strategic perspective, the European Security Strategy 2003 and the 2007 National Security Strategy of the Ukraine can be seen as relatively complementary albeit allowing for a slightly different ranking of the various security threats outlined. Both however agree that the 21st Century security environment demands more than the traditional model of defense based on conventional militaries facing off on a clearly defined battlefield. Therefore it’s not surprising that Ukraine has been one of the most active and integrated of the Eastern partners in CSDP missions for over a decade. In 2005, a Special Framework for Cooperation agreement between the EU and Ukraine was signed. Ukraine has been one of the most active external partners to the CSDP, including participation in the EU Police Mission in Bosnia Herzegovina (2003-2012), EUPOL Proxima in FYROM (2003- 2005), and the EU NAVFOR mission “Atalanta” aimed at tackling piracy off the Horn of Africa (2010-present). In 2011 it participated in the Greek led battlegroup HELBROC, becoming only the third non-member state to participate in such an initiative. In addition to cooperation on CSDP missions, the EU and Ukraine made some progress towards increasing interoperability between their respective militaries. The June 2013 EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council, tasked with preparing and facilitating the implementation of the Association Agreement, meeting resolved to: “encourage and facilitate direct cooperation on concrete activities…between relevant Ukrainian institutions and CFSP/CSDP institutions such as the European Defense Agency.” NATO and Ukraine have been engaged as partners for twenty years, beginning formally in 1994 when Ukraine joined the NATO initiative “Partnership for Peace.” From 1994 until 2010, Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO was oriented towards eventual membership even if in practical terms this was recognized as a distant prospect. From 2008 onwards, Ukraine-NATO cooperation took the form of an “Annual National Programme” (ANP), a mechanism previously only used for states already on course for NATO membership. However in the Ukrainian case, the ANP was begun without an agreed timetable for future membership. In 2010, Ukraine changed its strategic orientation, enshrining its “non-bloc status” in national legislation. The change in orientation had implications on both the level and purpose of cooperation between NATO. However much of the content of the ANP was retained even though the ultimate purpose – that of eventual membership – was pushed to one side. Despite the retention of this content, under Yanukovych engagement with the Action Plans under the ANP was largely formalistic and lacked any real structural or financial support. As a result, rather than undergoing structural transformation, Ukrainian military institutions and capabilities were fundamentally weakened under Yanukovych. However, despite the lack of tangible achievements on the ground, the cooperation structures between NATO and Ukraine are intact and could be built on should political will exist to do so. Five joint working groups focussing on military reform, technical defense cooperation, economic security, planning for civil emergencies and science and the environment were established. After the fall of Yanukovych, NATO has stepped up the pace of cooperation in these groups in order to provide quick and tangible assistance to Ukraine. Outside of the ANP framework, Ukraine also participates in the Strategic Airlift Interim Solutions (SALIS) Program of NATO. Ukraine has also contributed directly to ongoing NATO missions in Kosovo (KFOR) involving up to 160 personnel, in Afghanistan (ISAF) involving 30 servicemen, and in two naval missions in late 2013: Operation Active Endeavour, a counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterannean and Operation Ocean Shield, a counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. Ukraine, the EU, V4 and NATO have been engaged in defense cooperation for over 20 years, albeit with modest achievements. It is clear that when there is an alignment of political will and common interests then real progress can be made as in the case of the EU border mission in Ukraine and in Ukrainian participation in Operation Ocean Shield and, subsequently, EUNAVFOR. The benefits of cooperation go beyond the practical ones of knowledge sharing and improvements in technical skill. Both the Polish Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski and the US Airforce General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe appealed directly to the Ukrainian military to act with professionalism and restraint during the unrest in February 2014 citing the positive experiences of past cooperation. Long term cooperation creates important personal links that can be used in times of crisis. Both NATO and the EU have begun to take steps to continue and build on this history of successful, if modest, cooperation. The emphasis on practical and technical cooperation should continue but the prospects of enlargement should not be entirely off the table. NATO is already preparing for potential membership applications from Sweden and Finland, both of whom are reviewing their traditional security stances in light of Russian aggression. Both organizations also need to be aware that other governments in the region are watching nervously. The governments of Moldova, Georgia and even Belarus will draw lessons from the level of support Ukraine receives from the West. Similarly Russia may choose to expand its strategy to Transdnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and elsewhere if it succeeds in Ukraine. Some Western commentators are fearful that further expansion would provoke Russia. This is a naive position; the mere existence of neighbours with independent governments is already provocation enough. The future of defense cooperation between Ukraine, NATO, V4 and the EU is heavily dependent on the political outcome of current events. Regardless of the outcome though, the objective interests and security needs of all four actors remain. At a minimum, cooperation should continue in these areas: Border management, airlift capacity, securing shipping routes. The V4 need to speak with one voice in support of Ukraine. The current crisis brings Russian power to the doorsteps of three of the V4 states. This new reality needs to be recognized and responded to. The V4 need to advocate for a strong response to Russian violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. If the guarantee of Ukrainian territorial integrity is not enforced, Article 5 may lose at least some of its power as a deterrent. Integrating Ukrainian forces in the V4 Battlegroup is a first step in this process.



Giorgi Vachnadze YATA Georgia – Analytical Department

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed