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

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. 

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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


European defence: Specialisation by capability groups

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 10/21/2021 - 13:18

In many professions specialisation is regarded as a virtue. In a hospital the surgeon, the anaesthetist and the nurse have specialised skills. Together they engage in teamwork to cure patients. Yet, when it comes to defence, specialisation has a negative connotation. Contrary to the hospital’s operating theatre, dependency on each other’s armed forces is regarded as a serious, if not unacceptable risk, as a country has to be able to defend itself without relying on capabilities to be provided by other states. In reality, however, interdependence is a fact: European countries have relied on the nuclear deterrent of the United States since the 1950s and with regard to conventional forces, no single European country can provide all necessary capabilities. The question is how European interdependence can be made more effective. The answer must partly lie in specialisation.

This policy brief addresses specialisation in security and defence from the perspective of the ‘Team Europe’ approach of distributing tasks and operating with varying coalitions of European countries in order to make the EU (and in this case also NATO) more effective. It presents a model of structuring European armed forces in specialised groups – an idea that has been proposed in a Clingendael report published earlier this year. First, the Policy Brief lays out the playing field by explaining the model of European capability groups. Next, several options for European capability groups will be proposed. It concludes with listing the implications for the Netherlands.


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


The EU’s Strategic Compass for security and defence

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 06/10/2021 - 11:23

The European Union (EU) is developing a Strategic Compass for security and defence, to be ready by March 2022. The first semester of 2021 is the phase of the ‘strategic dialogue’ with the member states and institutions of the EU, including the involvement of think tanks and other stakeholders. Commissioned by the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Clingendael Institute delivers its contribution to the strategic dialogue on the Strategic Compass by focussing on defining more precisely the military level of ambition of the EU and what it implies for capability development and the relationship with NATO.

The EU faces a wider set of challenges and threats than ever before. In the global power rivalry between China, Russia and the United States, it is ‘Europe’ that runs the danger of becoming irrelevant and the object of great power actions rather than being a global actor. The arc of instability around Europe is unlikely to turn into an arc of stability. The challenges posed by state and non-state actors – the latter in particular in the southern neighbourhood – require the EU to respond to external conflicts and crises, to support partners to provide security for their own population and to protect the Union and its citizens – the three strategic priorities for the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as defined five years ago in the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence. While the EU has made progress in many areas – trade policies, partnerships, civilian crisis management – its military tools have remained weak as a result of a lack of political will and the absence of adequate military means.

The Strategic Compass offers the opportunity to close the gap between ‘too much rhetoric’ and ‘too little action’ that have characterised the EU’s security and defence efforts so far. In recent years, new instruments have been created to improve European defence cooperation – such as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF) – but these are what they are: without strategic direction instruments tend to become bureaucratic tools rather than the rails on which the train travels to its destination. In the Strategic Compass the EU has to define more precisely its military level of ambition and what it implies for capability development and partnerships. In short, the report tries to answer two questions: (1) what should the EU be able to do, and (2) what is needed to get there? The relationship with NATO has to be taken into account in answering these key questions.

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Watch our video explainer


Dick Zandee (Head of Security Unit and Senior Research Fellow, the Clingendael Institute)

Bob Deen (Senior Research Fellow, Coordinator Russia & Eastern Europe Centre, the Clingendael Institute)

Adája Stoetman (Junior Researcher, the Clingendael Institute)


European Strategic Autonomy in Security and Defence

Submitted by Inge on Fri, 12/04/2020 - 13:56

Now the going gets tough, it's time to get going. 

Based on the current situation some argue against European strategic autonomy, out of a fear that it could lead to an American withdrawal of its military support to the European continent. On the opposite side one can find proponents of a European Union with full strategic autonomy to play its part in the global competition with the great powers (China, Russia and the US), implying once again that the concept is wider than only being autonomous in security and defence.

The ‘against school’ seems to deny the increasing doubt about the US security guarantee to Europe and neglects the need for the EU to pursue its own strategic interests, backed up with military forces when required. The ‘pro school’ assumes too easily that the EU can overcome its disunity and that serious military shortfalls will be rectified within a couple of years.

Aiming for “a certain degree of autonomy” might be a way out, but this raises several questions such as: what degree of strategic autonomy, for what purposes and which related military capabilities are needed? Furthermore, are Europe and the EU synonyms?

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Dick Zandee (Head Security Unit/Senior Research Fellow, the Clingendael Institute)

Bob Deen (Senior Research Fellow/Coordinator Russia and Eastern Europe Centre, the Clingendael Institute)

Kimberley Kruijver (Junior Researcher, the Clingendael Institute)

Adája Stoetman (Junior Researcher, the Clingendael Institute)


From Blurred Lines to Red Lines

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 10/05/2020 - 14:48

How Countermeasures and Norms Shape Hybrid Conflict

Conflicts between states have taken on new forms and hybrid operations play an increasingly important role in this volatile environment. Belligerent powers introduce a new model of conflict fought by proxy, across domains, and below the conventional war threshold to advance their foreign policy goals while limiting decisive responsiveness of their victim.   

