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Geopolitics

Green Observatory: Security

In recent years, security challenges have been arising all around the European Union, from the territorial crises with Russia in the East to the terrorism threat resulting from the turmoil in the Middle East, to the resurgence of instability in the Balkans and in Turkey. Some EU Member States have consequently started to revise their defence and security positions and policies, from restarting conscription to increasing expenditure on the military. Concerns over the role of NATO are also raised in light of the Trump presidency and the European Commission has even made proposals to enhance military cooperation in the EU.

In view of this, the Green European Journal asks experts, activists, and politicians active in this field around Europe, in or around the Green galaxy, about the impact of these developments in their national contexts. The second question of this Green Observatory seeks to discern what the Green positions and opinions on these developments are, in light of the fact that historically, Greens have had a difficult relationship to security and defence issues, preferring to focus on multilateralism and soft power measures.

 

Czech Republic – Tomáš Jungwirth

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from Czech Republic and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

In the public imagination – reinforced by strong media interest and frequent political hijacking of the topic – Islamic extremism likely occupies the top spot at present. That is despite the fact that the Czech Republic has neither a numerous Muslim minority, nor direct experience with acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. This issue is closely interconnected with the fear of uncontrolled irregular migration. In addition, in certain social circles Russian imperialistic ambitions are seen as a prominent threat.

Unfortunately, the biggest security threat of our lifetimes – climate change and all its far-reaching implications – remains fundamentally underrated and underreported due to a prevailing lack of will to look reality in the face. As a result, instead of pursuing ambitious if painful climate policies, the policy and public debate focuses on repressive migration control.

Moreover, in spring of this year the Minister of the Interior initiated a debate on enshrining the right to bear arms into the constitution, while posing for a photo carrying a shotgun, and was applauded by many even if there was no specific policy follow-up to date. This example clearly shows just how irrational both the debate and the mainstream responses have become.

Greens avoid hysteric responses to isolated events, and tend to be very wary when it comes to widening the state’s surveillance and policing powers. Nevertheless, ignorance of or even contempt for the public’s anxieties will probably not do us any good politically. For that reason we do have an ongoing intra-party debate on how to tackle the aforesaid issues which ignite much public concern both in policy and in communication. All in all, reiterated rationalisation appears to be the only reasonable point of departure.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in Czech Republic regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

Unsurprisingly, issues related to security and defence are among the most contested within the party. Nevertheless, at their last congress the Czech Greens reiterated with a strong majority both their commitment to Czech membership in NATO and to the deepening of defence cooperation within the EU. Given the real possibility that NATO becomes increasingly paralysed by internal differences, we acknowledge that the EU framework may become ever more crucial. Cooperation in defence and security matters seems to be one of the areas with the most potential for future integration of EU Member States. A prospective creation of a common army is an idea Czech Greens are ready to explore further, even if the immediate steps forward entail rather better intelligence collaboration and information-sharing, and possibly also joint procurement.

A majority of the party also seems to be in support of increased military investments into up-to-date technologies (current Czech defence budget stands at below 1.1 % GDP), provided these are undertaken in a transparent manner and free of corruption as has only too often been the case in the past. Czech Greens support substantially increased peacekeeping capacities of the Czech military, to be readily deployed in trouble spots around the world in EU/NATO/UN-mandated missions. At the same time we advocate strongly – and are virtually the only ones on the Czech political landscape – for rigorous control of the arms trade. The fact of the matter is that Czech-produced weapons are commonly being used by repressive regimes as well as by extremist insurgents such as Daesh which is unacceptable.

France – Sylvie Matelly

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from France and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

War remains a threat and even a war far from Europe may have consequences for us and we may have to intervene and send forces, which has a cost. Other sources of insecurity include energy and raw materials dependencies, populism, and the social risks directly connected to inequalities. There are also real risks concerning our model of democracy and capitalism, and finally climate change constitutes a threat and creates a lot of crises and instability. But clearly – and as for most advanced economies – the main threat today is terrorism. This threat has created a huge focus on military and security spending in these last few years and if there does exist a debate in France, it appears to be much more about the type of spending than about the level of such expenditures. To summarise positions and views, most of the Right supports the idea that we have to continue to increase direct investments in defence and security. The Left and Green parties promote the idea that these kind of spending are not totally efficient in the long term and may be more effectively directed (and complemented by) promoting the development of the countries where instability fosters terrorism but also by questioning the reasons why some people in France decide to join these violent and extremist groups. The Green party has mostly supported that idea. The current government want to dedicate almost 2% of GDP to “security spending” and to support development and integration but it’s still unclear what will be included in that 2%: if it just includes NATO it would only be military spending but some state and public actors consider the 2% may encompass a more comprehensive approach, including overseas aid, etc. The debate opposes people who think that only military spending and armies or armed forces may fight terrorism with those who are convinced about the necessity for a preventive approach including economic development, social and political stability and so on.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in France regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

