Subscribe to our weekly newsletters for free

Subscribe to an email

If you want to subscribe to World & New World Newsletter, please enter
your e-mail

Semiconductor chip cooperation between the USA and the European Union concept.

EU and US continue strong trade and technology cooperation at a time of global challenges

by Margrethe Vestager , Valdis Dombrovskis

Today, the EU and the United States held the sixth meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) in Leuven, Belgium. The meeting allowed ministers to build on ongoing work and present new deliverables of the TTC after two and a half years of cooperation. The TTC is a key forum for close cooperation on transatlantic trade and technology issues. The Commission was represented by Executive Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis, joined by Commissioner Thierry Breton. On the US side, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai were present. The meeting took place in a challenging geopolitical context, including Russia's illegal war against Ukraine and global economic pressures. In addition, the acceleration of the digital and green transitions opens opportunities for growth and innovation but also requires transatlantic cooperation towards joint approaches. The meeting showed that there is a strong commitment to advance transatlantic leadership on emerging technologies and in the digital environment, facilitate bilateral trade and investment, cooperate on economic security and defend human rights and values. Transatlantic cooperation on artificial intelligence, quantum, 6G, semiconductors and standardisation The EU and US reaffirmed their common commitment to a risk-based approach to artificial intelligence (AI) and support for safe and trustworthy AI technologies. Both partners believe in the potential of AI to help find solutions to global challenges. A short overview document published today on AI for the Public Good identifies milestones on which the EU and US are cooperating in the areas of extreme weather, energy, emergency response and reconstruction. The partners also announced a new Dialogue between the EU AI office and the US Safety Institute on developing tools, methodologies and benchmarks for measuring and evaluating AI models. Since the launch of the TTC in 2021, the EU and US have worked on transparency and risk mitigation to reap the benefits of AI for their citizens and societies and continue to implement the Joint Roadmap for Trustworthy AI and Risk Management. The EU and US have adopted today a common 6G vision setting out a path for leadership on this technology, and have signed an administrative arrangement for research collaboration. This builds on the 6G outlook adopted in May 2023, and the industry roadmap on 6G of December 2023. In the semiconductors area, the EU and the US are extending for three years their two administrative arrangements, under which they have been cooperating fruitfully to identify early-on supply chain disruptions and ensure subsidies transparency. They will commit to cooperating on legacy semiconductors and join forces in research to find alternatives to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in chips, including by leveraging AI capacities. On emerging technology standards, the EU and US are releasing a Digital Identity Mapping Report with the aim of identifying use cases for transatlantic interoperability and the cross-border use of digital identities. In 2023, the EU and the US endorsed a common international standard on megawatt charging systems for the recharging of electric heavy-duty vehicles. The partners will continue to work on standards as enablers of the green transition. Boosting digital skills and talent is fundamental for the success of the digital transition. The Talent for Growth Task Force launched in April 2023 with a one-year mandate, has served as a platform for rich exchanges on innovative skills development and actionable solutions to address skills shortages in the technology sector in both the EU and the US. The Task Force presented the outcomes of these discussions in the margins of the TTC. Promoting easier, more sustainable and more secure trade on the transatlantic marketplace Promoting sustainable trade as part of the green transition is a priority for both parties and the TTC remains a key forum for the EU and the US to cooperate on this. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the Transatlantic Initiative on Sustainable Trade (TIST), which since its inception in 2022 frames the TTC's work in this regard. At today's meeting, ministers took stock of the work taking place under TIST including on conformity assessment, to facilitate trade in goods and technologies that are vital for the green transition. They agreed to publish a Joint Catalogue of Best Practices on Green Public Procurement to help accelerate the deployment of publicly financed sustainability projects, and to advance their cooperation on solar supply chains. The EU and the US have declared their intention to make transatlantic trade easier and to continue growing their unique economic partnership. To this end, both sides have agreed to facilitate digital tools in trade. In particular, they have taken steps to ease digital trade for companies by coordinating and aligning their respective technical standards for e-invoicing systems, which should considerably cut down on time and red tape. This will also reduce paper usage and carbon emissions associated with traditional invoicing methods. Furthermore, both parties reaffirmed the importance of the EU-US Clean Energy Incentives Dialogue as a platform for exchange to avoid zero-sum competition and trade and investment distortions in the clean energy sector. They also welcomed the publication of recommendations for greater transatlantic e-vehicle charging infrastructure compatibility, which complement the previously published Transatlantic Technical Recommendations for Government Funded Implementation of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure. Moreover, the EU and the US hold that sustainable trade is not only about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but also about ensuring a fair transition for workers and firms up and down the supply chain. This aim is encapsulated by the work of the Trade and Labour Dialogue (TALD), which, building on the discussions during a workshop with social partners organised at the fifth TTC meeting in January 2024 held its third meeting at today's TTC ministerial meeting. In addition, the EU and US have intensively engaged on critical minerals, which are indispensable for a wide set of technologies needed for EU strategic sectors such as the net-zero industry, and the digital, space and defence sectors. The EU and the US are advancing negotiations toward a Critical Minerals Agreement This agreement aims to strengthen EU-US supply chains in critical minerals for electric vehicles batteries and to reinforce the protection of labour and environment in international critical minerals supply chains. The EU and the US also welcomed the launch of the Minerals Security Partnership Forum (more information will be available later here), which they will co-chair, and look forward to a fruitful future cooperation with a wide range of partners around the world. Ministers also discussed partnering on economic security. In this regard, the EU and the US reaffirmed their shared concerns over the challenges posed by economic coercion and non-market practices employed by third countries and resolved to continue their efforts to de-risk and diversify their trade and investment relations. They also recognised the important role that the TTC has consistently played to optimise EU-US work on export controls against Russia and Belarus. They resolved to further align their respective priorities in this regard and to continue work on facilitating secure high-technology trade while maintaining an effective export controls regime. The EU and the US have carried out joint work to identify and promote best practices on foreign investment screening and will continue to exchange information to address threats to security and public order. Both parties also agreed to continue to exchange information on how to respond to the risks posed by outbound investments in certain critical technologies. Defending human rights and values in a changing geopolitical digital environment The EU and the US concur that online platforms should exercise greater responsibility in ensuring a fair, transparent, and accountable digital environment including by addressing gender-based violence and protecting human rights defenders online. The partners have developed a set of joint principles on gender-based violence on online platforms which complement the list of high-level principles on the protection and empowerment of minors and data access for researchers, which are in line with the EU's Digital Services Act. Both partners are determined to support democracies across the world and to defend human rights, free and independent media and combat foreign information manipulation and interference, especially in a year when many elections take place in the world. Following suit, they have published joint Recommended Actions for Online Platforms on Protecting Human Rights Defenders Online. The EU and US committed to facilitating data access from online platforms and published a report on mechanisms for researcher access to such data, which builds upon efforts undertaken by the academic and research community. Moreover, the EU and the US reiterated their commitment to support secure and resilient digital infrastructure and connectivity projects in third countries and announced a joint support package for Tunisia. This adds to the implementation of projects underway in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Kenya, and the Philippines. Next Steps The wide-ranging fruits of the TTC's work since its launch in 2021 attest to the value of this transatlantic policy forum, and principals agreed on the need to continue this work. Therefore, as both sides enter their respective electoral processes, the EU and US will reflect on the lessons learned so far and possible ways forward. In the meantime, the technical work under the TTC will continue. Building on the lessons learnt from our cooperation so far, we intend to use the remainder of 2024 to engage with EU and U.S. stakeholders to gather their views on the future of the TTC. Background The EU and the US launched the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) at their summit in Brussels on 15 June 2021. It has served as a forum to discuss and coordinate on key trade and technology issues, and to deepen transatlantic cooperation on issues of joint interest. The inaugural ministerial meeting of the TTC took place in Pittsburgh on 29 September 2021. Following this meeting, ten working groups were set up covering issues such as technology standards, AI, semiconductors, export controls and global trade challenges. This was followed by a second meeting in Paris on 16 May 2022, a third meeting in College Park, Maryland, in December 2022, a fourth meeting in Luleå, Sweden, in May 2023 and a fifth meeting in Washington DC in January 2024. The EU and the US remain key geopolitical and trading partners. EU-US bilateral trade is at historical highs, with over €1.6 trillion in 2023 and with bilateral investment stocks topping €5 trillion. Quote(s) “In today’s fast-moving and uncertain world, our partnership with the United States on trade and technology allows us to deal with some of the most crucial challenges of our time. I am proud of the results delivered so far and we will keep working to enhance economic security and build a fair digital environment that reflects our values.” Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age “The TTC has injected new dynamism into transatlantic trade relations. It is the first forum of its kind that has allowed the world’s two largest economies to set new standards and cooperate on current challenges - such as sanctions against Russia - based on shared democratic values. The TTC has made important inroads in terms of bolstering our economic security and enhancing the resilience of supply chains. We have also made valuable progress in jointly forging the green transatlantic marketplace.” Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President, and Commissioner for Trade

