Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)maritime piracy

NATO's operation "recovery" against pirates in Somalia

(BRUSSELS2, analysis) “Recovery”, the word is actually not too strong. Piracy has been raging on certain coasts off the coast of Somalia for several years. And, at least several months, that it becomes critical. 71 attacks since the start of the year, approximately half of which resulted in the capture of the boat (61 attacks in the north, 10 attacks in the south). And, suddenly, NATO decided to act! The decision was not announced (in Budapest on October 10) until boats were immediately set in motion and crossed the Suez Canal on October 15... What speed! Just when the European Union sees the road cleared for the establishment of a military operation intended to counter piracy, the British having lifted their opposition (see: The format of the EuNav anti-piracy operation (Somalia) is becoming clearer).

Amazing coincidence!

Until a few days ago, according to EU sources, nothing of the sort was planned. “We have repeatedly asked NATO what it intends to do. And we were never told even the intention of considering an operation… until last Friday” says a diplomat. Proof: the World Food Program (WFP) has repeatedly alerted all responsible military interlocutors – European and Western in particular – of its need to ensure the security of its boats which supply Somalia and the Horn of Africa. If the EU integrated this request into its planning of the military operation in preparation, NATO never responded (as an organization). So when the PAM found itself short of escorts - between the mission of the Danes and the Canadians, in July, there was no one... Same recovery, when the néerlandais announced in mid-October that they were going to send a ship to support the WFP. It became a decision by NATO which accepted that this boat detached itself from its permanent grouping. Which is quite strong!

Marking “on the pants”"

Media tinkering

The operation announced by NATO in Budapest is more a media tinkering than a real desire to intervene. NATO's permanent rapid reaction group, SNMG2 (dependent on Naples HQ) had planned to visit ports as part of the Istanbul initiative, in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the Arab Emirates. United. As if the Euro-Atlantic military organization – which remained armed when Georgia was attacked by Russia – was looking for a reason to justify its existence (read other analysis).

NATO and EU in “competition” over the conflict in Georgia

The EU foreign ministers, in the middle of August, had not met as soon as (August 13) when the Euro-Atlantic organization also wanted to bring together “its” foreign ministers. Done on August 20 (Basically the same + the United States and Canada.). The statement was a little more belligerent, with “the decision to suspend NATO-Russia Council meetings” as well as Russian participation in certain exercises. But nothing more... The Russian diplomatic mission continued to taunt the organization by continuing to organize press meetings in its delegation office which is located within the NATO compound in Brussels! And nothing concrete came. Aside from American “humanitarian” aid boats which have rather disorganized humanitarian aid; rotations from several organizations, such as the WFP, were already being organized.

The EU's “global” method

In this escalation, the strength of the EU (and of the French presidency) has been its global method (diplomatic, civil-military, humanitarian, economic). The “negotiation”, live in Moscow and Tbilisi, led by Sarkozy and Kouchner, with the Finn Stubb, president of the OSCE (read his story) and signing of a ceasefire plan by the two belligerents, under the aegis of the EU, on August 12, announcement of additional humanitarian aid by the Commission, European summit on September 1, new information meeting of Foreign Affairs in Avignon on September 4 and new negotiations in Moscow at the highest level to “specify” the Russian withdrawal measures on September 8, European green light for the deployment of EU observers on September 15, and finally withdrawal (almost successful) of the Russians on October 10 on their pre-war positions, etc. All these initiatives mark a certain European maturity in crisis intervention and made the difference despite some attempts at “tackle” (rule of rugby means) in order to recover the ball...

Resentment erupts

NATO, for its part, remained paralyzed, with guns drawn, both by its lack of a global method, of a civil and diplomatic arm, and by the electoral campaign in the United States. On September 14, the Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, usually rather very polite, allowed himself to confide his criticisms in the Financial Times, Half-heartedly, he questions the Sarkozy-Medvedev plan, believing that it left too much latitude to the Russians and is “not acceptable”. Before denying it a few hours later (the journalist had misunderstood!).

NATO wants to show its effectiveness

While EU Defense Ministers are in an informal meeting in Deauville, devoted to strengthening capabilities, particularly air capabilities - with sharing of future A400M aircraft and modernization of the existing helicopter fleet - NATO announces, by press release, the completion of its “strategic transport” program, C17. A coincidence certainly... Specifying that 12 countries will participate, two of which are not members of the organization but members of the EU (Finland and Sweden).

Some questions to ask yourself…

NATO's existential problem

It can be infuriating, in fact, for a major military organization like NATO to see the “small” security and defense organization (ESDP) of the European Union – which has barely a few hundred men in its ranks ranks (general staff and administration) – tumble onto its terrain and manage to set up, in one year, three operations – Chad, Georgia, Somalia – where NATO cannot intervene, for strictly political reasons, holding on to its too strong side American; while it itself is bogged down in a difficult “Afghanistan” operation.

Question of credibility, effectiveness, use of public funds

Even if it seems normal, from a strict organizational point of view, certain questions must be asked, if only for the credibility of the existence of these two organizations. When we talk about duplication of resources or lack of coordination, shouldn't we then look for them more on the side of Boulevard Léopold III (NATO headquarters) than on Place Schuman (headquarters of the European Union)? In these times of budgetary restriction, financial, economic (and social) crisis, shouldn't we start to ask ourselves the question of what the organization's 12 agents are doing? What are they for ? How is the money used well used? So many questions that will one day need to be answered.


NB: in a sometimes exaggerated manner, certain newspapers specializing in Euroscepticism (The Sun, Bild in particular) attack the European Union on these financial questions (down to the euro). Oddly, on NATO, no question or investigation of this type has ever been made…

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).

2 thoughts on “NATO's operation "recovery" against pirates in Somalia"

Comments closed.