Unfortunately, in France, divisions within the Green party weaken the message and the political project of the party. Moreover, political ecology is actually part of project and programme of all French parties. Some leaders from the civil society have promoted for years this idea that ecology is a project, a choice of society and may not be the project of just one party. The current Minister Nicolas Hulot is one of them…

From a political ecology perspective, defence and security are not achievable solely by military or security spending but need a much more comprehensive approach which, as previously stated, includes development, and fighting against inequalities, poverty, and racism amongst other things. Certainly, terrorism has profound roots directly connected with under-development, inequalities, social exclusion, and unemployment. Soft power measures and multilateralism are essential to support a more inclusive globalisation. However, it’s not an exact science and in a more and more complex world, thinking that one day military spending won’t be necessary anymore is clearly utopian. As rich countries, we have a responsibility to support poorer ones in their development and it includes supporting stability and security with military spending. A common European Defence and perhaps a common European army may be part of the way to do it!

 

Germany – Sara Nanni

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from Germany and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

There are four sources of military and geopolitical insecurity discussed in Germany. Putin, Trump, terror, and cyber. They share intangibility as their main characteristic.

For mainstream politicians, dealing with Putin requires strengthening NATO – a plan that divides opinion, as it requires higher military spending. The concepts of ‘defence’ and ‘deterrence’ are popular. Initiatives of rapprochement are discussed only by the Far Left and in a way that blasts attempts at serious discussions.

Donald Trump’s Presidency has led to a narrow but important shift especially in conservative narratives around transatlantic relations. News that gives hope of an imminent impeachment of the wobbling elephant are secretly celebrated, as no one knows how to deal with this administration. ‘Wait and see’ has become the favourite strategy combined with a whispered ‘make Europe great’.

There has been a vibrant debate about terror since 9/11 and the debate has evolved in a predictable way since Europe and Germany have come under attack too. After every new detail, ministers of the interior have presented ideas on how to prevent attacks with surveillance while constantly blocking major investments in personnel. Islamophobia is on the rise, too.

Cyber is the only threat where the answer seems concrete. The Bundeswehr (the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration) formed a new branch in April 2017 but the mandate is unclear – to defend or to attack ? – and the branch has a massive recruitment problem that it cannot overcome with a good campaign. There is a will, there is a place, but there is no plan, no debate, and no people.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in Germany regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

Greens in Germany have had profound discussions on military violence in the last ten years. The experiences gained by the party whilst part of a government that was engaged in Kosovo and Afghanistan forced it to do so. The result of this debate is a very detailed position on issues of peace and security that is grounded in the concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P). The concept of R2P was imbedded in a wider context of multilateralism that includes civil and military actions, rejecting simple coalitions of the willing as adequate reactions to imminent mass atrocities. Prevention of crisis, conflict management, and multilateralism are the most important concepts. Starting at the most global level, the UN, these ideas have spread in diverse contexts, thanks to the Green participation in government in the past and to their continuous parliamentary work. At the EU level, much needs to be done. Greens in Germany work for an EU that integrates its foreign policy. But the discussion about a European Army is misleading. It postulates synergies and unity, although technically this would require a general arms build-up. System interoperability is not available now and cannot be achieved in a short period of time without spending more money for new systems while upholding ‘old’ capacities. Greens in Germany favour an integration that eases disarmament: gradual but slow integration where coordination in procurement is taken seriously against the sole interests of the national armament industries. Security, in general, should not be equated with defence. The Green Party in Germany stands for strong institutions on a global level, for high commitment of EU bodies to multilateral platforms and organisations and to finding global solution for global problems – civil and military. You don’t make peace against but with the others.

 

Greece – Alexandros Georgopoulos

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from Greece and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

The sources of insecurity come mainly from the East and are relative to Turkey’s revisionism concerning the Lausanne Convention [the 1923 treaty in which the borders of Greece and Turkey were defined] and its threats to send more refugees from Syria to the Greek islands. There are several major issues of controversy, among them the Aegean Sea continental shelf delimitation agreement, the national airspace dispute, the reunification of Cyprus island, combined with the recent tension between the governments of Cyprus and Turkey over the rights to explore for hydrocarbons offshore, the delimitation of Flight Information Regions (FIR) and their significance for the control of military flight activity. All these points of disagreement aggravate the already uneasy atmosphere between the two countries. In addition, the attempted military coup d’état in Turkey (July 2016), the state of emergency declared, and the disproportionate reaction on the part of the Turkish government against tens of thousands of its citizens worsened the existing situation.