Defense & Security
Gaza envelope, Israel: October 25: IDF M M109 scourge gun fires in Gaza Strip

Expanding Israel’s Ground Forces or Prioritizing Technology?

by Azar Gat

Since Hamas’s attack and the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip, the public discourse has been impressed by the view, which Major General (res.) Itzhak Brik in particular voiced even before the war, that the IDF is too small given the threats; that reliance on technology has led to dangerous neglect and reduction of the ground forces; that the air force is disproportionately funded at the expense of the ground forces; and that there is a need to increase the defense budget significantly and permanently, beyond covering the expenses of the war. This article argues that these claims are misleading and even damaging, both militarily and economically. It contends that the current size of the IDF and that of the main fighting ground formations have proven adequate for future challenges. Despite known failures—particularly in the field of intelligence—the article asserts that elite technology, combined with the quality and determination of its combat troops, has given the IDF its most significant advantages in the war. Therefore, the article advocates to continue prioritizing the investment in technology, in addition to significantly expanding and reforming the inexpensive low-tech local and community ground defense forces, which have been neglected, with disastrous consequences. We start with the events of October 7. In addition to the significant failure in intelligence, it is widely agreed that the operational mishap was even more shocking. Contrary to the accepted view, the Gaza Division had enough forces available to effectively cope with Hamas’s attack. These included the 77th Armored Battalion of the 7th Armored Brigade, as well as infantry forces from the Golani and Givati Brigades—all of which were first-line regular forces. However, some of these forces had been granted leave for the Simchat Torah holiday weekend. Incredibly, those who remained were not stationed at dawn in combat readiness in their positions or armored fighting vehicles, and they were caught unprepared. As a result, Hamas fighters were able to photograph themselves dancing on unmanned and burned Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers (APCs) in their parking lot. Even the 400 combat soldiers and the 12 Merkava 4 tanks that reportedly remained in the Gaza zone on that Saturday could have thwarted Hamas’s attack if they had been stationed in their positions. Additionally, combat helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on standby could have aided in defeating Hamas. Furthermore, there was a fiasco with the emergency squads in the border communities, which had faced cutbacks and restrictions in the years leading up to the war. In the few communities, like Nir Am, where the emergency squads were able to organize themselves—even to a minimal extent—they played a significant role in repelling the attack and preventing a massacre. The shock of October 7, the subsequent recognition of the serious security reality, and its potential to deteriorate into a regional war have strengthened the assessments that the IDF, particularly the ground forces, are facing missions and challenges that are too great for their current size. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the IDF’s order of battle has been significantly reduced. The number of tanks in the IDF has been cut down to approximately one-third of its peak in the 1980s, though the number of infantry brigades, especially in the regular forces, has increased to adapt to the changing face of the battlefield. The number of fighting field divisions has been cut in half. According to information made public during the war, the IDF currently has six or seven such divisions (the 36th, 162nd, 98th, 99th, 146th, 252nd, and parts of 210th). It is worth noting that this is similar to the number of divisions the IDF had during the Yom Kippur War (six divisions), when it faced the Egyptian army, the Syrian army, and expeditionary forces from other Arab countries, which altogether consisted of about 18 regular enemy divisions and hundreds of thousands of soldiers, along with their heavy equipment, including around 4,500 tanks. As an additional point of comparison, the United States conquered Iraq using four or five divisions, supported by overwhelming air superiority. Recall that during the current war in Gaza and with Hezbollah, the IDF called up approximately 300,000 reserve troops, in addition to the standing army. They faced around 30,000 armed fighters in Gaza and a similar number in Lebanon. This gave Israel a clear numerical advantage, not to mention its far superior combat equipment and firepower. In the ground invasion of northern Gaza alone, the IDF deployed four divisions (the 36th, 162nd, 252nd, and 99th)—more divisions than were used against the entire Egyptian army in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. Furthermore, the 98th Division operated in Khan Yunis with eight (!) brigades (which were reduced by half as the intense combat declined)—a number that is almost equal to the total number of brigades deployed against the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War. It is difficult to imagine a greater concentration of force than this. Meanwhile, Central Command forces have been successfully and aggressively targeting terrorist activities in the West Bank, while in northern Israel, the 146th Division reinforced the 210th Division against Hezbollah after the war broke out. But doesn’t the IDF lack divisions for a simultaneous offensive against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon to remove the threat to the Israeli communities along the border? Let us recall the main considerations for operating in Lebanon or for refraining from doing so. Since the beginning of the war, the United States has vetoed such operation, in favor of diplomacy. Moreover, there are serious questions regarding the prospects of such an operation. If the IDF conquers southern Lebanon, which it is certainly capable of doing, Israel will face two choices: remaining there and dealing with Hezbollah’s guerrilla warfare indefinitely, as it had before the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, or withdrawing and watching Hezbollah return. Neither option is promising, especially given the possibility of escalation into a full-scale missile war. Indeed, in addition to these difficult questions, the concentration of efforts against Hamas has also played a role. Israel’s defense doctrine has always prescribed focusing the IDF’s efforts, both on the ground and in the air, against a single adversary at a time. This includes the use of internal lines to transfer forces from one front to another after achieving victory on one of them. Finally, does anyone really want to see a return of the large number of divisions and thousands of IDF tanks that crawled along the crowded roads of mountainous southern Lebanon in 1982? Still, some argue that the Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank are only the tip of the iceberg in the threat that Israel faces in a potential multi-front war. In this most severe scenario, the threat also includes the Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and even Iran itself, and possibly also some Arab citizens of Israel. However, it should be noted, in the context of claims of excessive cutbacks to the ground forces, that all of these potential arenas, except for those already active in Gaza, southern Lebanon, and the West Bank, and not including the Arabs of Israel, are distant theaters of operations that do not require or have use of additional ground forces. Without mentioning the Americans, the air force—possibly with the assistance of special forces, and in certain scenarios, in cooperation with the navy—would conduct the main activity in these arenas. This is the same air force that some claim is being prioritized at the expense of the ground forces. In practice, the air force’s share of the IDF’s budget, which is around 50 percent, has remained at the same level since at least the 1960s. Furthermore, contrary to the impression that has emerged, the air force too has experienced a reduction in the number of its aircraft by half in recent decades. Finally, we must not forget that it was the air force’s precision one-ton bombs that paved the way for the ground forces, even in the nearby theaters of operation. In