Early Warning, Early Action

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 06/12/2024 - 10:15

An assessment of conflict potential in the Middle East in relation to Dutch national interests

Over the past three decades, interest in understanding, predicting and preventing violent conflict across different fragile and conflict-affected situations has soared. The focus on conflict prevention recognises not only the imperative of preventing the steep human costs associated with violent conflict and donor interests in stability in key regions across the world, but also rests on the idea that conflict prevention is cost-effective. Such insights were recognised in the framing remarks of the World Bank’s seminal Pathways for Peace report, stating that ‘over the medium to long term, donors would save between US$2 and US$7 for each US$1 invested in prevention-related activities’. Hence, several European donors have recognised conflict prevention as a key goal in their foreign policies. Notably, the government of the Netherlands prioritised conflict prevention as the first goal of its Integrated International Security Strategy (2018 – 2022) and subsequently upheld it in The Security Strategy for the Kingdom of the Netherlands (2023 – 2029). 

Although the importance of conflict prevention is thus solidly entrenched in the international debate, its execution is not a straightforward matter. Conflict prevention requires an understanding of conflict dynamics, detection of early warning signals and trends, and the ability to initiate preventive action early across a variety of domains. In theory, well-funded and sufficiently flexible diplomatic, aid and defence systems should be able to address emerging challenges in a timely fashion, foregoing the need for any forward-looking tools and methods. In practice, deployment and budgeting procedures work in (multi-)annual cycles, coordination and multilateral advocacy take time, and the bureaucratic logic of ongoing programmes may resist the swift reaction required by a changing conflict context. As such, the evaluating and selection of early warning signals to be further explored through a strategic foresight process may be significant steps to more rapid and substantial policy responses should conflict emerge. To overcome these constraints a variety of actors have developed Early Warning systems to bolster their ability to look ahead. Examples include the EU (EEAS’s Conflict Early Warning System), Germany (PREVIEW Crisis Early Warning), and a range of academics and non-governmental organisations. In the Netherlands, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence have made significant investments in enhancing their ability to provide early warning signals in order to identify potential early actions (EWEA). Through the PROGRESS research programme these ministries have commissioned the Clingendael Institute to support their activities, in order to assess the risk of violent conflict and instability across a range of states. This report presents the results of Clingendael’s Delphi workshops designed to detect emerging conflict risks in the Middle East over a five-year period, which refines the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ own quantitative early warning approach. Yet, for a number of countries the analysis presented here may be closer attuned to the present as a result of the intensity and speed of current events in the Middle East, particularly in and around Gaza, and the difficulty of assessing how these events might develop and be viewed in the longer term. 


Jos Meester – Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit (CRU), Clingendael Institute 

Erwin van Veen – Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Middle East Programme, Clingendael Institute

Moneera Yassien – Junior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit (CRU), Clingendael Institute


Mixed Messages and the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 05/02/2024 - 13:53

In 2021 the European Union launched its Indo-Pacific strategy, given the region’s increasing geopolitical significance in times of heightened interdependence. The success of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy rests upon the EU’s ability to substantiate its message through concrete commitments (capability), veracity of intentions (credibility) and regularity of implementation (consistency). While the EU’s capability and credibility in the Indo-Pacific remain strong, its greatest challenge lies in consistency. The EU must focus on reframing the core message of its strategy to ensure that it is widely and clearly understood. There are three ways it can do this. Firstly, the EU must acknowledge the heterogeneity of interests among Indo Pacific nations who may be wary of extra-regional intervention, by focusing on the economic advantages of increased engagement. Secondly, the EU must be able to structure a message that can firmly withstand the many political changes of 2024, a pivotal year for elections around the world. Thirdly, the EU must minimise the inconsistency of its signalling in the Indo-Pacific by engaging in minilateral arrangements focused on human, environmental, and climate security.


