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  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: China hits back after NATO calls it a security challenge, dormant Chinese hacking group resumes attacks, and more.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe, North Atlantic, Beijing, Asia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka
  • Author: Douglas Barrie, Lucie béraud-Sudreau, Henry Boyd, Nick Childs, Bastain Giegerich, James Hackett, Meia Nouwens
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: In 2019, European governments’ combined defence spending, when measured in constant 2015 US dollar terms, surpassed the level reached in 2009, before the financial and economic crisis led to a series of significant defence-spending cuts. However, a different strategic paradigm – one that Europe is struggling to adjust to and which is once more a concern for European governments – has re-appeared in this past decade: great-power competition. Russia attempted to change international borders in Europe through the use of force in 2014 by annexing Crimea and continues to support an armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s challenge to Euro-Atlantic security exists in multiple dimensions: as both a conventional military and also a hybrid-warfare issue, with Russia working to dislocate existing societal alignments and disrupt political processes in Western states. The poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer (and of his daughter) in the United Kingdom, attributed by the British government to Russia, underlines further how much the character of conflict has changed. How to manage the challenge Russia poses without simply reverting to Cold War logic remains a worrying problem for governments in NATO and the European Union member states. Meanwhile, European security establishments are beginning to recognise the growing political, economic and military influence of a rising China. Although less of an immediate challenge, China’s growth in these areas has possible profound consequences in the long run. Indeed, in December 2019, NATO declared: ‘We recognise that China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.’2 For the United States, China has already become the pacing military threat. The US Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, released in June 2019, opens with the assertion that ‘the Indo-Pacific is the Department of Defense’s priority theater’. In other words, the European theatre is not. European analysts and officials have begun to wonder whether the US might begin to see Europe through an Asian lens, seeking to generate European commitments to the Indo-Pacific region, or at the very least getting Europeans to take on greater responsibility for their own security and thereby freeing up US resources. Although there will be some elements of the US military presence in Europe that are indispensable to US military action in other regions of the world, that might not be enough to sustain Washington’s firm commitment to European security in the future, regardless of who occupies the White House. Significantly, not even the US has the capability to fight two major wars simultaneously any more, meaning binary choices regarding focus are inevitable. As some observers have argued, Europeans need to urgently assess what Washington’s choices in this regard – and their implications for Europe – might look like. Considering both how to deter Russia and what a European contribution to containing China might entail represents a major challenge for Western European nations, which have relegated defence to a secondary position, as almost a discretionary activity. European states partially demobilised in the 1990s and early 2000s, intellectually and in terms of their force structures, in response to the end of the Cold War. For example, according to IISS data, in 1990 West Germany alone was thought to be able to field 215 combat battalions and the UK 94. Today it is a fraction of that. However, security challenges relating to regional instability, crisis management and transnational terrorism – which all dominated the previous two decades – have not disappeared. On the contrary, all these still demand attention and the investment of European resources. While there is a growing recognition among Europe’s analytical community, and some governments, that things cannot simply continue as before in terms of regional security and defence, coherence and resolve among core actors in the Euro-Atlantic sphere have weakened. The US administration has intensified its call for better transatlantic burden sharing, at the same time displaying a cavalier attitude to the collective-defence commitment enshrined in NATO. France’s President Emmanuel Macron has also expressed severe doubts about the viability of NATO’s collective-defence mission. In addition, the British decision to leave the European Union in 2020 implies that the EU has lost one of its most militarily experienced and one of its most capable member states. There is a tendency among many observers and some politicians to argue that European NATO and EU member states need to clarify the political dimension of their defence ambition, via-à-vis greater strategic autonomy, before resolving the problem of how to meet this ambition militarily, at what cost and in what time frame. Indeed, at times, the debate about European strategic autonomy seems to focus more on the degree of independence from the US that its various proponents would like to achieve and less on the military requirement that autonomy is meant to respond to. It is now widely accepted across Europe that Europeans need ‘to do more’ for their own security and defence. Most of the intellectual energy allocated to this aspiration is spent on achieving better coordination – and even a level of integration – among European armed forces. This is useful, but only if it is directed at building capability to provide for the defence of Europe. The existing military capabilities of the European NATO member states fall short when compared to the force requirements generated by the political–military level of ambition as defined by NATO, or for that matter the EU.5 However, this should not be an excuse to lower the level of ambition, nor should the assumption that Europeans are unable to defend themselves be declared an inevitability. Defence output is the result of political, financial and military choices by governments. To think systematically about the challenge of providing capabilities that can meet Europe’s emerging military requirements, The International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Hanns Seidel Foundation convened a group of thinkers and practitioners from Germany and the UK. The group took seriously the US assertion that Europe needs to be able to provide for its own defence. If Europeans can achieve this, they will be valuable partners to the US in upholding and strengthening the liberal international order on which Euro-Atlantic prosperity and security depend. Meeting twice in 2019, the group discussed threat assessments, debated European capability gaps and scoped potential approaches to addressing them. The following pages draw on the group’s deliberations but do not represent a consensus position.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North Atlantic, Asia, North America