the exemplary inter-service cooperation in the campaign in the Gaza Strip that crushed Hamas’s organized resistance, the air force made a significant contribution to the relatively low number of casualties among the ground forces. Some ask, what guarantee is there that Egypt will not turn around and join the war against Israel—in its current regime or under a future Islamic regime? But if so, why not also add Jordan and Syria, and maybe also Saudi Arabia, now or in the future, to the roster of potential enemies? After all, according to the popular—and erroneous—argument heard since October 7, we must no longer rely on assessments of intentions, and only judge according to capabilities. For the sake of this argument, let us focus on Egypt. Egypt’s interests and political orientation under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi are clear and they most definitely do not involve a return to war against Israel. Of course, if an Islamist regime comes to power again in Egypt, Israel will need to make security adjustments. However, it is important to remember that Egypt’s dependence on the provision of American weapons and munitions is at least as great as, if not greater than, Israel’s dependence, and that the prospect of American support for Egypt waging war against Israel is nil. Furthermore, in order to wage war against Israel, the Egyptian army would need to cross the Sinai Peninsula—a large-scale classic killing ground, as it was in past wars, lacking population and without natural cover—where the high-signature Egyptian army would face destruction mainly from the air. Indeed, given the size of the Egyptian air force and its relatively advanced aircraft, the budgetary weight given to the Israeli air force at its current size is of supreme importance. Despite the failure of intelligence and additional technology-based systems, like the “see-and-shoot” system, the IDF’s great advantage in the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, aside from the heroism and determination of its troops, lies primarily in technology. The ground forces, air force, intelligence, and other firepower units, closely communicating and cooperating, possess unprecedented capabilities in rapidly identifying and destroying Hamas fighters and their positions in highly complex urban and underground environments. Some of the technological advancements made public include computerized data communication and intelligence systems based on artificial intelligence (AI), UAVs and drones for intelligence and attack purposes, as well as guided rocket weapons and mortars. The smart-shooter Smash artificial intelligence sight device for infantry rifles is also worth mentioning. These advanced capabilities, along with the Trophy Active Protection System equipped on IDF tanks and APCs, are the main reasons for the relatively low number of IDF casualties and the success of the ground advance. The Trophy system provides protection against Hamas’s anti-tank armaments, particularly rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers. While no system can guarantee complete protection, the Trophy system has demonstrated high interception rates, making it a groundbreaking Israeli innovation with global significance. Additionally, the interception capability of the Iron Dome—another unique Israeli technological development—has prevented significant damage from the thousands of rockets launched by Hamas against Israeli population centers, as the IDF’s ground invasion dismantles the organization’s defenses in the Gaza Strip. What, then, should Israel invest in? Essentially—beyond various adjustments and supplements, such as reinstating the mandatory military service at three years, certainly in combat units and other essential units—Israel should invest in further enhancing technological capabilities, and not in increasing the number of its field formations and tanks. As we have seen, and contrary to popular belief, the IDF did not lack forces during the ground invasion in Gaza; on the contrary, the concentration of forces that were utilized was enormous by any comparative measure. This was primarily due to the complexity and sophistication of Hamas’s underground network in densely populated urban areas, for which the IDF sought to find solutions, many improvised during combat. A high-priority necessity, thus, is the expedited development of capabilities for discovering and neutralizing underground infrastructure—in the Gaza Strip, in Lebanon, and in other places. To this end, a variety of tactical and technological means will be needed, including, as has already been partly revealed, drones and AI-guided (under)ground robots that operate inside tunnels. An equally high, if not higher, priority is to expand and enhance the active protection systems of the IDF’s tanks and other armored fighting vehicles (AFVs). As proposed in an article that I wrote before the war (“The Future of the Tank and the Land Battlefield,” INSS, July 20, 2023), we are currently in the early stages of a profound revolution in ground warfare, the context of which is not yet fully understood. This revolution is the Third Technological Revolution of the Industrial Age—the electronics and computing revolution—that the world has experienced since the mid-20th century, and it has already had a significant impact on air and sea warfare. In naval warfare, battleships with heavy armor and large guns, which once dominated the seas, have been replaced by electronically-guided missile armaments launched from ships, aircraft, and land. Defense as well is now achieved through electronically-guided interception and electronic jamming. Similarly, in aerial warfare, kinetic gun armaments and “dumb” bombs have been replaced by electronically-guided missile armaments and electronic defensive jamming for air-to-air, surface-to-air, and air-to-surface fighting. By comparison, due to the complexities of ground warfare, which involves varied terrain and extensive cover, and a large number of potential targets, the electronic revolution’s impact on ground warfare has been slower and more gradual. Nonetheless, we are currently witnessing a revolutionary turning point in ground combat. Since the beginning of the ground operation in Gaza, many have rightfully acknowledged the critical role played by tanks in the campaign, while also criticizing what they mistakenly perceived as a diminishing of the IDF’s tank’s power and importance in recent decades. It is true that the number of tanks in the IDF has significantly decreased as part of the overall downsizing of the IDF, and also due to changes in the tank’s role on the battlefield. Gone are the days when heavily armored formations engaged in direct combat with their cannon fire as the center of ground warfare. Tanks now have become targets for long-range guided munitions before they even come within the firing range of each other’s kinetic guns. Moreover, their heavy armor is no longer effective against advanced anti-tank missiles with dual-charge warheads, which strike their less protected top. Although such missiles have not yet been used in the Gaza Strip, they are starting to appear in Lebanon. The war in Ukraine has clearly demonstrated this vulnerability, even in advanced western tanks supplied to Ukraine. The absence of active protection systems for tanks in Ukraine, such as the Trophy and Iron Fist systems developed in Israel and now being acquired by the armies of the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, has contributed to the failure of the Ukrainian offensive efforts and the stalemate in the fighting, reminiscent of World War I. Indeed, the current interpretation of the stalemate overlooks the significance of active protection systems for tanks. Furthermore, in contemporary ground combat, tanks primarily provide immediate mobile firepower at the front lines. However, it is uncertain whether tanks armed with high-muzzle-velocity kinetic cannons, which were originally designed for warfare against other tanks, is still suitable for the changing nature of the battlefield. A more appropriate approach would seem to involve guided missile armament, combined with a 30 mm automatic gun; or, alternatively, a high-caliber, low-muzzle-velocity gun that is lighter and has reduced recoil. Such a gun would allow for dual-purpose fire, employing both missiles and high-explosive shells. This is comparable to the 152 mm gun, planned over half a century ago for the MBT-70 tank and the Sheridan light tank, which was ahead of its