The Future of European Security

This is the text from Tuesday’s European Security podcast. This interview will cover an array of topics, from Brexit and the European Union, to home-grown terror and the resurgence of Russia. To listen to the original podcast, please click on the links below.

Click here to listen to the Podcast on SoundCloud
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Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Jon Farley (Moderator)
David Pappalardo (France)
Jamie Meighan (UK)


OTH: Gentlemen, thanks for joining us today. Given the rise of nationalism in Europe, especially with Brexit, what challenges do you see in cohesion and collective defense of Europe?


DP: You are right to say that nationalism forms one of the greatest challenges for Europe, but it is not specific to Europe. It is a general pathology in international relationships. We see it in Chinese nationalism, rooted in the pride of a great nation reemerging after a century of humiliation, to Putin shaping Russian opinions through nationalist rhetoric to counteract western dominance, and even in the United States with Trump’s “America First” slogan which marginalizes Washington’s diplomacy. But in Europe, many Europeans embrace the lure of populism, which we see with the rise of regionalism, from Scotland to Lombardy to Catalonia, which exploits the populist’s fear and threatens cohesion. But Europe faces a common destiny, and this fear weakens European cohesion give the similar threats and dangers.


JM: The UK has undergone the process of Brexit and general devolution, pushing rules and regulations down to the individual nationals within the UK. Even with this, Scotland still held a vote to leave the Kingdom. Obviously, Scotland voted to stay within the UK, due to a whole host of reasons, from financial to security, but Brexit was truly a defining moment for Europe. Behind all of this is a number of issues and fears, from immigration to overly-tight EU legislation. Just because the UK is not part of the European Union does not mean that the UK doesn’t want to be part of Europe. It just means we have decided to take a different course and must now renegotiate all sorts of agreements and treaties. We have seen parties take stances on the far-right and far-left, and I don’t think this is going away, I think we are going to see more of it to come.


DP: We have seen this in Germany, Italy, Austria, and throughout Eastern Europe. We in France should pay attention not to give lecture, even with Macron winning the election, populism is still deeply rooted in French culture. Don’t forget that Marine Le Pen won 34% of the vote, which if combined with the far-left vote equals 45% of the population on the fringes in France. We should be careful not to blow on the embers of nationalism.


OTH: A lot of rise in nationalism has been due to terror attacks in Europe. Given this threat, what is the status of “home-grown” terror in Europe?


DP: Today, terror is one of the biggest threats to French security. France has been struck with a series of terror attacks since 2012. In fact, in a few hours in November 2015, France suffered more casualties than in any overseas operation since 1990. We have lost 89 soldiers in all of Afghanistan, compared to 130 just in one attack in 2013.


JM: There is no doubt that this is a strategic challenge, designed to influence the will of the people, delegitimize the government, and undermine the foundations of democracy. Obviously much of the motivation for attacks is the coalition in Iraq and Syria, but I don’t think this will bend our will and cohesion to finishing the job over there. All of the partners believe that we can’t allow ISIL to rise up, and can’t allow their message and propaganda to get in the heads of our children. While we are not landlocked like many of our neighbors, we don’t see the migration routes through the borders, but we are seeing the ISIL-inspired attacks from people born-and-raised in England. This message will continue, and that is the challenge. We are a tolerant society in the UK, so things like deradicalization programs are the focus for us. This will not bend the cohesion though. The UK has been through this from Northern Ireland to surviving the blitz. We have been bombed before and we will always stand up to terrorism.


DP: France and the UK are injured but we are responsible nations and will continue to show resiliency in the future.


OTH: Up to this point, military force structures were built for peer-to-peer conflicts over small durations. How has the 17-year War on Terror impacted your force structures?


DP: This is a relevant question. Are we ready for high-intensity warfare? Are we trading-off full spectrum war with one-size-fits-all for fighter aircraft. The threat to the East with Russia pulls us to that crucial question. We are stuck focusing fighter pilots on low-intensity conflict, spending at least half of our flight-time on close air wupport, which does not leave enough for proper training.


JM: We have been a bit of the sine wave, trying to see what the future will look like. We have been fighting a guerilla counter insurgency for 17 years. What we have seen is a reduction in mass. The UK is capable of some operations, but not on the scale of the US. When you talk Russia and China, the UK will rely largely on the US to carry the weight. Now our technology is second-to-none, from F-35 to P-8 and MQ-9s, but when you look at scale and duration, it is nowhere near what we could maintain in the 80s and 90s. It is a challenge, but we have to recognize how we are configured now, so alliances with the EU and NATO are now more important than before.


DP: France and the UK have all of the capacity on the spectrum, but little quantity. Because of this, the European partners share a common destiny. I think it will help secure European security, which drives towards cooperation sharing similar military cultures, such as the Trans-Atlantic initiative between the US, UK, and France, which looks at the integration with 5th-Generation aircraft, as well as the coordination with Germany on a 6th-Generation aircraft. Once again, we have to balance interoperability with the US, with autonomy, which will be the key to success to be prepared for high-intensity conflict.


OTH: What are some of the tension between Western European views on security versus Eastern Europe?


JM: I think there is a natural appearance of a divide, and there is some divide, especially with the countries in the buffer zone between Western Europe and Russia. People in the Ukraine and Georgia will tell you that they are at war and have been for a while. It’s not that there isn’t an opportunity there, but its just that there is a cluster of countries more comfortable with working together in the West, such as the development of the Eurofighter. There are some niche capabilities in the East, such as dealing with Russian cyber, but it will take time to develop those agreements. I know the UK just put aircraft in Romania for policing Eastern Europe.


DP: Maybe the tension is that we don’t have to exclude anyone, but we have to push forward with the willing and the able.


OTH: How has the reemergence of Russia in Georgia and Ukraine affected the security environment in Europe?


JM: For the UK, I’ll take it further than that, the Russians conducted a campaign on UK soil using chemical and biological weapons. This is consistent with how Russia operates, which is contrary to any international norms out there. I think this is one of the first times we have seen this hybrid warfare where they thought they would be able to get away with it, but they didn’t, and it was great to see Europe follow suit with expelling diplomats. Ukraine is consistent with the Russian view of hybrid warfare, which shows that we may not be able to be there in the physical fight, but we have to be able to move into that hybrid warfare, specifically cyber and propaganda. I think that is where this fight is taking us. If the west does not continue to stand up to them, then just like any bully, they will continue to do what they want.


DP: I think Russia is combining a strong strategy of influence in Europe, trying to influence the French election by welcoming Le Pen and interfering with the Macron campaign, but we have to continue diplomacy. We have to show no complacency, but rather determination, because nature abhors a vacuum.


JM: I agree with David, we don’t gain anything through isolationism, that a dangerous path to take with Russia, but we must be cognizant of the fact that they will continue to actively encourage dissent in nations that stand for democracy through trolling, social media, and cyber activity. Unfortunately, some people rely on social media solely for news, which shows why it is a very effective tactic.


OTH: Gents, on behalf of OTH, I want to thank you for your time and sharing your expertise.


David Pappalardo is a French Rafale pilot, and the former commander of the 2/30 fighter Squadron “Normandie-Niémen”. David has been involved in several operations over Africa, Afghanistan, and Levant since 2007.


Jamie Meighan is a British Intelligence Officer and MQ-9 Mission Crew with specialization in ISR, Targeting, and Operational planning fields. He has deployed to Bosnia, the Falkland Islands, Iraq, Afghanistan, and served for 2 ½ years as an exchange officer within the ISR Division at US CENTCOM.


The views expressed are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any government, department, or agency.

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