Uncharted and uncomfortable in European defence

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 01/27/2022 - 17:47

The EU’s mutual assistance clause of Article 42(7)

As the EU steps up its ambition to defend the interests and the security of its member states, it should also come to terms with a treaty article that is unknown to many and uncomfortable to others: Article 42(7) Treaty on European Union (TEU), also known as the ‘mutual assistance clause’. Since the Lisbon Treaty adopted an amended version of the article from the now defunct Western European Union, EU member states formally have ‘an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power’ in case another EU member state becomes the ‘victim of armed aggression on its territory’. Article 42(7) remained dormant until France invoked it in 2015 in response to the Bataclan attacks. This sparked debates across the EU about how the article works in practice, how ‘armed aggression’ and ‘territory’ should be interpreted and to what extent the article applies to terrorism or to hybrid forms of aggression. In 2020 the Greek foreign minister openly hinted that it could be invoked in response to a confrontation with Turkey, prompting yet more handwringing in Brussels about the possible consequences of one NATO ally invoking the EU mutual assistance clause against another. As the EU prepares to adopt its Strategic Compass in early 2022, some member states have now asked for the article to be ‘operationalised’.

This is no small task. Opinions on Article 42(7) diverge sharply across the EU, ranging from member states who prefer to discuss it as little as possible in order not to undermine NATO’s primacy of collective defence, all the way to those such as France who see it as part of the EU’s ambition to become a geopolitical and security actor of its own. In between are the juridical purists, who stick to strict legal interpretations to try and defuse the tensions inherent in the article; the neutral abstentionists, who are reluctant when it comes to binding commitments on collective defence; and the pragmatists who argue for maximum flexibility or who see added value in the article due to their specific geographic or political context.

In the course of this debate, it is important that Article 42(7) should not be misinterpreted as ‘the EU’s own Article 5’. It has deliberately been drafted differently from NATO’s collective defence clause, in order to take the specific circumstances and concerns of NATO allies and traditionally neutral EU member states into account. It is also more restrictive in terms of its territorial scope, which raises questions about the article’s potential application to the maritime domain, cyberspace or space itself.

The EU is neither designed nor currently equipped to operate as a military alliance. For 21 of its member states also member of NATO, the Alliance remains the cornerstone of collective defence in Europe. As a result, the article should be regarded from the point of view of complementarity between both organisations, not competition between them. The EU also has many other instruments in its toolbox that it can use to respond to threats and crises, such as those linked to the solidarity clause of Article 222 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). But merely pretending that Article 42(7) does not exist – or attempting to neuter its deeply political character by hiding behind purely legal arguments – are neither realistic nor desirable policy options. Article 42(7) is ‘here to stay’ and needs to be given a place within the wider European security and defence policy.

This report concludes that there are at least three situations in which the EU’s mutual assistance clause could plausibly be invoked: in response to a terrorist attack, against hybrid forms of aggression such as serious cyberattacks, and as a result of a kinetic military attack. There are also EU member states that are not members of NATO and that might want to rely on Article 42(7) as a means of last resort. Some calamitous situations may even be conceivable in which one NATO ally could invoke it against another. As uncomfortable and hypothetical as these scenarios may be, the EU should nonetheless be prepared to respond in case they do materialise. Regular exercises and the drafting of a non-binding document outlining the EU’s response options would be a step in the right direction.


Bob Deen, coordinator of the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC) and Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Dick Zandee, Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Adája Stoetman, Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute

Read online report.


Identity, Industry and Interoperability

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 01/19/2022 - 15:25

The drivers of European armaments collaboration

Strengthening European defence cooperation entails many aspects from deploying forces together to collaborative armaments acquisition programmes. Supplying the  armed forces of European countries with modern weaponry that is interoperable and standardised, is a key prerequisite for Europe to become a true geopolitical player. In this context, this report has identified nine drivers behind European armaments collaboration in three categories: political, industrial and military.

Regarding political drivers, it is the combination of a changing international security environment, the aim to reduce strategic dependency and fear of US retrenchment that contribute to European armaments collaboration. The most important industrial driver in Europe is the declining economic viability of an exclusively national approach to the generation of advanced military capabilities. Here, economies of scale, cross-border defence industrial consolidation, and the institutional deepening of European armaments collaboration via the creation of instruments such as the European Defence Fund (EDF), contribute equally. Finally, European armaments collaboration is a product of military policy initiatives that demand equipment commonality and interoperability. Also, symmetry in the requirements and the timing of acquisition of military equipment have an impact on the scope for collaboration.