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: For the past two decades the US and its allies have faced a very limited surface-to-air threat in wars in which they have engaged. This is now changing as the worsening security environment and the emergence of near-peer rivals once again raises the spectre of a strongly contested air domain. A central element of the renewed challenge is the surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. China and Russia have fielded and continue to develop SAM systems across all range categories – and to offer many of these for export – that pose a credible threat to air operations. The US, and to an even greater extent the Europeans, have reduced emphasis and expenditure on what is known as the suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) role. Counter-insurgency rather than counter-integrated air-defence operations have been the priority since the turn of the century. There is now, however, the renewed challenge of being able to carry out air operations in airspace defended by the latest generations of point-, short-, medium- and long-range SAM systems. Low-observable aircraft only offer a partial solution, particularly as the US and its allies will operate mixed fleets of stealthy and non-stealthy combat aircraft at least until around the middle of the century. The latter types of aircraft remain at greater risk from SAM threats than low-observable aircraft, and their operational utility will depend partly on the wider capacity to counter surface-based threat missile systems. SEAD is an asset-intensive capability, particularly in the early days of a conflict, and has traditionally involved dedicated platforms as well as fighter ground-attack aircraft. In SEAD operations in the 1990s, such as Operation Allied Force during the 1999 Kosovo conflict, up to one-third of strike missions were tasked against ground-based air defences. While the force mix will change as uninhabited systems are increasingly adopted in the inventory, a variety of crewed and uninhabited aircraft and associated weaponry will still be required for the task, and will be required in numbers greater than are available in current inventories if faced by a peer or near-peer threat. Collating what is known as an electronic order of battle against peer and near-peer rivals should once again become a priority, as should the capacity to counter, disable or destroy surface-to-air threat systems.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The fourth in a series analysing the ways COVID-19 is affecting stability across the world, this paper explores the impact on organised crime in the Western Balkans of the health and economic crisis brought about by the pandemic. Criminal organisations active in the Western Balkans have proved very apt at exploiting the evolution of the pandemic and related government responses to expand their activities regionally and globally. The key role played by the European Union in recent times to promote the rule of law and institutional reforms against organised crime in the region is at risk of setback given its limited economic firepower post-COVID-19 and China’s increasing influence through its economic and investment diplomacy. Law-enforcement agencies will struggle to prevent criminal groups from further infiltrating the region’s economies amid increasing budgetary constraints. Western Balkans governments should use the current challenging circumstances as an opportunity to redefine medium- and long-term priorities in their efforts against organised crime. However, for these efforts to be successful, the sustained political and operational support of other countries will be needed, given the expanding international reach of regional criminal groups.
  • Topic: Political stability, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19, Organized Crime
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Balkans
  • Author: Meia Nouwens, Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: In December 2019, for the first time, NATO leaders recognised China as a new strategic point of focus for the Alliance. This reflects growing concern among NATO members surrounding China’s geopolitical rise and its growing power-projection capabilities, as well as the impact that these may have on the global balance of power. Today, China is not only taking a central role in Indo-Pacific security affairs but is also becoming an increasingly visible security actor in Europe’s periphery. As such, the question of how to deal with an increasingly global China has been an important part of Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s NATO 2030 reflection process. China poses a wide range of challenges to NATO. Beijing sees the Alliance as a United States-centric outfit that may be used by Washington to contain China, and has therefore tried to influence individual NATO members’ decisions in order to weaken the Alliance’s unity. Close ties between China and Russia, especially in the security and military spheres, have also been a source of concern for NATO allies. Besides the Chinese and Russian navies’ joint exercises in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, there is also the potential for the two sides to further coordinate – or at least align their behaviour – on issues of relevance to the Alliance, including hybrid warfare and cyber espionage, arms-control issues, and their approach to Arctic governance, among others. China’s defence spending and military-modernisation process, along with the growing strength of its defence industry, have led to the proliferation of more advanced military platforms around the world. Beijing is also expanding its stockpile of missiles, some of which have the range to reach NATO countries. China’s military-power-projection capabilities have likewise edged towards Europe as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has expanded its international presence over the last few years. While NATO allies may have agreed that China presents a number of challenges to the Alliance’s security, they have yet to achieve consensus on how to address them. Some of these issues lie beyond NATO’s traditional areas of competence and will require expertise best provided by partners of the Alliance rather than the Alliance itself. NATO allies will need to prioritise how, when, where and with which partners to use their combined resources to deal with them. At the same time, the Alliance acknowledges that China is not its adversary. NATO thus must find areas of common interest where it can continue to cooperate with China, albeit with a more clear-eyed approach than it has done in the past. Addressing the opportunities and problems posed by China as a cohesive alliance will be more important than ever.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Hegemony
