PREMIUM TAG BLOG: Multilateralism Buckles Under Corona

The post-1945 order was in bad shape before the Coronavirus swept across the globe. In the midst of the pandemic, it is barely surviving with few prospects of being revived.

By Judy Dempsey

The West’s leading countries should have risen to the challenge as soon as it became clear that the coronavirus was going to be a pandemic. But they didn’t.

One by one, the leaders and members of the multilateral institutions established after 1945 failed to think and act strategically and globally.

Whether or not globalization will return to the status quo ante once the virus is conquered – and it’s not going to be very soon according to experts – is an open question. What is not in question is the inability of multilateral institutions to perform during globalisation’s first pandemic.

Consider the United Nations and its World Health Organization arm.

The former’s role during the virus has been abysmal. The United Nations Security Council couldn’t manage to agree to discuss the pandemic. China, a permanent member of the council blocked it. The other members should have taken a tough stand by speaking up, rallying support and demanding that the UNSC adopt some policy. They didn’t. It might have helped had the United States been more supportive of the UN. But the Trump administration has had only disdain for it. Since January, the UNSC has been toothless.

So has the WHO. Its leadership was irresponsibly cautious. Chinese pressure played a big role. The longer the WHO prevaricated, the more countries delayed in making preparations to deal with the infected. So much for that multilateral institution.

President Donald Trump has had few kind words to say about the WHO’s performance. His administration decided to withhold funding for it. Other western countries were mealy-mouthed about the WHO’s handling of the pandemic. But because several European countries are now so critical of Trump’s policies, they chose not to openly criticize the WHO. This is a pity. The organization – indeed the entire United Nations – is in desperate need of reform. The Europeans and other countries should have spoken out.

As for the World Trade Organization, that’s been on the death bed for some time. Again, the Trump administration has been far from helpful in trying to reform it while China has blocked all efforts at reform. The Europeans and Japan have repeatedly come up with proposals. But because all these multilateral organizations work by consensus, the WTO has become almost paralyzed. When it comes to trade issues – and this is such a major casualty of the coronavirus – it might as well have not existed.

The Group of 7 industrialised countries, when they recently virtually met, it lead to naught. Yes, Trump doesn’t have much time for G7 or the bigger G20 – but that doesn’t mean major, rich countries cannot be much more vocal about what is happening to the dismantling of the post-1945 world order.

The list goes on.

Just consider NATO. It pats itself on the back when member states air lift medical supplies to allies. But what has NATO been doing in terms of resilience, which was until recently the buzz-word of the Alliance and the European Union?

The alliance is not only highly vulnerable in terms of the functioning of its energy grids, transportation networks, the protection of health facilities and airports. The Alliance’s ability to fend off any attack from either Russia and China can almost be written off.

NATO still cannot move seamlessly across Europe to defend its eastern borders. The bridges and airports and railways are not equipped to allow this. In addition, this multilateral institution that is supposed to cooperate with the EU in terms of having a “NATO Schengen” that would allow troops and equipment to pass unhindered across Europe has not yet materialised.

As for China’s increasing presence in Europe, in ports, in establishing logistics centers, in using several countries for investment which is never far away from intelligence gathering, NATO is sleepwalking through these developments. Airlifts of medical supplies are no substitute for strategy and foresight.

Now to the EU. It has learned so little from previous crises. Yes, belatedly, the EU Commission is doling out billions of Euros for the health infrastructures. Don’t even think about how these funds will be monitored and used. But politically and strategically, the EU leadership has been disappointing while the member states have gone their own way. Health is the prerogative of the member states, not the Commission. But the EU could have – and still can – make a difference if there is the minimum of political will and leadership.

Briefly, here’s how. The EU cannot go it alone, even if it wanted to.

The first thing it should to is to get its friends on board – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, individual states of the United States. Several African countries have to be included as well. And reach out to Latin America. Hold a virtual summit with a tight agenda and a moderator that knows how to moderate. The agenda is about rebuilding multilateralism.

Second, blabbering elites are not needed. What is needed are experts: scientists, philanthropists, musicians, pedagogues, humanists, environmentalists.

Third, this is about the future of a world order that will either descend into a free for all or emerge with a set of values that will promote trust. China, Russia and other authoritarian countries have to made choices as well. That’s another blog. What’s important now is redefining the West. And soonest

PREMIUM TAG BLOG: Germany should lead the way towards NATO’s New European Pillar

The Alliance should use the reflection process to develop a new European pillar in NATO, in order to re-calibrate the relative weight of European and American commitments to the Alliance, both in terms of resources and decision making.

By Anna Wieslander

The new NATO European Defense Pillar

On March 31, in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, NATO appointed an expert group to support Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the “reflection process” which was decided upon at the London summit in December. The initiative, aimed at strengthening NATO’s political role, came after French president Emmanuel Macron’s November 2019 declaration that the Alliance was “brain dead” due to a lack of consultations ahead of the American troop withdrawal from Syria. 

Although the “reflection process” is a limited response to the overall transatlantic drift of the past years, it could nevertheless be used to push for greater Alliance unity and better burden sharing, and improved power sharing. Specifically, the Alliance should use the reflection process to develop a European pillar in NATO, in order to re-calibrate the relative weight of European and American commitments to the Alliance, both in terms of resources and decision making. 

Coined by the Kennedy administration in 1961, a “European pillar in NATO” is an old idea whose time finally has come. Rather than pursuing impossibly complex and divisive debates on “strategic autonomy”, a “European Army”, and a “European Defense Union”, concepts that makes little sense to many, the twenty-one EU and NATO states should focus on defining and developing such a pillar. 

Matching Ambition to Resources

Since Brexit was announced in June 2016, France and Germany have prioritized deeper European defense cooperation as an essential European integration project. A deteriorating transatlantic relationship during the Trump presidency has further spurred a European belief that Europe needs to “take its destiny in its own hands”, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it. A third driving force is the growing global great power competition and the need for the EU to play a role in a world of growing geo-political threats in which at present it lacks both the means and the influence.

