Military Mobility: Moving Mountains for Europe’s Defense

March 3rd, 2021

https://cepa.org/the-cepa-military-mobility-project-moving-mountains-for-europes-defense/

The Imperative 

In the wake of the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine NATO has placed renewed emphasis on credible deterrence and defense, strengthening its posture, enhancing its responsiveness and speed of reinforcement. However, military mobility is not simply vital for deterrence. EU civil-military crisis management also pre-supposes the rapid movement of forces across Europe and to crisis regions adjacent to the bloc’s borders. Therefore, given these strategic imperatives, both NATO and the EU must together act to improve the military mobility of military forces and resources across Europe prior to and during emergencies.  To that end, the CEPA Military Mobility Report was launched yesterday, the aim of which is essentially simple: to ensure Allied forces and resources can be moved quickly and securely during a crisis to where they are needed. Credible deterrence requires demonstrated capability and the will to use it. The prime component is speed: speed of recognition that an attack might be imminent; speed of decision to begin necessary movements and preparations; and speed of assembly to ensure sufficient combat power is in place to deter.  In the contemporary and future defense of Europe, credible deterrence will depend on military mobility that is fast enough to at least match Russian forces. 

The Report

Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) designed the Military Mobility Project to identify the conditions needed to markedly and affordably improve military mobility in Europe.  The report is built around five different scenarios which reached across Europe and beyond and which were considered at length by civilian and military practitioners and experts from the EU, NATO, industry, governments and the media. The report is also the result of a year-long, comprehensive examination of all the facets needed to accelerate military mobility.  Facets that span across the four core pillars of the report:  adapted rules, regulations and procedures for the movement of forces, resources and dangerous goods across borders; improved and strengthened transportation infrastructures; effective command, control and co-ordination; funding; bespoke special capabilities; resilience and security of movement; and robust testing through constant exercises.  The report also calls for the establishment of a 24/7 network of national points of contact, and the standing up of territorial commands by transit and host nations to facilitate smooth movements along multimodal movement corridors, all of which must be properly supported by logistic hubs. Realization of the vision at the core of the report will require a new level of NATO-EU cooperation and of personal engagement between their respective senior leaderships. The report is also just the beginning.  A first step down the road to improved military mobility.  An expert network has now been established that will help steer a campaign to convince leaders that investment in military mobility is a post-pandemic value-for-money investment in Europe’s future peace and security. It is an investment that will not only benefit Europe’s security and defense, but physically strengthen the solidarity between its peoples, and the wider Euro-Atlantic community.  Indeed, enabling Europeans to better share burdens with their North American allies is hard-wired into the DNA of this project. 

Military Mobility: Moving Mountains for Europe’s Defense 

Admiral Rob Bauer, the Chief of the Netherlands Defense Staff, and Lieutenant-General Scott Kindsvater, Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, in their support for the Military Mobility Project acknowledge the vital importance of fast and secure military mobility to credible defense and deterrence and effective crisis management. They also recognize far more needs to be done.  Unfortunately, Europe is still a long way from satisfying all the requirements accelerated military mobility will demand. European Allies have insufficient capacity and capability, there are few if any clear lines of authority, and determining clear chains of command remains a major weakness. Perhaps the biggest question that remains outstanding is why military mobility?  The answer is strikingly simple. Enhancing military mobility is not about preparing to fight a war, but to prevent one.  NATO is ultimately in the business of deterrence, and deterrence is the business of convincing Europe’s adversaries that any threat will be met quickly and decisively. 

It is time to act. It is time to move. 

Ben Hodges, Heinrich Brauss, Julian Lindley-French

Judy Asks: Is the Arctic Europe’s Next Headache?

In the latest Judy Asks, led by Alphen Group member Judy Dempsey, she asks “Is the Arctic Europe’s Next Headache?” Among the experts that have answered the question are three other Alphen Group members: Ben Hodges, Sten Rynning and Anna Wieslander. Read their answers here

The Alphen Group: V-Conference on Strategic France. 15 February 2021

The starting point was the latest, 2021, Strategic Update, by the French Armed Forces Ministry, extending out to 2030. Its analytical preamble was generally welcomed as lucid, provocative, and properly aware of the scale of overlapping and accelerating geopolitical and geo-economic challenges (“Proven Degradation of the Strategic Environment”). While nuclear deterrence would continue to render Great Power War unlikely, the threatening overall picture would require major change in transatlantic security responsibilities and the scale of defence efforts. In addition to terrorism, growing Great Power rivalries, and mutating hybrid strategies, the document usefully highlighted new competitive domains like hybrid submarine warfare, involving seabed sabotage of cables. These interlocking predictions deserved serious consideration within NATO, and in bilateral dialogues. 

But the balance and labelling of recommendations signalled potential problems. The document envisaged a leading French role in both managing a complex cooperative transatlantic strengthening of hard military capabilities-and in simultaneously “disentangling” economic and monetary, competences and technical standards and infrastructures, to increase European sovereignty and “Strategic Autonomy”. This acrobatic double role could well be contradictory. Its designated end goal was imprecise and would stimulate suspicions of inflammatory neo-Gaullism in Washington. Less toxic and more accurate terms might be “Strategic Identity” or “Strategic Responsibility”. Certainly, European NATO states needed to do more, and more coherently, but, ideally, as a stronger, more integrated pillar, with identifiable military utility, within the Alliance, rather than as an opposing pole to the US. Experience with the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) provided one promising model. For scenarios on or beyond Europe’s periphery, true autonomy was anyway impossible given dependence upon US enabling capabilities. More determination and resources across the whole span of Alliance capabilities might avoid acrimony between Washington and European capitals over disparities and labels. But it was far from clear that European allies would even develop the indispensable collective determination to generate sufficient forces for a convincing first response to crises on their own continent, and so allow the US only to provide strategic reassurance, and to divert resources elsewhere. 

