Great Britain’s Options After Departing the European Union

Steve Maguire has a strong interest in strategic deterrence and British defence and security policy.  He can be found Twitter @SRDMaguire, has published in the Small Wars Journal, and is a regular contributor to the British military blog, The Wavell Room. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Great Britain will leave the European Union in March 2019 ending decades of political and economic integration.  This has left Britain at a strategic crossroads and the country must decide how and where to commit its military and security prowess to best achieve national objectives. 

Date Originally Written:  October, 20, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  November 26, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Britain is international by design but must better concentrate its assets in support of more targeted economic goals.  

Background:  Britain is a nuclear power, a major North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally, head of a Commonwealth of Nations, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with a strong history of global engagement.  Much of this prestige has been tied into Britain’s membership of the European Union and the defence of Europe is currently seen as a critical national security interest.  In September 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May re-iterated that Britain remained ‘unconditionally committed’ to the defence of the continent.  From a traditional view-point this makes sense; the European Union is Britain’s largest export market and Britain has grown international influence through membership.

Significance:  There is a difference between physical ‘Europe’ and the political institution known as the ‘European Union’ but the political institution dominates the European contingent and is a major political actor in its own right.  British policy makers must consider if remaining unconditionally committed to Europe is the right strategy to prosper in an increasingly competitive global environment and whether it is key to Britain’s future.  To continue a relationship with Europe means Britain is likely to become a second-tier European country outside of European political mechanisms.  Britain could choose, instead, to focus its resources on an Extra-European foreign policy and exploit the benefits of its diplomatic reach.   

Option #1:  Britain maintains a focus on and aligns economically with Europe. 

Risk:  Britain would be committed to the defence of Europe but treated as a second-rate member with limited power or influence and unable to reap meaningful benefits.  Analysing the impact of leaving the European Union, a former head of the British Intelligence Service commented that ‘Britain on its own will count for little’ highlighting the impact.  Britain also plans to leave the single market and customs union that binds Europe together denuding many of the wider economic benefits it previously enjoyed.  As Europe develops its own independent defence policy, it is also likely that Europe’s appetite for engagement with NATO begins to weaken reducing Britain’s role in the Alliance.  Without being a member of the European Union, Britain can only hope to be ‘plugged in’ to the political structure and influence policy through limited consultation.  If Britain chooses this option it will have to accept a significantly reduced role as a European power.

Gain:  Many threats to Britain, notably Russia, are mitigated through common European defence and security positions.  By remaining ‘unconditionally’ committed to the defence of Europe, Britain will buy good will and co-operation.  Recent initiatives have seen Britain reaching out with bi-lateral defence deals and these can be exploited to maintain British influence and shape the continent towards British goals.  Further development of bespoke forces through NATO, such as the Joint Expeditionary Force of Northern European countries, would allow Britain to continue leveraging European power outside of the political control of the European Union.  

Option #2:  Britain chooses an Extra-European focus which would concentrate on building relationships with the rest of the world at the expense of Europe.

Risk:  Russia has been described as the ‘most complex security challenge’ to Britain.  If Britain chooses to focus its resources outside of Europe then it could dilute the rewards of a common approach towards Russia.  Britain is also a significant member of NATO and the organisation is the foundation of British security.  Option #2 is likely to undermine British influence and prestige in the Alliance.  Whilst Britain is well placed to renew its global standing, it is likely to have a negative impact on the wider balance of power.  China has recently criticised British foreign policy in the Far-East as provocative and China may choose to undermine British operations elsewhere.  Similarly, Britain will become a direct competitor to its previous partners in the European Union as it seeks to exploit new trading relationships.  If Britain wished to diverge from European positions significantly it could even become the target of additional European tariffs, or worse, sanctions targeting its independent foreign policy.  

Gain:  A recent geopolitical capability audit rated Britain as the world’s second most capable power but questioned if Britain had the right strategy to be a leader of nations.  Defence assets and foreign policy would need to be more concentrated to achieve Britain’s goals if Britain is to build global relationships with meaningful benefits as part of Option #2.  The ‘Global Britain’ strategy is being developed and Britain has been successful when concentrating on Extra-European projects.  For example, in June 2018 a Royal Navy visit to Australia resulted in a major defence contract and ensured interoperability of defence assets.  There is potential for significant projects with countries such as Japan.  More will follow creating new markets and trading alliances better suited to British needs.  Extra-European markets are expanding at a rapid rate and Britain can only fully exploit hem if Option #2 is resourced and not restricted by a major focus on Europe.   

