Consortium Leader: Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
Consortium Member: The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Subcontractor: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

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.

Read report.


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

Adája Stoetman, Research Fellow at the Security Unit of 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


Realising the EU Hybrid Toolbox: opportunities and pitfalls

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/14/2022 - 16:22

In recent years European and other nations have been increasingly targeted by different manipulation or coercion tactics that remain under the threshold of violence, and are commonly referred to as hybrid threat. For instance, in 2016 the elections in the United States were manipulated by a foreign state actor through targeted propaganda and the leaking of hacked material that compromised one of the presidential candidates. In the same year the British referendum on remaining in the European Union was also targeted by sophisticated propaganda efforts.The need to counter these threats and deal with them comprehensively has therefore been acknowledged in the EU Strategic Compass. It provides for the development of a toolbox to put at the disposal of member states a wide range of measures to respond to hybrid campaigns, should they choose to invoke the assistance of the EU. This EU Hybrid Toolbox (EUHT) intends to gather all civilian and military instruments that can be employed to counter hybrid campaigns. Operationalisation was intended by the end of 2022 but this no longer seems attainable. However, the conflict in Ukraine has demonstrated the importance of having a coordinated reaction capability to counter hybrid campaigns and is likely to provide the momentum to bring the development of the EUHT to fruition.

This policy brief examines the most recent progress on operationalising the EUHT.

First, the rationale for the EUHT is explained. Next, the state of play in the operationalization process is analysed. The subsequent section focusses on the difficulties stemming from differences of opinion between the member states, followed by an assessment of the issues surrounding decision-making. After suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of the EUHT are given, the policy brief ends with conclusions and a listing of opportunities and pitfalls.


Kenneth Lasoen, Research Fellow 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

Realising the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 10/31/2022 - 16:11

Opportunities and pitfalls

When the European Union’s Strategic Compass had almost been completed in late February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Consequently, the language on Russia in the Compass text was adapted to a more bellicose content. However, the military level of ambition remained unchanged as it had already been agreed informally by the EU member states. At the end of March, when the Council formally adopted the Compass, the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC) became the new focal point for crisis management tasks in the context of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Although the attention of strategists, defence planners and armaments experts has shifted further towards strengthening collective defence as a result of the war in Ukraine and the outcome of the NATO Madrid Summit, instability in the areas to Europe’s south and south-east remains the norm rather than the exception. The EU RDC has to provide the EU with the military capability to be deployed in crisis situations when needed, also taking into account that the United States (US) is less likely to act in Europe’s southern neighbourhood in the future. Ambitious targets have been set with regard to the flexible composition of the RDC and to the timeline of its initial operational status in 2025.

This policy brief examines the milestones to be reached towards the year 2025 – in other words ‘what should be done in the near future’. Three aspects are given particular attention: the question of using the existing format of the EU Battlegroups as building blocks for the RDC; the issue of how to speed up decision-making; and the question of capability shortfalls. This is followed by conclusions on the opportunities and pitfalls that the EU and its member states may encounter up until 2025 and beyond.


Dick Zandee, Head of the Security Unit & Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute

Adája Stoetman, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


Specialising in European defence

Submitted by Inge on Fri, 07/29/2022 - 14:28

To choose or not to choose?

The Russian invasion in Ukraine has fundamentally changed the security environment in Europe. Member states as well as the EU and NATO have responded to the new challenges posed by Russia’s aggression, resulting in decisions that were deemed unthinkable before, such as the Finnish and Swedish application for NATO membership. Defence budgets have been further increased and the number of Allied countries realising NATO’s 2 percent GDP target on defence is growing. With defence budgets on the rise, there is an increasing risk of countries seeking national solutions to European capability shortfalls. Multinational defence cooperation is the tool to prevent this from happening and defence specialisation should become an important element in strengthening European military capabilities.

The term specialisation generates more opposition than support in the defence community

However, the term specialisation generates more opposition than support in the defence community because it has often been interpreted as a scapegoat for deliberately abandoning defence capabilities, driven by budget cuts and conducted in an uncoordinated way – specialisation ‘by default’ instead of ‘by design’. This form of specialisation makes a country fully dependent on other nations to provide the abandoned capabilities, which raises the issue of dependency and guaranteed access when needed.