With Germany distracted by prospective leadership transitions, elections, and coalitions, facing a still military-phobic electorate, and after disappointing decisions over Nordstream 2 and EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on China (CAI), Macron might indeed replace Merkel as Biden’s most important European partner. But frictions could already be predicted for this relationship. While the US would not tolerate abandoning Georgia or expecting Ukraine to give up any possibility of regaining Crimea, for France these might be worthwhile compromises to revive and maintain an ultimately indispensable European relationship with Russia. In general, electorates across the Alliance took NATO benefits for granted and noticed only bilateral disputes among allies. Geo-economics, economic statecraft, and coercion (e.g. secondary sanctions) were becoming both more globally important and more disputatious. Biden might be trusted to guarantee Europe’s security, but this was no longer viewed as an automatically bankable American response. Facing future crises, France would insist upon being able to foresee, decide and act, in conjunction with the US, if possible, and with European allies if they were willing. If not, then it might act only with the US and UK, though France found the UK a complex military partner.

At the very least, more unified threat perceptions would be a vital precondition for any new Transatlantic Bargain and the additional resources it would dictate. As one glaring example, there was still no consensus on whether China should be principally viewed as an opportunity or a threat. These cognitive and conceptual gaps need urgently to be narrowed if the Alliance is to respond to the scale and complexity of challenges outlined in the French document and comparable national assessments.

Paul Schulte, February 2021

PREMIUM TAG BLOG – The Transatlantic relationship: no business as usual

Written by Rob de Wijk

Both the US and the UK will have to deal with an EU that is rapidly turning into a geopolitical player.

“The European Union and European countries have a strategic choice to make, either to wait for the United States and the Biden administration, or to move on”.

So said France’s minister of finance and the economy Bruno Le Maire said in an interview. 

Most European governments agree with his viewpoint. This is not new. For two decades, the Trans-Atlantic gap has widened. President George W. Bush’ war against Iraq and the withdrawal from international treaties such as the Kyoto climate agreement and the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, brought him on collision course with the Europeans, especially the EU.

President Barack Obama who was initially hailed by Europe as the new messiah, pivoted to the east and withdrew troops from the continent. 

His successor, President Donald Trump, has trashed America’s relationship with Europe in every imaginable way. 

Europeans trust President Biden, but they also see America’s future as less predictable. 

This brings us to European Strategic Autonomy.

One can say of course that the US and Europe need each other against a rising China and a resurgent Russia. That could be true, but at the same time the EU has become a completely different player. 

China is seen as a strategic competitor. Russian hybrid threats are seen as the main security risk. The refugee and migration crisis made Europeans aware of the need to collectively protect their outer borders. The 750 billion Euros recovery package for dealing with the economic consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak has opened the door to Eurobonds. The result is an EU that will be a crucial geo-economic player on the capital markets, thus challenging the position of the Dollar and London.

Unsurprisingly, the debate on the vague concept of European Strategic Autonomy (ESA) is now embraced by what were staunch opponentsto the idea such as the Netherlands.

Indeed, the October 2020 Defense vision 2035 argues that the Netherlands should fully embrace ‘Europe’. For the Netherlands as one of America’s most loyal allies, this is no less than a revolution.Why this radical shift?

Brexit has been the accelerator for change. The United Kingdomstrengthened French-German leadership. The post-Brexit EU will reflect German economic preferences such as financial prudency, competitiveness and innovation. 

Regarding foreign policy and defense, France as the EU’s only nuclear power and member of the UN Security Council, will be accepted as the undisputed European leader.

And this leads logically to the lack of European capabilities.

A key problem is that military operations are difficult to execute without American support. 

The European-led Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) that was carried out in 2020 next to the American led International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) to maintain order in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz is a case in point. Due to the American decision not to support the European mission with intelligence and satellite information, mission effectiveness was limited. 

In the December 2020 issue of Survival Barry Posen asked the intriguing question whether Europe could defend itself against Russia. His answer was ‘a qualified yes’. Despite deficiencies in interoperable C3, intelligence and strategic reconnaissance I tend to agree. The main explanation is the changing nature of the threat, French nuclear deterrence and Russia’s military-technical challenge to launch an all-out attack on Europe. 

Is Europe then becoming a geopolitical player? 

Both the US and the UK will have to deal with an EU that is rapidly turning into a geopolitical player. In 2020 President Xi and Putin tried to make use of the perceived chaos in Europe, but they were confronted with a much more unified player than they expected.

In December Brussels agreed on an investment pact with China aimed at creating a level playing field on European terms. Despite Biden’s objections Brussels moved on. 

Brexit resulted in almost 2000 pages of rules and regulations that were at odds with the idea of ‘take back control’. 

Regarding defense most governments agree that Strategic Autonomy requires new initiatives. At the same time, they agree that defense against Russian hybrid tactics requires a completely different approach and that China and Russia will deny them UN Security Council mandates for interventions and peace support operations. 

Interestingly, European ideas on foreign policy and defense start to look surprisingly similar to those of the Biden administration. 

The President embraced a humble, less ambitious ‘middle-class foreign policy’ that seems to reject regime change wars and ensures that decisions are made to benefit common people. 

This, and a shared belief that China is a strategic competitor, couldbring the EU and the US closer together. This, however, does not mean that the Europeans will wait for American leadership. They will move on. 

President Biden and the US-German Special Relationship

“In the long run, the United States can only maintain its role as a global power through close cooperation with a stable, democratic, prosperous Europe capable of acting collectively. Similarly, Europe can only maintain and strengthen its collective ability when working with a transatlantic partner in place. Hence, devotion to European integration and transatlantic engagement will continue to be two sides of the same coin”.

“More Ambition, Please! Towards a New Agreement between Germany and the United States.” https://www.gmfus.org/publications/more-ambition-please-toward-new-agreement-between-germany-and-united-states

Biden, Germany and hard multilateralism

January 28th, 2021.  A new German Marshall Fund report is out that shines a light on the future of the transatlantic relationship and the coming Biden Doctrine of hard or assertive multilateralism. Full of Hanoverian and Hanseatic common sense “More Ambition, Please! Towards a New Agreement between Germany and the United States.” calls for a revitalised US-German strategic partnership (during the Cold War the US-German relationship was always vital). Whilst German/European (I am never quite sure of the German distinction) ‘ambition’ is the headline of the report it is really about the re-forging of transatlantic cohesion in the wake of the Trump administration and in a changed post-pandemic world. At the core of the report is a very serious call by very senior Germans for Germany to do far more in defence of Europe, to become a more reliable partner of the United States, and to think and act strategically rather than ‘mercantilistically’.  The central message is that given the many challenges faced by both North Americans and Europeans across a spectrum of threats from Russia, China, Iran and terrorism such challenges can only be successfully faced together.  