Charmaine Willoughby, Associate Professor of International Studies at De La Salle University in Manila, the Philippines


Strategic Communication in the Indo-Pacific

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 05/02/2024 - 13:48

Signalling EU Naval Commitment to the Region

The European Union now regards the Indo-Pacific as being at the centre of contemporary geopolitical and security challenges. This has led to an increasing European presence in the region aimed, amongst others, at the protection of trade and the maintenance of international law. With a focus on naval strategy, this paper outlines how the EU’s policies towards the Indo-Pacific are an instance of foreign policy signalling. The EU’s three naval operations as well as the Coordinated Maritime Presence have so far signalled the bloc’s objective to be a global maritime security provider. For this to be effective, the EU must ensure the credibility of its activities. The paper analyses how this can be achieved, including in the Eastern part of the Indo-Pacific. It ends with policy recommendations for more effective signalling.


Nicolas Blarel, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University 

Niels van Willigen, Associate professor of international relations in the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University 


Debating EU Enhanced Naval Presence in the Indo-Pacific

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 05/02/2024 - 13:43

From Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) to Coordinated Maritime Presence (CMP)

The Indo-Pacific is an increasingly important region for global security, but also an arena for geopolitical contestation. Due to its trade and economic interests, as well as broader concerns about the international order, Europe has high stakes in the Indo-Pacific. While France and Great Britain are traditionally the only European states with a significant maritime presence in Asia, the European Union as a whole has, therefore, increased its maritime engagement in recent years. However, European states continue to face obstacles and constraints in expanding their maritime power. The EU has so far been successful in facilitating, among others, information exchange in the Indo-Pacific through Maritime Domain Awareness and the Coordinated Maritime Presence. Its efforts remain largely focused on the Western part of the region. This paper analyses what Europe hopes to achieve in the Indo-Pacific, which challenges it faces, and what it is currently doing and can do further to contribute to maritime security.


Marianne Peron Doise, Associate Research Fellow at IRIS, head of the Indo-Pacific Geopolitical Observatory


Strategic Dynamics in the Indo-Pacific

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 05/02/2024 - 13:38

Partnership for Maintaining Inclusive and Stable Maritime Region

The Indo-Pacific is the most strategically important region in the 21st century. Southeast Asia is located strategically in the confluence of major sea lines of communication. Therefore, the maritime domain and Southeast Asian states are indispensable in the Indo-Pacific. The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) serves as a guideline for the cooperation between ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific nations. Many Indo-Pacific nations have voiced their support towards the AOIP, including the European Union. Despite its importance, the Indo-Pacific is facing numerous challenges such as the maintenance of an inclusive, open, stable, and prosperous region with rules-based partnerships. This paper is divided into three parts. First, it assesses the challenges in the maritime areas of Southeast Asian nations. Second, it explains maritime issues of shared interests between European Union and Indo-Pacific states. Third, it discusses security frameworks that are better suited in the regional context.


Sumathy Permal, Senior Researcher with the Centre for the Straits of Malacca at the Maritime Institute of Malaysia


Freedom isn’t Free

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 04/22/2024 - 16:48

Een kosten-baten analyse van de steun aan Oekraïne 

Ruim tien jaar na de Russische annexatie van de Krim en twee jaar na de grootschalige invasie houdt Oekraïne nog steeds stand tegen Rusland. Dit is niet alleen vanwege de moed en inspanning van de Oekraïners zelf, maar ook dankzij de grootschalige militaire, economische en financiële steunpakketten van Europa en de VS. Voor 2024 reserveerde het kabinet tot dusver drie miljard euro voor militaire steun aan Oekraïne in de strijd tegen Russische agressie en zegde ook voor 2025 nog drie miljard toe. In navolging van het VK, Frankrijk en Duitsland, heeft Nederland een tienjarige overeenkomst over veiligheidssamenwerking met Oekraïne gesloten die de steun ook op lange termijn moet borgen. Ook het onlangs verschenen AIV-briefadvies en een recente Kamerbrief zetten in op aanhoudende steun.