In the face of the European demarche the Americans have adopted a traditional and yet somewhat schizophrenic stance, calling on one hand for increased burden-sharing and European defense spending, while on the other questioning European intentions. “Show me the money!” a Pentagon official commented after French President Emmanuel Macron´s speech on the need for more “European independence” at February’s Munich Security Conference. 

Given the latest news that the EU´s long term budget for security and defense will face a drastic reduction compared with the initial suggestions, the Americans have a valid point. The flagship project of military mobility, is illustrative in this regard. As vital as it is for the reinforcement of the Eastern flank, the budget has disintegrated from €6.5 bn in the initial Commission proposal, to €0 in the current EU technical proposal.

With brutal reality replacing dreamy rhetoric on EU defense ambitions, focus needs to shift from enhancing EU autonomy and independence, toward a European pillar of real strategic substance in NATO. Such realism would provide a practical and much-needed way forward and leverage efficiently the political will to strengthen Europe´s security contributions within a preserved and adapted transatlantic community.

Power, History and Germany

Throughout NATO’s history, there have been times when Europeans have come together to carve out a distinct identity within the Alliance and better combine and co-ordinate their defense effortd. Some landmarks have been achieved in the NATO-EU relationship, such as the Harmel Report of 1967, the birth of a European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP); the so called Berlin plus arrangements between NATO and the EU, that enables the EU to request NATO to make available assets and capabilities for EU-led crisis management operations.  Of late, the NATO-EU Strategic Partnership has developed practical co-operation in strengthening resiliency and countering hybrid threats. 

Recently, both German´s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French President Emmanuel Macron have referred to a “European pillar in NATO”, without making specific proposals.  Therefore, it is high time for clarity. Specifically, a formal process should be initiated and led by a major European state.  With Brexit, UK has lost the necessary link to ESDP to take on such a role. France is by tradition the reluctant NATO ally, with its long-established quest for greater European independence from the Alliance, and as such is unlikely to foster the necessary consensus. 

Leadership and Partnership

The responsibility must fall to Germany.  As the traditional unifier in the EU and with its defense deeply integrated within NATO, Berlin is the natural leader, even if it has hitherto lacked the requisite political energy and tradition to lead on defense issues. Consequently, Germany will need some help from its friends. Several European states, including the Nordics, the Baltics and the Central and Eastern states, are ready to support Germany in articulating a clear vision and way forward for the new European pillar of NATO. 

The shift of emphasis, from autonomy in the EU context, to strengthened European capabilities in the NATO context, would critically fit with what a majority of European states view as realistic and desirable security arrangements. Finally, the new NATO European pillar would also afford the Alliance a far more constructive platform for Europe to work with the U.S., and better enable NATO to meet the challenges of the Twenty-First Century. 

Anna Wieslander is Director for Northern Europe at the Atlantic Council and Secretary General of the Swedish Defense Association. 

PREMIUM TAG BLOG: Making Security a “Kitchen Table Topic” in Germany

Its about engaging the public which has been excluded from foreign and security issues too long dominated by the elites.

By Dr Alexandra Schwarzkopf

Seventy-five years after the end of World War Two, Germany is a major economic and democratic power. I think  it’s 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.

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.

Until now, both foreign policy, and even more so defense policy, have not been of particular interest to a large part of the German population. This is even true when German soldiers are deployed to a conflict zone. One can say this has never really been different. And besides, the average citizen has enough to do with family and work. 

Nevertheless, just because it has never really been different, it does not mean that it must always remain that way.  Take the enormous growth of the global climate change movement. Whatever one may think about it, it demonstrates that large parts of the population, and not only young people, do have time to deal with a complex topic which goes beyond their day-to-day challenges because they believe it affects their life.

So how can foreign-and-security policy become a “kitchen table topic” like the climate change topic has become?

In a number of ways. The first is communicating to citizens 

the importance of foreign policy and security matters to their personal situation. Once they really think about it, most citizens would probably not question that protecting one’s borders, trade routes and communication systems is crucial for their continuous prosperity and political stability.

That is why politicians of all parties, as well as experts and members of the Bundeswehr (armed forces), should go on the public offensive and make the population aware about foreign policy and security issues and their effects on the individual citizen. 

This could be done by meeting in town halls and other public places and not just confining them foundations and think-tank premises. And don’t forget about going to schools, colleges and universities. 

Also, larger numbers of professors and students should be included in security and foreign policy conferences such as the MSC. In other words, don’t have security and foreign issues dominated by the elites. The media has a super important role to play as well.

Secondly, to be become a real “kitchen table” the topic has to be framed in a more positive way. Its not only about focusing on threats. Its about trying to explain how foreign and security policy actually can resolve conflicts. If peace and security as an outcome of a successful foreign and security policy is more emphasized, maybe more Germans will be willing – despite our past – to accept military strength as one necessary pillar of security policy.

So once the debate on foreign policy and security issues is associated with safeguarding people’s physical and economic security, defending allied states and preventing genocides, security policy just might have the real potential to become a topic average citizens want to talk about at their “kitchen table”.

Finally, and this cannot be stressed enough, citizens must be confident that once they get involved in these debates, their voice will be heard. If that is the case then unsettling and upsetting developments in foreign policy, higher defense expenditures or soldiers’ casualties might not cause them to turn their back on the topic and say “I don’t want to hear about it”.

Instead, there could be the realistic chance that citizens will “want to hear more about it”, and become active participants in the debate on foreign-and-security policy. It might even lead to a broader debate on Germany’s strategic role in the 21st century.

PREMIUM TAG BLOG: (Some Worrying) Future Transatlantic Security Options*

The current collision between history and disruptive forces of change poses a huge challenge to the United States, Canada and the European democracies. Those of us who believe in liberal democracy and the transatlantic alliance must take the steps necessary to ensure their future.

By Stanley R. Sloan

As 2020 hits the ground with many bangs, those of us working on transatlantic relations face questions about near-term US-European security futures.