Ironically, by offering a roadmap for Germany to do more in a revitalised transatlantic relationship the authors also highlight the vital importance to the US of militarily-capable European allies and the urgent need for Washington to again invest in multilateralism.  Germany rightly wants the Biden administration to see international institutions much as Germans do; as far more than necessary constraints on lesser powers who do not live in America’s shining city on the hill.  The report thus implies the need for both Americans and Europeans to converge on a new policy of hard, assertive multilateralism in which adherence to the norms and values of international regimes is also guaranteed by a sufficiency of hard military democratic power. The aim?  To put a firm brake on Chinese and Russian efforts to establish Machtpolitik as their preferred method for the conduct of twenty-first century international affairs.  

The strength of this report is that it rises above German parochialism to offer strategic perspective infused with ambition by establishing fundamental strategic realities Berlin must now grip. First, Germany must be at the fore in engaging together the coming strategic challenge of China which is still only in its infancy.  Second, Germany must help lead Europe’s collective defence effort to enable it to become far more efficient and effective in the post-pandemic economy to assure Allied defence and deterrence.  Third, during an emergency in which the US is engaged world-wide Europeans, with Germans to the fore, must assure their own defence. Indeed, as the report rightly states, whilst the US affords Europeans defence ‘reinsurance’, the insurance policy itself must be European. 

NATO: the Atlanticsphere and the Eurosphere

NATO? It must be transformed, not merely adapted built around two re-modelled ‘plug and play’ pillars that transcend the increasingly diluted boundary between member and partner, EU and NATO – the Atlanticsphere and theEurosphere. The Atlanticsphere would be organised around the US with Britain, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the creed of which would be intelligence-gathering and maritime security in the North Atlantic.  The Atlanticsphere would be linked closely linked to Five Eyes, the intelligence-sharing community that involves America, Britain, Canada and Australia (ABCA) plus New Zealand, and increasingly and interestingly, Japan.  The Atlanticsphere would be centred on two power-projection navies – the United States Navy and the Royal Navy (yesterday one of Britain’s new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth became the fleet flagship).  Whilst focussed on operations in and around the North Atlantic, as its name suggests, it would also enjoy a strategic creed and culture that could enable it to operate far beyond. Britain?  In spite of current challenges London will increase its defence budget by some ten percent over the next four years with an increasingly powerful Royal Navy the main beneficiary. London’s message to Washington and other allies is thus clear: new US-EU, US-German strategic partnerships will be important but when it comes to another crisis crunch it will be good old Britain with its developing strategic raider force that will be the most able and capable. 

Biden’s ambitions for Germany will thus depend on the extent to which the Eurosphere offers the US partnership beyond words and transatlantic piety. The report is thankfully practical on this crucial issue.  Whilst the Eurospherewould necessarily be built on the Franco-German strategic partnership it would also be re-fashioned to de-conflict EU and NATO security and defence efforts.  Critically, whilst the report calls for European defence integration it does so from the perspective of a deep collective effort rather than the Nirvana of a common defence.  The report thus reflects a necessary balance between the need for a stronger Germany and Berlin’s perpetual and rightful angst over German power and its potential to destabilise Europe.  

Biden internationalism versus German mercantilism

However, President Biden and his foreign and security policy team should be under no illusions about the challenge of building such a special relationship with contemporary Germany and hold Wandel durch Handel (change through trade) has over Berlin’s foreign and security policy. The true test will be Germany’s position on the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline, a project of such strategic implications that it could rapidly create a decoupling German-Russian mutual dependency. Indeed, in anticipation of a Biden push to impose more sanctions on Putin’s Russia Chancellor Merkel said recently, “We need to talk about whether we don’t have any more trade with Russia or what level of dependency is tolerable”.  

Armin Laschet, Chancellor Merkel’s chosen successor as leader of the CDU and possible future chancellor, emphasises the scale of the challenge.  Over recent years Laschet has revealed himself at best sceptical of both the US and the UK.  His public disparaging of criticism of Russia in the wake of the 2014 invasion of Crimea and the use of Novichok by the GRU in Salisbury in 2018, revealed a strongly pro-Russian position.  This may have something to do with there being some 1200 or so companies that trade with Russia in Laschet’s fiefdom of North-Rhine-Westphalia. Herr Laschet and his ilk might also suggest that Germany already has a special trading relationship with the US and needs little more. In that case, Germany also has a ‘special relationship’ with China. After all, every second VW that rolls off the production line is made in China.  Perhaps most worryingly, a November 2020 Pew poll revealed only one in ten Germans to have a positive view of the US. 

There is also an American flip side to all of this that Germans also need to better understand: with so much to do at home and with US forces stretched thin the world over the amount of political capital the Biden White House is willing to invest in a new US-German strategic partnership may be distinctly limited. In other words, like it or not Berlin could well soon have to pay the real price of leading Europe and make a choice between a French-led ‘autonomous’ European defence and a US-guaranteed European defence.  Clearly, for Berlin a return to pre-Trump transatlantic business as usual is really not an option. 

The Biden Doctrine and European strategic responsibility

The hard truth the report reveals is that Wandel durch Handel is simply not enough anymore.  For the transatlantic security relationship to remain more than some latter day Potemkin village American soldiers must see properly equipped German forces of scale alongside them ready and willing to fight the hard yards of Europe’s future defence.  Berlin is right to reject the idea of strategic autonomy being peddled by Paris, which smacks too much of some latent Gaullist obsession with the American presence in Europe. Rather, Germans must match the hard multilateralism of the Biden administration by promoting complementary European strategic responsibility with Germany (and France) to the fore. 

A US-German Special Relationship would in no way detract from the relationship that Britain, France or any other European power has with Washington, all of which are special in their own special ways.  Indeed, in spite of the usual coterie of detractors the Special Relationship between Britain and the US is secure in its uniqueness and will continue to be so. However, as the report states, the US and Germany now have a chance with a new Administration to create a strategic partnership built on the best of both strategic and political cultures. Carpe diem!

