Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

May 2013

Policy Brief
impact on the prospects for transatlantic security cooperation. Although the mechanisms at work are less dramatic, and the range of plausible futures is somewhat narrower, the trajectory of the United States is also uncertain. At least in the near term, a combination of fiscal constraints, political divisions, a prolonged recession, and public weariness in the wake of two protracted wars appear likely to constrain the active exercise of U.S. power. The willingness and ability of the United States to play anything resembling the role that it has taken on for over six decades are open to question. (Some analysts have also raised questions about the extent to which the changing ethnic composition of the U.S. population may lead to a weakening of traditional, historic ties with Europe.) The Future Security Environment A second set of issues has to do with the broad economic, demographic, and technological trends that will shape the environment in which all nations will have to operate over the next several decades, and their possible implications for transatlantic security cooperation.

Summary: The current geopolitical challenges require, more than ever, a coordinated transatlantic answer. However, the possibility of providing such an answer may be hampered by domestic concerns on both sides of the Atlantic, which make transatlantic trajectories quite uncertain. The very global nature of these challenges and the shared blurred prospects should prod transatlantic partners to agree on a division of labor to handle these multi-faceted issues that lie at the heart of the international liberal order.

Framing the Transatlantic Security Discussion
by Aaron L. Friedberg
Meta-Questions At the risk of seeming pedantic, we need to begin by asking what we mean by the term “transatlantic.” While the United States is clearly on one side of this discussion, it is not at all obvious at this point which countries or multinational institutions are going to be on the other. To the extent that there is transatlantic security cooperation, will it be between the United States and NATO? The EU? Individual national governments? (And, if so, which ones?) Some new groupings, whether ad hoc “coalitions of the willing” or something more permanent? (A more concretely institutionalized U.S.-U.K.-French coalition, for example.) All of the above? And, if so, will certain mechanisms be especially important in dealing with particular issues? A related question has to do with the future of “Europe.” The full implications of the current crisis in the eurozone are not yet apparent and may not be for some time. It is conceivable that the crisis could lead to the collapse of the EU, on the one hand, or the strengthening of its central institutions on the other. It would be useful to identify a range of plausible alternative futures for Europe as a first step in thinking through the possible

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Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
The Rise of the Rest The biggest questions here have to do with the supposed “decline of the West” (or, as some would have it, “the rise of the rest.”) Will the much-touted shift in the “center of gravity” of the global economy towards Asia continue? Will Europe’s share of total world output continue to decline? Will the United States be able to keep its roughly 25 percent share or will its relative weight also dwindle? What are the likely implications of broad trends in the global distribution of wealth and power for the functioning of the current international system, which is, in most aspects, a “Western” creation? Will these trends tend to highlight the cultural and ideological commonalities that have long linked Europe and the United States? Or will they accelerate the apparent shift in the United States’ geopolitical focus from the western to the eastern end of the Eurasian landmass? Europe was the United States’ central strategic concern for roughly 200 years, from the late 18th to the late 20th century. How much time and attention will U.S. strategists devote to Europe over the course of this century? Technology Diffusion The coming decades are likely to see the continued diffusion of strategically-relevant technologies from “west” to “east” and from “north” to “south.” In addition to the possible further proliferation of nuclear weapons (discussed more fully below), a variety of actors outside of the transatlantic region are likely to acquire more capable conventional precision strike systems, including drones and ballistic and cruise missiles. More states and nonstate actors may also gain access to advanced biological weapons and the tools of cyberwarfare. How will these trends affect the ability of the United States and European nations to secure their territory and populations against attack, maintain unimpeded access to the global commons, project military power, and defend their interests in various regions? Energy Security The world is in the midst of major changes in the structure and functioning of global energy markets. The development of techniques for extracting oil and natural gas from shale could make the United States (and perhaps Europe) less dependent on energy supplies from Russia and the Middle East. The strategic implications of these developments could be highly significant. In a world in which the United States no longer relied on oil imports from the Persian Gulf, would it continue to be willing to act as the primary guarantor of security for many of the region’s oil

producers, as well as defending the sea lines of communication from the Gulf to Europe and other regions? Climate Change Another, more speculative topic involves the possible implications of the partial melting of the north polar ice cap. Such a development could open new shipping routes between Europe and East Asia, shortening transit times and avoiding some points of potential vulnerability, but perhaps raising new questions of maritime security. Specific Issues There is a wide array of specific issues that warrant inclusion in any discussion of transatlantic security cooperation. Many of them can be captured under the rubric “C4IR”: China An increasingly wealthy and powerful but still authoritarian China may well be the single greatest long-term geopolitical challenge facing the United States in the coming decades. In the last two or three years, there has been growing concern within Europe about China’s rise. Many observers now appear to believe that Europe has strategic, as well as economic, interests in Asia. Precisely how these interests should be defined, how they can best be promoted and defended, and whether (and if so how) European nations should seek to coordinate their policies toward China with one another and with the United States remain topics of debate. Among the specific issues that deserve discussion are: a possible common, transatlantic approach to dealing with China on trade issues (including currency valuation, subsidies, and the protection of intellectual property); a re-examination of the issues surrounding the transfer of sensitive technologies to China (including not only the familiar problem of export controls, but the issues associated with increasing direct investment by Chinese firms in dual use sectors such as aerospace and telecommunications); the possible sale of arms and other equipment to other Asian nations seeking to improve their

Many observers now appear to believe that Europe has strategic, as well as economic, interests in Asia.