There is little mystery about the threats and challenges facing NATO and EU members. They include Russian intrusions, radical Islamist terrorism, and creeping Chinese intervention, adding to the internal challengeof illiberal politics undermining liberal democracy. So against this backdrop, let’s consider first some future scenarios.

I suggest three broad possibilities for the future of the transatlantic alliance: substantial continuity, radical positive change and radical negative change

First, substantial continuity. In this potential future, very little changes the trend lines that have been laid down by history.  

The United States remains committed to participate in the defense of Europe, to deploy substantial numbers of troops in Europe, and to retain military leadership of NATO with a senior American general serving as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander.  

Also in this scenario, a post-Trump administration triesto repair damage done to US leadership of the alliance, without abandoning US burdensharing concerns.  

All current allies remain in the alliance, despite some wavering (Turkey) and others experimenting with forms of democracy that do not conform to liberal democratic values.

With the United Kingdom having abandoned EU membership, the EU continues, with some modest successes, its attempts to give the Union a more substantial integrated military capacity.  

The UK makes cooperative military arrangements with former EU partners while seeking a continued “special relationship,” including intelligence sharing, with the United States.  

In this potential future, several allies spend around 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024 as agreed at the 2014 Wales summit, while others fall short.  

Second: radical positive change.

In this future, the goal of a more balanced transatlantic relationship comes more clearly into view.  The United States remains committed to the alliance while supporting European efforts to take on more burdens and responsibilities in the alliance.  

The members of the EU make substantial advances in coordinating and even selectively integrating their defense establishments.  

A true European army controlled by a politically united Europe remains out of reach. But all EU members increasingly sacrifice bits of their national control in a variety of pragmatic cooperative arrangements.  

The UK, despite its departure from the EU, commits to thorough defense cooperation with EU members, while remaining fully committed to NATO.  

Increased European defense spending is accompanied by the revitalization of the European defense industry, with multinational firms and co-production arrangements setting up a healthy competition across the Atlantic. At the same time, the US-European competition for sales is moderated by better transatlantic defense industrial cooperation.  

The stronger European contribution to defense is acknowledged with alternating European and American Supreme Allied Commanders of NATO as a transition to a possible future in which Europeans routinely hold this post.  

The role of Secretary General also alternates between prominent European and North American political leaders.

Third: radical negative change

This scenario presents a much darker future.  

The United States essentially abandons its transatlantic commitments and leadership roles.  The European allies fall into disputes about how to maintain their security and provide new leadership.  

Such a scenario could begin with the reelection of Donald Trump.  

In this hypothetical scenario, the United Statescontinues the process of abandoning its international leadership and decides to remove all US forces from Europe. Trump tweets that he and Vladimir Putin have agreed that such a move would promote peace and security in Europe.  

In response, European allies discuss creating strong, integrated European defense structures to replace the transatlantic NATO one.  But they find it too challenging politically and financially.  

Even the overwhelming cost estimate projected in 2019 by the IISS for the EU members to create a defense system as capable as that of NATO turns out to be overly optimistic.  

Several member countries suggest that the EU should follow the US lead and sign a peaceful relations/nonaggression accord with Russia.

While some commentators immediately label this “the 21st century Munich,” most European governments decide they have little choice.  

In addition, this accommodation with Russia strengthens illiberal pro-Moscow parties throughout Europe.  That leads to the election of several national administrations that lean toward fascist forms of governance and away from liberal democracy.  Adieu NATO. Adieu the West as we know it. Russia will have achieved its long-term goal of destroying the transatlantic alliance, with connivance and weakness by European governments.

The future

With all its imperfections, the current transatlantic security system, with its twin institutional pillars of NATO and the EU, makes a strong case for preservation, even if it requires reform.  

Those who argue for abandoning this arrangement bear the burden of proving that they have a better idea.

The current collision between history and disruptive forces of change poses a huge challenge to the United States, Canada and the European democracies. Those of us who believe in liberal democracy and the transatlantic alliance must take the steps necessary to ensure their future. Choices at transatlantic ballot boxes will influence which future we choose.  They had better be informed choices…

*This brief is based on the draft text the author prepared for a presentation in Copenhagen in December 2019 whose presentation was vetoed by the US Embassy, which was a cosponsor of the conference.

A New Defense Posture for Europe: Minimum defense, Maximum deterrence

By Rob de Wijk

European NATO and EU member states need to develop a Strategic Autonomy doctrine based on a Common European defense and Security Policy.

President Trump has repeatedly accused the Europeans for not doing enough for their own defense and has threatened to withdraw America’s commitment to the defense of Europe.

But how strong is this commitment in practice?  In reality, America’s vital interests are threatened in Asia, not in Europe. For this reason former President Barak Obama already announced a strategic pivot to Asia in 2011. Due to global power shifts, America’s strategic orientation to the East is likely to be permanent and unrelated to Trump. However, due to his unpredictability and erratic behavior, Trump inflicts irreparable damage to the credibility of America’s security commitment. For all those reasons, America’s security guarantees to Europe are weak at best.

Take the 4,500 troops of the NATO multinational battle groups reinforced by British, French, Polish forces and American deployments under the European Deterrence Initiative and Operation Atlantic Resolve. They are still no match for the 400,000 troops of the Russian Western Military District. Of rhat number, 65.000 are deployed in close proximity of the Baltic States.

The key issue is that troop movements have become increasingly vulnerable. Due to advances in military technology, Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs), harbors, airfields and propositioned stocks have become more vulnerable.

Then there is the abandonment of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, has triggered the development of new Russian weapons systems for the European theater, making matters even worse for Europe’s security.

 Furthermore, the EU-concept of Military Mobility is unlikely to solve the problem of rapid reinforcement. It is easy to abolish bureaucratic border-crossing obstacles on paper, but it is highly unlikely that Europe’s infrastructure –roads, bridges and rails – can cope with tanks, artillery pieces and other heavy equipment. Bridges might collapse, flatcars might not be available and European nations are unlikely to make the necessary investments any time soon.