Biden and the US-German ‘special relationship’

There are, of course, some caveats Germans must recognise. First, attempts to bully Britain will fail. Britain remains a very important military power that will be critical to the future of the Alliance and the sharing of transatlantic burdens.  This is something many Europeans simply do not want to hear right now in the wake of Brexit.  Let me be clear; Brussels, Berlin and Paris cannot have their gateau and ‘mange’ it when it comes to Britain’s role in NATO.  If current EU efforts to make post-Brexit life as hard as possible for the British continues popular support for defending Europe will plummet and Britain will retreat further behind its nuclear shield. President Biden and his German allies need to realise that danger and bring Britain with them. The Atlanticsphere and the Eurosphere must complement each other, not become alternatives.  

Second, trust must be built by investing in legitimate power.  Indeed, the future of the transatlantic relationship will rest as it always has on power and trust.  There must be sufficient power to ensure the Alliance is credible in its core mission of defence and deterrence, and sufficient trust in each other to know that when the next inevitable crisis comes Americans and Europeans not only will stand together but can stand together with the necessary military and resilient civil capacity and capability to act together.    

Third, re-assert NATO’s true purpose by re-establishing a power strut at its core.  NATO’s duty is to stop a major war in and around Europe by proving the Alliance can fight one.  The Alliance has always been built around a core relationship to keep it aloft, a bit like the central wing strut on a plane. For the early part of its existence the Anglo-American relationship provided that strut because it was built on the experience of combined operations forged during World War Two.  Indeed, NATO emerged out of such experience. With France having excluded itself by the 1970s the Federal Republic of Germany provided much of the strut, at least on the European landmass.  Now, Germany is being again called upon but to act as a just such a strut of the Alliance. However, to do so Germans will have to confront something many would prefer not to – how to fight and win a war. 

More ambition needs more action

More Ambition, Please! Towards a New Agreement between Germany and the United States is an important German statement that would have been difficult for responsible Germans to write even a decade ago.  The rest of us? We will never forget your past, Germany. How could we, yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day.  The Shoah will never be forgotten. However, most of us are also prepared to trust modern, liberal, democratic and responsible Germany with our future as long as Germany is prepared to trust itself. As L.P. Hartley wrote in 1953, “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”.

Julian Lindley-French  

The Alphen Group V-Conference: “Which China? What Carrots? What Sticks? January 12th, 2021

“Contest, confer, compete, co-operate, co-opt”.

Core message: China is both a pillar of the international trading and investment system and aggressive and increasingly militaristic seeking to coerce and dominate others.  Beijing’s aim is to change globalisation and the Western-led rules of the road which define it and thus a strategic competitor. The transatlantic relationship must be adapted to meet the particular challenge posed by China not least to ensure the US does not deal alone with egregious Chinese behaviour. Therefore, realism, reciprocity and conditionality must shape a Western China policy based on a dual track of dialogue and defence underpinned by a united front. 

The Meeting: The meeting addressed three questions: which China, what carrots and what sticks? Western policy faces two major constraints. The US sees China as an essentially geopolitical challenge, whilst much of Europe, with Germany to the fore, sees China as a mercantilist opportunity and source of post-COVID 19 economic growth. A consistent transatlantic position, let alone policy, would also require four distinct sets of actors to agree all of which have contending interests – the EU, US, the stronger European states, and the corporate sector. ‘Policy’ in such circumstances would encompass the communication to Beijing of parameters of behaviour across geopolitics, trade practices, the rules-based order and human rights the breaching of which would see the suspension of globalisation fromwhich China benefits. For such parameters to be credible the West, including Europe, must be able and willing to both relearn and apply grand strategy. 

Carrots? The Euro-Atlantic ‘West’ is no longer sufficiently powerful to convince Beijing to become a responsible stakeholder in the international rules-based order. The ‘West’ must embrace all the world’s democracies. New multilateral fora, such as the D10, are also needed to legitimise democratic action and corporate actors must be persuaded to uphold the values they espouse in their dealings with China. 

Sticks? China is fast becoming a full spectrum rival. A new transatlantic division of labour is thus needed if NATO is to act as the pivot for a transatlantic relationship which is increasingly shaped by the geopolitics of US-China, China-Russia and EU relations with all three. A close US-EU relationship will be the essential political foundation for a strong transatlantic partnership of equals.  NATO defence and deterrence will only be credible if Europeans can act as high-end military first responders in and around Europe, enabling the US to shift some assets to the Indo-Pacific.  Some US forces must remain in Europe as the ultimate guarantor of peace, but Beijing must also understand the US will always have sufficient military strength to counter China’s military ambitions wherever they are directed. 

New China-realism: The US can no longer take European support for US China policy for granted, as confirmed by the signing of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Tradeand President Xi will use trade and investment to sow divisions between the US and its European allies. However, Europeans must also be willing to hold Beijing to account for breaches of World Trade Organisation rules.  China is also highly cyber competent enablingits large scale theft of intellectual property and production data that must be actively countered on both sides of the Atlantic.  Going forward, a much better understanding is needed about the Chinese Communist Party and its strategic ambitions. Critically, adistinction also needs to be made between the CCP and wider China which is changing. In spite of the scope and nature of the challenge China poses it is not the Soviet Union reborn and the West must avoid any such historical reflex.  Equally, China is not a reliable partnerand must not be confused with one.

Julian Lindley-French

The Annual TAG Report: Elephants and Swans

Elephants and Swans

The Annual TAG Report

By

A Personal Review by Professor Dr Julian Lindley-French, Chair of The Alphen Group

15 January, 2021

 

This TAG Annual Report is my personal take on the Group’s activity in 2020 and my reflection on the outstanding analysis offered by its members over the past year. Perhaps the dominant theme in both our PREMIUM blogs and the virtual ZOOM conferences we held was the search for priorities in uncertainty and the urgent need to better understand the balance of risk faced by Americans, Canadians and Europeans. COVID-19 dominated news and lives in 2020 but the pandemic also accelerated systemic change with China possibly a clear ‘winner’ with all the profound strategic implications such a ‘victory’ would entail. However, China is not quite yet and enemy and some hope still possibly a partner. Given that the nature of the threat China poses, and indeed the opportunities it could afford COVID-19 ravaged economies remains unclear and it is that uncertainty over China that is doing as much to divide the West as any overt act of coercion by Beijing. What price are Europeans in particular willing to pay for partnership with China what price would the transatlantic relationship pay for it?  What of the West itself? During the final tumultuous months of the Trump administration some Europeans even seemed to be playing with the prospect of diminished Atlanticism with calls for European ‘strategic autonomy’ one moment offering to strengthen the transatlantic community, the next moment threatening to replace it. Implicit in all these debates was the search for a renewed sense of strategic purpose. This raised another question: will Germany ever be able to lead Europe? 

