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Defense and security of Europe: A Romanian perspective

Why is the concept of solidarity so important in our current situation in Europe? A speech from Claudiu Degeratu during the State of Europe Forum 2019 in Bucharest.

The field of security is not anymore just a part of the security experts’ business, but should be an open sector. And this is, in fact, the essence of the European message.

Security is first of all human and societal and that’s an important principle for understanding what kind of European solidarity should be built around in Europe.

During the Cold War, the Post-Second World War world order, we faced two sorts of solidarity in the kind of relations. One is the transatlantic solidarity and you know very well that this is not just related with the NATO alliance. Scholars, experts, and military leaders and politicians, they recognize that the transatlantic link is more than just a business of a military alliance. Recently, the same idea was very insistently highlighted by all the important thinkers that again, despite that Washington or other important capitals are moving around, changing their strategy, promoting another direction or pivoting towards Pacific, in fact, the transatlantic link will stay with us and it is going to remain an essential dimension of our security identity.

At the same time, we had during the Cold War, and we are now also witnessing, the development of the European solidarity. Both concepts are in a strong relation, but it’s also based on a common social, cultural demographic and economic trends. But at the same time, it’s also based on an important fact which we have to accept and to work on that. There is an asymmetry in terms of security relations between the US and the European Union. That’s an important fact. So we need the American presence in Europe because that was part not only of the European Deterrence Initiative but that was also part of the entire transatlantic dialogue. We exchange ideas but we also exchange material and military support. Especially in Eastern Europe, we very much appreciated the American presence and that was also the fact for more than 70 years in Europe. Again, it’s not just about the military dominance or military superiority of the US but it was the part of our system of protection and for Romania, we receive only two sorts of security guarantees: one is from NATO, based on article 5, and of course one from the US based on our strategic partnership. That’s a fact, and again, it’s an institutional view on the topic. 

After the Russian aggression in Ukraine, after the Crimea annexation, the EU has to adapt and to rethink the entire strategy which was mainly based on societal, economic and social perspective. We know that we have to implement now a global strategy for the European Union that is based on a consensus. We also had to discuss and to debate more about the US/European Transatlantic dialogue. And also what is more important for us is the neighbourhood policy of European Union. That was an important chapter for the last, at least, 10 years. And Romania was an active player in this area, especially in relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other areas of interest in the Black Sea region. Why? Because here we have a lot of frozen conflicts and this is a special sort of area, like Transnistria, Ossetia, Abkhazia, Donbass and so on. So, if you compare the Baltic Sea area and the Black Sea area, you will see that since 1990, Russia was involved in different sorts of wars, serious military interventions on the Black Sea, especially three wars in Chechnya, intervention in Georgia, annexation of Crimea and so on. So they were very busy on the Southern part. On the Baltic area you have a permanent military presence of Russia, but not related with intervention of other types of conventional operations. So we have to understand that Russia is more active here than in the Northern part and that also defines our profile. Romania is very concerned about the risk transposed by Russian military presence especially in Crimea. It is very close to us and very close to the NATO border. And it’s also really close to regional partners of European Union. You know very well that Russia has a special strategy for every partner nation, Ukraine, Moldova, and Caucasian countries. They benefit from this careful attention from Moscow in terms of involving in elections, and maintaining an influence via the Russian-speaking population. That’s again an effect and it’s important to forerun for further discussions on what European Union could do and what Romania could do on these areas. 

The European Union is facing some important challenges. One is to define its own security interests in Europe. If you look at yesterday’s declaration from Sibiu, you’ll see that the first commitment approved by all the heads of states is related with the indivisibility of security and the need to protect the entire European territory. This is a sort of mirror principle with the Transatlantic or Washington Treaty because in it we also had the same provision, that it doesn’t matter if you’re in the North, or South, or East, or West of the Alliance, you will be protected on the same level, you will receive the same support coming from the Article 5 principle. 