Given these hybrid threats, how should Western states respond? Are there any tools available Western states have that can draw red lines into blurred lines of hybrid conflict? 

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This paper series argues that the West does have one powerful tool that can help shape hybrid threat actors. That tool is international norms. Norms set international expectations of acceptable state behavior – yardsticks which the international community can leverage when calling out unscrupulous states.  

But norms do not develop out of nothing. This report applies the norm lifecycle theory, which analyzes norm development from emergence to cascade and internalization, to five case studies to to better understand the real-life strategies, tools of influence, dilemmas, and trade-offs that empower state-led norm processes. The report not only considers how norms develop, but also what role they play within the counter-hybrid posture of a state, and how they, in conjunction with countermeasures, shape adversarial hybrid behavior. 

As many norm entrepreneurs often seem to underestimate, the pursuit of countermeasures may lead to unintended second-order normative effects that undermine their long-term strategic interests. For instance, overt cyber pre-deployment in adversary systems can introduce a norm of mutually assured debilitated, while overt offensive cyberspace operations in response to disinformation can weaponize information in the same ways as Russia. This scenario is explored in-depth in the second case study of this report dealing with Russian disinformation campaigns. 

This report also explores four other case studies on Russian, Chinese, and ISIS hybrid conflict actions. The case studies are published individually as a paper series and compiled in a full report with complete overview of the theoretical underpinnings of norm development and the key insights that emerge from the analysis, as well as the concluding remarks and policy recommendations. The policy recommendations explore ways for the Netherlands and its partners to help promote and enforce norms of restraint beyond classic like-minded groups of states while being cognizant of unintended consequences.  

Please find an overview of the separate case studies below: 

Case Study 1: Protecting Electoral Infrastructure from Russian cyber operations

Download Case Study | Download Factsheet

Case Study 2: Responding to Russian Disinformation in Peacetime

Download Case Study | Download Factsheet

Case Study 3: Countering ISIS Propaganda in Conflict Theatres

Download Case Study | Download Factsheet

Case Study 4: Responding to Chinese Economic Espionage

Download Case Study | Download Factsheet

Case Study 5: Upholding Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

Download Case Study | Download Factsheet


Louk Faesen, Tim Sweijs, Alexander Klimburg, Conor MacNamara and Michael Mazarr (HCSS)


De Impact van Covid-19 op Europese Veiligheid

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 08/24/2020 - 16:28

Wat zijn de gevolgen van Covid-19 voor de Europese veiligheid? Hoe zal de coronacrisis de internationale machtsverhoudingen veranderen? Welk spoor trekt de virusuitbraak door bestaande bondgenootschappen? Welke lering kunnen we trekken uit de gevolgen van pandemieën uit het verleden? En wat zijn de belangrijkste te verwachten veiligheidsdynamieken voor de komende vijf jaar?

Covid-19 is in de eerste plaats een versneller van al langer zichtbare veiligheidstrends in en aan de randen van Europa op het gebied van democratie, goed bestuur en mensenrechten, sociale veiligheid, politieke stabiliteit, interstatelijke competitie en geopolitieke rivaliteit.

Het beteugelen van het virus vereist maatregelen zonder precedent en zal uiteindelijk grote sociale en politieke gevolgen hebben, ook voor Nederland. De coronacrisis kan in de toekomst leiden tot erosie van democratische normen en principes, het vergroten van de maatschappelijke polarisatie en het destabiliseren van kwetsbare landen aan de randen van het Europese continent. Bovendien gooit de pandemie olie op het vuur van interstatelijke competitie.

Hoe kan Nederland deze aanzienlijke gevolgen het hoofd bieden? Onze notitie benadrukt de volgende aandachtspunten voor het Nederlands buitenland- en veiligheidsbeleid:

  • Nederland moet zich internationaal blijven inzetten voor democratische normen, goed bestuur en de bescherming van mensenrechten, speerpunten van het Nederlands beleid;
  • Het voorkomen van verdere escalatie van maatschappelijke onrust en politieke instabiliteit in en aan de randen van Europa vergen Nederlandse inspanningen en inzet op het gebied van conflictpreventie, conflictstabilisatie en conflictindamming;
  • De mondiale weerbaarheid tegen een volgende pandemie zal versterkt moeten worden. Deze weerbaarheid stoelt op voldoende reactiecapaciteit van de zorg; op R&D-capaciteit om vaccins te ontwikkelen én te produceren; en op het verbeteren van internationale early warning capaciteiten.

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Tim Sweijs (Director of Research, HCSS)

Femke Remmits (HCSS)

Hugo van Manen (HCSS)

Frank Bekkers (Director of the Security Program, HCSS)