Using these nine drivers as an analytical framework, three case studies of major future European collaborative armaments efforts were undertaken: the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) and the Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC). Each case was examined separately in order to assess the implications for future defence policy and armaments planning purposes.

Having analysed the FCAS, MGCS and NGRC programmes from the political, industrial and military points of view, this report concludes that all three of these major European collaborative armaments programmes should be on the future Dutch defence planning and armaments procurement agenda. The three programmes clearly support the objective of the Dutch government to strengthen European defence cooperation and to improve European military capabilities.


Danny Pronk, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Dick Zandee, Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Adája Stoetman, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


Beyond Turkey’s ‘zero problems’ policy

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 01/19/2022 - 15:18

Motives, means and impact of the interventions in Syria, Libya and the South Caucasus

Since the Arab uprisings in 2011, but especially after the failed coup d’état in 2016, Turkey’s foreign policy has shifted from ‘zero problems’ to the pursuit of strategic depth and autonomy in its neighbourhood. In 2020, Syria, Libya and the South Caucasus became three theatres for Ankara’s new hard-power tactics, a policy that may well be here to stay (at least until the elections in 2023).

This policy brief explores the strategic motives, the means of intervention and the impact of Turkish operations in these three conflict areas. While Turkey’s strategic considerations, modalities and consequences vary greatly from case to case, certain parallels can be drawn. They reveal an overall pattern of a much more assertive Turkey that is increasingly willing to deploy a combination of political and military means to secure its strategic objectives in its immediate neighbourhood.


Nienke van Heukelingen, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Bob Deen, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


Global Gateway's proof of concept

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/15/2021 - 16:51

EU digital connectivity in Africa

Global Gateway constitutes the EU’s third attempt to reconfigure its strategy and tactics in a world of clashing capitalisms and geopolitical power shifts. Complementing the new industrial policy that protects the EU’s interests at home, Global Gateway is Europe’s international agenda to promote individual freedom, political liberty and economic openness globally, together with partners that share its interests. The proof of concept is in the EU–Africa context and in the digital domain, where key EU interests and niches lie in terms of development, norms and standards, and stability.

Global Gateway action here can draw on lessons from earlier experiences in the Indo-Pacific. A Team Europe approach that creates ownership by EU institutions, member states and the private sector is needed to kick-start flagship projects that respond to real needs. Much is at stake. A positive narrative that highlights alternative opportunities – to growing Chinese influence, in particular – is the most effective way of positioning the EU in a region where growth, security and stability are key interests of both the EU and its member states.


Maaike Okano Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Brigitte Dekker, Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute


Climate Security in Global Hotspots

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/15/2021 - 13:03

Policy Options for The Netherlands

Historically, the security policy landscape was reserved for policies focused on protecting and enhancing national security, such as defense and border control. Today, security risks are not limited to traditional ‘nation state’ concerns but also include ‘people’ concerns: i.e., the social, economic, political, and environmental aspects of human life. Part of these new security risks are also those brought on by the global climate crisis.

This report addresses these new and upcoming risks we face. It analyses from a Dutch perspective where the most relevant and feasible opportunities for international cooperation on climate-related security lie. This was done by:

  1. developing an overview of existing international, EU, regional, and Dutch policy and instruments;
  2. undertaking a data-driven assessment of hotspot countries of risk;
  3. designing a policy game to explore hands-on programming and collaboration opportunities for the Netherlands.

These three steps provide Dutch policy and decision makers with a composite framework to support their efforts to manage, mainstream and monitor Dutch-funded climate security programs and initiatives, taking into account vital security interests of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (including the Dutch Caribbean).

The study concludes with six main observations and provides policy recommendations on three levels: pre-engagement, engagement, and monitoring and evaluation.


Dorith Kool, Research Fellow at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Laura Birkman, Senior Strategic Analyst and Head of the Climate and Security Program at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)


Juliette Eijkelkamp, Assistant Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Marleen de Haan, Assistant Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)


21st century strategic competition with Russia and China

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/08/2021 - 12:00

Fifty Shades of Grey

This Strategic Alert examines the cases of Russia and China which successfully utilise such grey zone tactics to promote their strategic agendas.