time. Additionally, the heavy armor of tanks (and heavy APCs such as the Namer) has reached its limits, and it is expected to be largely replaced by electronically-guided interception and jamming measures. Substantial changes are necessary in the tank’s design. The Merkava 4 and its upgrade, the Barak tank, are masterpieces and the best tanks in the world. However, the future does not lie with high-muzzle-velocity kinetic cannons and super-heavy armor. Israel’s Carmel project for the tank of the future is the way forward. In any case, the IDF has no shortage of tanks. What it requires is to equip all of its AFVs with active protection systems and continuously upgrade these systems based on battle experience. The vulnerabilities discovered in these systems need to be rectified, and the cover of the systems must be completed from all angles, including protection against drones and loitering munitions. Protection against UAVs and drones of all types and sizes is also crucial, including against targets that are not AFVs. This has been demonstrated to an unprecedented extent in Ukraine and the current conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon. The IDF has been a global pioneer in developing intelligence and attack systems of this nature. However, it seems that less attention has been given to developing defensive measures for intercepting and jamming enemy systems. In addition to ground warfare, solid-state laser systems for intercepting ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs are also of utmost importance. Some argue that none of the defense systems currently available can effectively counter the hundreds of thousands of missiles that Iran and its proxies in the Middle East could launch toward the Israeli home front in an all-out war. However, even if this argument holds true, it cannot be used in conjunction with the notion that the Israeli air force is receiving too much funding that could be allocated to ground forces. Israel’s primary response to the massive missile threat on the home front by Iran and its proxies lies not in defense but in deterrence, in which the air force plays the central role. This has been evident in the mutual deterrence that has existed thus far with Hezbollah, and even more so with Iran in the case of a regional war. In such a scenario, Iran should be concerned, and it appears that it is indeed concerned about, potential Israeli strikes on its infrastructure in areas such as power stations, oil fields, energy transmission, and ports. A related question is how much Israel should allocate to precision surface-to-surface missiles as alternatives to aircraft-launched missiles and bombs in varying war scenarios. However, it is important to note that such substitutions are particularly applicable in nearby combat zones, as there is still no real competition with the air force’s capabilities at longer ranges. So much for high-tech. While the majority of the IDF’s investment should focus on enhancing its technological capabilities, there is a clear need to significantly expand and reconstruct the ground forces in the cost-effective and inexpensive realm of low-tech local ground defense. The worst aspect of the October 7 fiasco was in that field. It is hard to believe, but a few years back, the IDF actually implemented budget cuts to the minimal payments made to the civilian security coordinators in frontline communities. Furthermore, due to theft concerns, the rifles stored in their homes were taken away from the emergency squads and placed in a central armory. Before the Six-Day War, when enemy armies were stationed right on the other side of the border, a system of local defense communities were an integral part of the IDF’s first line of defense. However, after 1967, when the borders were pushed further away from the settled areas of the country and with the increased mechanization of Arab armies, the significance and capabilities of community-based local defense decreased accordingly. However, given the changing nature of threats and the emergence of militias and armed organizations across the borders, the ability of emergency squads in communities to serve as the first, vital, and readily available line of defense has returned in full force. As such, their members should be released from all other reserve duties, and instead be properly organized, armed, and trained for their task. One reason raised for increasing the number of field formations is the anticipated need for additional reserve service due to the war. However, it is important to differentiate between different aspects of this burden. As long as the war continues, frontline reserve combat units will have to serve for an extended period. Israel should perhaps consider expanding the reserve forces that will be rotated in existing AFVs. This would provide more manpower without requiring additional equipment, as the IDF already has an abundance of tanks. On the other hand, the main need for reserve service will be to reinforce the defense system along the borders and protect the communities. It would not be appropriate to use units from frontline, “heavy” combat formations, armed with advanced and costly equipment, for this purpose. Instead, local defense units, which are much less heavily armed and much less expensive should be allocated for the task. The IDF’s establishment of the new Hashomer Brigade, composed of reservists from regular border defense units, is a positive step in this direction. Additionally, it would be worthwhile to establish national guard units based on individuals who have been released from the reserves in recent years due to budget cuts. These units would secure roads, critical facilities, airports, and communities within Israel in the event of a conflict. The necessary equipment and armaments for these units would be relatively light and inexpensive. Once bitten, twice shy—but this can also take a heavy toll. Following the trauma of the Yom Kippur War, the IDF doubled in size and defense expenses jumped to between a quarter and a third of GDP. This increase made a decisive contribution to the “lost decade” of the Israeli economy after that war. It is difficult to blame the defense leadership of the time. The trauma was great and largely justified, and alternatives in qualitative rather than quantitative directions only started to appear and become practical in ground warfare in the 1980s. In conclusion, the IDF, with the exceptions mentioned, is built more or less correctly with respect to the threats on the borders. When it comes to more distant threats, the air force remains the main deterrent and offensive response, in addition to its central role in the inter-service battle in the immediate theaters of operation. In view of the existing balance of power and given its overwhelming numerical superiority, the main things that the IDF is missing are primarily not in the realm of offensive field formations. The ranks need to be filled, there may be various expansions and supplements, and, of course, we can always want more—especially when it comes to security. But as Ben-Gurion determined, security needs and expenses must be balanced with other vital needs. After covering the major military and civilian costs of the war, replenishing stockpiles, and returning vehicles to service—a large and necessary one-time expense—there is no room for increasing the regular defense budget beyond 4.5–5.5 percent of the net GDP (before American aid). In military history, there are more than a few cases of drawing the wrong lessons from wars. Following the Spanish Civil War, for example (1936–1939), it was decided in the Soviet Union that the future vision of mechanized war advanced by Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and his comrades in the top brass of the Red Army (who had been executed in Stalin’s purges) did not prove itself. The mechanized armies and corps that they had established were disbanded as a result and were hurriedly reassembled only after the Germans proved the doctrine’s effectiveness between 1939 and 1941. The Soviet Union paid dearly for this mistake with the German invasion. We must be careful to avoid the trauma of October 7 leading Israel to draw the wrong lessons. Contrary to the prevailing mindset, the main factor in the IDF’s exceptional success in the Gaza Strip, alongside the determination and heroism of its combat soldiers, has unequivocally been its decisive technological advantages. Israel should continue to deepen them in the mentioned directions.

