Recent Publications

Alexander Mattelaer

It is often stated that cohesion constitutes the center of gravity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Yet divergent domestic pressures and external threat perceptions are threatening to pull Allies apart and leave the Euro-Atlantic security architecture in shatters. When NATO Heads of State and Government meet in Warsaw on July 8–9, 2016, the stakes will be high. Not since the end of the Cold War has the security outlook been as bleak or the collective resources for meeting multiple threats as meager. This paper takes stock of the existing debates on the Warsaw Summit agenda and offers a set of recommendations on how U.S. officials might attempt to foster unity within the Alliance. A cursory review of the various commentaries on the Warsaw Summit agenda suggests that this exercise will have much in common with the proverbial practice of herding cats.1 Different Allies all want to see more of what they individually desire, while the Alliance as a whole will struggle to satisfy competing demands. Much has been written already about the delicate balancing act required for shoring up eastern and southern defenses, as well as for reconciling the needs of deterrence with political dialogue. However, coming to grips with the diplomatic difficulties of finding consensus entails acknowledging that the difficulties are as much internal as they are external to the Alliance. This analysis proceeds as follows. The first section discusses the various issues featuring on the Warsaw Summit agenda. While individual discussion items have logical answers, these often entail significant financial implications. The principal challenge for summit diplomacy will therefore reside in maintaining unity over the inevitable package deal that reconciles competing demands for resources. Success cannot be taken for granted. The three following sections detail a set of recommendations for dealing with the challenge of fragmentation. At the level of threat perceptions, a coherent narrative can be constructed only by taking the discussion beyond the Alliance’s immediate neighborhood. This requires that all Allies articulate their security concerns and integrate these into a 360-degree approach. Concerning defense resourcing, the free-rider problem can be addressed most effectively by fostering intra-European peer pressure, including through the European Union (EU). A commitment to sufficient defense spending should be integrated into the European Semester system of macro-economic coordination. Last but not least, capability and strategy development must be reframed as a regionally inspired division of labor built on complementary force structures. This would cast those nations closest to various threats into a role of first responder and others into that of provider of reserve forces, defensive depth, and support. The concluding section sketches a practical way forward for transforming crisis into opportunity. The United States can use the Warsaw Summit as a catalyst for revitalizing the Western-led global order.

Alexander Mattelaer

The debate over NATO burden-sharing needs to be reappraised continuously on both sides of the Atlantic. This re-look requires methodological rigor as well as an appreciation of the principles on which the Alliance was founded. While European allies have not been pulling their weight, additional funding will not constitute a panacea. The burden-sharing debate is ultimately not about defense accounting, but about military planning and agreeing who should do what for defending the European continent.

Luis Simón

This article examines how regional and global priorities challenge America’s evolving European strategy. The need to “reassure” Eastern and Central European allies in the face of Russian assertiveness calls for greater US strategic engagement in Europe. Conversely, defense-budgetary pressures, the Asia “rebalance,” and the willingness to avoid excessive escalation with Russia constitute ongoing limitations to a significant US military engagement in and around Europe. That is the essence of America’s European dilemma—how to invest sufficient resources in Europe as toensure credible deterrence while keeping enough military and diplomatic bandwidth to pursue other global geopolitical objectives.

Tomas Wyns
Matilda Axelson

The goal of this report is to identify options for deep greenhouse gas emission reductions by EU energy intensive industries. This type of greenhouse gas mitigation should bring emissions in these sectors down by at least 80% in 2050 compared to 1990 levels. That would be consistent with the EU’s long-term climate objective.

The main focus lies on innovative process technologies that significantly improve the emission performance compared to current (state-of-the-art) technologies. But moving towards decarbonisation in these industries forces us to look beyond process changes. The findings presented in this report therefore include other relevant options such as product and business innovations.

Researching the decarbonisation challenge for energy intensive industries cannot ignore the economic function these sectors have in the economy. This includes studying their current strengths and weaknesses. Most of the industries considered in this report have faced or are facing important economic challenges. Not all energy intensive industries can be covered within the scope of this study, and therefore, this report focuses on the most important parts of the chemical industry, the steel industry and the cement industry. Hence, the overwhelming majority of industrial greenhouse gas emissions from EU industrial sectors will be covered.

The analysis in this report starts with the assumption that mitigation options using only current technologies will not be able to address the decarbonisation challenge in time. Furthermore, the aforementioned economic challenges for sectors such as steel and cement might eclipse the needs and means for investments in breakthrough low-carbon technologies. The combination of both elements can truly give the impression of an unassailable frontier.

This report looks into the opportunities to break through this final frontier.

