New European Security Initiative

Edited by Ulrike Esther Franke, Manuel Lafont Rapnouil & Susi Dennison

Rethinking European Security

by Manuel Lafont Rapnouil

If ever a reminder were needed, a succession of recent crises – Ukraine, refugees, terrorism – has demonstrated that Europe cannot hope to stand apart from global security challenges. And looking at what is already coming our way, this belated realisation will only be reinforced by cyber threats, tensions in the Pacific, or polarisation in the Middle East and north Africa.

At the European Council on Foreign Relations, we believe that Europe will be better off as an effective security actor on the global stage, rather than as the geopolitical plaything of others. This is why, since our foundation ten years ago, we have been working extensively on security-related topics. As early as 2008, Nick Witney’s proposals for “Re-energising Europe’s Security and Defence Policy” included a pioneer-group model for Permanent Structured Cooperation.

Since then, we have covered a lot of ground: from Mark Galeotti’s influential work on Russia’s intelligence services, coercive diplomacy, and criminal networks; to Ellie Geranmayeh’s timely analyses and proposals at various moments of the Iran nuclear deal; to François Godement’s recent work on China’s view of the global order, at a time when Beijing’s leadership is sometimes cast as the successor of Washington’s.

But what we are faced with now is not just a continuation of the same old challenges Europe has always faced. Those challenges have evolved, and expanded too, from old conflicts to new threats; from the classical question of our relations with major powers such as Russia and China to the new face of the transatlantic partnership and the consequences of Brexit. From an international environment where we thought we could project stability into our neighbourhood we have moved to a situation where the interdependence at the heart of the liberal order is being weaponised at our expense.

But, in the face of these challenges, there is also a new impetus to take them on. Policymakers’ attitudes are beginning to change. Influential member states are changing as well. While Germany is showing a growing willingness to take on more responsibility, France is coming to terms with the inescapable need for more European military solidarity. Beyond these, other partners are participating in military overseas operations against terrorist groups. And discussions on flexible forms of defence and security cooperation will hopefully allow all European Union member states to contribute, and to cooperate with some of its closest partners such as post-Brexit United Kingdom.

ECFR’s New European Security Initiative – NESI – has been created to tackle the questions that emerge at the meeting point of these two trends.  

NESI will work on all four levels of European security: the threats, the capabilities that are needed, the coalitions and institutions that should deliver security, and the internal dimension of security cooperation within Europe. Our goal with this new ECFR initiative is to build on the cutting-edge expertise from all of our programmes and national offices to share in-depth analysis and innovative recommendations. Our work will rest on a firm military analysis, the deep wealth of our regional expertise, and our understanding of newer dangers of connectivity and emerging technologies. In true ECFR fashion, it will be grounded in the domestic politics of European states as well as in the complex decision-making of the EU. And it will break out of the compartmentalised frameworks of the past.

But this new impetus raises many questions. What are the threats that Europe faces? How does Europeans’ understanding of security need to change? What precisely do we mean when we insist that the nexus between internal and external security needs to be addressed? How can we embed the traditional ideas of European defence efforts into a broader and more comprehensive understanding of what Europe’s security, and Europe’s contribution to global security, imply? What capabilities and equipment does Europe need to tackle future challenges? What forms of flexible cooperation, within and outside the EU, can we build that would help tackle current threats and challenges without undermining the EU’s cohesion and solidarity? These are some of the questions that NESI will tackle head on. 


The era of Mutually Assured Disruption

Mark Leonard

EU defence efforts miss the open goal again

Nick Witney  

Europe’s war on terror

Anthony Dworkin

A European approach to military drones and artificial intelligence

Ulrike Esther Franke

Cyber attacks: Understanding the basics

Stefan Soesanto

Signal, constrain, and coerce: A more strategic use of sanctions

Manuel Lafont Rapnouil

Russia’s quiet military revolution

Gustav Gressel

The transatlantic divide on Iran

Ellie Geranmayeh

Libya: Security through politics

Mattia Toaldo

Coming to terms with China’s maritime power

Mathieu Duchâtel

NESI Contributors and Authors

Asli Aydintasbas – An expert on Turkey. Asli was formerly anchor at CNN Turk and Washington correspondent and later Ankara bureau chief for Sabah and columnist at Milliyet.

