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Military alliances cannot run at two speeds

Published at: 16-02-2018

Posted on: February 16th, 2018 by RaduC

Faced with many problems which question its very existence, the EU is trying to re-invent itself. The organization is clearly at a crossroad which is harder to overcome as the diversity of its members` priorities makes a consensus on the way forward highly unlikely. There is a visible decoupling of the mainstream national elites that emerged in the past decades from the population which can result in worrying voting outcomes.

In the face of the economic and social pressure brought on by globalization, the technology revolution and migration, Europe`s nations display a decreasing and diverging appetite for further integration. The nationalist or populist movements, on the other hand, are nudging their way into the foreground and obtained a significant number of MPs in core EU countries such as France and Germany.

The threat of European institutions taking a step back prompts leaders to try and find flexible solutions capable to meet the assortment of preferences that the MSs have when it comes to the way forward. This is how the multiple-speed Europe idea emerged which virtually allows countries wishing for a deeper integration to continue down this path and those wishing to rather hang on national powers, to do so.

Unavoidably this approach will lead to different engagement levels of the member states in the European construction and even to marginalization in some cases, as the decisions taken by the core, more integrated countries run the risk of further alienating the countries left out of decision-making. Thus, the negotiation power of some of the countries which have now taken on the role of opponents to deeper integration will dwindle and they will be force to rethink their position within the Union.

In statements, at least, Romania is aiming to join the European hard core, but, in practice its behavior is unpredictable, lacks any rigor, which would rather point that the contrary holds true both politically and economically. As a result, as it carried on its inconsistencies over the past decades, Romania does not stand a real chance to access the hard core in the foreseeable future, all the more so since inclusion in the hard core implies joining the Eurozone. A project that Romania has been treating with much frivolity and hypocrisy.

Moreover, under more stringent economic and cultural criteria, and in order to avoid a worsening of existing tensions, the Eurozone itself should on paper, at least, embrace the two-speed approach which would bring about a “hard core” euro zone and a “soft core” area. Something that Germany will drag its feet on sorting out given the huge benefits in terms of the competitive edge from sharing the same currency with less competitive countries in the Mediterranean area.

Whereas the multi-speed economic or politic integration of Europe can give rise to negotiations, scenarios, interpretations and doubts, there is, however, one area where the two or multi-speed approach is doomed to fail. Security.

The military solidarity of alliances cannot be ensured at multiple speeds. It is either expressed and guaranteed unequivocally, or it is rendered useless by the mere existence of doubt. This is why sometimes too wide a variety of views on EU defense, the relationship with NATO, on national defense systems setup, funds to be allotted, deployment of troops or imminent threats will lead to Europe losing its military credibility: both as an adversary, and as a partner.

When it comes to defense, a Europe perceived as multi-speed guarantees failure. Poland and Romania, France and Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic display a remarkable pell-mell of security options. Being in Central Europe changes your geopolitical perspective and obviously, decreases motivation.

“But there are EU troops deployed in border countries”, some will argue. Of course, but when the political statements at EU level are inconsistent, when the large European states lag behind in terms of defense appropriations and technology, the discussion about a credible European army can only be seen as having political purposes alone.

This is the challenge facing countries such as Poland and Romania in their search for steadfast partners. A Europe seen to run at multiple speeds on security issues, is no guarantee. So both countries are now opting for individual alliances with countries they feel they can rely on due to their historically consistent geo-strategic positioning, unlike many other European states: the Great Britain and the US. The marginal and sometimes clashing stand they take in their relations with the EU poses a strategic conundrum for Romania and Poland. And the fix can only be patchy and at times costly.

Who should take precedence: the development provider or the security provider?

Our economic, but also military vulnerability does not allow us to antagonize either of them. And I do not think that the “2 for 1” solution is in the slightest realistic. The EU will not be able to credibly match the US as a deterrent in terms of security, but the US will not supply development funds and an economic presence in the region as the EU does. It is the kind of between a rock and a hard place situation that resulted in the signing of a security treaty between Poland and the UK, of strategic partnerships between Romania/Poland and the US, purchasing military equipment from both the Europeans and the US including here other future purchases having to assuage both sides, despite of them sometimes lacking economic sense.

This positioning in the middle cannot work for ever, and firm decisions need to be taken. The most recent example is the UN Jerusalem vote, where the US and the EU were on opposite sides. Romania`s abstention was the compromise solution dictated by the above-mentioned conundrum, but which placed us and Poland outside the EU camp which overwhelmingly voted against the US request. We have yet to see the back of such moments and the conundrum remains unresolved. And the Romanian leaders do not even speak about this in one voice …

Which relationship matters more? With the security sponsor or with the economic one? And yet …

There is what some will call good news and other bad. We will not have to choose as far as democracy and the rule of law are concerned. All foreign partners are on the same page on that.

Have a nice weekend!

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