Moreover, the political instability in FYROM [Macedonia] combined with a surge in Albanian nationalism and calls for the ‘Great Albania’, is another source of geopolitical insecurity.

Redistribution of power in the Middle East relative to the Syrian ‘power vacuum’ and the accompanying influx of refugees is another source of anxiety.

The state of political debate (even within the Green movement) concerning those issues is minimal – they are not first news in the TV, and they are not really discussed in the newspapers etc. Declarations on the part of the Defence Minister Panos Kammenos (leader of the right-wing ANEL political party belonging to the governmental alliance) often refer to the “defeat of the Turkish Army in the case of an attack against Greece” or ask the resignation of his fellow minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas for referring to FYROM as ‘Macedonia’ and thereby stirring nationalistic emotions. Due to public and political debate focusing overwhelmingly on the Greek financial crisis, no major policy or military initiatives have been undertaken. A minor one is the use of the naval base in Souda, Crete, to provide military facilities to the US and NATO.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in Greece regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

The Green Party of Greece (Ecologists Greens) do not have official proposals and are not sympathetic to the idea of increasing military expenditure and to calls for a common European defence army. Moreover, the discussion inside the Ecologists Greens on that issue is extremely delicate because they are aware that some European circles link the defence expenditure cuts to the job losses of the European military industry, the threat of a German dominated European army brings memories of a new “Wehrmacht” and the huge corruption accompanying the arms trade.

Ecological organisations tend to focus on solidarity and ecological cooperation between different peoples and social movements of the area, always propagating the dialogue between citizens. The Greek Greens believe that although soft power and multilateralism measures are not entirely free of problems, the invariable outcome of a military intervention, is a rather unstable political and military regime (as have happened in Iraq and Afghanistan).

The Greek Greens, following the Green movement ideas, have a pacifist tradition, non-violent views, and a clear-cut policy to address the root causes of the war instead of trying to suppress simple symptoms through an ever-increasing defence budget. The Ecologists Greens demand a stop to the EU military interventions, support to the representatives of “moderate” Islam in Europe, a major reduction of armaments and a policy guaranteeing the security of the external borders of the EU, which would liberate huge resources and redirect them elsewhere. Ties with the Turkish Green and Peace movements have been sought and cultivated. We also demand the dissolution of NATO.

 

Latvia – Diāna Potjomkina

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from Latvia and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

Latvia currently focuses both on ‘hard’ security as well as on ‘softer’ and hybrid threats, especially disinformation and energy issues. The topical issue right now is NATO’s reassurance against possible Russian aggression. It has been strengthened by the multinational rotational NATO forces – the Enhanced Forward Presence, under Canadian command. While some opposition forces (predominantly pro-Russia) argue that NATO provokes Russia, the government, supported by the majority of society, insists that the measures are only intended for self-defence. At the same time, Latvia will support dialogue between Russia and the West on the condition that all parties are interested in reaching a feasible solution to the crisis. While EU defence policy is viewed with interest, NATO and in particular the USA are still considered the primary guarantors of security. Latvia will increase its defence budget to 2% of GDP next year as per NATO guidelines; there is fairly wide domestic consensus on this issue. At the same time, there are debates on reinstating conscription. Latvia has created and hosts the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence and Baltic Centre for Media Excellence aiming to strengthen the media environment against unwelcome external intervention. The government has recently rejected engagement in the Nord Stream 2 project on security grounds and has liberalised the gas market. Debates on how to better integrate the Russophone minority as well as refugees continue. There are also other security-related issues such as Rail Baltica etc.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in Latvia regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

The Greens, most visibly represented by the Union of Greens and Farmers party, take a somewhat uncoordinated stance on defence issues and are not keen on pursuing the traditionally ‘Green’ party line as it is often manifested in other countries. In Latvia, the Union of Greens and Farmers constitutes a relatively conservative political force. The party-union currently holds the posts of Prime Minister (in fact he originates from a local cooperation party but has been nominated by the Greens and Farmers) and Minister of Defence, and thus it shapes the principled official stance on security. The party supports increasing the defence budget and close cooperation with NATO and EU partners including hosting allied forces in Latvia. At the same time, some members of the party (with business links to Russia) seem to give preference to improving relations with Russia in a pragmatic manner and pay less attention to military and other security considerations.