However, despite the controversy, various forms of specialisation and dependencies already exist, without being labelled as such. Smaller countries, with limited defence budgets, often rely on larger partners for the provision of certain defence capabilities such as missile defence or long-range strike capabilities. The rising costs of armaments, in particular high-technology weapon systems, also reduces the number of ‘haves’ versus ‘non-haves’. In some cases, pooling and sharing models have been developed for capabilities that countries cannot afford on their own. Examples are multinational pools for strategic transport and air-to-air refuelling: NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) with C-17 military transport aircraft and the Multi-Role Transport and Tanker (MRTT) pool operating military adjusted versions of the Airbus A330. Nations using drawing rights for aircraft are dependent on such a multinational capability. Dependencies on the capabilities of other states or multinational frameworks also exist for space-based secure communications, strategic reconnaissance and intelligence. Another format is a capability collectively provided by ‘have nations’ to ‘non-have nations’.

For example, the Baltic States are fully dependent on NATO partners to provide fighter aircraft for air policing on rotation. An already existing form of agreed mutual dependencies is the Belgian and Dutch specialisation in training and maintenance facilities – concentrated in either of the two countries – for minehunters and frigates respectively. This far-reaching dependency has also led to the common acquisition of follow-on capabilities.

History, geographic location and strategic culture are factors of great importance to  defence specialisation

Amongst others, history, geographic location and strategic culture are factors of great importance to specialisation, resulting in the different capability profiles of countries with ‘specialised or niche capabilities’ or ‘specialisms’. France and the United Kingdom emphasise their strength in expeditionary capabilities, as a result of their former worldwide empires and continuous overseas military responsibilities. For that purpose, they operate aircraft carriers amongst other capabilities that are deployable over long distances. Germany has an orientation on strengthening above all its posture for collective defence, in particular heavy land forces. Landlocked nations, such as Hungary, have armies, but no navies. The Czech Republic has a niche capability in defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CRBN) threats. In a somewhat different vein, the integration of the Dutch-German land forces is progressing towards increasing mutual dependency, based on geographic proximity and close military cooperation over decades which has strengthened mutual trust and confidence between the two countries.

Thus, the issue of specialisation has to be placed in a wider context of multinational defence cooperation and it can take various forms. The common feature of all varieties of specialisation is the element of dependency.

Specialisation by default to specialisation by design

When moving from specialisation by default to specialisation by design, countries should not operate in isolation from the two key international organisations for safeguarding and ensuring European security: the EU and NATO. First, in designing specialisation formats, the capability needs as defined by both organisations have to be taken as the point of departure and should direct the capability areas for exploring options for specialisation. Second, both organisations should steer, coordinate and monitor specialisation efforts as part of their responsibilities in capability development. In that regard, the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP) should incorporate multinational targets in addition to national targets. The EU should also incorporate multinational capability efforts in its Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) in order to steer collaborative programmes and projects even better.

Read the full report Specialising in European defence: To choose or not to choose?.


The authors

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

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


The Promises and Perils of a Minimum Cyber Deterrence Posture

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 04/13/2022 - 12:20

Considerations for Small and Middle Powers  

The emergence of cyberspace provides small and medium powers with a strategic weapons capability that historically has been beyond their reach. This report explores how this capability can become an indispensable tenet of the deterrence posture of small and medium powers. To this end, the promises and perils of minimum cyber deterrence are explored. The destructive cyber potential of these small and medium powers may be orders of magnitude less than that of the United States or a near-peer power, but some of these countries still possess a minimal deterrence capability that, much like the small nuclear arsenals of France, the UK and China, could inflict an unacceptable level of retaliatory punishment to deter potential aggressors, no matter their overwhelming technical superiority. 

From the perspective of these nations, the report explores how this capability can be integrated into a broader operational framework and projected it into a Whole of Government deterrence posture. Even in states where some thinking has already taken place in this regard gaps remain, not just when it comes to cyber capabilities, but also, and more importantly, to the strategic culture and intelligence requirements that are needed to support this. This report offers insight into the cyber retaliation means and paths, their organizational requirements and considerations, as well as the political dilemmas many nations will face. 

