Ukraine Is Becoming an Integral Element of the Eastern European Security Belt, From Hybrid Threats to Cooperation In the Security Sphere

Ukraine Is Becoming an Integral Element of the Eastern European Security Belt, From Hybrid Threats to Cooperation In the Security Sphere

After the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea by the Russian Federation and in light of its aggressive militaristic policy, the security situation in Eastern Europe has radically changed and become more fragile and vulnerable. There is an understanding of these negative changes within the EU. For example, the EU Global Strategy, which was approved in June 2016, clearly states: "To the east, the European security order has been violated" . This stimulated the EU to develop a new comprehensive vision of its security policy, taking into account the current situation in the region, sources of new security challenges and threats, permanent and situational allies, and development of the situation in the countries of Eastern Europe. The issue of developing cooperation and coordination with NATO has particularly actualized in the EU. In this context, as Ukraine officially declared the course for membership in the EU and NATO, it should take into account development of this security cooperation and take its own place in Eastern Europe.


Deepen Cooperation With NATO - a Security Pillar For the EU

The European Union is not a security alliance, besides it has its own Common Security and Defence Policy. At the international round-table "EU Global Strategy: Place, Role and Contribution of Ukraine" (on April 24, 2017 in Kiev) , the Head of the EU Advisory Mission Ukraine (EUAM) Kestutis Lancinskas stressed that the EU was created not as a military alliance, but as an economic union, and therefore, security in its rhetoric has mainly domestic and non-military dimension.
However, new threats, the key of which the EU determines as illegal migration, terrorism, propaganda, cyber threats, damage to critical infrastructure and instability of energy supplies, forced the European Union to raise security at a higher level of attention. The security issue at the global level was laid down in the EU Global Strategy "Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe", and, according to the decision of the Council of the EU, security will become one of three key budget areas of the European Union in 2018 . In addition, at the informal meeting on September 7, this year in Tallinn, defence ministers of the EU Member States, by consensus, supported the decision to establish a European Defence Fund, albeit with a limited purpose - to achieve autonomy in the field of defence industry.
At the same time, there are some "red lines" in the EU that do not allow Brussels to create a powerful defence and security component of the European Union. Despite the initiative of the European Parliament to consider establishment of the European Defence Unions (EDU), which was fixed in the relevant resolution of November 22, 2016, and the fact that the European Commission launched a relevant discussion in June this year , there is some scepticism among the EU countries about the creation of a "duplicate" of NATO in the European space. As Scientific Director of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Oleksandr Sushko estimated at the above-mentioned round-table, formation of a "European army" creates risks of a split in transatlantic unity, because not all EU countries support this idea, and drawing a divergence line between military and security responsibilities of the EU and NATO is extremely difficult.
In any case, in each of three scenarios proposed by the European Commission for the further development of the EU security and defence - "Security and Defence Cooperation", "Shared Security and Defence", "Common Defence and Security" , an enhanced cooperation with NATO is an integral part.
The goals to develop cooperation between the EU and NATO coincide, and this is based not only on the fact that 22 countries are members of both the EU and NATO, but also on their desire to mutually fill the current gaps in the security capabilities of each other. For the European Union, the Alliance remains a pillar in Europe in terms of confronting military threats, because no EU member state has sufficient military capabilities. “NATO will continue to work closely with the EU, as agreed, to ensure that our Smart Defence and the EU's Pooling and Sharing initiatives are complementary and mutually reinforcing”, the NATO Warsaw Summit Communiqué says . Both organizations are aware of the hopelessness of the duplication of functions if, for example, NATO begins to actively develop non-military capabilities to guarantee security (economic, environmental, humanitarian etc.), or the EU creates its own powerful defence component, on which, by the way, France insists. Thus, speaking at the University of Sorbonne on September 26, this year, President of France Emmanuel Macron proposed to create a joint defence budget, a European "rapid reaction force" and a common doctrine of the EU.
The current actualisation of the hybrid challenges and threats, associated with Russia's aggression against Ukraine, gives additional impetus to deepening the EU-NATO interaction. Both organizations have clearly identified hybrid threats and developed measures to neutralize them. The EU Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats, endorsed in April 2016 , provides a clear definition of them - “the mixture of coercive and subversive activity, conventional and unconventional methods (i.e. diplomatic, military, economic, technological), which can be used in a coordinated manner by state or non-state actors to achieve specific objectives while remaining below the threshold of formally declared warfare”. The EU-NATO Joint Declaration, signed in June 2016, identified the main focus of this cooperation to counteract such hybrid threats.
Although approved in December 2016 42 proposals for EU-NATO cooperation are rather indicators than planned cooperation development measures, but they became the algorithm of their security cooperation fixed in the document. Coming from this, it is possible to clearly outline directions and priority issues of the EU-NATO security cooperation, where the main goal is to increase the effectiveness of countering common challenges and threats. The key areas are: countering hybrid threats; cyber security; operational cooperation, including maritime; defence industry; joint training; strengthening security and stability in neighbouring countries.
In practical terms, the European Union and NATO have achieved some concrete results, for example: They became co-founders of the European Centre of Excellence for countering hybrid threats, based in Finland, which gained operational capability on September 1, this year; The EU-NATO hybrid playbook has been developed; There is close cooperation between the EU Political and Security Committee and the North Atlantic Council, the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell and the NATO Hybrid Analysis Branch, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence and the EU Strategic Communications Division, the EU Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU) and the NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC). Furthermore, in September this year, the EU and NATO conducted the first joint exercises to counter cyber attacks, and the second joint exercises to counter hybrid threats is planned for the coming year.
The direction of strengthening security in neighbouring countries, especially in Eastern Europe, is especially highlighted in both the EU and NATO, which seem to be aware of that modern hybrid threats that have the same effect on them and countries in the immediate vicinity. Thus, in the document of the European Parliament “Countering hybrid threats: EU-NATO cooperation”, adopted in March 2017, it is clearly noted that “the concept of hybrid threats has gained traction in relation to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the ISIL/Da’esh campaigns going far beyond Syria and Iraq” . In the EU-NATO Joint Declaration there is a conviction “that enhancing our neighbours' and partners' stability in accordance with our values, as enshrined in the UN Charter, contributes to our security and to sustainable peace and prosperity. So that our neighbours and partners are better able to address the numerous challenges they currently face, we will continue to support their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, as well as their reform efforts”.


