Countering hybrid threats

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 03/28/2023 - 17:07

The role of the Joint Expeditionary Force

Russia’s war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed the international order that is based on norms and values of state sovereignty and international law. While the Balkan wars in the nineties were the result of internal turmoil leading to the collapse of Yugoslavia, the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict marks the return of large-scale interstate warfare in Europe for the first time since the end of the Second World War. A year after the Russian invasion was launched on 24 February 2022, valuable lessons can already be drawn for the characteristics of modern warfare. The conflict has shown – both in the run-up to the invasion as well as after the start of the war – that non-military aspects are part of Russia’s strategy. Well-known examples are the abuse of the European ‘oil and gas dependency’ on Russia, the spread of disinformation, cyberattacks and the channelling of refugees and migration flows. What these means have in common is that they are aimed at undermining the unity of the West and destabilising their societies and democracies. This very complex set of hybrid threats raises new questions on how to respond to them, as the hybrid domain requires the involvement of many different actors at the national and international level: from various ministries and even private companies (such as the energy sector) to the EU and NATO.

As hybrid challenges have become an integral part of modern conflict, the question has arisen what kind of role should be laid down for the armed forces. Hybrid challenges are very often of a transboundary and non-military nature. Therefore, they have to be addressed primarily by civil actors. But in addition, the military can also play a role in countering hybrid threats, and this raises the question of the role of multinational (military) formats such as the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). The JEF is a multinational military formation of northern European countries with the United Kingdom as the lead nation. Since 2019, the JEF has increasingly focused its activities on the hybrid domain. The war in Ukraine has been a catalyst for increased cooperation in the JEF context at the political, policy and military operational levels. The Russian threat, both physically (conventional forces) and virtually/digitally, has become the main focus of attention. It is in the latter category of threats that the JEF Nations are struggling with the question of what its role should be.

This report explores the possible role of the JEF in hybrid conflicts and how cooperation in the JEF can be attained. The first chapter addresses the role of military forces in responding to hybrid threats and what the JEF has realised in this context so far. Particular attention will be given to the challenges of but also the opportunities for connecting military activities with those of non-military actors. The second chapter focusses on the roles of NATO and the EU in the hybrid domain and how the JEF could relate to the efforts of these international organisations. The potential impact of the future NATO membership of Finland and Sweden – both JEF Participating Nations – is also addressed. The third chapter zooms in on the potential of the JEF’s role and functions in the hybrid domain and how this should be implemented. The growing political character of the JEF cooperation is also addressed. The report ends with a list of conclusions and recommendations for the Netherlands.
The methodology used for this report consists of a mix of literature research and a series of interviews with government representatives and members of think tanks in a selection of JEF Nations as well as with staff officers at the JEF Headquarters, at the NATO Headquarters and at EU institutions. These interviews were held under the application of the Chatham House rule. The authors are grateful to all interviewees for their valuable contributions.

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Dick Zandee, Head of the Security Unit at the Clingendael Institute

Adája Stoetman, Research Fellow at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute



The state of economic convergence in the Eurozone

Submitted by Inge on Fri, 01/13/2023 - 16:53

What is the state of economic convergence in the euro area? And will the redefinition of the Stability and Growth Pact result in a more effective policy for achieving convergence? A common currency, together with the four freedoms, was assumed to lead to economic convergence. This Clingendael Report reviews the state of convergence in the euro area by focusing on nominal, real and institutional convergence. Despite a range of policy initiatives and monitoring systems, convergence has not been achieved neither in terms of monetary and economic performance nor of the quality of governance at the national level. Despite some major successes in convergence, welfare has continued to diverge in some countries and differences in debt levels have increased up to the point of threatening the - economic and political - coherence of the euro area. Public spending also varies considerably while higher public spending does not ensure higher growth levels. The paradoxical situation has arisen in which countries that (drastically) reduced debt levels performed better in terms of growth and reduction in unemployment.