Defense & Security
Meeting of the Russian President Vladimir Putin

Terrorism Undercuts Putin’s Political Agenda

by Pavel K. Baev

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 49 Executive Summary: • The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) terrorist attack outside of Moscow was an abject failure of the Russian intelligence services, leading officials to push conspiracy theories claiming that Ukraine and the West were involved. • Moscow’s exploitation of Tajik immigrants, who perform the hardest, lowest-paying jobs in Russia and whom the police regularly mistreat, only exacerbates domestic tensions and creates a potential recruitment pool for ISKP. • Russia’s anti-terrorism policies to isolate and blame the West for the attack block any possibility of restoring counterterrorism cooperation as Moscow’s influence in the Middle East wanes due, in part, to cordial ties with Hamas. The shock from the March 22 terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall is continuing to generate angst and confusion throughout Russian society while failing to inspire unity. The Russian population may have grown accustomed to the perpetual shocks caused by the war in Ukraine, but the people are unprepared for the return of the specter of terrorism that loomed so large in the early 2000s. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who consolidated his leadership during Russia’s “war on terror,” which started with the explosions in Moscow in September 1999, cannot seem to find a way to turn the new disaster to his advantage (see EDM, March 25; Moscow Times, March 26). He had anticipated a confident start to his new presidential term, granted by the crudely manipulated “election,” but the Kremlin leader is now struggling to minimize the Moscow attack’s damage to his domestic authority and international agenda, as well as society’s support for the “long war” (Meduza, March 20; see EDM, April 1). The terrorist attack that has claimed over 144 lives was an abject failure of the Russian intelligence services. Putin, however, cannot punish the heads of the intelligence services because they make up his most covert inner circle and are the main conduits of his aggressive policies (, March 25). To divert attention from the security failure, Russian officials have declared that the terrorist act is connected to Ukraine and have sought to extend that connection to the West, particularly the United States (Kommersant, March 29). No shortage of pundits are eager to spin these conspiracy theories and present the US warnings about probable attacks as corroborating evidence (RIAC, March 28). Convenient as such insinuations may seem, they block any possibility of restoring international counterterrorism cooperation, as suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron (, March 25). The primary responsibility for the Moscow attack lies with the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP). It would take a long stretch of malignant imagination to present the Khorasan offshoot as a tool of US policy (see EDM, March 26;, March 28). The depth of Islamist radicalization fostered by ISKP in Tajikistan, one of Moscow’s most reliable allies in Central Asia, has aggravated societal discontent in Russia (Carnegie Politika, March 25). Tajik labor migrants perform some of the hardest and lowest-paying jobs in many cities across Russia. This unregulated exploitation inevitably creates a recruitment pool for ISKP (The Insider, March 29). Expelling illegal migrants might seem like a natural countermeasure to many Russians, but the manpower shortage caused by the war against Ukraine makes Russia’s economy increasingly dependent on this cheap labor force (, March 27). Police brutality toward Tajik immigrant communities has exacerbated the situation, creating another opening for Islamist recruiters (Novaya gazeta Europe, March 29). For ISKP’s ambitions, these domestic opportunities can be strategically connected with Russia’s ambivalent policy in the wider Middle East (Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 25). Counterterrorism used to be a key tenet of that policy. Currently, however, Moscow is trying to build ties with the Taliban and dissuade the Houthis in Yemen from targeting Russian ships (, March 21). Russian forces confronted the Islamic State most directly in Syria. In recent months, only occasional airstrikes have been delivered on the rebel-controlled Idlib province (Interfax, March 7). Hezbollah has been a key Russian ally in Syria. Yet air defense assets at the air base in Latakia have not interfered with Israeli airstrikes. The Russian Foreign Ministry even condemned Israel’s recent bombing of a camp near Aleppo as an “unacceptable provocation” (RIA Novosti, March 29). Terrorism continues to be a significant driver of instability in the Middle East, but Russia finds its influence and legitimacy in the region waning, not least because of its cordial ties with Hamas and other terrorist groups (Carnegie Politika, March 13). The harder Kremlin “hawks” push Ukraine’s involvement in the Moscow massacre, the less convincing the claims become to many states in the Global South, who are well aware of ISKP’s activities (Interfax, March 26). India is one of Moscow’s particular concerns. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba’s recent visit to New Delhi has added to these worries (Kommersant, March 28). India’s possible contribution to the peace summit planned to be held sometime this summer in Switzerland, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace plan will be discussed, will be a significant blow to Russian intrigues aimed at torpedoing or at least postponing this event (Rossiyskaya gazeta, March 28). Brazil is another important but currently unconfirmed participant in the peace summit. Russian pundits are keen to argue that Macron’s recent visit has not changed President Luiz Ignacio “Lula” da Silva’s neutral stance on the war (Izvestiya, March 29). China remains ambivalent about sending a delegation to Switzerland, but Russia has few means to influence Beijing’s position (Vedomosti, March 19). Putin’s intention to prove that domestic support for his “long war” remains strong and the apparent inability of his security apparatus to deal with the real causes of terrorism only aggravates the damage (see EDM, March 28). The Kremlin leader attempts to demonstrate confidence in Russia’s capacity to sustain the war effort, but the depth of domestic discord and discontent has been exposed. Many international actors who saw benefits in preserving neutrality and circumventing sanctions must now re-evaluate. Russia currently maintains the advantage on the Ukrainian battlefield. Still, a change in fortunes is increasingly probable—not only because of the new surge in Western support for Ukraine but also because of the degradation of Russia’s newly militarized economy and traumatized society. The presidential “election” has depleted rather than improved support for the war, and the next spasm of crisis may trigger a chain reaction that leads to a complete meltdown.

Amman, Jordan - October 18, 2023 : Arab unity in the Al-Aqsa flood war (flag of Jordan and Palestine) Demonstrations of the Jordanian people in solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinian people