2020 was also a year of expansion for the TAG and I had the honour to welcome to our fold Professor Yves Boyer (France), General (Retd) Sir James Everard (United Kingdom), Admiral (Retd) Giampaolo di Paola (Italy), Professor Zaneta Ozolina (Latvia), General (Retd) the Lord Richards of Hurstmonceux (United Kingdom), Professor Sten Rynning (Denmark), Paul Schulte (United Kingdom) and Colin Robertson (Canada) and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow (United States). It is great to have you all on board.

Swans and elephants

During one of our virtual ZOOM conferences one TAGGER suggested that, “The real threat to NATO and its cohesion are Black Elephants; risks that are widely acknowledged and familiar (the ‘elephant in the room’) – but ignored. When the elephant can no longer be ignored it is passed off as an unpredictable surprise (a ‘black swan’) by those who were slow to address it. NATO’s biggest Black Elephant is the reluctance of its member countries to spend on defence.”  I agree.  Black Elephants are indeed a major risk to the Euro-Atlantic community and the wider security and defence of Europe. However, it is black swans which could prove the most deadly.   

Judy Dempsey in her TAG blog “Multilateralism Buckles Under Corona” spelt out the consequences of both elephants and swans. The post-1945 order was in bad shape, she said, even before the Coronavirus swept across the globe. “In the midst of the pandemic, it is barely surviving with few prospects of being revived”.  Holger Mey in his TAG blog “Dealing with Risks” offered an insight as to why. Those who were surprised by the outbreak and world-wide spread of COVID-19, Holger suggested, had either no understanding of biology or history or both.  Everything that happened was foreseeable and foreseen as well as predictable and, indeed, had been predicted. In April, another TAG v-Conference went further. “COVID-19 should have been predicted. The response to it will dominate the political and strategic agenda on both sides of Atlantic for the foreseeable future”. 

It was striking the extent to which TAGGERS also believed that the pandemic has accelerated strategic trends already in play.  The TAG believes not only that strategic competition with China will increase in 2021 but that distracted Western policymakers will remain too reactive and too slow to respond. The Group was scathing in its assessment: “The West has naively connived in its own vulnerability and must now seek a more balanced relationship with China”. The sense was that lazy assumptions about the benefits of globalisation far from promoting mutually beneficial interdependence could lead to a distinctly unhealthy form of dependence on the no longer so Middle Kingdom. And, whilst “Globalisation will not end but rather slow down a process of re-regionalisation is also likely to ensue”.////  The TAG also called for “a full and dispassionate assessment of COVID-19 crisis management”. This is because far from being a crisis of globalism, COVID 19 is rather the first global crisis of twenty-first century nationalism” and that only a properly considered “functionalist response will counter nationalism”.

Strategy, action and leadership

Germany epitomises and exemplifies the difficulties Europeans have not only in dealing with risk but also confronting it by establishing and implementing the necessary strategies. The dilemmas implicit therein also beg a further question: who is to lead?

Anna Wieslander suggested Germany should lead the way towards a truly European Pillar in NATO. Anna said that a “European pillar in NATO” is an old idea whose time has come. Rather than pursuing more confusing debates on “strategic autonomy”, “European Army” and “European Defense Union”, concepts that makes little sense to many, the 21 states that are members of both NATO and the EU should focus on defining and developing the European pillar in NATO”. However, “…the responsibility falls on Germany, who is well suited as the traditional unifier in the EU and with a defense which is mostly integrated into NATO”. 

Alexandra Schwarzkopf agreed, but had no illusions about the domestic challenges to a strengthened German leadership role. In “Making Security a “Kitchen Table Topic” in Germany” Alex was clear: “Seventy-five years after the end of World War Two, Germany is a major economic and democratic power. I think it is time for us to assume more responsibility worldwide.  And especially given our past, we should vigorously contribute to the defense of our allies and the democratic world order to which post-War Germany owes so much”. However, “To do this we need a societal debate – a kind of citizens’ forums – about German foreign and security policy as part of a broader debate about its strategic role in the world of the 21st century. The most populous and biggest economic power in the EU cannot be a bigger version of Switzerland. Germany’s “strategic beauty sleep” must end”. Most TAGGERS would echo such sentiment. Neither Europe nor Germany can be a bystander to the history that is to be made this coming decade.  

The effective management of risk pre-supposes a firm grip of such risk and the policy priorities which flow thereafter. At the core of understanding is information. Canadian TAGGER Colin Robertson highlighted the extent to which black swans and elephants are compounded by the role of fake news in sowing confusion and discord. Colin was clear: “Disinformation is a clear and present danger to liberty and representative government. Technology, especially artificial intelligence, have amplified its threat.  The liberal democracies need to get their acts together. This means investing in science, restoring civics to the curriculum, teaching critical thinking, relentlessly exposing and penalizing the sources of disinformation. Having failed the test of self-regulation, social media must be held accountable through government regulations and enforcement. Governments need to be more forthcoming with the public. Transparency is the best disinfectant for disinformation”. 

Change and strategy

Change, of course, has profound consequences for order and structure. An enduring theme throughout the 2020 was the impact of such change on institutions and their respective members and the importance of considered strategy to ease the crises of ends, ways and means from which the EU. NATO and the nations are grappling.  The TAG is first and foremost a policy network and made two formal submissions. The first was in support of the Secretary-General’s NATO Reflection Group and the second the UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. 

The TAG submission to the NATO Reflection Group did not pull its punches about the need for a new NATO Strategic Concept reflective of the need for Europeans to do far more for their own security and defence. “NATO is ultimately a European institution for the benefit of Europeans. The NATO Reflection Group can do the Alliance a great service if, like Harmel, it confronts NATO’s hard realities. If not, it is simply another exercise in political self-deception in which political cohesion is given more importance than credible defence and deterrence.  The hardest of those realities is thus: for the transatlantic relationship to continue to function, and NATO with it, Europeans will need to do far more for their own defence, and become better able to support the Americans when they so choose.  Given the investments such an outcome will entail European leaders will also need to better protect and inform their people and make both them and the critical systems that support them far more resilient in the face of Russian coercion and terrorism”.