Poland – Weronika Grzebalska

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from Poland and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

Public opinion polls show that currently the Polish public perceives three main sources of external insecurity: terrorism, Russian aggression, and the refugee crisis. This, however, is a relatively new development. At the turn of 21st century, Poland’s security strategy assumed a low likelihood of military conflict, treated NATO and the EU as guarantors of stability, and perceived Poland as a ‘safe country,’ as Minister of Defence Bogdan Klich famously stated in 2008. Poland’s security thinking thus largely resembled that of Western European democracies in that it took the durability of Pax Europaea for granted, focused on non-military threats such as international terrorism, demographic changes, and environmental challenges, and supported the reduction and professionalisation of armed forces. This paradigm began to slowly lose legitimacy with Russia’s aggression in Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014, accompanied by the intensification of Islamic terrorism and the outbreak of the refugee crisis. The answer of political elites has been to revert to traditional militarised geopolitical thinking, and push for greater militarisation and securitisation: increasing military spending, widening the prerogatives of security agencies, and strengthening Poland’s own defensive potential, for example through support for paramilitary activities and the formation of Territorial Defence Forces. Planned to comprise 50 thousand volunteers, the latter is the flagship project of the Law and Justice government, formed primarily from members of the already existing paramilitary sector. The latter has been a constant presence in Poland since 1990s yet has only boomed recently, after receiving considerable political support in the context of the war in Ukraine. Advocates of Territorial Defence Forces argue that these units will significantly increase national security in the era of hybrid warfare. Yet the true social significance of this project lies in its capacity to increase societal militarisation by bridging the gap between society and the military and “bringing back the patriotic and military upbringing to social life,” as Minister of Defence Antoni Macierewicz stated.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in Poland regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

Like the majority of progressive forces in Poland, the Greens have been critical of the rise of the paramilitary sector, increasing military spending and the formation of Territorial Defence Forces. Firmly occupying a position favourable to more international integration and cooperation, they have, however, been open to common European defence initiatives and membership in NATO understood as a defence alliance and not expeditionary force. The Greens and Polish progressives in general tend to prioritise internal threats to liberal democracy over geopolitical challenges, perceiving illiberal reforms of the Law and Justice party and the growing political polarisation within Polish society as more pressing and tangible challenges than any external military or terrorist threat. The Greens additionally speak of energy security, stressing Poland’s dependence on Russian gas and oil supplies. Moreover, it can be argued that there is a broader tendency in the Polish progressive camp to holistically reject right-wing proposals without sufficiently engaging the conditions and very real challenges which they address. Security policy is no different, and the opposition has often found it sufficient to demonise and label paramilitary actors and initiatives without actually addressing the reasons why a growing number of people perceive them as a viable alternative to the civilian liberal democratic European project. In the realm of security policy especially there is a pressing need for the Left to move beyond the logic of cultural wars and engage in a discussion about alternatives to the current polarisation even while this space in the society in general might be shrinking.

Spain – Paz Serra Portilla

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from Spain and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

Spain’s security strategy has always been based on two main axes: the Atlantic alliance with the US, and the EU. Both axes are still of high priority today, albeit altered by new dynamics and trends in international security. The fact that Spain shares a border with Morocco accentuates most of the threats and challenges that other EU member States are facing too. Thus, Spain had reinforced the European Neighbourhood Policy framework by deploying different co-operation mechanisms in terms of controlling trafficking, migration, or organised crime. However, the funding to such programmes was drastically cut after 2012, leading to a harder approach in the way our external borders are managed today. Incidents like the one in Tarajal in Ceuta 3 years ago, where 15 migrants died trying to reach our coasts, while the Civil Guard tried to repel them, have brought this issue into the public debate. Simultaneously, climate change is only mentioned in our security strategy as a leverage, preventing the adoption of any serious measure to tackle some of the alarming risks our country is facing, such as desertification. Hence, energy independence based on renewable sources is at the core of the Greens’ demands in terms of security:  it would allow Spain to respond better to ambiguous situations regarding the respect of Human Rights in our neighbouring countries.  The fact that Spain’s counter-terrorism plan focuses on intelligence rather than on military measures, together with our country’s sad history of terrorism has made our society more resilient than others in Europe to the current terrorist threat, as the latest national polls prove, where it is well behind unemployment and corruption as a source of preoccupation for the public.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in Spain regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

