Publication: The Military Balance 2016
09 February 2016
Across the continent, policymakers were in 2015 preoccupied with the uncomfortable reality that while the threats and risks to European security had increased during recent years, the means to address them had not recovered from the long cycle of defence cuts that began after the Cold War and accelerated after the 2008 financial crisis. Russia’s actions had, as they saw it, brought conflict and a disregard for the established principles of peace and security back to a continent where it was thought that such issues were a feature of the past. Meanwhile, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) counts among its personnel many foreign fighters, thousands of whom hold Western passports. Returnees, now trained and experienced, constitute a terrorism threat to Europe. Moreover, continuing conflict in Africa and the Middle East has led to significant refugee flows, as countries in the region edge towards failure and collapse.
Indeed, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on 22 May 2015 that ‘the tectonic plates of Euro-Atlantic security have shifted both in the East and the South’. That same month, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, argued that ‘the security situation in the EU’s direct neighbourhood has deteriorated significantly: the concurrency, intensity, frequency and complexity of conflicts and crises in the neighbourhood have increased’.