Publication: The Military Balance 2017
14 February 2017
Crises and instability: more of the same
A heightened sense of insecurity prevailed across Europe during 2016. Successful Islamist terrorist attacks in Belgium, France, Germany and Turkey highlighted the continent’s vulnerability to instability and violence originating on its southern and southeastern margins. Meanwhile, although the flow of refugees and other migrants into Europe slowed in 2016, pressure on receiving countries to settle and integrate those arrivals remained high, and on occasion caused local tensions. This continuing crisis meant that some European states sustained largely maritime deployments designed to assist those in danger and deter the activities of human traffickers.
At the same time, there was no measurable improvement in relations with Russia. Moscow’s continued military modernisation and strategic extroversion was again demonstrated by the intervention in Syria, direct support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine and significant military deployments in Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders. Armed conflict persisted in Europe, with fighting between Ukrainian government and separatist forces intensifying in mid-year. There was also continuing concern over Moscow’s capabilities in the area of information and influence operations.
Government ministries and military headquarters across the continent began to accept that these simultaneous security challenges were likely to endure, and that emerging crises needed to be confronted quickly and in a joined-up fashion. Indeed, this was reflected in defence documentation issued in 2015–16 by a number of states, including Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, while European countries’ threat perceptions may increasingly reflect similar concerns, there was little overall alignment in responses.