• Europe’s Flawed Reliance on Soft Power

    1 Posted by: Judy Dempsey October 30, 2014

    Over the past few weeks, the military spotlight in Europe has been on the sorry state of Germany’s armed forces, or Bundeswehr.

    German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen had commissioned an independent consortium of experts to look into the state of the Bundeswehr. In its findings, the group identified 140 problems and risks in nine major arms projects. For Europe’s biggest economy and the EU member state with the biggest number of soldiers, it was a pretty damning report.

    Yet Germany is not alone in its shortcomings.

    With few exceptions, armed forces throughout EU countries are now in such bad shape that defense experts believe the EU is sliding toward a demilitarized bloc. This shift means that European governments, as a whole, are replacing hard power with soft power. But they are deluded if they believe that soft power can be effective without hard power.

    Europeans’ reluctance to embrace hard power coincides with an arc of growing instability along Europe’s Eastern and Southern neighborhoods. That trend was apparent even before the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and Moscow’s proxy takeover of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area. Now, the instability on the EU’s doorstep can no longer be ignored.

    If European governments and EU leaders think soft power is sufficient to contain conflicts or project influence, they are mistaken. To have any impact, soft power needs the support of military hardware. Without such essential hardware—be it military air transport and logistics, intelligence, or protection for soldiers—the effect of soft power is weakened.

    Soft power is about much more than relying on diplomacy, offering development aid, or funding nongovernmental organizations. It is also about building state institutions, protecting refugees, and providing security for essential infrastructure such as energy supplies, shipping lanes, and border controls.

    Europeans are deluded if they think soft power is effective without hard power.
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    Because these tasks are increasingly taking place in conflict zones, they require the support of hard power—which means the availability of well-equipped and well-trained armed forces. Yet either Europe’s means to support these aspects of soft power are decreasing or there is a reluctance to accept that soft power needs the backing of hard power. A report earlier this year by a select committee of the UK parliament raised precisely these issues.

    Defense budgets across Europe are falling. But that is not the main reason for the gradual demilitarization of Europe’s armed forces. Nor is this trend mostly due to public opposition to more big military missions such as the operation NATO is ending in Afghanistan or the alliance’s failed mission in Libya.

    The main reason for the shift, say defense experts, is that Europe’s biggest countries are not thinking or acting strategically.

    This has immense implications for Europe’s foreign policy ambitions. Without a strong defense and security policy, Europe will be unable to project any role as a global player—or even as a soft-power player.

    Europe has been unable to provide a strong and collective response on #Ebola, #Ukraine, or #ISIS.
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    Recent events confirm this, as Europe has been unable to provide a strong and collective response to the three major crises.

    The first is the Ebola virus that is killing hundreds of people a day in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The second is the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which continues to threaten the stability of Eastern Europe. The third is the war being waged by the Islamic State across Iraq and Syria.

    In all three cases, the EU is playing no strategic or security role. Take the Ebola virus. The United States reacted by sending troops to Liberia to assist in containing the outbreak. Already, about 700 soldiers have been deployed in the country, where they are helping to build hospitals. The Pentagon reckons a total of up to 4,000 troops could be sent in the coming weeks.

    Meanwhile, British troops are building an emergency hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, while French soldiers are doing the same in neighboring Guinea. But the EU, so far, is providing no security or military assistance to help build hospitals, transport the sick, or provide essential medical evacuation flights.

    Similarly, amid the Ukraine crisis, the EU is playing no role in providing intelligence or security to its own Eastern members. Again, it is the United States and NATO that have taken the lead in boosting the defenses of Poland, the Baltic states, and Romania. The contribution of the European allies is far below expectations.

    And then there is the Islamic State. Understandably, the EU is unwilling to get involved militarily. But can’t the member states use their armed forces to protect or evacuate refugees from Iraq and Syria?

    In all three cases, Europe is almost a bystander—as if it were oblivious to the threats that confront the continent. If European governments cling to the belief that soft power is a substitute for hard power, then they will be completely unprepared to deal with any crisis once it reaches the EU itself.