Finally, for reasons of crisis stability, moving reinforcements on the continent from west to east could be extremely dangerous. In times of crisis, Russia might believe that an attack is imminent and might respond with a preemptive attack. The issue of reinforcements necessitates fundamental rethinking of the requirements of European security.

What is the solution? As force-on-force confrontations in Europe will completely destroy parts of the continent, a Cold War approach focusing on achieving the right ‘correlation of forces’ is meaningless. What is needed is a min-max posture.

Europe must bring its defense posture in line with strategic realities. I propose a collective defense posture of minimal defense and maximal deterrence. This posture requires European NATO and EU member states to develop a Strategic Autonomy doctrine based on a Common European defense and Security Policy and to define America’s role in Europe’s defense.

Collective defense could be based on the following premises:

  • Abandon the idea of transatlantic reinforcements in times of crisis and the certainty of America’s security assurances.
  • Abandon the notion of traditional force-on-force wars in Europe and rely on a limited number of ‘trip wire’ land forces and a small back up of reinforcements and air power for defensive purposes. Those forces should be non-threatening, enhance crisis stability and underscore the message that failure of deterrence will have grave consequences.
  • Revitalize the OSCE crisis mechanisms, e.g. the mechanism for risk reduction, early warning and the peaceful settlement of disputes. This should be complemented with a successor to the 1990 Charter of Paris, including recognition of spheres of influence.
  • Enhance resilience of the populace en homeland defense to counter hybrid threats, such as information operations.
  • If deterrence fails, Europe should rely on offensive cyber capabilities and delivery systems with conventional and nuclear warheads that can penetrate Russian Anti Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities. This requires reliance on French and British nuclear weapons and probably the development of a ‘European nuclear bomb’.

The land, air and sea component can be implemented right now, but requires additional investment in hardened Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. But relying solely on minimal defense forces without credible deterrence and the political will to use nuclear weapons if conflict termination fails is highly dangerous and an outright invitation of aggression.

For non-Article 5 operations coercion remains important. This could require:

  • A new concept of coercive diplomacy that relies on non-military offensive capabilities, including cyber warfare, information campaigns, destabilization operations and sanctions.
  • Ground forces for stabilization missions and the defense of vital interests outside the NATO area.
  • Strong naval forces for defense of trade routes and limited SLOC protection.

If spend wisely, the present collective European defense budget of US$264 billion should be enough to safeguard Europe’s security. As a matter of fact, this also includes the funds for stabilization missions as well as capabilities for small-scale operations in distant theaters to defend Europe’s vital interests or support America.

Rob de Wijk

War Clouds On The Horizon

By Paul Cornish

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI – informally known as ‘War Cloud’) is the US Department of Defense’s programme to enable US armed forces to operate and to prevail in the information age. The future of the programme is now in question just as ISISis going global and going digital.Without JEDI the US will be at a disadvantage. The West will lack the coherence needed for an integrated strategic information network.

The DoD’s December 2018 Cloud Strategy describes JEDI as “a commercial General Purpose enterprise-wide cloud solution” that will “ensure information superiority through data aggregation and analysis,” provide “centralized computing to tactical edge computing for the warfighter” and ‘enable emerging technologies such as AI’.

Under a contract worth US$10 billion over ten years, JEDI will effectively be a cloud service provider responsible for hosting, processing and distributing mission-critical, operational and intelligence material (ranging from unclassified to highly classified) to US armed forces around the world.

The Pentagon had hoped to award the JEDI contract by August 2019 but the process met delays. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are competing for it. Oracle and IBM were ruled out of the competition in April 2019, although Oracle then mounted a legal challenge in the Court of Federal Claims to remain in the race.

Oracle protested the legality of the Pentagon’s insistence on a single vendor and, more specifically, that they were effectively (and unfairly) excluded from a bidding process that was allegedly designed in such a way that only AWS could meet the requirement.

After an eight month lawsuit, on 12 July the Court ruled in favour of the Pentagon, dismissing Oracle’s claim of a conflict of interest between AWS and DoD officials. For a moment at least, the way seemed clear for the Pentagon to award the contract to either AWS or Microsoft.

But then in late July President Trump entered the fray, expressing concerns about the possible award of the contract to AWS (Trump’s relationship with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, is not especially cordial). As a result, in early August Mark Esper, the newly appointed Defense Secretary, was reported by Defense One to have put the contract award “on hold.”

The award of the JEDI contract is, of course, US business – in both senses of the word. But while it has so far been a bitterly fought commercial contest, what is now of more pressing importance is the strategic struggle that is re-emerging, in which there could be far more at stake.

According to a June 2019 report published by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War,  ISIS is making a ‘Second Comeback’– with a distinctly digital flavour. In spite of having lost the territory of their so-called Caliphate, ISIS is far from defeated and could even be stronger today than its predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), was in 2011. ISIS forces are continuing to wage a “capable insurgency” involving as many as 30,000 fighters (as opposed to AQI’s 700 or so in December 2011).

The report describes a renewed emphasis on, and enthusiasm for elaborate (and effective) command, control and communications systems, a sophisticated understanding of the role of the global media (ISIS resumed its global media operations in July 2018) and of social media, and a sharpened interest in the value of relatively low-cost technology such as drones.

Under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ISIS has ambitions to expand its global presence beyond Iraq and Syria. In a video message broadcast in April Baghdadi encouraged ISIS’s ‘global community of fighters and supporters’ to join a new ‘Battle of Attrition’. A series of suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday – in which 259 were killed and some 500 injured – appears to have been inspired by Baghdadi’s message.  ISIS has also claimed responsibility for operations in West Africa, Libya, Somalia, Central Africa, Pakistan and the Sinai Peninsula as well as others in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

If the “Second Comeback” report is accurate then the ISIS insurgency has not only resumed, it has returned with more ambition and agility than before, and with a sharpened awareness of the value of information in insurgency warfare. ISIS is not only going global, it is also going digital. This internationally distributed, information-enabled, agile war of attrition seems highly likely to challenge the values and interests of western states and their allies. The significance is clear; the information domain is not merely another feature on the strategic landscape, it is an environment for which the West needs to act strategically – or it will fail.