Security of Eastern Europe - In the Focus of the EU and NATO

Still, in the EU and NATO, there are some differences in approaches to strengthening security in Eastern Europe. When, after the start of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the Alliance clearly identified Russia as a source of threats from the East, the EU official documents indicated Russia as a source of hybrid threats only indirectly. In the EU Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats, it is noted that key challenges for peace and stability lie in the eastern and southern neighbourhood, but the main source of security threats is declared in the southern direction - the Sahel and the African Horn. For example, at the informal meeting of the EU Defence Ministers on September 7, this year in Tallinn, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said that the discussed issue dealt with "how to strengthen the European Union's contribution to security in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa, which is a key strategic objective also for European security".
Nevertheless, both the EU and NATO have resorted to strengthening their security capabilities in the eastern direction. Herewith, the Alliance took absolutely practical steps of strategic deterrence of threats from the East, namely: four NATO military tactical groups of 4,500 militaries are deployed in the Baltic States and Poland, which have been operational since August 28, 2017; in addition to the air-policing mission in the Baltic region, on August 31, 2017, the air patrolling began in Romania and the adjoining Black Sea area; the Alliance's warships are permanently on a rotating basis in the Black Sea; in all countries of the NATO eastern flank, there are deployed eight NATO Force Integration Units (NFIUs), which, in case of need, will ensure deployment of NATO Response Force and coordination of them with national armies. Moreover, the Headquarters of the NATO Multinational Division South-East is deployed in Bucharest, and the Headquarters of the German-Polish-Danish Corps North-East in the Polish city of Szczecin.
As for Eastern European countries, which are not NATO members, especially Ukraine, the Alliance is pursuing a policy of cooperation and interaction, which is practically realised in joint trainings and exercises, training of military personnel, exchange of experience, military reform, etc. The intensity of such activities is quite high. Only in September this year, Rapid Trident - 2017 (September 11-23) in Ukraine was held with the participation of NATO member states as well as Moldova and Georgia, Agile Spirit - 2017 (September 3-13) in Georgia - with participation of NATO, Ukraine and Armenia, and on September 26, the maneuvers of the NATO Air Force "Ramstein Alloy" began in the Baltic region.
Unlike NATO's military approach to deter sources of threats (Russia - in the East), the EU still pays more attention to non-military security and building of sector capabilities. For example, counteraction against hybrid threats, first of all, is seen by the EU in the implementation of measures in the political-diplomatic, economic, informational, energy and financial spheres. Accordingly, in Eastern Europe, or rather the Eastern Partnership region, the EU focuses on strengthening the internal resilience of partner countries to hybrid threats rather than coordinated counteraction against them.

