United Kingdom/Brexit/European Defence:
The UK´s Brexit will have overwhelming consequences not only for the United Kingdom itself, but for the overall position of the European Union on global scale. The EU is losing not only 16 percent of its economic potential and second largest economy, as well as its main financial center, London, but also its main military power. The British armed forces are considered to be the most capable in Europe in terms of power projection. EU´s overall military potential will shrink by around 20-25 percent, while in category of effectively deployable forces beyond Europe the UK´s share is around one third (including two large aircraft carriers to be introduced to service from 2020). Moreover, the loss of the EU will be even more significant because of the UK being one of two European permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and also nuclear power, a status shared only by France in Europe.
All European initiatives and planes were realistic only in case of both French and British support (St. Malô, 1998, for example). Without British EU membership and efficient and real participation / leadership in defence and security related issues, the efficient European security and defence policy will become illusory.
The United Kingdom will stay strongly committed to European defence in NATO, including the recent plans to strengthen the Alliance´s presence at the so-called Eastern flank. The UK will be responsible to be a framework nation for a multinational battalion in Estonia.
German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier called recent NATO self-defence exercise called „Anaconda“, in Poland, as a „symbolic tank parade“ and „warmongering“. He described activities of the Alliance as „mistaken“ which leads to „old confrontation“ and calls for more space for dialogue and cooperation with Russia. Mr. Steinmeier openly challenged the existing strategy of German foreign policy represented by Chancellor Merkel (and supported by defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen). Besides questioning the foreign policy consensus in Germany, it can also harm the common EU approach towards Russia and the Ukrainian war.
Potential motivations behind the German foreign minister´s statement:
- Traditional very strong anti-militaristic tradition of German social democrats
- Influence of the „pro-Russian wing“ and intellectual/political tradition of social democrats, which gives preference of relations to Russia over Ukraine
- The coming parliamentary elections in 2017 and Mr. Steinmeier´s potential ambitions to challenge Angela Merkel – he could build himself as a left-wing alternative to Chancellor Merkel, also in the field of foreign policy.
- Influence of business community, linked to Russia
Bulgaria´s Prime Minister, Boiko Borisov ruled out his country´s participation in NATO Black Sea naval task force. Stronger NATO naval presence in Black Sea is a main agenda of neighboring Romania and Turkey for the Alliance´s Warsaw summit. After the Russian aggression in Ukraine Bulgaria was among those countries which had more resolute approach towards Russia, now it looks it can erode. Moreover, Mr. Borisov´s style of argumentation sounds quite populistic: „to deploy destroyers, aircraft carriers near Burgas or Varna during the tourist season is unacceptable“ – as nobody wants to deploy aircraft carriers to the Black Sea, and it doesnt even makes sense from military point of view, moreover, to draw parallels between deployment of warships and tourist resorts in a nonsense by its nature. The three Black Sea NATO members (Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria) will probably create a separate task force – Ukraine also expressed its will to participate by one frigate called “Getman Sagaidachniy”. Turkey, which for a long-time opposed the Alliance´s deeper engagement in the region, calls for more robust Allied engagement. The Turkish president Erdogan warned that “the Black Sea has almost become a Russian lake”.
US/Black Sea naval deployment:
US will deploy a destroyer (USS Porter, equipped with Aegis ballistic missile defense system) to the Black sea as a part of reassurances after Russian annexation of Crimea. After the Russian aggression, the American presence in the Black Sea has risen by around 10 times by number of days spent in the region, to around 200 days per year. The USA, as a non-Black sea state has to act within the framework of the Montreaux convention which limits presence of non-Black sea nations vessels to 21 days in row. It means the US vessels have to rotate in order to be able to maintain continuous naval presence.