Key take-aways

  • With the invention of atomic and sophisticated conventional weapons, conducting kinetic operations vis-à-vis states in the nuclear club is a risk too great to undertake. Wars between states, especially between the great powers, are therefore now fought in the grey zone, in which soft power and unconventional instruments dominate the arsenal.
  • As the frequency of direct interstate wars continues to decline, grey zone engagements will become increasingly prominent. The future conflict environment is dominated by increased competition between powerful nuclear-armed states and traditional militarised deterrence solutions are too risky as escalation may lead to unacceptable consequences.
  • Conflicts in the grey zone are essentially confrontations between states that do not pass the threshold of what is traditionally regarded as war. The participants in such conflicts utilise unconventional tactics, such as economic coercion and political pressure, non-state proxies and cyberspace to achieve their strategic goals.
  • Russia’s and China’s utilisation of different tactics in their engagement in the grey zone can be substantially attributed to their distinct geostrategic objectives. Ultimately both compete with opponents such as the US and its allies to influence the policy direction of third-party states. However, their trajectories of relative power determine the tools and tactics utilised, as well as their combination, within the grey zone.
  • Russia utilises a specific combination of conventional and unconventional military and soft power tools to counter the overall decline of its position in the world. It not only engages its opponents in grey zone conflict from a position of weakness, but operates in an environment of continuously declining relative power. On the other hand, it is the relative increase in China’s geostrategic power that influences the tactics it utilises in the grey zone.
  • Russia’s and China’s strategies and tactics in the grey zone are substantially different, and largely contingent upon their individual geostrategic momentum, on the descent and on the ascent, respectively. Both utilise their own distinct tools and combination of techniques, which therefore should be countered with tailored approaches.


Danny Pronk, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


Costing Conflict

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:38

An early warning method to assess the impact of political violence on vital security interests

Early Warning and Early Action (EWEA) processes seek to identify the risk of conflict, instability and violence. A large number of foresight models can predict which countries and areas may experience what type and what levels of violence. From this, they produce lists of countries and regions at risk which then qualify for policy measures to help improve stability.

However, in order to prioritise countries and regions it is equally important to assess the implications (or the cost) of conflict. For example, Early Warning by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) seeks to “prevent tensions from escalating into conflict” and focus on all forms of tension accordingly. UNDP Early Warning seeks to understand how conflict impacts development initiatives and will prioritise countries with those problems. Mandates and interests thus determine priorities.

Assessing security interests of governments

What interests are at stake is however often assumed rather than explicitly considered. This report addresses this by building a methodology to assess interests, specifically the security interests of governments. The goal is to understand how the outbreak and intensification of conflict affect (security) interests. The method is built upon the notion that effectively designed EWEA processes need these impact assessments as much as conflict risk assessment.

Developing an impact assessment method is complicated for two reasons. First, methods need to be tailor-made for specific (country) interest. After all, instability in Libya will have different effects for France, Italy or Egypt. This requires explicit definitions of vital interests and a detailed specification of how potential instability might affect them. Second, impact assessment methods are often unavailable or are so specialised (e.g. only within the intelligence community) that there is very little fruitful exchange on how best to devise impact methods.

This report aims to tackle both problems. It provides a methodology for the Netherlands and proposes a quantitative approach that focusses on so-called ‘transmission belts’: patterns through which instability abroad manifest themselves in the Netherlands.

Fortunately, there is a tradition to build on as the government of the Netherlands has some open-source impact assessments. Yet, existing methods which assess impact need improvement. For example, how can one account for the interests of one’s allies? Do we distinguish between the effects of intra-state and inter-state conflict on Dutch security interests? Which transmission belts actually exist? What kind of method can be used?

A methodology for impact assessment

This report tackles these questions and proposes a methodology for impact assessment. The proposal is deliberately open source and relies heavily on methodology as it seeks to justify choices and sponsor dialogue. The hope is that an explicit and open discussion of choices will allow the Dutch government and the ecosystems of actors working on EWEA in the Netherlands to criticise and improve impact assessments. This report therefore aims to inform further discussions on the effectiveness of various impact assessment methods.