The EU develops cooperation with the Eastern partners through the exchange of strategic and operational information, assistance in countering organized crime, terrorism, illegal migration and proliferation of weapons. The EU believes that functional institutions in these countries and their ability to ensure the safety of the societies guarantee the safe environment for the European Union itself. However, having limited military capabilities, the EU focuses its efforts on non-military aspects of security in the Eastern Partnership area and, as defined in the Joint Staff Working Document "Eastern Partnership - 20 Deliverables for 2020 Focusing on key priorities and tangible results" (Chapter "Security") , it focuses mainly on cyber defence, resilience of societies, emergencies, protection of the critical infrastructure, chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear risks, counteraction against organized crime and illicit arms trafficking. Purely in the military sphere, the EU defined only the goals to achieve the operational cooperation, participation of partner countries in the missions, operations and Battle-groups of the EU and their involvement in military training programs.
Thus, we can talk about a certain division of functions between the EU and NATO in support of security to the East: namely, when the Alliance resorts to military deterrence and strengthening of the military capabilities of the countries of the region, the European Union focuses on strengthening the internal resilience of the partners and countering non-military challenges and threats.


Role of Ukraine In the Euro-Atlantic Security System

The role of Ukraine in the Euro-Atlantic security system becomes clear if it is evaluated from the opposite. Let us suppose that Ukraine was not able to deter Russia's aggression. In this case, Russia’s military, economic, informational and other resources, which are now restrained in eastern Ukraine, could be used in other directions, for example in the Baltic states to "protect" Russian-speaking habitants with the use of using "green men" or "lost paratroopers", or on the Middle East or North Africa to increase refugee flows to the EU, or to direct these resources to strengthen informational-propagandist campaigns in Europe.
Therefore, both the EU and NATO must clearly understand the important role of Ukraine as a contributor to regional security and an outpost of countering the Russian aggression. Before the informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the EU and the Eastern Partnership on September 7, this year in Tallinn, Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin reminded that it is necessary to build a strong eastern flank against the aggression of the Russian Federation, and that Ukraine plays a key role there. In other words, for the security of Eastern Europe, there is already insufficient NATO-Ukraine partnerships aimed at internal reforms and transition to the Alliance standards, or mere achievement of the ten goals, which are set out in the Chapter "Security" of the EU Joint Staff Working Document on the Eastern Partnership by 2020, to counteract local threats to human life and health, but do not address the challenges to national security of partner-countries. Ukraine needs more security integration and is ready to become a pillar of regional security.
Firstly, Ukraine has clearly chosen the European integration course, declaring the goal of joining the EU, and Euro-Atlantic integration, especially taking into account the goal of acquiring membership in NATO, which is enshrined in the law on amending some legislative acts of Ukraine (concerning the foreign policy of Ukraine). Therefore, this double goal is fully correlated with the current enhanced development of security cooperation between the EU and NATO, and Ukraine itself can add to its value.
Secondly, it is urgent to review Ukraine-NATO relations with the aim of reaching a new strengthened level. As in Ukraine, there is already both political and public support for NATO membership, but the Alliance still refuses to consider Ukraine as a potential candidate. Therefore, it would be advisable to achieve maximum practical integration of Ukraine into NATO's security system, following the current advanced model of Sweden and Finland, and include it into the Enhanced Opportunity Partnership group, which consists of Sweden, Finland, Jordan, Australia and Georgia. Ukraine has to be clearly integrated into the single Euro-Atlantic security system that should provide not only military reforms, joint trainings, education and the participation of Ukrainian troops in NATO peacekeeping operations, but also full cooperation and coordination to repel the Russian aggression and counter other actual and potential threats.
Thirdly, reaching the declared in the EU goal for the Eastern Partners to make them more resilient to threats to their security and prepared to prevent conflicts and crises, it would be advisable to establish regular multilateral consultations at the level of national security councils of the EaP countries on countering modern threats, including hybrid ones. A practical step could also be creation of an intergovernmental security platform, within the framework of the Eastern Partnership with the involvement of the EU, for combating modern hybrid threats and settling down conflicts, and it should be deployed in Ukraine. Security issues, as it is stated in the Analytical Report to the Annual Address of the President of Ukraine to the Verkhovna Rada, "could play a positive role in becoming of Ukraine as a leader of the Eastern Partnership".
Fourthly, as Ukraine has the richest experience in combating hybrid threats, and the joint NATO-Ukraine Platform on Countering Hybrid Warfare is still at the level of discussion, it would be advisable to open in Ukraine a regional branch of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, which is already operational in Helsinki. In addition, hybrid threat risk assessment should be piloted in Ukraine, and not in Moldova, as defined by the European Union.
Summing up, it is worth noting that security in the Eastern European region is an indisputable guarantee of security of the EU and NATO, which, while developing active cooperation and interaction, need Ukraine to be stable and capable of confronting the modern threats, as it increasingly proves its role as a security backbone of the Eastern European region and, therefore, it must be integrated into the common Euro-Atlantic security system.

Research Update, No. 15(757)
By Vitalii Martyniuk, Analyst of the UCIPR, Expert of the Centre “Strategy XXI”

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