Western governments and security institutions are grasping the War Cloud idea; positioning themselves to win and maintain the initiative in information operations. NATO allies, for example, have agreed to establish a new Cyberspace Operations Centre (CyOc), to be fully operational in 2023. According to NATO Review the CyOc will be the Alliance’s “theatre component for cyberspace … responsible for providing cyberspace situational awareness, centralised planning for the cyberspace aspects of Alliance operations and missions, and coordination for cyberspace operational concerns.” In other words, NATO is developing its own War Cloud.

Information can be a strategic asset if it is networked among like-minded governments and organisations, but a gaping strategic vulnerability if it is not. JEDI is vital, not only in the national security interest of the US but also to ensure that the West’s strategic information network is as coherent and decisive as it can be. For both reasons, the JEDI contracting process should be concluded as a matter of urgency.

Paul Cornish is an independent security and defence policy analyst. He is Visiting Professor at LSE IDEAS, the foreign policy think tank at the London School of Economics, and is a member of The Alphen Group.

Twitter: @pncornish | LinkedIn: pncornish

An Atlanticist at the Helm in Brussels

By Jim Townsend

Ursula von der Leyen may be the one who can give Europe’s role in transatlantic defense a higher priority and focus more on real military capability and less on protectionism.

The nomination of German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde to top jobs in the European Union –Commission President and Chief of the European Central Bank respectively–was a surprise in Washington. It was a welcomed change to the predominately grey male faces that dominate the EU’s headquarters in Brussels.

Such a change is considered by many as breathing life into the drive to renew the EU, despite claims by disappointed European Parliament deputies that the way in which the nominations were put forward “killed democracy”.

Rather than using the European Parliament’sSpitzenkandidat(the “lead candidate” system that puts forward a more representative slate of European candidates representing major European political parties), EU leaders cut deals among themselves and put together their own recommended list for the jobs.

Despite the complaints about democracy’s death, it looks like MEPs will fall in line on July 15thbehind the recommendations pushed by French President Emmanuel Macron and his EU-leader colleagues.

In Washington, such European deal-making hardly rose over the din created by our own deal-maker in chief, who spent the last few weeks preoccupied with North Korea, the G-20 in Osaka and bringing tanks out to the streets of DC to celebrate July 4 Independence Day.

But the Washington transatlanticists certainly took notice when Ursula von der Leyen, (or VDL as she is called) was put forward as the Commissioner. She is a well-known and well-liked figure among beltway Europeanists and her work since 2013 as Defense Minister also put her on the map of DC’s defense and security crowd.

Her relationships with every Secretary (and acting Secretary) of Defense since Chuck Hagel has been excellent.  If she is confirmed as Commissioner, she will be the first outgoing Minister of Defense to hold this job.  And the first German for 50 years.

So, what could this mean for further development of the EU military capability, especially the Permanent Structured Cooperation military capability initiative (PESCO) and the European Defense Fund? And what about “the Army of the Europeans” she has talked about?

That an EU Commission President comes in with a deeper understanding of military issues is a good thing; however, VDL’s stewardship of the Bundeswehr has been uneven and her relationship with the military sometimes tense.  In fairness, she inherited a mess from previous defense ministers, including a broken procurement system.

But more importantly, Berlin steadily cut German military spending after the Cold War ended and by the time she took office, German military forces needed large sums to modernize and improve readiness in every service.  Her tenure was marked by scandals of ships that could not sail and aircraft that could not fly.

However, in the plus column, she powered through historic changes in how the German government employed its military.  She led the way for the German government to play a leading role in arming the Peshmerga in Northern Syria to fight against ISIS.  She also pushed for Germany to take on the lead nation role of the NATO battlegroup deployment to Lithuania.  And she should get some credit (along with President Vladimir Putin) for recent increasesin German defense spending.

So while her scorecard is mixed, other ministers would have had similar problems fixing a Bundeswehr without the money or political support to do so.

But what is a significant achievement is her success in keeping the US-German defense relationship strong, even over the past two stormy years.  And here’s the point: she may be the Commission President that can best steer the EU not only through the shoal waters of the age of Trump, but she may be the one who can give Europe’s role in transatlantic defense a higher priority and focused more on real military capability and less on protectionism.

She may be particularly helpful in untangling the “third party” mess we are in when it comes to how nations outside the EU can participate in PESCO activities.  Given her appreciation for the need to have close transatlantic defense cooperation, and even given the pressure she will be under from European industry, there is a greater chance the US and other “third countries” will get a fair hearing. At least she understands that Fortress Europe, like Fortress America, hurts both sides of the Atlantic.

There won’t be miracles coming from a VDL presidency; a leap in European military capability is not in the offing (nor is “an Army of Europeans”).  But there will at least be a transatlanticist in Brussels who knows defense; the importance of the EU in the transatlantic defense equation, and especially how to keep the Americans from taking their ball and going home (at least that is the hope).  And among the Washington transatlantic defense and security crowd, that’s a hopeful place to be. But a caveat: once in the job, VDL won’t have the luxury of just focusing on defense and the transatlantic relationship.  She knows just how multi-faceted and complex the relationship has become. Focusing on just defense itself would not revive the relationship.

Jim Townsend

A New Approach to Serbia and Kosovo

By Ben Hodges

I was recently in Belgrade this past May, at the annual NATO Week, co-hosted by the courageous and indefatigable Jelena Milic of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Ambassador Bjornstad of Norway, and the NATO Public Diplomacy Directorate.  I also had the privilege to meet with President Vucic of Serbia.

I left Belgrade concerned but strangely optimistic.