Political Insights (5): Determinants of the Jordanian Stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood

by Atef al-Joulani

Jordan’s official stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood faced challenges in maintaining a balanced position, despite strong and unprecedented engagement from the Jordanian public. The initial official stance, which seemed relatively strong and clear, diminished later, revealing contradictions between political declarations and practical measures on the ground. This has raised questions about the factors influencing Jordan’s position on the confrontation. First: Determinants of the Official Stance The official Jordanian stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood was shaped by various factors: 1. Concerns regarding national security intensified due to the hostile attitudes of extreme right-wing Zionist groups towards Jordan, along with fears of forced displacement in the West Bank (WB) amidst the arming of tens of thousands of settlers and their persistent efforts to compel Palestinians to relocate to Jordan. Furthermore, concerns emerged regarding security threats to the kingdom’s northern and eastern borders amidst increased attempts to breach them due to escalation in Gaza Strip (GS). On 28/1/2024, a drone attack targeted US forces stationed near the Syrian border in Jordan, killing three soldiers and wounding about 35 others. 2. Geographic and demographic factors, coupled with strong public engagement with Operation al-Aqsa Flood, persistently fueled Jordanian protests against Israeli aggression and in support of resistance since October 7th. The protests have spanned the entire geographical and societal spectrum in Jordan. 3. The provisions of the Wadi Araba Treaty between Jordan and Israel, including political, economic restrictions, and normalization commitments between the parties. 4. The strategic relationship between Jordan and the US, which fully sided with Israel and provided it with political, military and financial cover to continue its aggression on GS. 5. Jordan’s tepid ties with Hamas suffered a setback after Operation al-Aqsa Flood, which coincided with a noticeable decline in relations, prompted by the arrest of several Hamas members for attempting to smuggle weapons into WB. 6. Jordan’s political stance within the Arab and international sphere, which opposes Hamas and “political Islam” movements. 7. Jordan’s political choices in the Palestinian arena, which support the political settlement, negotiations and the two-state solution, the efforts to de-escalate and impose calm in WB, enhancing the PA status within the Palestinian society, and preventing its collapse or decline in favor of other parties. 8. The official side voiced concerns about the impact of Operation al-Aqsa Flood on Jordanian public sentiment and electoral trends, fearing its exploitation by the Islamic movement during the critical upcoming parliamentary elections later this year (2024). Second: The Various Facets of the Jordanian Position On the political front, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was the first to indicate in the early days of the confrontation that “Hamas is an idea, and the idea does not end.” He emphasized that discussing a post-Gaza phase is a leap in the air, clarifying that Hamas did not create the conflict but rather the conflict created Hamas. Jordan was quick to describe Israeli military operations in GS as aggression and heinous war crimes, with positions issued by the King, Queen, Crown Prince and Jordanian Prime Minister condemning the aggression, calling for its cessation, and declaring solidarity with the Palestinian people. On the practical front, Jordan canceled the Quad Summit scheduled in Amman with the US President on 18/10/2023, in protest against the Israeli massacre at the Baptist Hospital in GS. Jordan also froze the energy-for-water agreement with Israel. On 1/11/2023, Jordan recalled its ambassador from Israel and conducted multiple air drops to support its field hospital in GS, while establishing a second field hospital in Khan Younis. Yet, the Jordanian public deemed these official actions insufficient, demanding the cancellation of the Wadi Araba treaty and the gas agreement with Israel, along with halting the water-for-electricity deal, closing foreign military bases in Jordan, supporting Palestinian resistance and engaging with its factions. The Jordanian official stance during Operation al-Aqsa Flood can be summarized as follows: 1. Condemnation of Israeli aggression on GS and urging an end to war crimes. 2. Implementation of measures falling short of public demands, amidst strong interaction by the Jordanian public during the confrontation. 3. Permitting limited popular activities, restricting access to borders with the occupied Palestinian territories, opposing open sit-ins and arresting activists participating in some events. 4. Allowing Jordanian territory for Gulf-to-Israel truck transit, within the context of a land bridge inaugurated to bypass Houthi restrictions in the Bab al-Mandab Strait for ships bound to Israel. Conclusion Jordan’s official response to Operation al-Aqsa Flood reveals significant confusion in aligning its regional and international stance, political choices and commitments with addressing the demands of the Jordanian public. Jordan’s participation in the land bridge for goods transit to Israel has damaged its credibility and provoked public outrage. This revelation coincided with Israel’s intensified blockade on GS, coupled with increased measures to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid, as part of the Israeli policy to starve the population and incite popular resentment against the resistance. Given recent practical behavior and relative retreat in stance and rhetoric, ongoing confusion in Jordan’s official position is expected in the coming period, with increased engagement in Arab and international arrangements regarding Gaza’s post-war future. Regarding relations with Palestinian factions, Jordan’s official side is expected to maintain its preference for engaging solely with the Palestinian Authority, aiming to bolster its position in the Palestinian arena, without showing openness to resistance movements in the foreseeable future.

Defense & Security
Moldova and Transnistria, political map.

Moldova: Russia continues its mischief-making in breakaway Transnistria

by Stefan Wolff

In mid-February, the leader of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, Vadim Krasnoselsky, summoned deputies “of all levels of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic”. The purpose of their meeting, he announced, would be to discuss “pressure from the Republic of Moldova that is violating the rights and worsening the socioeconomic situation of Transnistrians”. The meeting was set for February 28, the day before Vladimir Putin’s “state of the union” address. This was taken by some – including the influential Washington-based thinktank the Institute for the Study of War – to signal an intention to announce that Transnistria would formally declare its intention to join Russia. The Transnistrian congress met as planned. But its resolution, while full of praise about Transnistria and complaints about Moldova, fell well short of expectations. In the end, the assembled deputies merely appealed to Russia – as well as the Interparliamentary Assembly of States Parties of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the UN, the EU, the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Red Cross – to protect Transnistria and prevent an escalation of tensions with Moldova. Transnistria declared independence from the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1990, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was gathering pace. A brief violent conflict ended with a Russian-mediated ceasefire in 1992. This ceasefire mandated negotiations on the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova, which included, among others, Russia and Ukraine. Efforts to agree on a deal proved futile over the following three decades and have completely stalled since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Thus, the Transnistrian region of Moldova has remained in a limbo state for more than 30 years now. Its separate identity is not even recognised by Russia and it remains formally part of Moldova. This limbo state has contributed to fears – in Moldova and the west – that Russia has territorial ambitions in the region. These have worsened since the invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Talk of Kremlin-backed plots to destabilise the country is not uncommon. In the event, the Russian president failed to mention Transnistria even once in his state of the union address the day after deputies had gathered in Transnistria. With the initial “excitement” of a potential crisis around Moldova gone, the predominant view among regional and international analysts was that this was a storm in a tea cup rather than a full-blown crisis. This is also the view of Moldova’s foreign minister, Mihail Popșoi. In an interview with Politico at the beginning of March, a month after taking office, Popșoi said that “the probability that the Russians would be able to advance and reach our territory is much lower now than it was two years ago”. Russian ambitions But this is, at best, only half of the more complex geopolitical context in which Moldova finds itself. Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, a member of Nato, Moldova’s future prospects are heavily intertwined with the outcome of the war against Ukraine. At present there appears to be little chance of Russia expanding its land bridge to Crimea all along the Black Sea coast to the Ukrainian border with Moldova. But that’s not to say that the Kremlin has completely given up on this ambition. Just days after the deputies’ meeting in Transnistria, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, complained about Moldovan violations of Transnistria’s rights. He alleged Moldovan discrimination against the Russian language as well as economic pressure on the Russian enclave. This eerily echoes Russian justifications for the invasion of Ukraine both in 2014 and 2022. Transnistria is not the only card Russia is playing. Four days after Lavrov’s comments, Putin met the leader of the Gagauzian region in Moldova, Yevgenia Gutsul, at the so-called World Youth Festival, which was held near the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi at the beginning of March.    Gutsul – and other powerful Russian allies including the fugitive Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor, who was convicted of fraud in the “theft of the century” of US$1 billion (£792 million) from three Moldovan banks a decade ago – have been fomenting protests against the Moldovan government since September 2022. These protests reflect many ordinary Molovans’ existential fears over a cost-of-living crisis that has engulfed one of Europe’s poorest countries since the COVID pandemic and has worsened since the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Moldova’s European aspirations At the same time, the Moldovan president, Maia Sandu, has proposed a referendum on joining the European Union. Sandu, who faces a reelection campaign later this year, hope that this will boost her popularity among Moldova’s generally – but not unequivocally – pro-European electorate. Wanting to capitalise on popular discontent with economic conditions in Moldova, Russia has been supporting Shor’s protests and linking the unrest to Sandu’s pro-European foreign policy. Relying on allies in both Gagauzia and Transnistria, Moscow’s aim is primarily the destabilisation of the country ahead of presidential elections at the end of 2024 and parliamentary elections in the spring of 2025. In this context, even non-events such as the resolution passed by the Transnistrian deputies at the end of February are useful to Moscow. They increase uncertainty not only in Moldova but also among the country’s western allies. And this feeds into a broader narrative in which a status quo that has been stable for decades is suddenly questioned – with potentially unpredictable consequences. There is no evidence that the Kremlin has any concrete plans, let alone any capabilities, for military action against Moldova. Nor does it need to, as long as it has local allies to do its bidding against the country’s president and her government. This does not give Moscow a lot of leverage in its war against Ukraine but it is helpful in the broader efforts to weaken support for, and from, the European Union. The more Russia can peddle a narrative that connects European integration with economic decline and constraints on language and cultural rights, the more division it can sow – and not just in Moldova, but potentially also in other EU candidate countries from the western Balkans to the south Caucasus.