Julien Barnes-Dacey – An expert on Syria. Previously based in Damascus, Julien has worked as a journalist across the Middle East, reporting for the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times, Channel 4 News (UK) and Al-Jazeera.

Adam Baron – An expert on Yemen. Previously based Sanaa, Yemen, Adam worked as a journalist for a number of years.

Francisco de Borja Lasheras – An expert on Spanish foreign and security policy, the western Balkans, and nation building. Previously at the OSCE, Francisco spent several years in the Western Balkans, as Seconded National Expert to the OSCE Missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Piotr Buras – An expert on the politics of European Union security. Piotr previously worked as Berlin correspondent for Gazeta Wyborcza.

Ruth Citrin – An expert on Syria and post-ISIS stabilisation. Ruth previously worked in the National Security Council in the White House, and in the US State Department.

Susi Dennison – An expert on migration. Susi was formerly an official in the British Treasury and with Amnesty International in Brussels.

Anthony Dworkin – An expert on counterterrorism and international law. Anthony was previously with the Crimes of War Project and the BBC.

Mathieu Duchâtel – An expert on Asian security, with a focus on maritime affairs, the Korean peninsula, China’s foreign policy and EU-China relations. Mathieu is a former head of the SIPRI office in Beijing.

Sebastian Dullien – An expert on financial market regulation and economic warfare. He is a professor of international economics at HTW Berlin.

Silvia Francescon – An expert on global governance. Silvia is a former adviser to the prime minister and deputy head of the G8-G20 Sherpa office at the Italian Prime Minister’s Office.

François Godement – An expert on Chinese and east Asian strategic and international affairs, regional integration, and conflicts. He is professor of political science at Sciences Po in Paris, and founder of and research associate at the Asia Centre.

Ulrike Esther Franke – An expert on emerging military technologies and German security policy. Ulrike is a scholar at Oxford University and was previously member of UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s research team on the use of drones for targeted killing.

Mark Galeotti – An expert on Russian intelligence and security. Mark is the head of the Centre for European Security at the Institute of International Relations Prague.

Ellie Geranmayeh – An expert on Iran. Ellie worked as a lawyer on public international law and sanctions regimes in London and Tokyo.

Richard Gowan – An expert on the United Nations, peacekeeping, and Africa. Richard is a fellow at the Centre on International Cooperation and formerly consultant to the UN Secretariat.

Gustav Gressel – An expert on the Russian military and an Austrian military officer, formerly with the Ministry of Defence.

Josef Janning – An expert on transatlantic relations, global governance and European security policy. Josef was previously director of studies at the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels

Manuel Lafont Rapnouil – An expert on security crisis management and international security cooperation. Manuel is a former official at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Andrew Lebovich – An expert on north Africa and the Sahel. Andrew previously worked for the Open Society Initiative in west Africa and he has conducted field research Mali, Niger, and Senegal.

Mark Leonard – An expert on geopolitics and geo-economics. Mark is the co-founder of ECFR and most recently published “Connectivity Wars – Why migration, finance and trade are the geo-economic battlegrounds of the future”.

Kadri Liik – An expert on Russia. Throughout the 1990s, Kadri worked as a journalist in Russia. She was the director of the International Centre for Defence Studies in Estonia.

Hugh Lovatt – An expert on the Israeli/Palestine conflict. He previously worked for the International Crisis Group and in the European Parliament.

Jeremy Shapiro – An expert on European counter-terrorism and military intervention. Jeremy is a former US State Department official and Brookings fellow.

Stefan Soesanto – An expert on digital issues and cyber, previously with RAND.

Angela Stanzel – An expert on Afghanistan and China. She has a Ph.D in Sinology, writing about China-Pakistan relations.

Vessela Tcherneva – An expert on the Balkans and European Union decision-making. She previously was the spokesperson for the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and secretary of the International Commission on the Balkans, chaired by former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato.

Mattia Toaldo – An expert on Libya. Mattia is a member of the Council of the Society for Libyan Studies and has a Ph.D in the history of international relations.

Fredrik Wesslau – An expert on the Caucasus. Fredrik served as political adviser to the European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and for several years worked for the OSCE and United Nations in Kosovo.

Andrew Wilson – An expert on Ukraine and Belarus. Andrew is a professor in Ukrainian Studies at University College London.

Nick Witney – An expert on European defence and security. Nick was formerly chief executive of the European Defence Agency and an official at the British Ministry of Defence. 

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.