EU Defense (Doctrine)

Lessons from the Georgian conflict for European Defense

Europe has shown that it is capable of reacting quickly and fairly.
By avoiding division. The war between Georgia and Russia had many ingredients for Europeans to be torn apart and divided. Between pro-NATO and pro-European Defense, pro-Georgians and pro-Russians, new and old member states... the fractures could awaken. And certain analysts (who stuck to Europe in the 1980s) could have commented on this new proof of European “impotence”. The effect is therefore paradoxical. But the reality is there.

Greater than the differences, the feeling of having to “close ranks” won out
• Faced with the crisis, faced with the importance of the Russian “neighbor”, the 27 very quickly understood that, without unity, they would be defeated. Each had its historical references. A European Minister rightly entrusted Avignon gymnich : whatever side we were on during the American action in Iraq, Europe did not weigh heavily, because it was divided, let's not make this mistake again today. Others rightly remembered Europe's difficulties in the Balkans, in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s (Carl Bildt or Bernard Kouchner, for example). This memory weighed.

Europe at 27 works better than at 15, we dare say it!
• Then, the new Member States – which in fact only have two to four years of “community” under their belt – behaved with a certain sense of community responsibility. We can even say that without their presence, the European reaction would undoubtedly not have been as relevant. Certainly the Balts were moved, were very angry (their ancient history of belonging to the USSR certainly justifies this), and called for intransigence. But they were quite isolated. After the first days, the Polish government showed itself to be much more measured. While the other Eastern states – including the Czech Republic – had a more unitary behavior. However, it is an indisputable fact that the experience of all these countries, their knowledge of Russian sensitivity, has perhaps made it possible to avoid two pitfalls: waiting a little too much, reacting weakly or launching into imprecations that are not followed through with effect. In the end, Europe of 27 has – in my opinion – reacted better than Europe of 12 or 15.

Crisis management that has moved up a gear
• In terms of crisis action, Europe has shown that it is an adult. The Civil Crisis Staff (CCPC) successfully underwent its baptism of fire. The procedures were more than accelerated, subjugated one could say, and the delays were shortened to a minimum. The Council and COPS teams were perhaps on their “knees” – having worked throughout the month of August, on weekends, sometimes very late… But as a result, where usually it takes 3-4 months , the operation could be designed, finalized, decided, and the observers deployed on the ground in less than two weeks. A great feat that must be commended. It should be noted that at the same time, the EU finished deploying a small civilian mission in Guinea-Bissau, and restarted the deployment of the very large “Rule of Law” mission in Kosovo (the largest civilian mission ever deployed by the EU), and was preparing a maritime operation off the coast of Somalia. All, one could say, with the usual difficulties of this type of mission, but without really any problem.

The two engines of Europe
In passing, two other institutional remarks, the European machine now operates with two engines: that of the Commission (which we cannot really say is whirring, we would rather say that it is purring) – for economic and security questions. immigration –, and the driving force of the Council – for defense and security issues –. If the first has traditionally been called a “community engine”, the second undoubtedly has an intergovernmental origin (we decide between 27 or 26 Member States, unanimously) but it has a common functioning.

Europe must not let its guard down
• We will now have to judge by time. The observers' mission has only just begun. Provocations, from both sides (notably from the Abkhazian or Ossetian sides), will undoubtedly come. And we will have to see how EUMM Georgia “holds up”, as it operates with composure and responsiveness. Europe must not let its guard down. It may have to send other reinforcements to the region. At the diplomatic level, the Geneva meeting on October 15 will also be decisive in seeing if the EU has the means to impose its will.

As for NATO's reaction, and the EU's relationship with it, that's another story... To be continued


Read a first analysis on the Russian chess move

Photo 1: Italian vehicles boarded an Antonov 12BP cargo ship, September 23, Tbilisi.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).