Defense & Security
Josep Borell

Europe’s Demosthenes moment: putting defence at the centre of EU policies

by Josep Borrell

HR/VP blog – Defence was at the centre of the last European Union Council. This was the culmination of intense work on EU’s security and defence with the preparation of the European Defence Industrial Strategy and the creation of a new fund to step up our military support to Ukraine. We took stock also of the progress made in implementing the Strategic Compass. Power politics are reshaping our world. With the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the war that has flared up again in the Middle East, coups in the Sahel, tensions in Asia… we witness at the same time the return of ‘old’ conventional wars and the emergence of ‘new’, hybrid warfare characterised by cyberattacks and the weaponisation of anything, from trade to migration. This deteriorating geopolitical environment is putting Europe in danger, as I anticipated when presenting the Strategic Compass, the new EU Defence and security strategy, in 2022. Four years ago, when we were facing the COVID-19 pandemic, many said that the EU was living a Hamiltonian moment because we decided to issue a common debt to alleviate the consequences of this crisis as Alexander Hamilton did after the US independence war. We are now probably entering a Demosthenes moment, in reference to the great Greek politician mobilising its fellow Athenian citizens against Macedonian imperialism 2400 years ago: we are finally becoming aware of the many security challenges in our dangerous environment. What are we doing to address these multifaceted threats? The month of March marks two anniversaries: the third of the creation of the European Peace Facility (EPF) and the second of the adoption of the Strategic Compass. These tools have been central to our geopolitical awakening during the last years. It is the right moment to reflect on what has been done and where we are heading on security and defence. Supporting Ukraine militarily in an unprecedented way The European Peace Facility (EPF) is an intergovernmental and extra-budgetary EU fund. It was established in 2021 to allow us to support our partners with military equipment, which was not possible via the EU budget. We started with €5 billion, today the financial ceiling of this fund stands at €17 billion. While it was not originally created for this purpose, the EPF has been the backbone of our military support to Ukraine. So far, we have used € 6.1 billion from the EPF to incentivise the support to Ukraine by EU Member States and, with them, the EU has delivered in total € 31 billion in military equipment to Ukraine since the beginning of the war. And this figure is increasing every day. Thanks to these funds, we sustained our military support to Ukraine. Among other actions, by this summer, we will have trained 60.000 Ukrainian soldiers; we have donated 500.000 artillery shells to Ukraine and by the end of the year it will be more than 1 million. Additionally the European defence industry is also providing to Ukraine 400.000 shells through commercial contracts. The Czech initiative to buy ammunition outside the EU comes in addition to these efforts. However, it is far from being enough and we have to increase both our capacity of production and the financial resources devoted to support Ukraine Last Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council, we have decided to create a new Ukraine Assistance Fund within the EPF, endowed with € 5 billion, to continue supporting Ukraine militarily. I have also proposed last Wednesday to the Council to redirect 90% of the extraordinary revenues from the Russian immobilised assets into the EPF, to increase the financial capacity of the military support for Ukraine. Reinforcing our global security and defence partnerships But the European Peace Facility does not only help Ukraine. So far, we have used it to support 22 partners and organisations. Since 2021, we have allocated close to €1 billion to operations led by the African Union and regional organisations, as well as the armed forces of eight partner countries in Africa. In the Western Balkans, we are supporting regional military cooperation, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia. We are also supporting Moldova and Georgia in the Eastern neighbourhood, and Jordan and Lebanon in the Southern Neighbourhood. Since the beginning of my mandate, we have launched nine new missions and operations under our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The last one, Operation ASPIDES in the Red Sea and Gulf region to protect commercial vessels, has been set up in record time. With operations Irini in the Mediterranean, Atalanta near the Horn of Africa and our Coordinated Maritime Presences in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indian Ocean, we are becoming more and more a global maritime security provider. We launched also last year two new civilian missions in Armenia and in the Republic of Moldova. However, our missions in Niger had to be suspended due to the military coup and our military mission in Mali has been put on hold. We are currently reconsidering the form of the support we can offer to our partners in the region: in this context, we have set up last December a new type of civilian-military initiative to help our partner countries in the Gulf of Guinea fight the terrorist threats stemming from the Sahel. We have also reinforced our cooperation with NATO in various key domains such as space, cyber, climate and defence and critical infrastructures. We have broadened and deepened our network of tailored bilateral security and defence partnerships with Norway, Canada, as well as countries in the Eastern neighbourhood (Georgia, Moldova), Africa (South Africa, Rwanda), Indo-Pacific (Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia) and Latin America (Chile, Colombia). The first Security and Defence Schuman Forum in March last year, bringing together security and defence partners from more than 50 countries, was a success. We will build on this when we meet for the next Schuman Forum on 28 and 29 May. Enhancing the capacity to react to crises abroad One of the main deliverables foreseen by the Strategic Compass was the creation of a new EU Rapid Deployment Capacity to be able to quickly react autonomously to crisis situations, for instance to evacuate Europeans in case of an emergency like in Afghanistan in August 2021 or in Sudan in April 2023. It will become operational next year, but to prepare for it, we organised the first ever EU military Live Exercise last October in Cadiz, in Spain. It involved 31 military units, 25 aircrafts, 6 ships and 2,800 personnel form Member States’ armed forces. A second Live Exercise will take place at the end of the year in Germany. A new Crisis Response Centre is also now operational in the EEAS to coordinate EU activities in case of emergencies, including the evacuation of European citizens. We are also strengthening our military and civilian headquarters in Brussels. Investing more in defence together and boosting the EU defence industry At home, we need also to invest much more and help our defence industry to increase its production capacities. There is no other solution if we look at the magnitude of the defence needs for Ukraine but also for our Member States that need to replenish their stocks and acquire new equipment. EU Member States are already spending significantly more on defence with a 40 % increase of defence budget over the last ten years and a € 50 billion jump between 2022 and 2023. However, the € 290 billion EU defence budget in 2023 only represents 1.7% of our GDP under the 2% NATO benchmark. And in the current geopolitical context, this could be seen as a minimum requirement. However, the global amount of our expanses is not the only figure we have to follow carefully. To use our defence expenses efficiently, we have also to take care of filling gaps and avoiding duplications. As I have already said in many occasions, we need to spend more but also better, and better means together. In 2022, the European armies have invested 58 billion in new equipment. For the fourth year in a row, it exceeded the benchmark of 20 % of the defence expenses. However, only 18% of these defence investments are currently done in a collaborative manner, far below the 35% benchmark set by EU Member States themselves in 2007. Since the start of the Russian war of aggression, 78 % of the equipment bought by EU armies came from outside the EU. We are also lagging behind in our investments in Research and Development. That is the reason why I presented earlier this month together with the Commission the first-ever European Defence Industrial Strategy. We need to incentivise much more joint procurement, better secure our security of supplies, anchor the Ukrainian defence industry in Europe and organise a massive industrial ramp-up. We also need to catch up on new military technologies like drones or Artificial Intelligence. With its innovation hub, the European Defence Agency will continue to play a key role in these efforts. To succeed, we will need to ensure much better access to finance for the European defence industry, notably by adapting the European Investment Bank lending policies. We should also foresee issuing common debt to help finance the major necessary investment effort in defence capabilities and defence industry, as we did to face the COVID-19 crisis. However, we have still a lot of work to do to reach an agreement on that subject. Finally, we will also need to reinforce our defence when it comes to hybrid and cyber threats, foreign information manipulation and interference and resilience of our critical infrastructure. As detailed here, a lot has already been done in recent years, however I am very much aware that a lot more remains to be done to match the magnitude of the threats we are facing. We need a leap forward in European defence and European defence industry.

