Dhe foreign and defense ministers of the European Union have welcomed the draft of a new defense strategy. Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said after a joint ministers’ meeting that “in general, Member States have supported the approach” that he presented to them for the first time last week. Borrell presented the crisis on the border with Belarus as a model case of what the EU would have to give an answer to in the future: “We are facing a hybrid war, with a lot of space between war and peace, in which everything can be turned into a weapon. “
Diplomats confirmed that many member states had spoken of a good or very good basis for further deliberations on the so-called strategic compass, which should be completed by March next year. Only Poland and Lithuania expressed reservations about the planned “modular force of up to 5000 men”, which can be quickly relocated to trouble spots. You again submitted that such a unit, which builds on the existing battle groups but is only to be put together for specific missions, should not be at the expense of NATO.
Borrell: No competition with NATO
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also confirmed this on Tuesday before meeting the EU defense ministers for lunch. Stoltenberg pointed out that in response to the invasion of Crimea, NATO tripled its rapid reaction force to 45,000 soldiers who can be quickly deployed.
Most of all, Europeans are expected to spend more money on defense and to fill gaps in the Alliance’s capabilities, Stoltenberg made clear – along with the fact that 80 percent of NATO defense spending is covered by members who are not in the EU are. Borrell, on the other hand, held that it was not about “duplicating” but about strengthening the European pillar in NATO. Member states announced fourteen more projects on Tuesday to build military capabilities.
Germany was represented at the “jumbo meeting” of foreign and defense ministers by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas alone. Defense Minister Annegret Kram-Karrenbauer decided not to go to Brussels in view of the advanced coalition talks in Berlin, said a spokesman for her ministry. In addition, the content of the German wishes was so well represented in Borrell’s paper that personal participation was not necessary. A senior official represented her at the Defense Ministers’ meeting. Indeed, Kramp-Karrenbauer played a key role in shaping the process.
Sanctions against Wagner mercenaries
From the German side it was said that they only wanted the civilian aspects of the common security and defense policy to be recognized. This is an essential added value for the EU vis-à-vis NATO. As early as Monday, the foreign ministers decided in principle to impose sanctions on the Russian mercenary troop Wagner, which operates in close coordination with the Kremlin and the Russian military intelligence service GRU. “Specific proposals to meet people and organizations under existing EU sanctions regimes will be dealt with in the relevant working groups so that they can be adopted at the next Foreign Council,” said Borrell. It takes place in mid-December.
The initiative came from France, which is following with concern how Wagner mercenaries are playing an increasingly important role in the Sahel region. 450 men are said to be deployed in the Central African Republic as bodyguards for the President and for training militias. The military government in Mali is also said to have negotiated a mission with the group to consolidate its position. As a result, both Germany and France threatened to cancel the EU training mission in the country.