Europe has also not shared Britain’s willingness to directly tackle security threats or conduct military interventions at scale.  Freed from a focus on Europe, Britain would be better enabled to resource other alliances and mitigate threats with a more global strategy without the political processes required to generate common, and therefore diluted, European positions. 

Other Comments:  None.  

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] James, W. (2018). Britain Unconditionally Committed to Maintaining European Security. Reuters. [online] Available at: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-defence-security/britain-unconditionally-committed-to-maintaining-european-security-official-document-idUKKCN1BN1DL [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

[2] Ward, M. and Webb, D. (2018). Statistics on UK-EU Trade. U.K. Research Briefing. [online] Available at: https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7851 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].

[3] Sawers, J. (2018). Britain on its own will count for little on the world stage. Financial Times. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/1e11c6a0-54fe-11e7-80b6-9bfa4c1f83d2 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].

[4] Bond, I. (2018). Plugging in the British: EU Foreign Policy. Centre for European Reform. [online] Available at: https://cer.eu/publications/archive/policy-brief/2018/plugging-british-eu-foreign-policy [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

[5] British Government (2018). UK-Poland Intergovernmental Consultations, 21 December 2017: Joint Communiqué. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-poland-intergovernmental-consultations-21-december-2017-joint-communique [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

[6] Carter, N. (2018). Dynamic Security Threats and the British Army. RUSI. [online] Available at: https://rusi.org/event/dynamic-security-threats-and-british-army [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].

[7] Hayton, B. (2018). Britain Is Right to Stand Up to China Over Freedom of Navigation. Chatham House. [online] Available at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/britain-right-stand-china-over-freedom-navigation [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

[8] Rodgers, J. (2018). [online] Towards ‘Global Britain’. Henry Jackson Society. [online] Available at: https://henryjacksonsociety.org/publications/towards-global-britain-challenging-the-new-narratives-of-national-decline/ [Accessed 17 Oct. 2018].

[9] British Government (2018). Global Britain: delivering on our international ambition. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/global-britain-delivering-on-our-international-ambition [Accessed 18 Oct. 2018].

[10] BBC News, (2018). BAE wins huge Australian warship contract. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44649959 [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].

[11] Grevett, J. (2018). Japan indicates possible Tempest collaboration with UK | Jane’s 360. [online] Available at: https://www.janes.com/article/82008/japan-indicates-possible-tempest-collaboration-with-uk [Accessed 18 Oct. 2018].

European Union Great Britain Option Papers Steve Maguire

Call for Papers: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, Russia, & the former Soviet Republics

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Map derived from https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/09/03/344044582/can-nato-find-a-way-to-contain-russia

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Map derived from https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/09/03/344044582/can-nato-find-a-way-to-contain-russia

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, countries in the European Union, Russia, and the former Soviet Republics.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by December 14, 2018.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

To inspire potential writers we offer the following writing prompts:

– Assess whether Russia will learn to cooperate with the other great powers.

– Assess the national security impacts of Brexit.

– What options remain to solve or address concerns related to the conflict in Ukraine?

– Assess the impact on North Atlantic Treaty Organization activities if the European Union were to deploy forces under the Common Security and Defense Policy.

– What options exist to ensure that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy complement each other rather than conflict?

– Assess whether U.S. President Donald Trump or Russian President Vladimir Putin will have more impact in determining the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

– Assess how friction between the United States, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could affect other portions of the relationships between these countries.

– What options exist for the Baltic States to address the threats posed by Russia?

– Assess a national security issues that can be best addressed by working with Russia.

– What options are available to address threats posed by Russian cyber activities?

– Assess whether Russian cyber activities are part of an integrated national security strategy or a low-cost / high-gain pursuit of a country with a small economy.

– Assess the impact of nationalism.

– What options exist to address the re-emergence of nationalism?

Call For Papers European Union North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia

Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Jeremiah Cushman is a senior analyst at Military Periscope, where he writes about weapons.  He holds an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University.  He can be found on Twitter @jdcushman.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2017.

