Rethinking European security

Rethinking European security

Plus: India’s stunning economic forecast, New Zealand wants to make Meta pay, and Sudanese protestors aren’t convinced the military will give up power

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Today’s briefing is a ~4.9 min read:

  • ☮️ Europe’s new security structure: Three perspectives.
  • ➕ Plus: India’s sunny economic forecast, New Zealand wants to make Meta pay, and Sudanese protestors aren’t convinced the military will give up power.

PS If you’re in DC, drop by The Admiral at Dupont Circle today from 6-9pm for a holiday happy hour with fellow readers and a few members of Team Intrigue.


Rethinking the future of Europe’s security

In brief:

  • Europeans are imagining how to reconstruct the continent’s security architecture in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Some hope Russia will participate in a European security structure, while others think that peace might need to be organised without them.

Via Tenor

DIY: How to build strong security foundations

It’s been 286 days since the Russo-Ukraine war began, and European leaders are starting to imagine how Europe’s ‘security architecture’ – a fancy way of describing the organisations and mechanisms that deal with security – will function when the war’s over.

  • Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 set off alarm bells across the continent, but it failed to trigger a fundamental review of Europe’s security relationship with Russia.

So, how do you build more lasting security foundations after the previous ones crumbled like a Nature Valley granola bar?

Hot takes

Here’s what three EU leaders have to say.

🇩🇪 Olaf Scholz: Blast from the past 

Speaking at the Berlin Security Conference, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suggested Europe could return to a familiar pre-war balance with Russia.

“We can come back to a peace order that worked and make it safe again if there is a willingness in Russia to go back to this peace order.”

According to Scholz, European peace requires Russia’s active participation. A ‘new European order’ will likely need to be rebuilt on new terms, but Germany thinks it cannot be achieved by excluding Russia altogether.

🇫🇷 Emmanuel Macron: Meet me in the middle

French President Emmanuel Macron largely agrees with his German colleague. During a recent TV interview, Macron suggested NATO will have to give Russia security guarantees as part of future negotiations to end the Russo-Ukraine war.

“​​[O]ne of the essential points we must address — as [Russian] president [Vladimir] Putin has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia.” 

🇫🇮 Sanna Marin: Peace through strength

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has other ideas. She thinks Europe should beef up its defence capabilities before negotiating for peace with the Kremlin.

“Europe isn’t strong enough right now. We would be in trouble without the United States” […] We have to make sure that we are also building those capabilities when it comes to European defence.”

The new normal

Europe’s security architecture will likely look very different in ten years’ time. For a start, Sweden and Finland are both set to join NATO soon, which is likely to ruffle Russian feathers even more.

As The Economist’s defence editor Shashank Joshi explains:

“Russia chose to take a giant dump all over the NATO-Russia founding act, and the result is going to be a bigger NATO presence in eastern Europe & more forward-leaning posture. Any discussion of common security starts from that new normal.”

The reality remains that Russia is on Europe’s doorstep, so the future of a peaceful Europe will have to include Russian interests, one way or another.


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Southeast Asia & the Pacific

🇦🇺 Australia

Australia’s foreign and defence ministers are in Washington DC this week to meet with their US counterparts (the annual gatherings are affectionately dubbed ‘AUSMIN’ which stands for ‘Australia-US Ministerial Consultations’, which by our count should be AUSMINC?).

  • The ministers announced they’ll increase military cooperation so they can be a “force for stability” in maintaining a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”.

🇮🇳 India

According to the World Bank, India’s economy is set to grow by 6.9% in the current fiscal year.

  • While inflation is still a concern, the Indian economy is better prepared to weather a global economic slowdown than many other emerging economies.

🇮🇩 Indonesia

The Indonesian parliament has passed a new criminal code which includes banning sex outside marriage and insults towards the president.

  • The code will restrict personal, political, and religious freedoms when it comes into effect in three years, and critics say it could hurt the country’s tourism industry as it also extends to foreigners visiting Indonesia.

🇳🇿 New Zealand

New Zealand is planning to make Meta (Facebook) pay, literally. It plans to introduce a law that requires tech platforms to pay local media for the news stories on their sites.

🇻🇳 Vietnam

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is visiting Vietnam as the two countries try to deepen their defence, agriculture, and tech ties.

  • Vietnam is looking for new trading partners, and hopes its friendship with Nigeria will help it establish ties with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Will Sudan’s military actually give up power this time?

Protests in Omdurman, Sudan shortly after the military coup last October. Credits: Ebrahim Hamid/AFP.

The news: Sudan’s military signed an agreement on Monday with a group of pro-democracy organisations that would allow for the transition to civilian rule.

  • Under the agreement, the military and pro-democracy coalition will jointly appoint a prime minister, and the military is meant to relinquish its political role after a two-year transition period.

Some background: The head of Sudan’s military, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, took control of the country in October 2021, ending what was then a civil-military transitional government.

But military rule has not gone well. 

  • Foreign aid has dried up to the tune of $4.6B.
  • Oil revenues shrank by 80%, and GDP declined by 3.5%.
  • One-third of the population is facing severe food insecurity amid soaring bread prices.

In response, many Sudanese have been participating in near-weekly pro-democracy rallies, which experts credit for bringing the military to the negotiating table.

Plus, the protestors argue the signed agreement lacks some key details.

  • The deal doesn’t include provisions for a transitional justice system, nor stipulate exactly when the transitional government will begin. According to Khartoum-based expert Kholood Khair:

“Sudan has a history of writing really well-intentioned and really well-worded documents, whether they be peace agreements, political settlements or constitutional documents […] The problem has always been how you translate those wonderful words to actual mechanisms and policies.”


On intra-government coordination

(An extra ~2 min read)

  • Why are the State Dept and the DoD not more closely aligned? It seems daily activities in strategic competition should have diplomatic messaging tied to military operations, activities, and even investments. For example, what is the State Department doing to sync with the DoD (Department of Defense) reveal of the B-21 this week? – J. Callahan

Oooof, this is a huge question and one to which there is no easy or short answers. I’ll start by saying that none of us are former US diplomats, so we don’t have any special insight into how the US government operates.

  • What I can say in a very general sense is that departments within government are often competing with each other for budget and influence. Generally, in the Australian government, when one department gets a lot of money, there’s less to go around for the others.

I have no inside knowledge on the B-21 rollout, but let’s pretend your premise that DoD and the State Department aren’t coordinating very well on messaging is true (if any Intriguer can shed light on this, please do hit reply and let us know):

  • Perhaps the DoD’s incentive is to herald the arrival of this new whiz-bang hardware to demonstrate to political decision-makers it can deliver big new projects and should therefore be trusted with more money in the future.
  • At the same time, maybe the State Department is fielding questions from other countries concerned that this new whiz-bang hardware sends a dangerous message at a time of heightened global tensions. State might prefer not to trumpet the fact that the US will soon have a nuclear-capable bomber that can evade detection.

Of course, that’s a charitable and – let me say it again before we get letters – entirely speculative example. Sometimes, it’s just plain old bureaucratic oversight to blame when government departments aren’t on the same page. – John

Got a burning geopolitical question? Have something you’ve always wanted to know about how diplomacy works? Consider us your personal Siri, only less annoying!

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