  • Judy Asks: Is Europe Naive About Hard Power?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • The Right Kind of German Leadership for Europe

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, October 28, 2014 2

    Germany needs to redevelop a clear idea of where it wants the European Union to be, and it needs to start building alliances to work toward that objective.

  • Ukraine Must Seize Its Chance for a New Beginning

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, October 27, 2014 1

    In parliamentary elections on October 26, Ukrainians voted for a pro-Western course. The country’s leaders must stick to that path and not squander this opportunity again.

  • Chinese-Russian Relations Enter Cyberspace

    Posted by: Misha Glenny Friday, October 24, 2014 1

    If the Ukraine crisis continues and relations between Russia and the West deteriorate further, the implications will be grim in a number of areas, including cybersecurity.

  • Whatever Happened to the End of History?

    Posted by: Roderick Parkes Thursday, October 23, 2014 2

    Tensions in eastern Ukraine do not mark the start of a new cold war. But they may be the prelude to a global conflict that is deeper, wider, and colder still.

  • Judy Asks: Will Elections Help or Hinder Ukraine?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Four Reasons Why European Foreign Policy Sleeps

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, October 21, 2014 1

    Despite a range of challenges and threats, EU member states show little sign of developing a robust, unified foreign policy anytime soon. Four major weaknesses are to blame.

  • Can Merkel Deal With Putin’s Myths?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, October 20, 2014 2

    Vladimir Putin is perpetuating a number of illusions about Russia and Ukraine. As long as that continues, it is hard to see how relations with the West can be restored.

  • Understanding Turkey’s Take on the Islamic State

    Posted by: Marc Pierini Friday, October 17, 2014 5

    Ankara should acknowledge that political realities and threats in the Middle East are changing fast. And the West should support a change in Turkish policy.

  • Full Circle in the Middle East?

    Posted by: Richard Youngs Thursday, October 16, 2014 1

    To address the root causes of chaos and disorder in the Middle East, the EU needs to develop a two-pronged approach that focuses on both security and political reform.

  • Judy Asks: Should Europe Pay to Rebuild Gaza?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 15, 2014 2

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Notes From a Visit to Moscow

    Posted by: Ulrich Speck Tuesday, October 14, 2014 2

    The EU and Russia are increasingly at odds with each other. The two worlds are drifting farther apart.

  • The EU’s Wavering Over Russia

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, October 13, 2014 3

    By delegating its responsibility, the EU is playing an ambiguous role in the Ukraine crisis. The only country to benefit from that ambiguity will be Russia.

  • Kobanê and Beyond: Unfathomable Risks for Turkey and the Kurds

    Posted by: Marc Pierini Friday, October 10, 2014 3

    If Islamic State militants were to gain control of Syrian Kurdish areas, it would trigger a political earthquake among the Kurdish communities of Turkey and Western Europe.

  • Sanctions and the OSCE’s Mission in Ukraine

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, October 09, 2014 1

    The ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine appears to be holding. Could that be enough for the EU to ease sanctions against Russia?

  • Judy Asks: Is TTIP Really a Strategic Issue?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, October 08, 2014 1

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Welcome to the Bubble, Mrs. Mogherini

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, October 07, 2014 1

    The EU machinery suffers from a culture of nonexecutive nonchalance. That may well be the biggest stumbling block for the union’s incoming foreign policy supremo.

  • The West Is Losing Russia

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, October 06, 2014 8

    Russia is drifting away from the West, with dangerous consequences for both. Europe can salvage some of the relationship by keeping the door open to cultural and academic exchanges.

  • Parliamentary Elections Will Deepen Divisions in Ukraine

    Posted by: Gwendolyn Sasse Friday, October 03, 2014 2

    Ukraine’s forthcoming parliamentary election is essential for rebuilding the country, but its short-term effect will be to entrench existing divisions between east and west.


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