Summary:  For much of the last 800 years, the natives of the Baltic States and Finland were ruled by others, whether Baltic Germans, Swedes, Russians or Hitler’s Germany.  History shows these countries that, to retain independence, they must be willing and able to fight for it, and possibly join collective security organizations.

Text:  Lithuania existed as an independent nation prior to 1918, in contrast to Estonia, Latvia and Finland.  In 1385, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined with the Kingdom of Poland via a dynastic marriage.  Although not specifically made for security purposes, the result was a great Central European power that eventually spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  This was, however, an unstable union, with divergent interests between the Lithuanian and Polish halves.  (Poland ultimately became the dominant power.)  Efforts were made to strengthen the union, culminating with the establishment of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.  The commonwealth eventually succumbed to its own weaknesses and the machinations of neighboring powers, Austria, Prussia and Russia, which divided it among themselves in the partitions of 1772, 1790 and 1795.  If ultimately unsuccessful, the commonwealth nevertheless provided security for the Lithuanians for centuries.

Upon gaining independence in 1918, the Baltic States struggled to navigate their security environment.  For the most part, they sought refuge in the collective security arrangements of the League of Nations.  Different threat perceptions, a territorial dispute over Vilnius between Lithuania and Poland, and the maneuvers of the Germans and Soviets hindered trilateral defense efforts.  A proposed four-way alliance among Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland foundered on Finnish reservations.  Helsinki elected to focus on a Scandinavian orientation.  Estonia and Latvia managed to conclude a defense alliance in 1923.

The Soviet Union saw Baltic cooperation as a threat and worked to undermine it.  The Baltic States concluded their own treaty of cooperation and friendship in 1934, although little came from it.  Non-aggression pacts signed with Moscow and Berlin came to nought and the three nations were occupied by Soviet forces in 1940 and annexed.  While Finland fought for its independence and survived World War II, Baltic failures to prepare, and the overwhelming strength of the Soviet and German states that opposed them, ended their initial experiment with independence.

Finland was able to maintain its independence during and after World War II, fighting the Soviet Union twice in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944.  The Finnish state was saved, though it lost the Karelia region to the Soviets.  Viewing Moscow as a direct threat, Helsinki allied with the Nazi regime as Berlin prepared its own attack on the Soviet Union.  The Finnish government took pains to portray its own war as separate from that of Germany’s, without much success.

At the end of the war, Finland was left with an 830-mile border with Russia and a difficult position between its preferred partners in the democratic West and the Soviet Union.  Moscow was able to dictate terms as the Finnish war effort collapsed in 1944 along with the fortunes of its German allies.  In 1948, the Finnish government concluded a mutual assistance treaty with Moscow, including military obligations to come to the Soviet Union’s assistance in the event of an attack by Germany or its allies, or an attack from Finnish territory.  The goal was to maintain independence and reduce the chance of conflict in Northern Europe.

By resolving Moscow’s security concerns, Finland was able to pursue trade with Western countries and play an active role in détente during the 1970s.  The Nordic country benefited from trade with its eastern neighbor, while holding off Soviet efforts to tighten military relations.  While this “Finlandization” policy ensured the nation’s sovereignty during the Cold War, it came at a cost to Finland’s freedom of action.  Habits formed over those decades continue to influence national policy, including hindering those who might prefer new security arrangements in light of Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture.

The Baltic States declared their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.  Remembering the lessons of 1940, they immediately focused on trilateral cooperation and integration with European security organizations to secure their freedom.  Their security bodies focused on developing modern, capable forces on the Western model with the object of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).  These goals were achieved in 2004.  NATO’s Article 5 pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all is seen as the cornerstone of Baltic security.  Accordingly, all three countries recognize the United States as their most important security partner.  The Baltic States also pursue regional cooperation with their Nordic neighbors.  These multilateral cooperation efforts have, in some cases, detracted from trilateral endeavors. Small countries have limited resources.

Accession to NATO and the EU, which has its own security mechanisms, seemed to resolve the security concerns of the Baltic States.  However, the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. has led to uncertainty about the wisdom of relying on Washington.  Trump has threatened to assist only those NATO members who meet the alliance’s defense spending goals and his commitment to Article 5 appears uncertain, despite efforts from other administration officials to reinforce American support for the Baltic allies.  Trump’s apparent ties to Russia cause additional discomfort in the region.