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, North Atlantic, Asia, North America
  • Author: Amanda Lapo, Bastain Giegerich, James Hackett
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The ambition to promote stability and foster peace in an increasingly volatile security environment is an established element of EU and NATO policy. There is a risk that the coronavirus pandemic will increase the demand for stabilisation measures while at the same time complicating their supply. This paper focuses on the role that military and security actors can play in supporting stabilisation efforts. The ambition to promote stability and foster peace in an increasingly volatile security environment is an established element of European Union and NATO policy. This ambition is also reflected in many of their member states’ national-level policy and strategy documents. The direction and implementation of these policies are influenced by a range of motivations including security worries, humanitarian concerns and historical ties. Stability is a challenging endeavour at the best of times, and there is a risk that the coronavirus pandemic will increase the demand for it while at the same time complicating its supply.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union, Political stability, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Europe has become a major target of China’s push to acquire advanced key technologies. These technologies support the development of dual-use products with civilian as well as military applications, a development that is in line with China’s efforts towards civil-military integration. The EU has been slow to wake up to this trend. Despite recent efforts, including those to set up a tighter investment screening mechanism, it still lacks strong coordinated regulations to protect its research and technologies. Even more importantly, the author of our newest China Global Security Tracker, MERICS researcher Helena Legarda, warns that Europe lacks a clear policy or strategy to keep up with China’s ambitions in this area. Joint European initiatives providing strategic guidance and adequate funding for innovation in dual-use technologies will be needed to not only preserve but to advance the EU’s scientific and engineering expertise. The China Global Security Tracker is a bi-annual publication as part of the China Security Project in cooperation between Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). This issue also features the Trump administration’s tightened export controls in response to China’s civil-military integration efforts, and it tracks other security developments in China in the second half of 2018, from the launch of a number of new defense systems to an increase in China’s military diplomacy activities around the world.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Science and Technology, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Ben Barry, Douglas Barrie, Lucie béraud-Sudreau, Henry Boyd, Nick Childs, Bastain Giegerich
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The study applies scenario analysis – with scenarios set in the early 2020s – to generate force requirements, and assesses the ability of NATO’s European member states to meet these requirements based on data from the IISS Military Balance Plus online database. The cost of closing the identified capability shortfalls through equipment acquisition has been estimated. The objective of the study is to enable informed policy dialogue both in Europe and in a transatlantic setting. The study explicitly does not intend to predict future conflicts nor the intentions of any of the actors involved. Neither does it wish to prescribe a certain path of action to be pursued by European NATO governments. The first scenario examined deals with the protection of the global sea lines of communication (SLOCs). In this scenario, the United States has withdrawn from NATO and has also abandoned its role of providing global maritime presence and protection, not just for its own national interest but also as an international public good. It thus falls to European countries to achieve and sustain a stable maritime-security environment in European waters and beyond, to enable the free flow of international maritime trade, and to protect global maritime infrastructure. The IISS assesses that European NATO members would have to invest between US$94 billion and US$110bn to fill the capability gaps generated by this scenario. The second scenario deals with the defence of European NATO territory against a state-level military attack. In this scenario, tensions between Russia and NATO members Lithuania and Poland escalate into war after the US has left NATO. This war results in the Russian occupation of Lithuania and some Polish territory seized by Russia. Invoking Article V, the European members of NATO direct the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to plan Operation Eastern Shield to reassure Estonia, Latvia and Poland, and other front-line NATO member states, by deterring further Russian aggression. European NATO also prepares and assembles forces for Operation Eastern Storm, a military operation to restore Polish and Lithuanian government control over their territories.
  • Topic: NATO, Military Strategy, Maritime, Free Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe
  • Author: Yvonni-Stefania Efstathiou, Connor Hannigan, Lucie béraud-Sudreau
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Between March and November 2018, the 25 participating member states launched 34 projects, with the core aim of addressing the EU’s capability shortfalls. In May 2019, a call for a third round of project proposals will be launched. The IISS undertook an early assessment of how PESCO projects are carried out, to assess whether the momentum on the ground has continued since the projects were announced at the political level. A strong pace of implementation would require detailed timelines, deadlines and financial plans, as well as clear links with EU capability requirements. Questionnaires were sent to the projects’ country leads, and were complemented by interviews and secondary-source research. We looked at various dimensions of implementation: timelines, financial commitments, stakeholder involvement and the projects’ relation to strategic autonomy. The results are mixed. While some projects are off to a strong start, there are common challenges for all
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Brussels, Central Europe, Western Europe
  • Author: Helena Legarda
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Presenting China as a 'responsible power' – Beijing releases first major defense white paper in four years
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe, Canada, Taiwan, France, North America