It is time for a strong, concerted effort, led by the United States but in coordination with the European Union and NATO, to create the conditions that will enable Serbia and Kosovo to reach mutual consent on their ultimate relationship.

The three keys to achieving this are:

#1 Give them space…create space for President Vucic of Serbia and President Thaci of Kosovo to talk, negotiate, compromise.  The West should refrain from imposing red lines and lecturing these Leaders.  We’ve got to give them hope…Western integration must feel real, with tangible economic benefits…this will enable both Presidents to push back on those groups in their own populations who don’t see the benefit in Western integration.  The United States, NATO, and the EU can do this.

#2 Local solutions…look at what happened in Northern Macedonia.  Thanks to the political courage of two leaders, and to the external support which created space for them to negotiate, and despite efforts by the Kremlin to derail it, the name issue was resolved and thus the future looks much brighter for the people of Northern Macedonia.  The Serbia-Kosovo conflict is a different situation of course and may be more difficult to resolve.  But give Presidents Vucic and Thaci the chance to demonstrate that same sort of courage and statesmanship by allowing them to come up with their own solutions…they’re the ones who’ll have to live with the consequences.

#3 Strategic options…President Vucic needs strategic options for Serbia…other than becoming the “Cuba” or “Venezuela” of South-eastern Europe…a satellite state that is tied only to the Kremlin which gains no long-term benefits for its people as a result.  Instead, Serbia can become a responsible, stabilizing influence in the region by reaching a peaceful agreement with Kosovo.

Why is this so difficult?

The Serbian President is under immense pressure from inside Serbia and from Russia.  Kosovo’s 100% tariff on Serbian goods crippled his negotiating position.  He was also recently criticized by the Serbian Orthodox Clergy, denounced as a traitor if he contemplates recognizing Kosovar independence.

The Kremlin’s principal leverage in Serbia comes from Serbia’s need for Russian Federation support in the UN Security Council when Kosovo declared its independence.  The Kremlin knows this of course and therefore has no incentive to resolve the situation.

Moscow often bypasses President Vucic, applying pressure through the Clergy, fringe trade unions of active military and police personnel, and others who sense they will lose something if Kosovo gains formal Serbian recognition of its independence.

President Thaci faces similar challenges where frustration too often leads some Kosovar political groups to call for more aggressive action towards Serbia or a union with Albania.

Despite all of this, President Vucic and President Thaci have both demonstrated statesmanship in the past several months, trying to find a solution to what seems to the West an intractable situation.   All this underscores the fact that both these Leaders need Western support.

The Balkans Summit in Berlin was not a success…but the Serbian delegation showed maturity and Statesman-like poise…and that perhaps offers some hope for the upcoming Paris Summit in July.

We may soon have a window of opportunity to build fresh impetus towards resolution.  The European Council, supported by a new European Commission could restore hope for EU membership for Serbia and Kosovo, assuming they make progress towards meeting EU standards.  NATO could also use the coming Summit in London to re-emphasize the KFOR mission.  NATO is aided in this effort as both militaries are led by General Officers who understand and respect the West, and recognize that NATO provides stability, not a threat.

But the military domain in Serbia also remains uniquely susceptible to Russian influence.  For example, a recent military parade in Nis to commemorate the end of World War II featured only Russian and Serbian troops.  This was an insult to the Western Allies and was part of an effort to revise history to demonstrate that Russia is the only friend on which Serbia can depend.  It is incumbent on President Vucic to correct this mistake in time for the 75thAnniversary next year.

So what needs to be done?

America could have decisive effect in the region if we employ a comprehensive strategic approach (well-integrated with EU and NATO efforts) that creates the political space for these Leaders, protects them from internal and external pressures, and offers hope on the other side of what will be very tough but necessary compromises…but only if we convey the same level of commitment we showed during the Dayton Peace Accord negotiations and prior deployment of the IFOR and SFOR, which eventually brought a fractious but sustainable peace to the Western Balkans.

Critically, the West needs a respected senior diplomat to conduct “shuttle diplomacy” for this situation…similar to the role played by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke during the Dayton Peace Accords. Someone who can imbue the negotiations with a sense of urgency and who has the backing of the major and regional powers, the EU, and other key stakeholders, such as Romania, which also has a key role to play, given its strategic location connecting the Balkans and the greater Black Sea region.  Indeed, even though Romania has not recognized Kosovo’s independence, it can have a moderating effect on Serbia.

NATO’s KFOR mission must also be kept in place.  Senior Albanian and Serbian leaders pleaded with me in the past, when I was Commanding General of US Army Europe, to keep it there because it was the only anchor of stability in the Region.  More NATO cooperation with Serbian Armed Forces must also be encouraged, as well as a responsible and effective transition for the Kosovo Armed Forces established.

Finally, Serbia and Kosovo must make serious progress towards meeting the requirements for EU Membership, instead of constantly bashing Brussels.


We are back in Great Power Competition and it’s time for the West to use positive influence in the Region.  We should continue to defend principles and uphold values…but that doesn’t have to mean lectures or red lines.  Instead, let’s compete there…the Russians and Chinese will surely fill any vacuum…let’s compete and enable the development of potential and hope.  We have a better story to tell.