Officially, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania emphasize the continued importance of security ties with the U.S. and a belief that Trump will live up to Washington’s NATO commitments should it become necessary.  So far, U.S. and NATO activities in the Baltic region have been unchanged from the previous administration, with multinational battalion task groups active in all three countries.

As for Finland, it has eschewed its former relationship with Moscow in favor of closer security relations with NATO and the U.S., and strengthened ties with neighboring Sweden.  Helsinki still sees a strong national defense capability as vital for its security.  NATO membership remains politically challenging, although Finland potentially benefits from E.U. mutual assistance mechanisms.

The lessons of history for this region are simple.  To retain independence, one must first be willing and able to fight for it.  States as small as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania must additionally find allies to bolster their own defense efforts.  If one cannot be a great power, joining a great power organization, such as NATO, is the next best thing.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kirby, David. (1998). Northern Europe In The Early Modern Period: The Baltic World 1492-1772. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[2]  Kirby, David. (1998). The Baltic World 1772-1993: Europe’s Northern Periphery in an Age of Change. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[3]  Kasekamp, Andres. (2010). A History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

[4]  Plakans, Andrejs. (2011). A Concise History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Aggression Assessment Papers Baltics Estonia European Union Finland Jeremiah Cushman Latvia Lithuania North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia Trump (U.S. President) United States

Blurred lines: Options for Security & Immigration in Europe

Katja Theodorakis is a PhD scholar at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, where she is focusing on Jihadi ideology, radicalization and foreign fighters.  She publishes and regularly presents at seminars and conferences on the topics of national security/terrorism, jihadism and Middle East politics.  Katja holds a First-Class Honours degree in International Development from the Australian National University and has previously lived in the Middle East, where she was engaged in educational projects and NGO work in Syria.  She can be found on twitter @KatjaTheo.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


National Security Situation:  Islamic State (IS) inspired terror attacks have highlighted weaknesses in the European Union’s (EU) collective response to such security challenges.  Note:  This article does not conflate increased security concerns with the arrival of refugees.  Rather, border security and immigration control is linked here specifically to undetected criminal activity, unauthorized overstays, and the easy proliferation of existing terrorist networks.

Date Originally Written:  February 7, 2017

Date Originally Published:  February 23, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is an academic terrorism researcher, objectively assessing contemporary security challenges and the threats emanating from militant jihadism.  As an Australian citizen and resident, the author’s research is supported by an Australian Government Scholarship, but this article is not written from a particular political or national security perspective.  Having lived and studied in a number of European countries as well as the U.S., the author seeks to analyze security issues, which are often highly politicized, from a wider, comparative point of view.

Background:  The security situation in Europe is at a crossroads after a string of IS-inspired terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016.  The events witnessed in Paris, Brussels, Nice, and Berlin, as well as various smaller-scale attacks and foiled plots, have highlighted systemic weaknesses in the EU’s security architecture.  While the backgrounds and radicalization journeys of the individual attackers vary – including ‘homegrown’ jihadists as well as recent migrant arrivals – the common denominator is that they were able to take advantage of existing vulnerabilities in the EU’s approach to security, border control and immigration.

Security cooperation within the EU is reflected in the ‘Schengen’ zone, which allows for free travel as its member states surrendered some of their national powers to the supranational ‘Frontex’ border agency.  Likewise, under the Dublin Regulation, the European Asylum Support Office is supposed to coordinate the registration and processing of asylum seekers within the zone in a fair manner, and relevant security information is to be shared under the Schengen Information System (ISI).  Yet, the arrival of more than one million refugees and migrants in 2015 alone has plunged this already strained system into severe crisis[1].

The dangerous confluence of security failures, both at the national and the supranational level, became especially evident in the case of Anis Amri, the perpetrator of the Berlin Christmas market attack.  The rejected asylum-seeker and self-proclaimed jihadist from Tunisia escaped deportation after being found guilty of criminal activity in several European countries, avoided surveillance by security agencies, and managed to cross numerous European borders undetected.  Such security gaps, visible also in some of the other attacks, have cast doubt on Europe’s collective ability to protect itself from these emerging security threats through a coordinated response.

Significance:  Due to such attacks, the very survival of the Schengen project is now in question as national border controls have been partly reinstated across the zone.  This temporary return to nationalized border protection raises the question of what the options are for European leaders and policy makers to enhance security and border control across the continent?