The opposition to international interventions among the Greens has remained strong over the recent crises; EQUO proposes to focus on human security rather than defence when it comes to international operations. On the domestic level, the expenditures allocated to defence are among the few that have increased in the last budget, supported by Spain’s engagements in NATO; meanwhile, Greens and other progressive forces question the effectiveness of military expenses at a time when Spain is living a social emergency triggered by the cuts in social and solidarity policies that, if they were to be prioritised, would have more significant impacts in terms of peace and security, not only abroad but also within our own borders. Surely, some crises will still need some sort of military response, but all military intervention must be based on the respect of law and subject to democratic accountability. In that sense, instead of leaving all European defence policies to NATO, whose decision-making process is not transparent nor accountable, EQUO supports the idea of a single European defence army, that could be regarded as a first step towards progressive disarmament at a national level. But it would only be acceptable if it were controlled by the European Parliament. At the same time, Spain’s efforts should focus on the modernisation of International Humanitarian and Criminal Law, so that it can respond to current types of crises, conflicts, and weapons. A solid law skeleton is key if we are to make sure that future interventions respond to human rights violations and not to private interests.

Sweden – Anke Schmidt-Felzmann

What are the sources of military and geopolitical insecurity seen from Sweden and what is the state of the public and political debate on this question? What are the policy and military initiatives being taken by your country to respond to these perceived threats?

There is a broad consensus in the Riksdagen (Swedish Parliament) that Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has fundamentally altered the conditions under which Swedish security and defence policy is formulated. Sweden’s geographic location, the exposed place of Gotland [a Swedish island just off the coast in the Baltic Sea] and the country’s geographic spread pose significant challenges. Geography is fixed, but the political parameters can be altered. The Swedish Defence Bill of 2015 re-introduced the ‘total defence’ (totalförsvar) concept and decided on the re-establishment of a permanent military presence on Gotland. Troop deployment started in September 2016. The recent political debate has concentrated on Sweden’s relations with NATO, military spending, and whether to re-activate conscription. Disagreements persist over whether membership in NATO would increase Sweden’s security or achieve the opposite effect. That defence spending must be increased, including for Sweden’s civil defence against the range of ‘hybrid’ threats, is generally accepted. But the level of spending required in order to fulfil the ambitions set out in the Defence Bill remains controversial. The Armed Forces and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency have highlighted large gaps between the objectives outlined in the Defence Bill and the insufficient resources made available for building an effective ‘total defence’. At around 1% of GDP, the Swedish defence budget falls also short of the 2% spending target for NATO members. In early 2017, the Riksdagen decided to re-activate the compulsory military service and to include also female conscripts. The intake will be highly selective and limited to just a few thousand per year. In September 2016, the proposal for a European Army was greeted with little enthusiasm by the Swedish Prime Minister. Indeed, since 2015, the government has put much emphasis on developing Sweden’s defence cooperation with strategic partners bilaterally, first and foremost with neighbour Finland, even ‘bortom fredstida förhållanden’ (beyond peace time), but also with the USA, UK, Poland, and Denmark. Bilateral discussions on defence cooperation are pursued also with France and Germany.

What are the Greens’ positions and proposals today in Sweden regarding national and/or European defence, such as on increasing military expenditure and calls for a common European defence army?

In September 2014, the Swedish Greens obtained the opportunity to shape Sweden’s security and defence policy. After the Riksdagen elections, the Swedish Green party Miljöpartiet entered into coalition with the Socialdemokraterna to form a minority government. The change of government coincided with an increase in Russian violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its aggressive military posturing in Northern Europe. The Social Democrats took the posts of Defence, Foreign, and Europe Minister, set the national defence and security policy direction and launched Sweden’s self-proclaimed Feminist foreign policy. The Greens endorsed the main principles and indeed share the objectives of promoting global disarmament, conflict prevention, and retaining Sweden’s ‘military non-alignment’ (staying outside of NATO). Here the Alliance parties (Centerpartiet, Kristdemokraterna, Liberalerna, Moderaterna) are in strong opposition to the governing coalition, since NATO-membership has become a shared Alliance objective ahead of the 2018 elections. Recent security and defence debates have however revealed divisions between the Greens and Social Democrats and within Miljöpartiet. The Greens demanded a total ban on weapons exports, but Swedish arms trade continues. Before the recent ratification of the Swedish Host Nation Support Agreement with NATO, Green parliamentarians demanded provisions that would explicitly ban nuclear weapons and limit its application to peace time only. In the end, Miljöpartiet endorsed the original text of the agreement. At the two most recent Party Congresses, a group of Greens pushed for the appointment of a Peace Minister and creation of a Ministry for Peace, insisting that Sweden pursue a peaceful defence policy with non-military means. Miljöpartiet’s leadership rejected these proposals.

Green Observatory: Security