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Insiders: European defence


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Insiders: European defence

Euronews – Sophie Claudet

Are fears of Russian expansionism justified in your mind?

Expert on European Defence Policy – Sven Biscop

I don’t think we should overstate this. Look, the 28 members of the EU alone have 1.5 million people in uniform. That’s twice the size of the Russian Armed Forces. Now that’s not one and a half million combat-ready-troops but neither are the 750,000 Russians so I don’t think that we are militarily threatened.

Sophie Claudet

Now how about cyber war? We know that Russia has been accused, allegedly, of interfering in elections for example. Do you think NATO countries should better prepare themselves to fight this cyber threat?

Sven Biscop

This is something that all of the states of Europe have to tackle, quite simply by convincing their publics that there is nothing in the Russian narrative that could be more attractive than what they could get from their own state and from being in the European Union. And then whatever stories the Russians try to spread on the internet, fake news etc…. it just wont be listened to because it wont be a viable alternative to what people already have as members of the EU.

Sophie Claudet

Do you think Russia has the means, you know, the technology to target and hack into European military systems for example?

Sven Biscop

These are, I think, very cheap and very widespread technologies and that is one of the problems. The list of potential targets is unlimited. It’s critical infrastructure and most of it is actually in private hands so it’s very easy to create a lot of nuisance. On the other hand we should also ask ourselves what are the Russian interests and intentions. It’s not because someone has the capacity to do something that it is likely that he will do it.

Sophie Claudet

What are Russia’s intentions in your mind?

Sven Biscop

My feeling is that Russia’s core objective is to restore its sphere of influence in the former countries of the Soviet Union. It does not have an agenda against the European Union as such. It just wants to weaken the European Union and NATO so it can have a free hand in countries like Ukraine. So I do not see a direct threat to the EU but of course if we in Europe or in NATO would divide ourselves then the Russians, opportunistic as they are, would probably not hesitate to jump into the void that we leave.

Sophie Claudet

We saw last week that Mr Trump failed to clearly endorse NATO’s mutual defence pledge.

Sven Biscop

This goes much beyond Trump for two reasons… One there is a new elite now in the United States which is not necessarily of European origin and which does not necessarily look first to Europe. Many American policymakers these days look first to China and Asia.

Secondly, we are no longer in the cold war where European and American interests coincided almost automatically. We’re in a multi-polar world there are different great powers, they cooperate on one topic, they compete on another and so our interests are not necessarily the same as those of the Americans. Just look at the way the US looks at China in a very different way from Europe. That doesn’t mean that we can’t maintain a strong alliance but it means we have to be more flexible and that we Europeans have to define for ourselves what are our interests and what are our priorities and then act upon them, if necessary by ourselves.

Sophie Claudet

Does it mean that European defence is finally going to shape-up and how?

Sven Biscop

It should finally shape-up because we’ve been talking about it for twenty years. If it happens now it will be the result of a Franco-German access in defense. France and Germany together can activate permanent structures of cooperation, the mechanism in the Lisbon treaty that allows a core group of member states to integrate their defense efforts, take a big leap forward and really create the capabilities that allow Europe to handle a crisis autonomously if that is necessary.

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