With the US moving military resources to the Asia-Pacific region, what organization will maintain the stability and security in North and North Central Africa? The US has been downgrading its participation in African affairs for some time now; one may refer to the events in Libya and the ongoing situation in Mali. Europe faces many modern threats, and it may very well have to pull itself together to properly address the challenges to its security originating from across the Mediterranean Sea as the US focuses on more of its own problems.
The hegemon cannot be everywhere, at least not anymore. As Harold Brown, US secretary of defense under Jimmy Carter, has recently pointed out, the support the US provides when it does get involved in a conflict consists in such crucial resources as airlift, logistics, in-air refueling, intelligence, command and central communications, as well as surveillance including satellites and drones. All this is essential for modern peacemaking operations. The European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy is primarily concerned with humanitarian operations as well as peacekeeping. In other words, the EU does not currently have sufficient resources to address peacemaking (intervening to separate warring factions) in Northern Africa. The US, or the all-too-American NATO, is still heavily relied upon in case of a major crisis.
Is there an alternative? In December of 1999 a formal decision was made to create the EU Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF). Today, amongst all battle groups of the EU, this one technically remains on paper. It’s an idea; some like it others do not. Originally the task force was meant to comprise 60 000 troops, Germany lending a big share of 13 500, France 12 000 and the UK on a full scale commitment would probably have 24 000 personnel involved. However, a few things have changed since the idea first hit the board, Germany has made clear that it is no longer very interested in sending troops abroad. This leaves most of the responsibility for security in the hands of the UK and France.
What is certain is that with US resources under heavy strain in the Middle-East and increasingly allocated to the Asia-Pacific, if no attention is given to African Security chaos will start to lurk across the water for Europe. It is the EU’s responsibility to develop efficient technology and resources of its own. The tasks of the ERRF would essentially be the following:
– Give assistance to civilians threatened by a crisis outside the EU.
– Respond to UN calls for peacekeeping forces.
– Intervene to separate warring factions (peacemaking).
The treaty of Lisbon brought innovations to gradually establish a common European Defence. In the treaty, the Common Security and Defense Policy has its tasks expanded from three to six. Although as long as no serious developments occur in regard to the ERRF, the current global challenges and key threats to Europe as outlined in the 2008 Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy remain growing issues.
One must not forget that recent attacks have taken place in London and Madrid. Europe can transfer non-combat peacekeeping roles to existing African security organizations and focus on the importance of being ready for peacemaking. France, assisted by the Americans, has been stepping up its role in international security by taking on terrorists in Mali; more of such interventions are to be expected in the future as Europe faces the inevitable consequences of a weaker America.
– Mathieu Paul Dumont
Featured photo: by vittoare, Flickr