mars 30, 2023

stephan pietzner
Political Order and the Role of Military Power in Europe today.By Stephan Pietzner

Political Order and the Role of Military Power in Europe today
By Stephan Pietzner

Stephan Pietzner est un jeune et brillant étudiant allemand à Sciences-Po qui a beaucoup réfléchi aux causes des conflits et plus généralement aux problèmes stratégiques. Vous trouverez ci-dessous son parcours universitaire déjà bien rempli.

For what can be done against force without force?
Cicero, The Letters to his Friends

Hedley Bull wrote in 1972 that “the sources of facile optimism and narrow moralism never dry up, and the lessons of the “realists” have to be learnt afresh by every new generation.” Since the end of the Cold War, a generation of European leaders has set out to transform the structure and mechanisms of a political order in which European states conducted their affairs for three and a half centuries.
Ever since the ‘Peace of Westphalia’ that ended the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-48, the traditional European approach to order saw peoples as inherently competitive, often adversarial and therefore peace among states as intrinsically fragile. To thus constrain the clashing ambitions among European nations political order relied upon the principle of balance of power.

It was also that very tradition of realist statesmanship that gave rise to Europe’s modern union in the first place. It is easily overlooked today just how hardheaded the original architects of Europe’s postwar order were. Konrad Adenauer of West Germany and Alcide De Gasperi of Italy saw it as a way to reintegrate their countries into the global community after the disaster of fascism.
Moreover, De Gaulle’s sudden devotion to Franco-German friendship did not find its roots primarily in reconciliation, but the realization that his country’s traditional approach since Richelieu of keeping Germany either weak or divided, preferably both, would no longer work. France lacked the power to contain Germany by itself, an alliance with Great Britain alone proved insufficient in both world wars to defeat Germany, and a renewed Triple Entente was more likely to result in Soviet domination of Europe than the containment of Germany.

A coalition with its defeated neighbor was therefore, first and foremost, a means to re-establish France as the political leader in Europe, and European unity a way to keep the Old World as independent as possible from both Moscow and Washington. Over the next four decades, the looming Soviet threat kept each generation of European leaders concentrated on the hard facts of military power, sometimes against immense public pressure – just think of NATO’s Double Track decision and the deployment of the Pershing Twos.

However, collapse of the Soviet Union transmogrified the geopolitical nature of the European order in such a profound way that, for the first time in its history, no substantial military threat emanated from within Europe. Traditional problems of equilibrium and power politics were henceforth dismissed and replaced by mechanisms of collective bargaining, soft power and the spread of shared ideals. Europe was at last ‘united, whole and free’, renouncing the Westphalian system that it had created and spread across the globe, and with it the game of power politics.
Post-Westphalian Europe brought in its wake open borders, a single currency, the spread of democracy and thus little interest in defense policy, resulting in substantial defense cuts and reductions in military forces in most of Europe with few exceptions. The country which has most emblematically represented this trend is Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse. Since the country’s reunification in 1990 Germany’s defense spending (as a share of GDP) dwarfed from 2.9% in 1990 to currently around 1.2%.

In recent years, however, Europe’s ‘partnership’ approach to international order based principally on soft power and humanitarian values has been overtaken by events. While the ‘unipolar moment’ of unprecedented U.S. power was permissive to Europe’s ‘Moralpolitik’, recent crises at its southern and eastern border, coinciding with the inward-turn of the United States, have brutally exposed European illusions of geopolitical autarky and underlined its erroneous disregard for the realities of hard power. Regarding the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe’s role has been almost entirely one of a helpless bystander.
Meanwhile the Ukraine crisis has revealed not only the true extent to which Europe is willing and capable of defending a country that seeks its protection, but also the inability of most European leaders to comprehend the Kremlin’s geopolitical outlook on the world. This circumstance is perhaps still best reflected in German chancellor Merkel’s statement following the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014; that Mr. Putin was living “in another world”.

While individual European powers, notably France and the United Kingdom, remain military forces in their own right, recent evidence suggests that Europe is overall ill-equipped to maintain the level of security and prosperity that its citizens and leaders have seemingly become used to taking for granted. Furthermore, the latest steps taken in Brussels to lift European defense to the next level, after the double shock of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, are likely to remain just another paper tiger. The creation of the European Defense Fund, aimed at integrating Europe’s national defense industries, cannot obscure the fact that the continent’s largest economy spends less on defense R&D than major U.S. defense firms, such as Lockheed Martin.
Moreover, the German insistence on an “inclusive” PeSCo, Europe’s new defense cooperation, allowing as many states as possible to participate, has watered down the commitments under its provisions to become borderline meaningless. Even in the few binding commitments where hard figures about defense spending appear, they simply repeat promises made more than a decade ago under the Lisbon treaty – which of course have yet to be fulfilled. It was most telling that President Macron announced this year the launching of a new defense cooperation initiative outside the EU, comprising a small core of like-minded European nations that are actually able and willing to contribute forces to operations in Europe’s backyard where the U.S. and NATO may not get involved.

The EU’s self-image is still one of a friendly, herbivorous power that is no threat to anyone and whatever differences it has with others can be solved on a cooperative basis. And while European leaders may be profoundly convinced that “we” are right in our post-Westphalian approach to international politics, the reality is that we are only one of a number of contenders on the international scene and others may not want what we want. Vladimir Putin is just one example of a leader, who quite evidently puts a higher premium on power than on prosperity and thus prefers a neighborhood of compliant autocrats to one of blooming and prosperous democracies.
As such, we have to re-learn not to recoil from the struggle for power as something shocking or abnormal. As George Kennan said, “It is the medium in which we work, as the doctor works in the medium of the human flesh.” If we are truly interested in Europe’s future security and prosperity, we should start to replace the lofty moral and legalistic positions with clear-eyed assessments and hard-headed policies, including a re-evaluation of the military instrument.

Stephan Pietzner
Paris 12 Juin 2018

Le parcours de Stephan Pietzner
Sciences Po, Paris | Paris School of International Affairs MA in International Security 2016-2018 With a focus in causes of conflict, strategy and the Middle East.
Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen BA in Political Science and Sociology | Overall Grade: very good (1.4) 2011-2015 With a focus in international relations, political theory and political sociology | Thesis on cognitive approaches to risk-taking in foreign policy decision-making.
Western Washington University, Bellingham | Exchange year Studies concentrated on foreign policy and psychology. 2013-2014
Alexander-von-Humboldt Gymnasium, Neumünster

Internship at the SWP, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Brussels (August-November 2017) Worked as a Research Assistant in Brussels monitoring legislative changes, producing policy briefs and providing tailored research across areas of EU foreign and defense policy | Examples include a report on the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy and a briefing on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)
Internship at the GIGA, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg (June-July 2017) Research assistant for Prof. Dr. Tobias Lenz | Analysis of institutional designs and legitimacy deficits in international organizations (IOs) | Development of a cognitive model of legitimacy.
Internship at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, New York (November 2015-February 2016) Worked in the political department on counterterrorism, anti-narcotics and UN-reform | Activities included writing policy reports and speeches, meeting with representatives of member states and non-governmental organizations and analyzing positions of over 120 member states on the reform of the UN Security Council.
Internship at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Rule of Law Program for Latin America, Bogotá (September-November 2015) Worked for a leading think tank in Latin America advocating for the rule of law | Activities included assisting in the foundation’s coordination and organization of events
Granted internship abroad scholarship awarded by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), 2015-16. Awarded best B.A. thesis in Social Sciences by Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in 2015. Member of the Sciences Po Refugee Help initiative. Playing an active role in organizing weekly football matches between refugees and Sciences Po students.

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