Such firmness and clarity over strategy was also apparent in the TAG submission to the UK Integrated Review. In spite of budgetary pressures from Brexit and COVID-19 Britain must maintain its highly-skilled, high-end armed forces and seek to reinforce the security and defence of Northern Europe, the Arctic and the Eastern Atlantic. Consequently, IR 2020 must strike a balance between cost and threat and afford a vision of Britain’s future role and its defence out to 2030. However, there was also a call for innovative thinking. As the TAG stated, “The pooling of several departmental budgets could promote greater efficiency and effectiveness in pursuit of National Strategic Objectives, but only if the ends, ways and means crisis from which UK Armed Forces (UKAF) suffer is also addressed”. 

TAGGER Paul Cornish took up the theme of strategy in his TAG blog, “Tanks for the Memory”. As Paul said, “The fate of the MBT [main battle tank], and any other military capability, should be decided neither by quasi-historical projections, nor techno-fetishism, nor cost – but by strategy. Strategy is an attempt to engage with a future that is not merely uncertain, but fundamentally unknowable. But it must nevertheless be engaged with – decisions must be made in the present for the strategic posture of the future. It’s at this point that cash-conscious governments like to tell themselves (and the rest of us) that perhaps the future is less unknowable than is supposed, that they have the singular skill of peering into the future and finding, when they do, that the future is, uncannily, not too worrying and can, most conveniently, be managed on an even more limited budget or with some technological ‘fix’. Fine – but I’d prefer a MBT to a crystal ball any day”.

Coping with the unexpected

Naturally, one does not craft strategy in a vacuum and others make strategy too. The consequences of such contest are not always linear and the capacity to cope with the unexpected is the flip side of strategy and can best be summed up in one word: resilience.  

TAGGER Kate Hansen Bundt in her blog “Biden and the High North” highlighted the growing importance of China as an Arctic power. She called on President-elect Joe Biden and his team not to take their eye off the Arctic ball. China is not just challenging the US in the Deep South (of the world) and the Far East but also in the High North.  Kate reminded us of the importance of multilateralism to small Nordic powers such as her native Norway. She also reminded us of the geopolitics fast unfolding above the Arctic Circle and increasing threat posed by China’s icebreakers and Russia’s nuclear submarines in Norwegian waters, which are seven times larger than Norway’s territory.

The unexpected can also have geopolitical consequences. That was the essential message from a TAG debate on the geopolitical and defence-strategic implications of the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. In 2021 there are no small countries far away about which we (need) to know little. The brief but brutal war in Nagorno-Karabakh saw identity, religion, nationalism, geopolitics and military technology combine. As such, it merged and masked the hitherto neat policy and strategy prescriptions the West prefers between wars amongst the people and state on state conflict and suggests escalation from one to the other could be far faster than expected. In a sense the war also reminded us that strategy is far more than words of paper. It calls for far more indicators to warn us of threat, a much greater Western understanding of the nature of threat, and far quicker responses both political and military in dealing with threat. Above all, it also reinforced the vital need for the means and the ways to undertake such a response. The war also revealed the extent to which the strategic competition underway also highlights the importance of dealing with risks and thus the willingness (or not) of major powers to take risk.  

The Chinese elephant and the American swan? 

Talking of elephants China was ever-present in TAG debates during 2020.  The TAG view was that China wants a foot in all regions of importance to Beijing with Europe high on the agenda.  In many respects the fault-lines in the TAG over China reflect those within the wider West. Some TAGGERS believe the West should seek what one called “managed reciprocity via robust engagement with China” whilst others were committed to active more containment and overt strategic competition.  Put simply, TAGGERS are unsure what to do about the Chinese elephant.  However, there was broad agreement that both Americans and Europeans must now demonstrate a shared willingness to confront the hard security choices implicit in China’s rise. 

Any such engagement will require renewed and reinvigorated American leadership given, as most TAGGERS believe, the “mother of all challenges” will remain geopolitics demanding the positive engagement of the United States in international affairs. It is hoped that under President Biden the transatlantic relationship will become more predictable, be more of a partnership and thus better able to exert “shaping power” on the world beyond.  However, business as before is unlikely to be an option for Americans, Canadians or Europeans.  COVID-19 will continue to demand Allies on both sides of the Atlantic focus on domestic matters with the available political bandwidth for foreign and security policy decidedly limited. And yes, whilst the Biden administration could well be more “decent” and better aligned than the Trump administration with European values and the ideology of multilateralism, Washington will still demand Europeans do far more for their own defence. This not just because China’s rise is stretching US forces and resources thin the world over but also because America’s internal divisions will be Washington’s main preoccupation. Like European mariners of old maybe it really is time for Europe to finally set a strategic course with a new Strategic Compass. 

Perhaps the final word should go to TAGGER Stan Sloan. In his TAG blog “(Some Worrying) Transatlantic Security Options” Stan suggested, or rather implied a choice between substantial continuity, positive radical change or negative radical change.  With that in mind I am reminded of what was said of the French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who died in 2020. Cardin was always one step ahead of tomorrow. The danger is that Europe in particular is not one but two steps behind tomorrow. The task of The Alphen Group is show how all of us can quicken our strategic pace. We will need to! The first step? As one TAGGER memorably put it, “The European pillow must become the European pillar”. Amen to that!

 

Alphen, the Netherlands

January 2021

The Alphen Group V-Conference: “The Geopolitical and Defence Strategic Implications of the War in Nagorno-Karabakh” December 9th, 2020

“Peripheral conflicts are geopolitical conflicts”.

Core message: The brief but brutal war in Nagorno-Karabakh saw identity, religion, nationalism, geopolitics and military technology combine. As such, it merged and masked the hitherto neat policy and strategy prescriptions the West prefers between wars amongst the people and state on state conflict and suggests escalation from one to the other could be far faster than expected. More indicators, improved Western understanding and quicker responses, both political and military, are needed, and with it the means and ways to undertake such a response. The war revealed the ‘competition’ underway over the willingness of major powers to take risk.  

The Meeting: The meeting first considered the geopolitical implications of a war in which Azerbaijan decisively defeated Armenia. An exercise in Realpolitik, the war saw Israel support the Azeris to consolidate its position against Iran, the strengthening of Russia’s regional position, and the “strategic ambivalence” in the Russo-Turkish relationship, where Turkey’s regional influence was also strengthened, not least through the use of Turkish commandoes and Syrian mercenaries on the Azeri side.  Turkey both confirmed its importance to NATO and the challenge Ankara’s neo-Ottoman behaviour represents to Western statecraft. This not only concerns transatlantic cohesion, but also the “polluting of the Franco-German relationship” given the contending positions of Berlin and Paris.  