Ben Hodges

Extended Nuclear Deterrence Revisited

By Holger Mey
1. One cannot escape nuclear reality. While nuclear weapons could, theoretically, be banned (and let’s even assume verifiably so), one cannot dis-invent scientific knowledge or technical know-how.  The genie is out of the bottle. Hence, it’s not about escaping nuclear reality, but to shape it.
2. Imagine a nuclear-free world in which formerly nuclear powers are engaged in a conventional war with each other.  Both sides have to assume that the other sidetries to secretly re-build nuclear weapons.  Hence, the incentive to initiate a clandestine nuclear program and to preempt the other side is nothing butoverwhelming. Such a nuclear re-armament race is likely to be by far more destabilizing than a situation in which both sides knew that the other side has nuclear weapons. Once a country has successfully rebuilt nuclear weapons, a pre-emptive first-strike against the other side is almost inevitable. Why wait until the other side has them?
3. Nuclear dissuasion or deterrence is likely to prevent major wars. This is, of course, hard to demonstrate,but plausibility, as well as experience, suggests that states act with caution and restraint if confronted with the risk of major destruction.
4. While states are likely to prefer to have the ultimate weapon at their disposal that guarantees their survival and independence, many states, so far,decided not to become a nuclear power. To make this point very clear: The question is less, why nations (want to) acquire nuclear weapons, but rather why shouldn’t they? Under what specific circumstances are nations prepared not to pursue the possession of weapons that would dramatically broaden their room for maneuver and, ultimately, guarantee their survival?
5. Would NATO have bombed for 78 days a capital in the Balkans, if Milosevic had had nuclear weapons and long-range delivery vehicles? After the U.S. convinced Ghaddafi to give up his nuclear weapons program and then contributed to the toppling of hisregime, how many nations would now be ready to give-up their respective nuclear weapons program?Western countries insist that they cannot accept a nuclear Iran, but the real question is what if they haveto? Why do they accept a nuclear North Korea? Quite simply, because they have to.
6. So why then are some nations actually ready to accept their non-nuclear status? Reasons range from the fact that some nations do not perceive an immanent, existential threat to their security, others simply don’t have the technological and/or financial means, and yet others enjoy security guarantees by the strongest military power on Earth, the United States of America. The extended nuclear deterrence by the U.S. to some allies is probably one of the best nuclear non-proliferation measures that exist to date.
7. For extended deterrence to be credible, a number of requirements are, if not essential, so at least most useful. First, nuclear security guarantees from a conventional superpower are much more credible than from a mid-size power. Conventional strength matters in supporting the credibility of nuclear employment options in the defense of allies. A very early recourse to nuclear weapons because of conventional weakness lacks credibility if it is about coming to help of an ally.  Second, a nuclear posture that allows for flexible, selective, and limited strikes while keeping a significant retaliatory force in reserve is a prerequisite for extending deterrence to allies. The protecting state needs alternatives to suicide or surrender.  Third, aside from offensive options,passive and active defenses are also essential. Theseinclude (i) the ability to defend against and to absorb (counter-) strikes (also here, the size of the country matters), (ii) a survivable second-strike capability, (iii) the resilience of the society, including the protection of the critical infrastructure and homeland defenses in general, and (iv) active air and ballistic missile defenses. Nobody feels protected by somebody who cannot protect himself.
8. A non-nuclear country that wants to be protected by a nuclear power and that wants to benefit from being under a nuclear umbrella also needs to fulfil a few conditions. It has to demonstrate that it is ready to share the same risks as the country it seeks nuclearprotection from. Nuclear risk sharing is best being demonstrated by nuclear weapons that are deployed on ones own territory. In case no nuclear weapons of the guaranteeing power are deployed on the soil of the ally that seeks protection and one day nuclear weapons are (re-) deployed, everyone agreed that this would send a strong political signal. However, to withdrawal existing weapons would also send a strong political signal. It would signal that the particular country (i) no longer wants to be part of a deterrence regime and no longer seeks to be under the nuclear umbrella, and (ii) would singularize the nuclear power that is ready to take huge risks just to protect an ally.
9. The 1987 INF Treaty, which banned intermediate-range ballistic missiles, did not, in fact, impose many restraints on Russian nuclear options against NATO-Europe.  However, it left non-nuclear European NATO members with dual-capable aircraft (DCA) that were increasingly in doubt to be able to penetrate Russian airspace.  Russia significantly improved their anti-access / area denial (A2AD) capability. Now that the INF treaty is being abandoned, NATO should consider deploying ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles. While from a U.S. standpoint sea-based cruise missiles would be perfectly fine, from a non-nuclear ally standpoint they would not meet the criteria of visibility and risk-sharing. Hence, deterrence theory suggests that Germany had to insist on ground-based and new air-based systems.  However, this author is under no illusions about the lack of political support for ground-based systems and another INF debate, so that the modernization of the air-based nuclear deterrent force is probably the only option left, even if insufficient from a nuclear planner’s standpoint.
10. As long as nuclear weapons exist and are part of the reality in international relations, non-nuclear members of the Alliance should do everything from their side to keep deterrence credible.

Return to the JEDI: The truth behind the JEDI War Cloud contract battle may now be coming out.

By Paul Cornish

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastucture, otherwise known as JEDI or, more melodramatically as ‘War Cloud’ is described by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as ‘an initiative that will revolutionize how we fight and win wars’. With the ‘ability to rapidly access, manipulate, and analyze data at the homefront and tactical edge’, combat troops will ‘better execute a mission that is increasingly dependent on the exploitation of information.’ The JEDI initiative is of obvious interest to the US armed forces and their allies (and adversaries) and to all those who follow strategic innovation – could this be the next ‘revolution in military affairs’? It’s also of very great interest to those keen to bid for the 10-year contract, to those in Congress responsible for the supervision of US defence spending and to those who follow the relationship between the White House and the DoD.

The well-respected conservative German newspaper, Welt, ran a piece on 29 April 2019 covering what has become an epic struggle between Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos on one side, with Amazon’s arch-rival Oracle and its founder Larry Ellison, the National Enquirer and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the other, over the structure and openness (or otherwise) of the JEDI tender, due to be awarded in July 2019. The original German article is here and an English translation here. The article is largely based on an extended piece written by Jeff Bezos’ cyber security consultant of 25 years, Gavin De Becker. The lengthy Weltarticle claims, among other things, that law enforcement is now involved in multiple enquiries against private investigators and lobbyists for suspected computer hacking.

For decades the so-called military industrial complex in the US was dominated by a small number of large players for the provision of cutting-edge technology for security and defence. That exclusive club was joined by Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2014 when the CIA and other US intelligence agencies moved their cloud computing to AWS. AWS also began hosting DoD classified documents after a main rival, Microsoft, finally withdrew their protests. That was arguably the first skirmish between the old giants and the new. All-out war was declared when the DoD announced a $10 billion procurement competition for the new War Cloud.