Another important area of interest for European Union is to develop this new concept which is called Strategical Autonomy. I will suggest a point of reflection here: that before Strategical Autonomy, we need this Strategic Solidarity. So it should be a comprehensive concept around Strategical Autonomy because it doesn’t mean for European Union just to have more armies, more weapons and new systems and high tech technology. It’s more about the political will and it’s about the awareness that we need to have an informed population, responsible citizens which are at least open to the idea that we have also responsibilities in protecting our society. That’s an important discussion. So Strategical Autonomy as a principle will not interfere too much with the Transatlantic Relation. That’s my evaluation. Of course, in terms of solutions, we have a lot of heated debates because we should not replicate or duplicate a lot of structures, institutions which already function in the NATO alliance. That’s a challenge because to have two armies for two alliances are very costly. It’s not economically efficient. And of course, there are some contradictions around levels of involvement. We can’t send all the entire army on mission in Africa for European Union and at the same time not to protect the Eastern border of the alliance in the Baltics, in Romania, in Poland and so on. So we need to harmonise our cooperation. For this harmonisation, we work a lot in terms of dialogue between NATO and EU. Despite the interesting declarations from time to time by President Trump and others, we try at least to develop a common ground in terms of defense and budget. We managed to have an agreement from the 2% for this effort. We also managed to answer some American expectations in terms of involvement in the Eastern flank. But at the same time, if you look at the debate between US and Germany on perspectives on cooperation on defense industry and so on, you see that there is competition, political and economic interest, so we still need to work on these issues. 

Most of this sensitive debate is related with the so called ‘Strategic Competition’ between US and China, and in the coming years we will face a lot of problems, practical and political, to organise our defense better, to accept that US is a global actor and they should fulfill their responsibilities in other areas because otherwise we cannot have quick solutions on issues like North Korea Strategic Missile systems, programs, and other rogue nations. So again, it’s not easy but I think that the European Union understood it. In all the recent strategic documents, the European Union has accepted the idea that they should work at the global level with international partners including Ukraine and United States. I will give you some ideas about the existing efforts from the European Union. It has military and civilian operations and missions but the scale is different. They are very modest, we are very modest, in comparison with US. For instance, we have six ongoing military missions and also we have ten ongoing civilian missions. All in all, the total number of personnel involved in these 16 mission are no more than 5000 people. So it is very modest if we compare with the American soldiers in Germany, for instance. That’s a part of the asymmetry around and inside of our Transatlantic link and cooperation.

But at the same time, related with our Strategical Autonomy, European Union tried to develop a Permanent Structured Cooperation on security issues. It’s called PESCO. In this new tool and this new framework, 25 nations are involved with almost 34 projects, including Romania which is involved in cyber defense, cyber security, but also in IT and in developing capabilities especially for land forces. Speaking about the NATO and European complementarity, at the real military level we agree on 74 common and complementary actions, which means 74 major projects, which we hope will make easier the relations between NATO and European Union. There are some priority areas among these 74 actions. One is the information sharing: we need to share information not only at the military level, but also we have to share information for strategic communication at the entire societal level. Another one is to coordinate the planning process, which means, for instance, to have a better security in the Mediterranean area, the Black Sea or in the North Sea. And also, to have cooperation in some special areas like cyber security, to develop a common image on the threats coming from different areas from the cyber space. There are just a few priority areas. All these 74 actions took time and money and they will need to be addressed every year. 

Speaking about Romania, we are in a classical dilemma to balance strategic relations with the US and in the same time to contribute to the Strategical Autonomy of the European Union. We managed so far very well. We are perceived a Pro-Atlantic ally, that is not a troublemaker in NATO nor in European Union. We are an honest broker in building our consensus around some areas. We also have a special position because of geography and the geostrategic position. For instance, if you take into consideration the last evolutionsin Turkey, in practical terms, Romania will become the next military logistical hub for the NATO. But Romania has also a potential to be an important logistical hub for the European Union, especially in terms of energy security. That’s another issue that I don’t want to discuss here. 

Last but not least, the European Union needs a new societal resilience concept based on the European solidarity. This is an important issue that answers all the issues described in the program of the State of Europe Forum. We cannot develop a resilient society just at a national level, we need more coordinated resources, more coordinated programs and more educational programs. And here, with this concept of societal resilience, I think that we are more connected with the theme and the topics of this conference, because we cannot rely only on our Romanian army or just specialised services and so on. We have to involve all the institutions and not just the government because its business continuity plans are just for the government. What kind of assistance we should develop for our entire population? I think it is education and some other institutions that will play a major role.

Claudiu Degeratu

Bucharest (Romania)

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