Using comparative economic data for the more than 20 years since the introduction of euro, the Report among other things reaches the following conclusions:

  • Upward convergence has been successful in among others Ireland and in East-European member states. These countries witnessed relatively high growth while debts were reduced. Portugal managed to bring down unemployment during the past years. Yet, a limited number of member states continue to struggle with debts, growth, and attracting investments.
  • Trend analysis shows that European investment funds have failed to make a difference. Major benefactors of EU investment funds in Southern and Eastern Europe show diverging growth patterns. Ireland and East-European countries succeeded in terms of catch-up growth whereas Southern countries lagged behind. Further study is required to explain the differences in convergence and its relation to public investment.
  • Contrary to the general impression that fiscal consolidation has hampered growth, we find that the countries that did cut expenditure also achieved relatively high growth levels, were able to attract investments, and managed to reduce unemployment. By implication, the notion of investment deficits in eurozone countries needs to be re-examined.
  • Also in national federations with explicit stabilization mechanisms, such as the US and Germany, convergence is hard to achieve. Hence, it is probably more important to accept divergence while preventing that stability of the monetary union is undermined. Convergence is not a necessary condition for the economic stability of a monetary union as long as public debt levels do not cause negative external effects large enough to jeopardize the stability of the system.

Read the full report.


Adriaan Schout, Senior Researcher, Institute Clingendael & Professor European Public Administration, Radboud University

Arthur van Riel, Senior Research Fellow, Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy


Strategic tech cooperation between the EU and India

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 01/10/2023 - 17:13

How strategic tech cooperation can reinvigorate relations between the EU and India

In an era of multipolarity, India – expected to become the world’s most populous nation soon – will be a significant geopolitical player. This necessitates European Union (EU) member states to shift their policies to engage one of the world’s largest consumer and industrial markets.

Strategic clarity and a shared narrative

In the current international and geopolitical context, there is ample reason for the two sides to deepen their ties further. Strategic clarity about the objectives and benefits of closer ties will help build a clear narrative that will steer policymakers and other stakeholders in the desired direction, towards implementation.

The EU and its member states are investing in economic resilience and open strategic autonomy. A key question is therefore: can India help the EU move closer towards strategic autonomy – more specifically, reduce EU dependence on China?
India is seeking to promote its own manufacturing and production capabilities through its ‘Make in India’ campaign, which seeks to diversify existing value and supply chains that currently often rely on China. A key question for India is: can the EU help India to move closer towards strategic autonomy – more specifically, reducing Indian reliance on Russia?

Military technologies and critical technologies

Set against this context, this Clingendael Report investigates the role that technology can play in deepening and broadening the relationship between India and the EU – and the Netherlands in particular. Particular attention is paid to (1) military technologies; and (2) critical technologies and supply-chain restructuring (semiconductors, batteries, data, etc).

Opportunities to enhance EU–India ties are analysed along three courses of action: 1) ‘protect’: keeping out unwanted influence; 2) ‘promote’: using innovation and commercialisation; and 3) ‘regulate and shape’: using regulatory frameworks (and standards, for example). In each of these three areas, joint action with India is possible. The EU-India Trade and Technology Council (TTC) will be the natural venue to pursue these opportunities.

The insights of Indian and European experts in the field are given in six stand-alone chapters, preceded by an introduction and followed by concluding analysis by the Clingendael editors.

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Vera Kranenburg, Research Fellow at the Clingendael's EU & Global Affairs Unit and the Clingendael China Centre

Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow and Lead of ‘Geopolitics of Technology and Digitalisation’ programme at the Clingendael Institute

This report is edited by Vera Kranenburg and Maaike Okano-Heijmans of the Clingendael Institute, with contributions by Indian and European experts.


Open strategic autonomy: the digital dimension

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 01/09/2023 - 17:20

Towards a European Digital Technology Stack

In recent years the European Union (EU) and its member states hesitantly embarked on a new and ambitious path towards what came to be called ‘digital and technological autonomy’. This paradigm shift involves a turn away from the market-based, open economy thinking that has dominated in European policy circles in recent decades. The new direction is towards a geostrategic, more closed economy thinking, with a shift from a focus on trade to technology.