AWS is in the club but not of it.  The older, more conservative defence and technology contractors like IBM and Oracle, are not happy. Oracle is the second largest provider of software to the DoD, with contracts worth billions of dollars. The largest tech companies are spending millions of dollars, $64m in 2018 to be precise, on lobbying Federal Government. It would not be too much of a stretch to imagine that some part of this lobbying effort was intended to stop Amazon from winning the JEDI contract, not least because both IBM and Oracle unsuccessfully protested the JEDI contract even before bids were invited. Although perceived by its rivals to be a mere upstart in the defence environment, Amazon’s argument is that as a single provider they could offer better security, cost efficiency and operational effectiveness than their competitors, that the scale of their existing cloud computing capacity would make them best placed to deliver what DoD needs and that they already have experience in providing a secret cloud for the US intelligence community. But this titanic struggle isn’t solely commercial – it’s also deeply personal.

Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential campaign and Donald Trump has been open in his feud with Bezos as a result. In contrast, Trump was (and is) supported by Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Trump duly appointed Oracle Co-CEO, Safra Catz to his transition team in late 2016. Catz reportedly lobbied Trump directly over the JEDI process at a dinner last year.  Oracle has also been very active in Saudi Arabia, says the Welt article, recently opening an innovation hubin the Kingdom. On the other hand, the Washington Post, which Bezos also owns, is not much liked in the Kingdom or indeed by Trump. The plot – whatever it is – thickens by the day.

There are some stretches of logic in the Welt piece and in the general rumour mill, with connections being drawn that might be no more than circumstantial. Oracle does indeed have a well-established position in Saudi Arabia and is indeed fighting Amazon. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post which employed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey’s President Erdogan is no friend of the Saudi royal family. The National Enquirer not only published scandalous photos of Bezos that are claimed to have ended his marriage, it also produced a glossy endorsement of Saudi Arabia when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited the US. And as De Becker records in his Daily Beast article, some experts have ‘concluded with high confidence’ that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s phone, by which means they acquired ‘private information’. Furthermore, it has also been claimed by ‘experts in the intelligence community’ and ‘leading cybersecurity experts’ that the Saudis have the ability to ‘collect vast amounts of inaccessible data from smartphones in the air without leaving a trace’ and that hacking was a key element in the surveillance efforts that led to the murder of Khashoggi. While each of these things might or might not be true, they are not necessarily all connected.

As gleaned from the publicly available sources mentioned here, the various claims and denials make for an opaque but no less compelling saga full of rumour, intrigue, rivalry and subterfuge – almost worthy of a Cold War spy novel. This brief article takes no position in this unfolding tale, other than to observe that the real and important news in the story – and the development that means we might actually get to the bottom of what has been going on in this new style of cross-border conflict between the state and the corporate/tech sector – could be the (as yet unconfirmed) multiple enquiries in which law enforcement are said to be engaged. According to Weltin 2018 a private investigative firm, RosettiStarr distributed a 100-plus-page dossier raising the spectre of improper activity on the part of senior DoD officials and Amazon executives involved in the JEDI bidding process. In the words of the Welt article, RosettiStarr ‘is said’ to have worked with a German based firm, Paladin Associates run by an American Louis Wonderly, using an operative based in their South African office, Paul Kirk, who in turn allegedly contracted some hackers. It should be said that Wonderly has denied involvement with RosettiStarr. According to the Welt article ‘a former high-ranking US Defense Department official that was concerned with JEDI told the authors that the German Federal Police are now investigating Paladin in Munich and its managing director, Wonderly, for suspected hacker attacks on E-mail accounts of JEDI-concerned Pentagon officials. Even the private mail account of the then Defense Secretary James Mattis was targeted by electronic espionage. “There is growing evidence that Rosetti Starr and Paladin hacked from South Africa and Eastern Europe for its clients,” said the senior source to WELT AM SONNTAG.’

Information from the hacking attacks was reportedly distributed by John Weiler, described in the Welt article as ‘an Oracle security lobbyist well-known in the US security industry’. Weiler’s tenacious interrogation of the JEDI process had already resulted in a ‘cease and desist’ letter from the DoD, addressed to Weiler and the IT-Acquisition Advisory Council, which he leads. Undaunted, Weiler recently appeared as the guest of Manveen Rana on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme criticising the DoD for its decision to place highly classified information in a cloud run by just one provider and, as reported on the BBC website, implicitly criticising the DoD and by implication the Secretary of State for Defense for potentially putting troops in harm’s way: ‘We have our nuclear codes, where our troops are going to be from one day to the next. If the cloud’s security is breached, then our enemies could use our information against us. They could be waiting for us.’

The Welt quotes a Pentagon insider claiming that this has now escalated to Weiler ‘also being investigated for conspiracy to hack.’ The article (in English translation) then points out that ‘Neither the Pentagon itself nor the FBI or Federal Police confirmed this information. For reasons of principle. “The FBI never confirms or denies investigations,” said a spokeswoman.’

If the German police and the FBI are indeed investigating Louis Wonderly, John Weiler and Paul Kirk for illegal hacking then the chances of the full JEDI story coming out have been transformed. Why should this story of corporate rivalry be of such interest? It is important because it touches on many areas of national and international security policy, and all at a very high level: global geopolitics; the impact of new technology on security strategy; the capability of US armed forces to operate to best effect in the digital age; the inner workings of the Trump Administration, and so on. But its greatest significance is because in matters of security and defence the relationships between the security/tech sector and national governments need to be charted more carefully, and more transparently. Whatever the truth of the JEDI saga might be, it matters, politically and strategically, that this convoluted tale should be unravelled and revealed.

Paul Cornish is an independent analyst and author, and a founding member of The Alphen Group

Twitter: @pncornish | LinkedIn: pncornish