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
self-defense capabilities in light of China’s growing power (especially the smaller countries of maritime Southeast Asia); and the coordination of U.S. and European responses to human rights abuses in China and Chinese support for other repressive regimes in the developing world. Counter-Proliferation There are obviously a number of pressing questions regarding Iran, including what to do if present efforts to apply diplomatic and economic pressure fail to deflect it from its nuclear ambitions, how to respond if it succeeds in testing a nuclear device, and what to do in the event of a preemptive attack on its facilities by Israel. Given the not inconsiderable likelihood that Iran will, in fact, go nuclear, it is important also to look further down the road. How can the possible knock-on effects of such a development be contained so as to prevent, or at least to slow, the further spread of nuclear weapons? What will be the implications for the United States and Europe of a world in which there are two or more, hostile nuclear weapons states facing one another in the Middle East, South Asia, and potentially Northeast Asia as well? Counter-Terrorism Dealing with Islamist terror groups has obviously been a major preoccupation in both the United States and Europe for the past decade. The necessity of meeting this danger has, on balance, been an inducement for greater transatlantic cooperation. Terrorism may have passed its peak, but the nature and extent of the threat going forward are unclear. While the ability of terrorist groups to mount long-distance operations against targets in Europe and the United States appears to have diminished in recent years, the pending withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan could result in the re-emergence of safe havens from which such attacks could be planned and launched. Jihadist groups have been working with some success to gain other footholds in “ungoverned spaces” around the Horn of Africa. It is possible that the revolutions associated with the Arab Spring could bring governments to power that are either unwilling or unable to crush terrorist organizations with the same brutal efficiency as the regimes they replaced. And the potential for more instances of “homegrown” terrorism in both Europe and the United States is unclear. Cybersecurity Governments and private entities in both Europe and the United States, as well as other parts of the world, are now

subject to massive, ongoing cyber intrusions and attacks, many of them originating from China, Russia, and other parts of the former Soviet empire. The advanced industrial democracies would seem to have strong shared interests in developing common policies and techniques for dealing with this problem, yet such cooperation appears to lag far behind the evolution of the threat. Intervention As the United States turns a greater portion of its strategic energy and attention towards Asia, Europe may have to take on an increasing share of the responsibility for dealing with security challenges in its own back yard. But (as will be discussed below), likely defense budget cuts will further diminish the ability of European nations to project significant increments of military power beyond their own frontiers. Recent operations in Libya could be the model for the future, but they may also turn out to be the last gasp of more than half a millennium of overseas European adventurism. Can there be a division of strategic labor between the United States and Europe regarding possible future military action in the Middle East and North Africa and, if so, what should it look like? Russia Despite its manifold demographic, economic, and political problems, Russia remains a force to be reckoned with, if only because it still has nuclear weapons, natural resources, and a desire to be seen as a world power. Can Europe and the United States craft a common strategy for dealing with Russia? How should they prepare to deal with attempts by Moscow to coerce or even re-conquer some of the nations in its “near abroad”? Might it be possible in the long run to draw Russia back to the West, weakening its present, increasingly unequal, alliance of convenience with China?

Can there be a division of strategic labor between the United States and Europe regarding possible future military action in the Middle East and North Africa and, if so, what should it look like?

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
What can the advanced industrial democracies do to rekindle hopes for Russia’s eventual political liberalization? Capabilities and Constraints On both sides of the Atlantic, the military services face strong, and potentially long-lasting, downward pressure on their budgets. In addition to cuts that have already been announced, the U.S. Department of Defense may be compelled by the process of “sequestration” to reduce spending by as much as another half trillion dollars over the coming decade. European defense budgets, already comparatively small in terms of their share of GDP, have been further reduced in recent years and the full unfolding of the eurozone crisis could lead to yet more cuts. As a first step toward thinking through the possible implications, it would be useful to outline a number of plausible scenarios for future U.S. and European defense budgets and force postures. It is possible that the next several years will see a further widening of the gap in capabilities between the U.S. military and the armed forces of even the strongest European powers. It is also at least conceivable that deep cuts could provide an inducement for closer cooperation in weapons development and a more explicit division of tasks among European militaries and perhaps between several European powers and the United States. Institutions A final, related set of issues has to do with the institutions through which transatlantic security policy will be formulated and implemented. On one hand, it might be interesting to take a “zero-base budgeting” approach to this question, conducting the thought experiment of imagining what a rational structure might look like if present organizations did not exist. At the other end of the plausibility spectrum would be an analysis of how existing institutions (principally NATO) could be restructured to better align them with emerging budgetary and strategic realities. In between these two extremes would be a discussion of the possible further evolution of alternative mechanisms that already exist in some form, including an EU defense force and an Anglo-French defense dyad.
About the Author
Aaron L. Friedberg is a non-resident senior fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University.

About GMF
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Tunis. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.

Dr. Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer Director, Paris Office German Marshall Fund of the United States Tel: +33 1 47 23 47 18 Email:


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