Tech capability defines world leadership

Policies and instruments are being devised to secure public interests in the digital domain and to be resilient in an interconnected world wherein technological capability defines world leadership. This ranges from investing in telecommunications security and trusted connections, to preventing Big Tech from becoming too powerful and taking responsibility for misinformation online; and from ensuring a secure supply of the natural resources needed for microchips and batteries, to investing in digitally skilled citizens and clean and green technologies for a sustainable future. Europe’s aim is to cooperate with partners, but to act based on own insights and choices.

Clarifying interests and concerns

This report introduces the Digital Technology Stack (DTS) as an analytical framework to analyse the interests and concerns that inform Europe’s quest for digital and technological sovereignty . It considers instruments and policies in the eleven layers of the stack. The DTS is a combination of hardware and software technologies, as well as services, that are ‘stacked’ on top of each other to make a device or service work. Digital sovereignty is about having a choice at each layer of the Stack.

Ultimately, the EU and its member states need to develop a balanced approach to digital and technological sovereignty that incorporates both ‘promote’ and ‘protect’ actions, and that is agreed and supported by all government institutions. While the EU and its member states have in recent years invested in defensive action – implementing more stringent investment screening, export controls and an economic coercion instrument – policies to strengthen Europe’s own technological superiority and economic competitiveness in the digital economy are still lagging.

Digital sovereignty concerns us all

Better understanding among policymakers in all ministries/institutions is needed of the interconnections and the trade-offs among the many issues involved – ranging from stable and secure supply chains and semiconductors to competitiveness in the digital economy and internet governance.

In this age of rapid technological developments, digitalisation and global power shifts, digital sovereignty concerns us all. Improved understanding of this will contribute to improved policymaking and, ultimately, to greater EU unity, strength and resilience – all prerequisites for digital and technological sovereignty and, ultimately, for European strategic autonomy

Read report.


Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow and Lead of ‘Geopolitics of Technology and Digitalisation’ programme at the Clingendael Institute


Military capabilities affected by climate change

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 01/09/2023 - 17:16

An analysis of China, Russia and the United States

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of the present and the future. Rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as extreme weather events are manifestations of climate change that also influence military capabilities. Increased attention for the climate change-security nexus is visible both at the national and the international level: nationally through the incorporation of climate change in security strategies and internationally through incorporation in important strategic documents such as the EU’s Strategic Compass and NATO’s Strategic Concept.

Given its transnational nature, governments around the world have a shared responsibility to face climate change. A particular role is laid down for the global powers, China, Russia and the United States, given their position in the world. It is, however, questionable whether the global powers’ interests align. They differ in their approaches to address climate change, and even more so in their views on how it affects the armed forces. China and particularly Russia are more reluctant towards depicting climate change as a matter of international security. This is for example visible in international forums, such as the UN Security Council. In contrast, in the US, support for climate action is subject to political preferences, but climate related security risks are widely recognised within the defence establishment.

This report reviews various aspects of the relationship between climate and security, with a particular focus on the military. It discusses the role of climate change in a country’s security and defence strategy and, vice versa, the changing tasks and deployment of the armed forces in response to climate change, the effects of climate change on military infrastructure, and measures to realise a greener defence sector.

Read report.


Adája Stoetman, Research Fellow at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute

Dick Zandee, Head of the Security Unit at the Clingendael Institute

Ties Dams, Research Fellow at the Clingendael China Centre

Niels Drost, Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Russia & Eastern Europe Centre and the EU & Global Affairs Unit

Louise van Schaik, Head of Unit EU & Global Affairs at the Clingendael Institute


Not one without the other

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 12/06/2022 - 13:17

Not one without the other
Realigning deterrence and arms control in a European quest for strategic stability

With strategic competition between the great powers accelerating, prospects for missile arms control are bleak. The architecture once designed to limit the risks associated with the production, proliferation, deployment and employment of missiles and their technologies has crumbled as existing agreements were abandoned and as strategic and technological shifts rendered remaining ones increasingly inapt. Even though arms control and its demise are often framed as an issue pertaining predominantly to the United States, Russia, and increasingly also China, their security implications stretch well beyond today’s major military powers. Indeed, despite a persistent lack of interest among Europeans over the past decades regarding developments in missile technology and the strategic calculus, their continent’s security is severely affected by these developments. Therefore, and despite limited manoeuvre space for small and middle powers in this field, options must be explored for Europe to actively shape or at least participate in efforts to reinvigorate arms control and more generally stability. Indeed, even if Thucydides’ notion that “the strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must” applies rather aptly to this field, medium-size missile powers are not left entirely empty-handed.