The strategic competition implicit in the war suggests consequences if the West fails to compete for influence in regions close to it, particularly the lack of a coherent NATO strategy for the Black Sea Region. However, before any such strategy can be properly fashioned North Americans and Europeans need to better understand such conflicts, what would be needed to effectively engage, and to what ends.  The alternative? The West simply accepts that Armenia and Azerbaijan are in Russia’s sphere of influence and that any Russia adventurism therein is simply a consequence.  Sudetenland 1938? 

Some aspects of the fighting, such as the impact of drones, and precision targeting of long-range artillery, confirmed the frequently predicted future of war.  However, Armenia’s rapid defeat was mainly due to the poor quality of its forces and equipment with the war “May 1940 conceptually” because the Azeris “out-invested” the Armenian military. The very rapid deployment of 5000 Russian peacekeepers also implies that the Kremlin was not at all surprised by the rapid defeat of their Armenian client given tensions between Moscow and Yerevan. Key lessons for NATO could be the high rate of equipment attrition from a minor military power, the danger to Allied forces from a lack of short-range air defence (SHORAD) and the need for far greater numbers of small to medium drones. 

The war took place due to a failure of mediation and peace-building. Azerbaijan won because it is oil-rich and Armenia is not and “quantity in such a war has its own quality”. Moscow did not signal to either Ankara or Tel Aviv that their support for the Azeris ran counter to any critical Russian interests. Sadly, the hatreds that spawned the war remain. Azerbaijan’s pre-planned 2020 war in and over Nagorno-Karabakh begs a further question: how can the rules-based system prevail in a world in which those with burgeoning power prefer Realpolitik and Machtpolik? 

Julian Lindley-French

Britain, Brexit and NATO 2030

By David Richards and Julian Lindley-French

“In absolute terms, the United Kingdom spent by far the most on defence (EUR 47 billion in 2016). This represents around a quarter (23.7%) of the total EU expenditure on defence (i.e. around EUR 200 billion in 2016)”.

Defence: Member-States’ Spending, European Parliament, May 2018

What could a toxic Brexit mean for NATO? One of the essential messages of the NATO Reflection Group’s (NRG) NATO 2030: United for a New Era, which has just been delivered to Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, is that there can be no transatlantic solidarity without European solidarity.  However, what is the point of European solidarity without Britain? It would be naïve in the extreme to believe the current tensions over a trade deal between the EU and Britain will not leak into other areas of policy. This could include London’s commitment to the defence of those countries perceived to be punishing the British for Brexit. 

First, Britain matters. In November, Boris Johnson announced that Britain will increase its defence expenditure by some 10% over the coming four years.  By 2024 Britain will spend some 2.12% of a $3 trillion (€3.3 trillion) economy on defence with a large part of the planned £16.5bn ($21.7bn, €17.9bn) increase spent on modernising its force posture. This compares with an average of 1.55% GDP on defence across the rest of NATO Europe.  In 2018 Britain already represented almost 25% of the entire defence investment made across the EU.  Britain’s relative defence weight has already increased with its departure from the EU and will increase further over the next four years as the British defence budget grows from the current £41.5bn ($55.7bn, €45.1bn) in 2020 to £51.7bn ($68.1bn, €56.2bn) by 2024. With Britain gone the EU 27 now spend some £160bn ($210bn, €173.7bn) which is a significant amount. However, in spite of efforts to get more ‘bang’ out of each euro-buck spent, the EU remains a woefully inefficient defence spender because of the way many of its member-states ‘invest’ in defence.  Consequently, Britain’s relative importance to the defence of Europe will increase over the coming years, the more so if the costs of the COVID-19 crisis see already constrained Continental European defence expenditure cut further. 

Second, the US must reaffirm the importance of Britain in NATO. To paraphrase Dean Acheson, Britain has lost a Union but has yet to find a role.  The Biden Administration will need Britain to be fully committed to NATO and the defence of Europe if it is to ease the burdens on the US for the defence of Europe. Therefore, the Biden administration should move quickly to co-opt Britain in the drafting of a new NATO Strategic Concept.  A new Strategic Concept would not only put Brexit in its proper strategic context, but also enable post-Brexit Britain to play a leading role in better preparing the Alliance to meet twenty-first century challenges. 

Third, Brexit could accelerate the decoupling of NATO. The US-UK Special Relationship remains the defence and intelligence foundation of the Alliance. However, the US-German strategic partnership is fast becoming the Alliance’s essential political relationship, even if Berlin like the EU still clings to the false belief it can generate geopolitical weight without concomitant hard power.  Under the guise of strategic autonomy there are also those on the Continent, most notably the French, who seemingly cling to the idea of an alternative European defence.  The consequence? Over time the Americans and British could quietly decouple from the land defence of Europe. Thankfully, Berlin is alive to the danger and has reaffirmed its commitment to Atlanticism. In a speech last month German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was clear: “The idea of strategic autonomy for Europe goes too far if it is taken to mean that we could guarantee security, stability and prosperity in Europe without NATO and without the US. That is an illusion”.  Far from fearing a closer Berlin-Washington relationship London should do all in its still considerable power to foster it. At the same time, Berlin must also recognise the importance of Britain. 

Fourth, France must decide if it is Britain’s friend or not friend.  The hard-line position Paris has adopted over Brexit threatens to cripple the ever-fractious but vital Franco-British strategic partnership. Unfortunately, NATO 2030 will only ever be realised if US and European forces can work together in the most extreme of crises. Only the British and the French enjoy the strategic culture and understanding of force upon force on which any such ‘interoperability’ will depend. This is because the Franco-British defence pact is the hard, advanced military core of NATO’s European pillar. In November 2010, Europe’s two nuclear powers signed the Lancaster House Treaty which committed London and Paris to closer security and defence co-operation.  In the wake of Brexit the treaty should ideally be updated and expanded to include Berlin, Madrid, Rome and Warsaw. Other Europeans may object, but past experience suggests it is only when Europe’s larger states agree that Europe’s defence is strengthened, and NATO with it.  However, any such progress will only be possible if France stops seeking to punish Britain for Brexit. 