Deze westerse steun is echter niet langer vanzelfsprekend of onomstreden. Met name in de VS maar ook in sommige Europese NAVO-landen begint de roep om de steun te staken langzaam meer weerklank te krijgen. Het Amerikaanse steunpakket van ruim zestig miljard dollar werd pas na maanden vertraging aangenomen door het Huis van Afgevaardigden. De discussie die daaraan voorafging maakte pijnlijk duidelijk dat toekomstige Amerikaanse steun niet vanzelfsprekend is. President Biden heeft inmiddels zijn retoriek heeft afgeschaald van “as long as it takes” naar “as long as we can”. Nieuwe toezeggingen voor nieuwe hulp aan Oekraïne stagneerden eind 2023 (met een terugval van bijna negentig procent) terwijl beloofde munitie-aantallen bij lange na niet gehaald werden. Een waarschuwing van de Franse president Macron dat een Westerse militaire interventie niet moet worden uitgesloten, kon op weinig bijval rekenen van zijn buitenlandse ambtsgenoten. Alhoewel het vraagstuk van Westerse ‘boots on the ground’ ook nader aandacht verdient, wordt het dientengevolge binnen deze notitie buiten beschouwing gelaten en wordt onder ‘steun’ zowel economische als materiële steun gerekend, maar zonder inzet van westerse troepen in Oekraïne. 

Na Poetins recente ‘verkiezingsoverwinning’ escaleerde het Kremlin de oorlogsretoriek. Er wordt nu door regeringsfunctionarissen openlijk over ‘oorlog’ gesproken, terwijl men eerder voor dat woord in de gevangenis belandde. Dit past in de retoriek waarbij niet langer Oekraïne, maar de NAVO de agressor is. Daarnaast kondigde het ministerie van defensie de formatie van twee nieuwe combined arms legerkorpsen aan en versnelde het de werving van nieuw militair personeel. Onderhand begint de Russische oorlogsindustrie op stoom te komen en produceert het grote hoeveelheden munitie en materieel ten behoeve van de Russische oorlogsinspanning. De grootschalige import van onder andere artilleriemunitie uit Noord-Korea en drones uit Iran vult de Russische voorraden verder aan. De gevolgen op het slagveld zijn reeds merkbaar, zoals te zien was bij het verlies van de stad Avdiivka in februari. Intussen stijgt de druk op Oekraïense troepen aan het front. In een interview eind maart liet president Zelensky weten dat Oekraïne meer land zal moeten opgeven bij langer uitblijven van Westerse materiële steun.

Ook in Nederland is er debat over de voortzetting van de steun aan Oekraïne en de vorm waarin dat moet gebeuren. De vraag naar de kosten en baten van het al dan niet verlenen van politieke, economische en militaire steun door de Nederlandse overheid is in dit kader buitengewoon relevant. Dit is meer dan een simpele rekensom waarin de winst of het verlies in Euro’s wordt uitgedrukt. Het gaat immers ook om veiligheidsrisico’s en geopolitieke en morele kosten en baten die zich niet altijd in ééndimensionale cijfers laten uitdrukken. Het is daarom essentieel om een breder begrip van kosten en baten te hanteren, beredeneerd vanuit de Nederlandse nationale veiligheidsbelangen en de impact van internationale steun op de uitkomsten van het conflict. Hierbij is een belangrijke overweging in hoeverre steun voor Oekraïne bijdraagt aan een militaire overwinning, een militair verlies, of een protracted conflict.

Deze notitie doet een bijdrage aan het debat over de Nederlandse steun. De notitie: 

  • relateert de impact van Europese en Amerikaanse steun aan drie uitkomsten van de oorlog in Oekraïne: een Oekraïense overwinning op termijn, een protracted conflict of een Russische overwinning. 
  • analyseert de kosten en baten van het voortzetten dan wel staken van steun voor elk van deze drie scenario’s; 
  • identificeert de voorkeur-opties van Europa en VS voor het al dan niet voortzetten van de steun; 
  • concludeert met handelingsperspectieven voor de Nederlandse overheid. 


Tim Sweijs - Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) and a Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands’ War Studies Research Centre of the Netherlands Defence Academy

Bob Deen - Senior Research Fellow, hoofd van de Security Unit van Clingendael en coördinator van het Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre 

Roman de Baedts - Junior Research Fellow bij de Security Unit van Clingendael, voornamelijk werkzaam binnen het Security & Defence programma

Ukrainian soldier near Lyman / Reuters

Beyond the EU enlargement paradox

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 03/14/2024 - 10:48

Optimising opportunities  and minimising risks

This Clingendael report analyses the so-called ‘EU enlargement paradox’, which refers to the notion that EU enlargement is both inevitable and impossible at the same time. It is inevitable for geostrategic reasons, given Putin’s Russian imperial revisionism. But at the same time, EU enlargement is impossible for political institutional reasons. At the moment, neither the eligible candidate countries, nor the EU at large, nor the electorates in key EU Member States are ‘enlargement fit’. How could the Dutch government deal with this paradox? 

