Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)Gulf Middle East

In 24 hours, a strategic clarification on 4 fundamental points. The end of an inconsistency

Russia becomes an ally. A rapprochement initiated during talks between Obama and Putin in Antalya (Credit: White House)
Russia becomes an ally. A rapprochement initiated during talks between Obama and Putin in Antalya (Credit: White House)

(B2) Until now, faced with the crisis in Syria and the rest of the world, the French and Europeans had no real strategy. Or rather they had several, often contradictory ones. They annihilated each other and thus prevented any consistent action (read: Refugees, Russia, Bashar? Europe will really have to choose!). After the attacks in Paris, François Hollande's speech to Congress on Monday (November 16) and the discussion between defense ministers on Tuesday (November 17), clarifications were made, in a notable way, on four fundamental points.

First clarification: in Syria, the enemy is indeed Daesh (aka the Islamic State organization ISIL or ISIS depending on the name). The question of Bashar therefore becomes secondary. François Hollande confirmed this in his congress speech (read: Terrorism. François Hollande rings the bells to Europeans and calls for more solidarity). Paris has clarified its objectives which, as a result, make it possible to clarify the European strategy. France being one of the last countries to proclaim, urbi et orbi, its ambition to see Bashar leave the government.

Second clarification: Russia is no longer an adversary. Moscow has not become a friend. But he is an ally. The desire for a coalition unique » going from Russia to the United States, encompassing Turkey and Iran, could be discussed by some allies. However, she is ipso facto Coming into force. The Russians symbolically strike, following the French, on Raqqa, the stronghold of Daesh in Syria. With the consent of Washington. This is also why France chose to invoke article 42.7 of the European treaty and not article 5 of the Atlantic Alliance, to allow as many allies as possible to be incorporated into the battle. This clarification closes the door to almost two years of tension, almost to the day after the signing of the association agreements with Ukraine which had provoked the ire of Moscow. Of course, the situation remains the same in Crimea and the Ukrainian question is still not resolved. The test of this new doctrine will come in December, when the economic and political sanctions against Russia are revised.

Third clarification: we will have to spend more on security and defense. Until now, there were two contradictory objectives defined at the European and Euro-Atlantic level. We must spend more on defense, said the 28 NATO members gathered in Newport in Wales, a year ago, to reach 2% of GDP (only a few countries including Greece are at this level). We must save at all levels of the State to meet the criteria of the Stability Pact, said the 28 (of the EU) and the European Commission. Today, this dilemma is resolved. And François Hollande's phrase, the security pact prevails over the stability pact, becomes in fact the unwritten rule. But it will still be necessary to define the nature of this exception, its duration, and its intensity. The invocation of Article 42.7 provides an “objective”, legal reason for the European Commission, allowing it to grant to France what it may refuse to other countries tomorrow. The question that now officially arises is whether certain defense spending should not be more generally exempted from the stability pact. Much more complex.

Fourth clarification: military solidarity has a double trigger. So far, no one would question the primacy of NATO to ensure defense against a common enemy, preferably state or semi-state. NATO had a concept of “All Together”, in a “Cold War” version. All together against Russia. All together in Afghanistan... The semi-failure of the operation in Afghanistan (1) has set the record straight. Today, the doctrine becomes more realistic it is each “ according to his means » and its defense posture (neutral / not neutral, etc.). And the solidarity effort is ensured according to a coordination of resources made by the European Union, and not in a European mission. NATO is left aside (2), relegated (for the moment) to the function of territorial defense of European territory, in the strict sense.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Triggered by the United States under Article V, after the 2001 attacks

(2) It can be noted that the Americans who lead the international coalition in Iraq have never requested the involvement of NATO (to better involve the Arab countries). Which should worry Boulevard Leopold III, the headquarters of NATO.

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).