Implicit in NATO 2030 is a new defence ‘architecture’ for a new NATO that transforms Europe’s defence across a complex landscape of danger which could see the Alliance facing multiple high-level threats simultaneously.  For the balance to be struck between strategy, affordability, capability and shared risk and cost implicit in the NRG’s NATO 2030report a new European force will be needed.  This NATO European Future Force will need to be sufficiently capable to act as a European First Responder in any crisis scenario, particularly so if the Americans are busy elsewhere in the world. It would need to be demonstrably capable of both deterring aggression from NATO’s east and supporting front-line Allied nations to NATO’s south.  Consequently, thus this super-coalition of NATO Europeans would need to demonstrably operate to effect across air, sea, land, cyber, space, information and knowledge. Without a Britain fully committed to the defence of Europe any such force would simply be yet another European defence pipe-dream, and NATO 2030 with it. 

Britain led the creation of NATO in 1949, it must now help lead the way to NATO 2030. However, Britain, Brexit and NATO are inseparable and must be seen as such.  Deal or no deal years of Brexit political turbulence lie ahead and it will affect the Alliance. Therefore, whatever happens in the coming weeks this a moment for cool heads in Britain and amongst fellow Europeans.  In the dangerous world of which Europe is a part Brexit is a strategic sideshow. For the sake of NATO and the future defence of Europe it is time that Allies and Partners remember precisely that.  

David Richards and Julian Lindley-French

General The Lord Richards of Herstmonceux is the former Chief of the Defence Staff of the United Kingdom. Professor Julian Lindley-French is Chair of The Alphen Group of strategy and defence experts and author of the forthcoming Oxford book, “Future War and the Defence of Europe”.

TAG PREMIUM BLOG: Biden and the High North

By Kate Hansen Bundt

Incoming U.S President Joe Biden has a lot on his plate. China is one of the big agenda items. A look at what China – and Russia – is up to in the High North is going to demand much more attention from NATO, with support from the new administration. 

“The President of the US does a lot to set the tone of global politics”, Gideon Rachman wrote in the Financial Times on November 24.

And we might add that the US President’s rhetoric and themes are followed by politically-focused eyes around the world, 24/7. 

That goes for the small states tucked in the High North of Europe as well. That was so clear to observe when President Donald Trump suggested to buy Greenland from Denmark in 2019. 

When Denmark turned his offer down, Trump called off his state visit to this small state and long-time ally. Loyalty in NATO did not seem to have any value to Trump. Nor did the kind reminder that we do not sell and buy territory in the 21st Century change his mind. 

So you can appreciate that in Scandinavia, the election of Joe Biden was met with great relief. Although we do understand that Biden’s first priority must be to handle the pandemic and a rather complex domestic agenda, we all hope for a more decent tone in international relations. 

Biden will hopefully bring back what Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference,  recently labelled the three T’s: truth, trust, and transparency. In Oslo we would also welcome at least three other changes that will influence security in our neighbourhood. 

Firstly, we need the US back at the international table. 

The Nordics are all small states highly dependent on multilateral institutions and a rule-based international order. For small states, it is essential that the great powers recognize the importance of common rules, regulations and norms that regulate behavior and contribute to conflict resolution. 

That is why we need a US that again stands up for international law, reinforces its multilateral commitments in the UN, re-enters the Paris Climate accord, the WHO and other multilateral agreements that the Trump administration left. 

On the other hand, we should acknowledge that the last four years has brought geopolitical changes that have left us Nordics and other Europeans in need of reforming our old international structures. We would welcome a Biden administration that seeks reforms together with its democratic allies globally and in Europe. 

Secondly, we need a US that will regain its leadership in NATO.  And does the Alliance need it! 

Trump has damaged the transatlantic relationship by questioning the very existence of NATO and the US security guarantee. A Biden administration must rebuild trust and credibility. That does not mean that the difficult issues facing the Alliance will disappear overnight. But we need another tone among allies in order to get involved in a real strategic debate for a NATO fit for 2030. 

On their side, the Europeans must fulfill its Wales 2014 commitments on defense spending. The fact that the 2 %-goal ironically might be easier to deliver due to Covid-19 and the shrinking economy, should not lead us into the illusion that European allies could avoid taking on more responsibility not only on future NATOs costs, but also responsibility in a world increasingly marked by great power competition. 

With Britain leaving the EU, it will be crucial to avoid an institutional competition between the EU and NATO. We need a strengthened European pillar in NATO to take greater responsibility for Europe’s “near abroad”. A Biden administration will almost certainly pivot towards Asia and focus on China.

Thirdly, in the High North, above the Arctic circle,  Biden will meet both China’s icebreakers and Russia’s nuclear submarines in Norwegian waters, which is seven times larger than the Norwegian land territory. 

While the Chinese presence is still rather small it indicates that China wants a foot in all regions of importance.

Russia has of course legitimate interests in the region but over the past few years it has continued its military modernization and increased its military activity both on land and at sea in the High North. This affects Norway.

The asymmetric relation in size and military power between Norway and a Russia stretching over 11 time zones will always make Russia a defining factor for Norwegian security. The Kola peninsula, located just across the border from Norway, continues to be home to the Russian sea-based nuclear strategic deterrent. To protect this, Russia has re-established its “bastion defence”, an anti-access strategy that presents a strategic challenge to the vital sea lines between North America and Europe, and thereby threatens the defence of Norway.  

Norway has a long tradition of maintaining a dual-track policy towards Russia. It is based on NATO-membership and firm line-drawing on one side and on the other active dialogue and cooperation where we find common interest, such as on fishery management, the environment, Coast guard, search-and-rescue and not least on people-to-people cooperation.  This contributes to stability and the risk of unintentional misunderstanding. 

But Trump’s overall unpredictability, tough rhetoric and complex relationship with the Kremlin has made it more difficult for Norway to communicate to the Trump administration the delicate balance between deterrence and assurance towards a more forward leaning Russia. 

Indeed, the Trump administration’s increased unilateral military activity combined with an element of surprise and often no warning, have according to some critical voices in the North increased tension with Russia. 

What Norway and NATO needs is to establish a predictable “new normal”, in which collective defense, preparedness and the presence of US and NATO forces in the North, are perfectly normal. They are going to need Biden’s support.