This issue is particularly pressing in light of the continued disintegration of Syria and the security challenges for the wider Middle East.  Refugee streams will likely continue on top of ongoing migration flows from other areas of instability, such as Africa and Afghanistan.  The inevitable loss of territory for IS could lead to a shift of focus and increase its underground activity, making further terrorist attacks in Europe more likely.

Option #1:  EU countries return to national sovereignty over matters of border control, surveillance and immigration.

Individual member states can opt for more national self-determination and less cooperation with the EU on security issues.  This renationalization of migration and border protection policies could include a number of different scenarios; these range from  1) the permanent re-introduction of internal borders within the entire Schengen area, as temporarily implemented by six member states at present; 2)  a tighter, more controllable core Schengen area excluding countries such as Greece that have external borders;  to  3) even a complete Brexit-style departure from the EU, as for example proposed by France’s far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

Risk:  Full national control of internal borders could pose a financial risk, impede free trade, and slow tourism across Europe, with an estimated annual cost of 5 – 18 billion Euros for Schengen member states[2].  It could also prove inefficient in terms of preventing terrorist attacks committed by ‘homegrown’ jihadis.  Moreover, uncoordinated security measures and migration control by individual states run the risk of creating political divisions and could inhibit more efficient information and intelligence sharing networks across Europe.  Given the increasing nexus between jihadi activity and existing crime networks in Europe, a lack of cooperation could therefore prove detrimental[3].

Gain:  A renationalization of border controls could provide more efficient security as it can avoid the lack of coordination and consistency inherent in EU-wide measures and allows for tighter surveillance.  The permanent closure of open internal borders would directly restrict the secondary movement of refugees, irregular migrants, and returning foreign fighters (at least those known to security agencies) within the zone.  This could have a positive effect on the overall security situation as asylum-seekers without documentation would remain in their country of arrival, thereby preventing those engaging in illegal activities to ‘fall through the cracks’ and evade deportation.

Option #2:  An EU-wide overhaul and harmonization of existing border management and immigration schemes.

This option would be part of a streamlined new agenda, a ‘21st Century European Security Pact’, as proposed by EU leaders at recent summits in Bratislava (2016) and Malta (2017).  Based on more unification and burden-sharing, this envisioned security agenda is to include increased military and security cooperation in the form of a European Border and Coast Guard, as well as increased Defense spending and a new ‘entry-exit’ system for non-EU arrivals to the Schengen zone where personal details are registered in a database[4][5].

Risk:  Harmonization depends on the willingness of member states to cooperate and make concessions, which could prove difficult to achieve.  If the project remains largely visionary and common institutions backing new mechanism are not sufficiently overhauled, not much would change and the challenges to Europe’s security could still not be countered efficiently.  This would further undermine the credibility of the EU as a political project.

Gain:  If successfully implemented, measures such as greater intelligence cooperation and a strengthened EU border force could be very beneficial to improving the continent’s security situation in the long run.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Pinja Lehton & Pali Alto [2017], “ Smart and secure borders through automated border control systems in the EU? The views of political stakeholders in the Member States”, European Security, January 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09662839.2016.1276057

[2]  Peter, Laurence [2017] “ Berlin truck attack: Can the EU stop another Amri?”, BBC News, 6 January 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2017: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38517768

[3]  Basra, R., Neumann, P. R., & Brunner, C. (2016). Criminal Pasts, Terrorist Futures: European Jihadists and the New Crime-Terror Nexus. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/ICSR-Report-Criminal-Pasts-Terrorist-Futures-European-Jihadists-and-the-New-Crime-Terror-Nexus.pdf

[4]  Federal Foreign Office, Germany [2016] “The Future of Security in Europe” – Keynote by Markus Ederer, Secretary of State, at the Workshop “Lessons from the Ukraine Conflict: Fix the European Security Order, or Overhaul it?” DGAP and Center for the US and Europe at Brookings. Retrieved 5 February 2017: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Infoservice/Presse/Reden/2016/160920StS_E_Future_Security_Europe.html

[5]  Hammond, Andrew [2017],  “ Europe’s Leaders Are Finally Getting Serious About Security and Immigration – Will It Be Too Late?”, The Telegraph, 2 February 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2017: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/02/europes-leaders-finally-getting-serious-security-immigration/

 

European Union Katja Theodorakis Migrants Refugees Violent Extremism