This paper aims to set the scene for the forthcoming debate in the Netherlands on the future of EU enlargement. To serve as a basis for risk analysis, it provides a systematic overview of various trade-offs on five policy domains: 1) geopolitics, security and defence; 2) rule of law and democracy; 3) economy and budget; 4) migration and free movement of persons; and 5) EU institutional structure.

The report draws on findings from the latest Clingendael Barometer survey, which analysed Dutch public opinion towards enlargement along these dimensions.


René Cuperus - Senior Research Fellow, Clingendael Institute

Saskia Hollander - Senior Research Fellow, Clingendael Institute 

The walls in Tbilisi speak out / Reuters


Submitted by Inge on Tue, 02/20/2024 - 11:42

Confrontatie en samenwerking in een wereld van wisselende coalities

De wereld van morgen is er één van barsten en blokken. In deze wereld van groeiende belangentegenstellingen zullen grootmachten vaker botsen in het politieke, economische en mogelijk militaire domein. Competitie en confrontatie wordt dominanter ten opzichte van coöperatie. Te midden van deze rijk geschakeerde grootmachtcompetitie is er een verhoogd risico op de uitbraak van regionale conflicten uitgevochten door kleine en middelgrote mogendheden.


Koen Aartsma - Senior Research Fellow

Frank Bekkers - HCSS

Tim Sweijs - HCSS


Getting Them On Board

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 02/20/2024 - 11:21

Series: Guarding the Maritime Commons

Partners and Avenues for European Engagement in Indo-Pacific Maritime Security

How should Europe strengthen its engagement with the Indo-Pacific? While the continent is highly dependent on trade from the region, it has limited capabilities to protect its interests in the face of growing Sino-American competition. This new HCSS report examines how European states can engage in the Indo-Pacific by deepening cooperation with regional powers.

The Indo-Pacific comprises many actors, which are positioned along key chokepoints and share geopolitical and geoeconomic interests in protecting crucial sea lines of communication with Europe. This report does two things to establish pathways for deeper European engagement with Indo-Pacific states:

  • Based on relevance for maritime security and political affinity with European countries, it assesses the suitability of regional states as partners. Besides the usual suspects Australia, Japan and South Korea, it identifies an “inbetweener” group of countries, with whom cooperation can be fruitful but is not guaranteed, and states with whom engagement is unlikely to yield beneficial results.
  • It then zooms in on the “inbetweeners” to determine pathways for deepening ties. By comparing bilateral relations between different European and Indo-Pacific states along security, trade and investment, and capacity-building and infrastructure, the authors identify relative strengths and weaknesses of European states. Finally, they also contrast Europe’s involvement with that of China and the United States.

Based on the analysis, the report recommends to strengthen European collaboration with more ambivalent Indo-Pacific states, with a focus on trade and investment and capacity-building in the short- to medium-term.


Paul van Hooft, Benedetta Girardi and Alisa Hoenig - The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies: Europe and the Indo-Pacific Hub (EIPH)

Other contributors: 

Giovanni Cisco 


Campagnes tegen hybride dreigingen: een handleiding

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 02/20/2024 - 10:57

Campagnes tegen hybride dreigingen: een handleiding

Europese samenlevingen zijn doelwit van hybride aanvallen van buitenlandse actoren, met als doel om democratische processen te beïnvloeden en kwetsbaarheden uit te buiten. Als reactie hierop zoeken overheden, waaronder de Nederlandse, naar een proactieve benadering tegen hybride dreigingen om niet langer een figuurlijke schietschijf te zijn voor de acties van autoritaire regimes. Hoewel zij uiteenlopende strategieën hebben opgesteld, blijft counter hybride samenwerking vaak nog rudimentair en bij gelegenheid georganiseerd. Deze HCSS notitie door Gerben Bakker en Tim Sweijs biedt daarom een handleiding voor het opstellen en uitvoeren van counter hybride campagnes.


Gerben Bakker en Tim Sweijs - The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies 

Met dank aan:

Tara de Klerk en Tom Draaijer