Lotje Boswinkel and Paul van Hooft - The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

With contributions from Michal Gorecki

Wikimedia Commons

The semiconductor and critical raw material ecosystem

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 10/19/2022 - 14:01

Reaching breaking point: The semiconductor and critical raw material ecosystem at a time of great power rivalry

This report covers new ground by specifically outlining pending disruptions in CRM value chains on which the EU relies for its access to semiconductors in the next five and ten years. The report also highlights key green technologies that rely on the same CRM value chains, as disruptions to these chains will also inhibit the energy transition. By doing so, an action plan is proposed for the Netherlands and the EU to deal with the risks and opportunities associated with the dependencies on the CRM needed for semiconductor production and green technologies. The action plan also outlines options to seize the opportunities related to the strengths of the Netherlands, the European Union and other technologically advanced democracies in the semiconductor value chain.  

The report relies on a literature review, desk research, prior research, stakeholder interviews, and expert interviews with both regional and thematic experts from academia, think tanks, government, and the CRM and semiconductor industry. Ten threats that may well disrupt the supply of CRM to Europe or its partners in semiconductor manufacturing (e.g., Taiwan) in both the next five and ten years were identified. Ranking of the threats (probability impact) was done on the basis of a foresight survey in which 49 experts participated. The formulation of the policy implications, opportunities, and recommendations relies on the findings of the previous chapters, additional desk research, and a global expert consultation with representatives from academia, think tanks, government and both the CRM and semiconductor industry from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and European states.

Download survey and report


Joris Teer and Mattia Bertolini - The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

Contributors Survey Outcome: Saskia Heyster, Jeff Amrish Ritoe, Tim Sweijs and Jack Thompson

Contributors Report: Jeff Amrish Ritoe, Saskia Heyster, Tim Sweijs, Rob de Wijk, Michel Rademaker, Martijn Vlaskamp, Irina Patrahau, Jack Thompson, Stella Kim, Raffaele Minicozzi, Adam Meszaros, Giovanni Cisco, and Michal Gorecki.


Wars to come, Europeans to act

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 10/19/2022 - 10:34

A multimethod foresight study into Europe’s military future

“Watch out for War with a Capital W,” this new HCSS report concludes – based on the first comprehensive expert survey to study the future of European defence since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Authors Lotje Boswinkel and Tim Sweijs use a multi-method approach to explore where Europe is most likely to intervene militarily over the next ten years, and lay out a comprehensive policy agenda for European defence policy makers.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has been a strategic wake-up call for European leaders, leading to a boost in defence budgets across Europe and prompting Finland and Sweden to find shelter under the collective defence umbrella of NATO. If one thing is clear, Europe will need to assume a greater role in maintaining peace and stability in its own region and neighbourhood.

Using a multi-method approach, which includes the largest survey of European defence experts since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, consulting more than 80 experts from 22 countries, this report explores where Europe is most likely to intervene militarily over the next ten years. It anticipates where armed conflict and instability are most likely to occur, how European interests will be affected and lays out a comprehensive policy agenda for European policy makers.

Even with the current reinforcements of military postures across Europe, material and political constraints will not disappear. Therefore future-proof choices need to be made that address the principal security challenges and pinpoint necessary policy responses. This report includes predictive models of intrastate armed conflict and addresses the ‘dangerous dyads’, geopolitical features that make interstate wars likely, which would be most consequential for European interests.

There is an urgent need to think about necessary investments and capability portfolios in the long term, including but also beyond the current war in Ukraine. For fundamental decisions to be future-proof, a reflection on the future security landscape and operating environment is required. That is where the present foresight study comes in.