Reading guide
The report has the following composition. The first chapter reviews the existing Dutch impact assessment frameworks (ANV, Clingendael and HCSS) and arrives at a set of conditions with which EWEA impact assessments should comply. The second chapter develops an impact assessment method which is specifically tailored to Dutch EWEA efforts by tackling various limitations of the three previously analysed assessment frameworks (e.g. being too nationally focused). The third chapter presents and discusses specific indicators to measure impacts. The final section concludes and provides a guideline on how to interpret the results.


Kars de Bruijne, Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit of the Clingendael Institute


From indices to insight

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:32

A proposal to enhance the risk assessment of the Dutch Early Warning/Early Action process

Over the course of the last three decades, countless scholars, diplomats and experts have sought to develop reliable ways to predict and prevent violent conflict and instability. These efforts have yielded a vast array of analytical instruments, ranging from indices that measure various proximate and structural causes of instability to forecasting models that estimate the probability of an outbreak of violent conflict.

Predicting and preventing violent conflict and instability

Presently, there is a great deal of data available ranging from better measures of political violence and better predictors of violence. Moreover, as data sciences advance, social scientists have been able to develop new models and refine their predictions. However, as such tools proliferate, so do the challenges for policymakers.

First, more data does not always mean ‘better’ data. Key indicators such as on political inclusivity, local grievances and competition are often still not readily available. 

Second, more data and better methodologies have not always meant a better insight into conflict risks. While we have generally become better in predicting the continuation and intensity of ongoing conflict, it remains a major challenge to predict which countries will become unstable and when. 

Third, perhaps the biggest problem is that even when having a clear insight into conflict risks, converting these insights into actionable policies remains difficult. In these instances, it is often not a lack of information or insufficient early warning signals per se that pose the key obstacles, but rather the ability to convert these data points into policy-relevant analysis and to identify relevant entry points for preventive efforts.

The Government of the Netherlands

These challenges are particularly relevant for the Government of the Netherlands. In 2018 the Government of the Netherlands prioritised conflict prevention as the first goal of its Integrated International Security Strategy, emphasising the importance of ‘a solid information position, with up-to-date and detailed information, based in part on innovative big data solutions for peace and security’. 

Since the adoption of this strategy, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Defence (MOD) have made significant investments in enhancing their ability to provide early warning and early action (EWEA). As part of its focus on ‘Data for Peace and Security’ (D4PS) the MFA has developed a number of data-driven tools that rely on an array of indices and forecasting models in order to compile long lists, short lists and watch lists of countries that are at increased risk of experiencing violent conflict or instability. The process builds on a methodology proposed by the Clingendael Institute in 2020.

Within the framework of the multi-annual PROGRESS research programme, the Dutch MFA has commissioned the Clingendael Institute to provide recommendations on how to build upon these existing data tools and strengthen the capacity of the authorities to assess the risk of violent conflict and instability. The specific objective was to make better use of the available quantitative indicators and data and to design a process that did not require in-depth individual country assessments. As such, the method was meant to inform the decision to go from a long list to a short list of countries with likely higher risks. After that, more targeted in-depth studies could be commissioned.

The report

This report, hence, devises a method for a general scan of countries in order to identify those countries that should be monitored and studied in more detail. The focus of the report will be on the first, exploratory phases of the process, where open-source quantitative indices are used to make a selection of countries that should be further examined. In doing so, the report addresses the three challenges mentioned above (missing data, conflict theories and how to act) by providing a detailed methodology to enhance early warning processes.

To this end, this report will a) discern different types of indices (i.e. those that observe and predict violence and instability, and those that seek to explain it); b) categorise the vast array of indices on drivers of conflict and instability through a concrete proposal on how to cluster and interpret them; c) operationalise these quantitative insights within the context of the Dutch EWEA process; and d) integrate the quantitative data into a qualitative analysis process through an expert workshop and the use of several rounds of Delphi surveys.

Reading guide
In order to meet these objectives, this report is structured as follows. Chapter 2 will set out the overall methodology of the proposed process. Chapter 3 critically examines the advantages and disadvantages of many indices. Chapter 4 then puts forward a proposal on how to cluster these indices into those that observe conflict and violence and those that measure the underlying drivers of conflict and violence. Moreover, it proposes a disaggregation of the latter group of indices into four clusters of the main drivers of conflict and instability. Finally, chapter 5 puts forward recommendations on how this data can be interpreted, visualised and subsequently used in a qualitative expert workshop.