Chapter 1 analyses the major mitigation options in the chemicals industry, focusing particularly on petrochemicals and ammonia production for fertilisers. Chapter 2 addresses mitigation in the steel industry. Chapter 3 covers the cement industry. For each of the sectors, the results are discussed in an ‘outlook and challenges’-section where a comprehensive approach towards deep emission reductions is presented. This takes into account the economic context under which each industry operates.

The report is concluded with an overarching assessment of all industries considered, and adds on a linkage with the public sector. This specifically includes an introduction to the forthcoming EU ETS innovation fund and suggestions for its design. 

Sebastian Oberthür

The EU’s strategic re-orientation to coalition and bridge building after the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009 paved the way for its success in securing the Paris Agreement on climate change in December 2015. This orientation will largely remain relevant in climate geopolitics characterized by multipolarity and a diversification of interests away from a North–South divide, both headed towards growing support for decarbonization. Various fora beyond the multilateral UN negotiations deserve systematic attention as climate governance has become “polycentric”, requiring careful prioritization as well as further enhanced coordination of climate diplomacy across the EU. The EU’s position in climate geopolitics will not least depend on the development of its internal climate and energy policy framework for 2030 and beyond. Advancing decarbonization and fostering low-carbon innovation towards the new climate economy in the EU will help enhance the EU’s power base and role in future climate geopolitics.

Alexander Mattelaer

The setting up of a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) constitutes a key element of the ongoing Belgian defence reforms. This Policy Brief aims to put the present demand for special operations forces in its historical context and engage in the discussion on how to structure and employ this special instrument of policy. Building on the legacy of the paracommando regiment, the future Belgian SOCOM constitutes a critical capability within an adaptive force structure. This new entity must be able to deliver results in a variety of unconventional missions that require high readiness, intellectual flexibility and maximum discretion or surprise. At the same time, special operations forces do not constitute a substitute for having a comprehensive security policy. They function best when used as force multipliers alongside other instruments of power towards joint effect. As the proverbial tip of the spear, they must lead the way for Belgian defence regeneration in general.

Sebastian Oberthür
Ralph Bodle

This article analyses the legal form and nature of the Paris Agreement by exploring five core issues: (1) the status of the Paris Agreement as an instrument of international law; (2) the ‘housing’ of mitigation plans, actions, and targets within or outside the treaty; (3) the prescriptiveness and precision of the wording of specific commitments and provisions; (4) the nature of the commitments, in particular result versus conduct; and (5) the provisions to ensure accountability and promote effective implementation. We argue that the Paris Agreement constitutes an international treaty whose prescriptive and precise legal obligations are primarily procedural and focused on ‘nationally determined contributions’ (on mitigation) and the core transparency framework. Many other less precise and prescriptive obligations and provisions, including a number of rather programmatic statements, are best understood as establishing a political narrative that aims to guide the implementation and future evolution of the Agreement. 

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Jon White

Russian disinformation is not new. It demonstrates more continuity than change from its Soviet antecedents. The most signi cant changes are the lack of a universal ideology and the evolution of means of delivery. Putin’s Russkii mir (Russian World) is not as universal in its appeal as Soviet communism was. On the other hand, Russia has updated how it disseminates its disinformation. The Soviet experience with disinformation can be divided into two theatres: offensive disinformation, which sought to in uence decision-makers and public opinion abroad and defensive, which sought to in uence Soviet citizens. This study will examine Soviet offensive and defensive disinformation and compare it to Russian offensive and defensive disinformation. 

The success of populist parties in the 2014 elections for the European Parliament suggests that pro-Russian narratives are working their way into the institutional corridors of the EU. This policy brief will attempt to identify these narratives expressed by MEPs from the European National Front (ENF), European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) and Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) groups inside the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). Their general voting behaviour has been studied elsewhere.1 Here, this general pattern will be re-examined with additional emphasis on speci c narratives delivered during the procedure of tabling amendments to a number of Russia-related parliamentary reports voted in AFET. The analysis of these parliamentary amendments provides additional evidence to substantiate the claim that European populism demonstrates a remarkably coherent pro-Russian stance, which includes positions propagated by Russian information warfare. 

Mason Richey

North Korea’s recent bellicosity and inflammatory rhetoric have reminded the international community that the Kim Jong Un regime is a unique threat to stability in a region that is at the intersection of global economics, security, and power politics. The country’s development of nuclear weapons and missile programmes over the last fifteen years has not only been a signal failure of international diplomacy, but now also represents a danger to the global nonproliferation regime. This policy brief begins with an overview of the status of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, and then examines how their proliferation possibilities and effect on Northeast Asian regional geopolitics radiate consequences for European security. The conclusion outlines a number of modest steps that the EU and its member states might consider taking in order to respond to some of these challenges.