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European security issues

5 - European security reassurance

Grade: B+
Unity 5/5
Resources 5/5
Outcome 5/10
Total 15/20

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reawakened fears in the eastern member states. The nature of security reassurances caused some debate among EU members.

As tensions in Ukraine escalated, Europe was caught flat-footed and watched with “concern” as Moscow seized territory. Especially in the Baltic States the swift occupation of Crimea evoked the memories of Soviet takeover of 1940, and led them to request reinforcements from NATO. Poland and Romania quickly became even more vocal on the issue. At the same time those EU states farther from Ukraine hesitated to make robust gestures of solidarity for risk of inciting Moscow.

The US' swift deployment of military reinforcements sent to Baltic States in early March and the results of the NATO Summit in September have helped assuage fears on the periphery. For a while, division within the EU looked stark, with Poland advocating a permanent deployment of NATO troops in Central and Eastern Europe, but finding only limited support. Germany in particular was – and is - determined to stick to the letter of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act in which NATO promised to refrain from establishing bases on the territory of the new member states “in the current and foreseeable security environment”- despite the fact that Russia’s actions have clearly changed that environment.  

The differences, however, at least for the time being, are more about form than substance. The acute security concerns of the EU’s “frontier” states were admirably addressed by the US, which sent planes within days of receiving a request in early March. For now, the US has based troops in each of the Baltic States, Poland and Romania as well. To avoid a conflict with the 1997 Act, they are not called bases, but NATO maintains that they will stay “for as long as needed.”

NATO – with Germany in the lead role – is also investing a lot in the Multinational Corps North East, based in Szczecin, Poland, seen by Berlin as a good substitute for the bases in the Baltics. The UK has taken the lead in developing a rapid-response “spearhead” force, designed explicitly to address the threats from Russia.