A Sight on European Defence

Included in the Group of Experts report on the new NATO concept, I could read the usual sentence that any politician should use, in order to be sure that he will not be to much contested: “In the current day, uncertainty is magnified by such factors as: … the accumulating consequences of environmental degradation, including climate change”.

Great. And so what? Should the military transform their armoured brigades in Green brigades in charge of protecting Amazonia, should the USA change their nuclear submarines into offshore control service? Nobody will ever propose anything concrete on this topic. The only countries that may adapt their tools are countries for which internal policy is driven by ecology and that have no ambition as for foreign policy refers.

I mean those countries in which the military action can be showed only when the military is taking care of children in a Third World village, and most important, is in no case involved in combat operations. More precisely, as war is a bad and dirty thing, those armies which are conceived to have in any circumstance the role of the good guy, while larger powers are the bad guys who make use of their weapons.

However, nobody will deny the need for the defence forces to contribute to defence of environment, by patrolling in their waters to check the tankers, or cleaning the beaches when polluted. In any case, that is not new: since the 19th century (at least) armies contributes to all those tasks, for instance by giving a hand for the crop, cleaning the beaches of Brittany in the 70’s, or fighting against the flood in Germany in the 90’s.

Therefore, my conclusion is such statements belong to the pure political correctness and the best proof of the report, is that it does not really give a clue of the way to adapt our defence systems to environment protection.

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  1. Dear sir,

    While I entirely share your points, I believe you’re missing the reason why such statements may have some legitimacy in a strategy.

    Even if issued by a “hard security” body such as Nato, a strategy has to address the broader picture, especially in geopolitics. Security is a perception, and when addressing threats, I believe NATO strategies have to take into account the many origins of potential threats. This includes environmental threats, if not as a threat to be comatted by military means, of course, but rather as a parameter NATO and its member States have to take stock of on a political and, if the military is involved, on a tactical level (for instance in adapting equipment, in designing operation in less-favourable or uncertain ecological environment).
    Just a passing thought.

  2. I believe that you are missing the point here. While you are correct in saying that the report’s suggestions for NATO’s new Strategic Concept do not “give a clue of the way to adapt our defence systems to environment protection” your conclusion is based on a misinterpretation of the context and purpose behind the quotation, “In the current day, uncertainty is magnified by such factors as: … the accumulating consequences of environmental degradation, including climate change”.

    This quote is not talking about the need for defence forces to contribute to the defence of the environment, but about the potential threat multiplier that comes from environmental degradation, overuse of the global commons, and resource scarcity. In this context, the already existant threats to NATO posed by regional conflicts, terrorism, energy security, and failed states are exacerbated by environmental degradation, including climate change. In other words, the opportunities for a new conflict to begin or an existing conflict to intensify are increased by environmental factors.

    Thus, the experts are not calling NATO to utilize its limited resources to resolve the current and future global environmental crisis –no political-military alliance should have this responsibility, especially as it is not capable of such action. Instead, the panel of experts is pointing out the contemporary strategic environment in which NATO operates, and are calling on NATO to prepare itself for those factors, the environment included, that act as threat mulitpliers in the international system. In this way, NATO will be prepared to respond to future threats to the Alliance and its member-states.

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