Bob Deen, coordinator of the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC) and Senior Research Fellow at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Adája Stoetman, Junior Researcher at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Kars de Bruijne, Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit of the Clingendael Institute


An ever closing union?

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:25

Ramifications of further integration between Belarus and Russia

The Union State of Russia and Belarus was forged in the 1990s through a series of bilateral treaties but has largely remained a paper tiger – at least until now. For well over two decades Belarusian President Lukashenko has had a complicated love-hate relationship with the Kremlin, milking the Russian Federation for energy subsidies and other economic benefits while simultaneously zealously guarding his country’s sovereignty and shielding its state-owned enterprises from Russian takeovers. Although co-operation in the military domain has advanced considerably, the more far-reaching provisions of the Union State, such as a joint constitution, monetary union and a single energy market, have never materialized.

While Belarus has generally aligned its foreign policy outlook with the Russian Federation and acceded to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, at various moments Lukashenko tried to keep his geopolitical options open as his relations with the Kremlin deteriorated. Among other things, he sought closer relations with the European Union following the 2008 Georgia conflict and the 2014 Ukraine crisis. The EU, in turn, has alternated between defending its democratic values by imposing sanctions on Lukashenko and his regime for human rights abuses, and then lifting those again a few years later, hoping to lure Belarus away from Russia’s sphere of influence.

These hopes proved to be in vain. The Presidential elections of August 2020 and their repressive aftermath have again led to a turning point in Belarus’ relations with the West and with the Russian Federation. Relying on Russian support to remain in power and facing a series of European sanctions, Lukashenko is now again under pressure by the Kremlin to make far-reaching concessions and to advance the integration of Belarus and Russia within the Union State framework. As both the stability of the Lukashenko regime and the outcome of the integration process remain uncertain, this report identifies six scenarios for the future of Belarus and further elaborates the consequences of four of them.


Bob Deen, coordinator of the Clingendael Russia and Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC) and Senior Research Fellow at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Barbara Roggeveen, Research Associate at the Clingendael Institute
Wouters Zweers, Research Fellow at the EU and Global Affairs unit of the Clingendael Institute

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko talk during a meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 13, 2021. © Reuters

Unpacking open strategic autonomy

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 11/25/2021 - 13:16

From concept to practice

Amidst the weakening of the multilateral system, the rise of multipolarity, and the Covid-19 pandemic, the concept of European strategic autonomy (ESA) has gained considerable traction. In fact, according to European Council President Charles Michel, the strategic independence of Europe is ‘our new common project for this century’ and ‘goal number one for our generation’. Long seen as a French pipedream, and first applied in 2013 to Europe’s defence and security policy, the ambition of strategic autonomy is now backed by a growing number of member states and is increasingly applied to a broad range of policy areas, including industrial and trade policy.

Open strategic autonomy

The EU’s desire for more autonomy in the trade and industrial domain has been given a boost by the Covid-19 pandemic, which crucially exposed the vulnerabilities in the global production and supply chains. Even the Netherlands, which was long sceptical of previous (French) proposals for strategic autonomy, acknowledges the risks of asymmetric dependencies in strategic sectors and the growing need for the EU to protect its economies against economic coercion and unfair trade practices.

Until recently, the Netherlands, along with some other member states, was concerned that the ambitions for strategic autonomy would lead to an interventionist industrial policy, would fuel protectionism, would provide German and French ‘industry champions’ with an unfair advantage, and would erode the interdependence that has brought Europe so many benefits.

To assuage such concerns, the European Commission insisted that its goal is ‘open strategic autonomy’, and that strategic autonomy can be achieved without resorting to protectionism and while preserving the open economy and the benefits of interdependence. In a recently published joint non-paper with Spain and another recently published joint statement with France, the Netherlands gave its cautious backing to this new open strategic autonomy agenda.

But what does this agenda look like in practice? What are the implications for the EU’s industrial and trade policy and for some of the EU’s key industrial ecosystems? To what extent are the twin aims of achieving strategic autonomy and preserving an open economy actually compatible with one another? And how can a member state such as the Netherlands both contribute to and benefit from the EU’s open strategic autonomy agenda? This report will address these questions.


Luuk Molthof, Research Fellow at the EU & Global Affairs Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Dick Zandee, Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute
Giulia Cretti, Junior Researcher at the EU & Global Affairs Unit of the Clingendael Institute