Download report


Louk Faesen, Tim Sweijs, Alexander Klimburg, Giulia Tesauro - The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

Introductions by Martin Libicki, Michael Daniel, Herbert Lin and Erica Lonergan 


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.


China’s Military Rise and the Implications for European Security

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 11/11/2021 - 11:38

China is following a typical trajectory for rising great powers in terms of its increasing willingness and ability to project power outside its region. What is the People’s Liberation Army capable of today and what will likely be its capabilities by 2035? This new HCSS report makes a broad assessment of China’s military modernization and the implications for the security of European states, providing 20+ policy recommendations to deal with China’s military rise.

It is increasingly difficult to have a dispassionate understanding of Chinese military power. For many, China is already an ideologically incompatible and unstoppable juggernaut; for others, it is unlikely to ever entirely match Western military capabilities. Also, China’s ability to project power within the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait has been the focus of most analyses. As a result, there is a lack of a comprehensive assessment of the overall development of China’s military capabilities and what these will mean outside of the Western Pacific, especially for European states. 
This report addresses the gap by developing a typology based on historical examples of other rising powers. The publication goes in depth on China’s military power, provides an analysis of how it arrived at current capabilities, and the trajectory through 2035. The ultimate objective of this analytical approach is the development of an evidence-based foundation for thinking about the potential consequences of China’s military rise and European and Dutch policy options to address it. 
The main finding of the report is that China exhibits almost all of the factors that characteristically drive great power expansion outside of the region. It is following a typical rising great power trajectory in almost all respects, although it is still on an upward path, and is implementing a long-term strategy to be able to project power extra-regionally, which it is expected to be increasingly able to between now and 2035. 


Joris Teer, Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Tim Sweijs, Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Paul van Hooft, Senior Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Lotje Boswinkel, Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
Jack Thompson, Senior Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)


Countering hybrid threats

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 10/27/2021 - 14:43

Steps for improving EU-NATO cooperation

In recent years the word ‘hybrid’ has dominated the debates on security and defence. Much has been written about hybrid peace, hybrid conflict and hybrid warfare. Cyber-attacks, disinformation and election interference: these are just three often cited examples of hybrid threats. Western countries are struggling with the question of how to respond to these threats, in particular as military responses alone are insufficient and inappropriate to deal with such challenges. A whole-of-government or even a whole-of-society approach is required, as hybrid threats are targeted at wider governmental infrastructure, at privately-owned entities and at citizens at large or at specific organisations.

Countering hybrid threats has also become a priority on the EU and NATO agendas as both organisations and their member states are confronted with ‘sub-threshold’ or ‘grey zone’ challenges. In 2016, when both organisations agreed on a list of topics for EU-NATO cooperation, countering hybrid threats was selected as one of the important fields of action. Correspondingly, in 2016 and 2017 the EU and NATO drafted at least 22 concrete proposals for enhancing cooperation in the area of countering hybrid threats. Since then, both organisations have issued six progress reports with an overall positive assessment of their cooperation, but it remains unclear what has actually been achieved. This begs the question which concrete results have the EU and NATO produced? This report will analyse the progress made so far and will provide – based on the analysis – ideas and suggestions for further improving EU-NATO cooperation in the area of countering hybrid threats.

Hybrid is one of the new buzzwords, but the question remains what constitutes ‘hybrid threats’. Chapter 2 provides an overview of some of the definitions used. In the subsequent chapter 3 the authors assess the results of EU-NATO cooperation in the field of countering hybrid threats, drawing from that analysis the reasons for ‘what works’ and ‘what does not work’ (or ‘does not work to the full extent’). Based on the outcome of what has been achieved, the fourth chapter points to the potential for ‘what could be further achieved’. Taking into account the (political) limitations of EU-NATO cooperation, this chapter also looks at the potential for alternative cooperation formats. The fifth and final chapter draws conclusions and provides recommendations for action to improve EU-NATO cooperation in countering hybrid threats.

The underlying methodology of this report consists of the combination of analysing the relevant literature and other written, publicly available sources, and conducting interviews with EU and NATO officials. Interviews were conducted in the time period June-August 2021, under the application of the Chatham House Rule.


Dick Zandee, Head of the Security Unit and Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Sico van der Meer, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Adája Stoetman, Junior Researcher at the Security Unit of the Clingendael Institute