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Center for Strategic Decision Research


ESDI as the Security and Defense Pillar of the New Europe

Lieutenant General Richard Wolsytnski
French Vice Chief of Defense


At the beginning of the ‘90s, with the new strategic environment, people in Europe became conscious of the need for an ESDI that would be the “security and defense” pillar of a new Europe, not only within the European Union but also within the Atlantic Alliance.

The numerous steps that mark the advance towards this objective have taken on an ever-quicker rhythm. In fact, after a long period devoted to the economy and currency, the driving force behind European integration is now political, with defense one of its essential aspects.

Eighteen months ago, European defense was given a boost and unexpectedly benefited from the Kosovo crisis. Until then Europeans within the military coalition had been limited to little more than executing orders. The Helsinki Summit was the most recent step that continued forwarding European defense. It confirmed a trend towards the ESDI that could well be irreversible.

Until now, NATO has been the only credible military organization. However, NATO can provide only military solutions while the true resolution of a crisis requires the implementation of many non-military measures. This is why Europe wants to be capable of maintaining the stability of its territory and surroundings independently.


While the Euro currency is about to be introduced, Europe cannot just be generous and limit its ambitions to the economy. Its political unity must also be spelled out and it must play a more active role when peace and international law and order need to be restored. Crises demand a global approach and management. While the main objective is to try to prevent them, we must take part in their management when they do break out, using military force if necessary.

All aspects of crises must be considered—political, economic, and social, as well as military. Military action may bring a conflict to an end, but the final objective is the area’s return to normal life, which means developing a global strategy that takes the post-crisis period into account.

The military instrument must create a framework that includes the following:

  • An anticipatory capability that will keep a crisis at the lowest level of violence. This implies a good understanding of the situation as well as the involvement of both civilians and the military;
  • The support of a recognized international organization, which will give legitimacy to any action, through a clear mandate. This organization can only be the U.N.;
  • Methods for applying pressure and enabling containment, which can be adapted to the level of the crisis and the desired political objective.

Such is the challenge that Europe is faced with, in light of the recent events in Kosovo.


It has been agreed that Europe should be capable of carrying out the full spectrum of the Petersberg missions, from humanitarian actions to imposing peace, using military force if necessary. The preferred zone of action is, of course, Europe and its environs. However, future forces should also be capable of interventions anywhere in the world, though on a more limited scale.

To carry out these missions, Europe must have autonomous intelligence capabilities in order to be able to understand the situation and thus to select the proper political option and, possibly, take military action. Europe must be able to know, to choose, and to conduct. This requires:

  • Intelligence collecting and situation analysis assets;
  • Assessment and planning assets, which do not exclude resorting—as required—to certain NATO capabilities;
  • Efficient command structures at each level: strategic, operational, and tactical.

As for action, we need not only adequate combat assets, but also a true strategic transport capability and improved survival capabilities.

Therefore, we must develop strategic capabilities. These capabilities must not only be increased, but a real synergy must be created between those that already exist. This requires a sharing between nations and the identification of fields where efforts still need to be made. The key word is interoperability, at the right level, without yielding to the temptation of technological escalation. The work that has been done by the European nations in the context of the Defense Capability Initiative aims to reach precisely this objective.


Implementing a European security and defense policy obviously implies having a consistent system of institutions, structures, capabilities, and military assets, with the possible support of NATO. The political and military organizations of the EU are gradually being put into place. Remaining needs are being defined and should be completely identified by the end of 2000. The military organization will be based on existing units and multinational forces. The objective is not to create a European army but a coherent organization in which each nation keeps control of its assets.

Some may have been worried by the emergence of this ESDI, which is still hoped for by so many. But it is impossible to ask for more European involvement while denying Europeans the right to make security decisions on their own continent. Europe is not being built up against NATO, but as a reinforcement of NATO. There is no competition, there is complementarity. Besides, NATO remains indispensable for everything involving collective defense. According to the agreements signed in Berlin in 1996 and in Washington in 1999, NATO is liable to provide the European Union with some of its capabilities.

Thus, the European nations want their existence to be recognized within the Alliance and have every intention of assuming all their duties and responsibilities.


What brings Europeans together is much more important than what divides them. Still, there are many difficulties.

The problem of ESDI is not really a problem of capabilities. It is more a problem of political will to implement those indispensable capabilities. Europe will be rebuilt only if its nations are firmly determined to do so.

We do not want less America. What we want is more Europe, understanding that world balance depends on the emergence of complementary units that work with each other on an equal footing. Europe is moving slowly ahead, but looking back, we can see that we have come a long way.


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