The study concludes that conflict between the major military powers is a defining feature of the current era and so European leaders must “Watch out for War with a capital W”. Europe must escape entrapment through a strengthened military posture combined with sustained diplomatic efforts. Moreover, efforts must be made to prevent and contain interstate conflict, particularly where dangerous dyads in Europe and its immediate neighbourhood come into play. Policy makers must continue to address global instability factors such as state fragility, polarisation and the democratisation of military technologies. Globally, policy makers must continue to address the climate-security nexus resulting from global warming.

This means an ever-larger variety of military capabilities will be required and expected from European states in a growing number of regions and across a growing number of issues.

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Lotje Boswinkel and Tim Sweijs - The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

Contributors: Collin Meisel, Saskia Heyster, Daan Sanders and Stella Kim


Cover photo source: NATO | troops taking part in the NATO exercise Swift Response at the Krivolak Army Training Range in North Macedonia, May 2022.

How to ‘open’ Strategic Autonomy

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 10/03/2022 - 16:13

The EU’s open strategic autonomy agenda is quickly gathering pace, especially in the trade and industrial domain. A host of initiatives and autonomous instruments have been introduced to strengthen the EU’s resilience, reduce its strategic dependencies in key sectors, and protect its industries against economic coercion and unfair trade practices. The EU has generally been careful to ensure that its efforts do not undermine the openness of its economy. However, there is an undeniable tension between the ‘open’ and ‘autonomous’ components of the agenda. Guaranteeing compatibility will require a careful balancing act, contingent on a coherent strategy not only for strengthening the EU’s strategic autonomy but also for fostering and preserving its openness. This policy brief offers concrete suggestions for operationalising the ‘open’ component in the EU’s open strategic autonomy agenda. 


Luuk Molthof, Research Fellow at Clingendael’s EU & Global Affairs Unit

Luc Köbben, former intern at Clingendael’s EU & Global Affairs Unit


Walking the tightrope towards the EU

Submitted by Inge on Fri, 09/30/2022 - 14:31

When the Council of the European Union decided on 23 June 2022 to grant Moldova the status of EU candidate country, it boosted the morale of a beleaguered government in Chișinău trying to circumnavigate a daunting series of crises. Since Maia Sandu ousted Socialist President Igor Dodon in the presidential election in 2020 and her reform-oriented Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) obtained a parliamentary majority in 2021, Moldova has barely had a chance to catch its breath. In the year that followed, the country experienced an energy crisis that almost deprived it of gas in the winter of 2021-2022, a budding economic crisis with rampant inflation, and a security and refugee crisis as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The war in its immediate neighbourhood, with Russian troops advancing in the spring along Ukraine’s southern coast to barely over 100 kilometres of Moldova’s borders, has further complicated the already difficult geopolitical balancing act of successive Moldovan governments. It has also aggravated existing security risks. For years, Moldova has balanced its aspirations to join the EU with its constitutional neutrality and its many dependencies on the Russian Federation. While President Putin was quick to congratulate Maia Sandu on her election and has so far refrained from open hostility towards her government, there are still many vulnerabilities that Moscow already leverages and could further exploit if it chose to destabilise Moldova. Not only is Moldova’s economy highly fragile and dependent on Russian energy, there are also political forces and regions that see their interests threatened by the reforms of the PAS government in Chișinău – and over which Moscow has different degrees of influence. Two of such regions are the separatist region of Transnistria in the east and the autonomous region of Gagauzia in the south of the country. A better understanding of these key vulnerabilities could help the EU and the Netherlands to assist Moldova in reducing them and to increase the stability and resilience of the EU’s newest candidate country.

The central question of this research report therefore is to what extent Russia’s influence over Moldovan domestic politics as well as the regions of Transnistria and Gagauzia poses risks to the internal and external stability of Moldova.

Read the full report on Moldova’s vulnerabilities amid war in Ukraine.


The authors


Bob Deen, Coordinator of the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC) and Senior Research Fellow of the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute

Wouter Zweers,  Research Fellow at the EU & Global Affairs Unit of the Clingendael Institute.

Photos by Colby Gottert for USAID / Digital Development Communications