Defense & Security
Damaged Crocus City Hall after the attack.

The Crocus City Hall: What We Know and What We Don’t

by Andrey Kortunov

The overall picture of the Friday’s large-scale terrorist attack in a Moscow’s suburb is finally acquiring some clarity. The attack on the Crocus City Concert Hall in Moscow’s satellite town of Krasnogorsk was conducted by four men of Central Asian origin, who were heavily armed with automatic rifles and incendiaries. The attackers started shooting when they stormed through the entrance killing unarmed security personnel and then proceeded through the lobby to the music room itself. There were no political statements or demands; as it later turned out, terrorists were not even sufficiently fluent in Russian. No hostages were taken, the goal of the attackers was quite simple—to kill as many people as possible and to inflict as much damage as possible to the concert hall itself. With more than 6.200 unarmed people caught in the building, this task was easy enough. The attackers were shooting at pointblank range, reloading their rifles and throwing incendiary checkers in all directions. After having put the building on fire they departed through the same central entrance and left the scene in a closely parked car. Many people were killed by the shooting, many suffocated by the smoke in condensed rooms and hallways, yet other perished when the glass-and-steel roof of the concert hall finally collapsed. With rescue operations and fire-fighting efforts still under way, the number of deaths was climbing over the weekend going to 137, including small children. More than a hundred and fifty victims remain in hospitals and the odds are that the final death toll will be higher. The attackers tried to escape in the direction of Russia’s border with Ukraine, but their car was intercepted by special forces and all the four men were arrested already in the morning of Saturday. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declared March 24 a day of national mourning. However, even now, three days later, there are still some essential parts of the story that remain unclear and open to public discussions. The most important question is about who really stands behind the Friday attack. It is hardly possible to imagine that a few terrorists could have acted on their own, without a strong institution or a network behind them. In course of the first interrogations, they actually confessed that they were essentially nothing more than disposable ‘guns for hire’, that is to say that they were paid to do the job. By the way, the offered price was not that huge—slightly more than US$5.000 per person. However, the detained terrorists turned out to be incapable or unwilling to properly identity their alleged employers and customers. One of the most popular versions regarding the latter, which is now in broad circulation in the West, links the terrorist attack to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, an organization recognized as terrorist and its activities banned in the Russian Federation). This version is based on the assumption that ISIS or, more specifically, ISIS-K (the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan) has very many reasons to be unhappy with Moscow’s activities in places like Syria, Libya or even with Russia’s cautious support for the Taliban regime in Kabul. In September of 2022, ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the suicide bomber attack of the Russian Embassy in Kabul, which fortunately produced no victims. The terrorist organization demonstrated its operational capabilities in early January of 2024, when two ISIS–K attackers carried out twin suicide bombings in Kerman, Iran, during an event mourning the US assassination of Quds Force leader Qassim Soleimani. This version of who stands behind the atrocious terrorist attack is particularly convenient for the United States and its NATO allies since it points at the Western long-term enemies and rules out any, even hypothetical Western responsibility for the tragedy in Moscow. However, there are some apparent soft spots in this narrative. First, the pattern of the attack in the Crocus City Hall was very different from the ‘standard mode’ of ISIS operations. The Friday attackers were not religious fanatics, suicide bombers, or indoctrinated shooters ready not only to kill, but also do die pursuing their ‘holy mission’. The ultimate and uncompromised ISIS fanaticism has been demonstrated on many occasions, for instance, during a large-scale terrorist attack in Paris on the 13th of November, 2015. But this was not the case in Moscow last Friday—the attackers desperately tried to escape and to save their live. Second, it would be somewhat counterintuitive for ISIS to target Moscow at this particular moment, when Russia has taken a clearly pro-Palestinian position on a very sensitive for everybody in the Moslem world issue of the Israeli military operation in Gaza. It would be more logical to look for targets among the staunch advocates of Benyamin Netanyahu. Even if ISIS decided to stage a terrorist operation in Moscow, they would have probably targeted one of local synagogues, as they have already tried earlier. The alternative version, which is floating around in Russia, is that the real sponsors and instigators of the attack should be looked for in Kyiv. The version implies that since Ukraine is currently losing to Russia on the battlefield and has no opportunities to reverse the course of the conflict in its favor, terrorist attacks remain one of the very few remaining options that are still open for the Ukrainian leadership to make its case in an ‘asymmetrical’ way. This version can be also regarded as self-serving, since it unquestionably destroys the international reputation of Ukraine. Still, it should not be dismissed without consideration. After all, the terrorists tried to escape Russia through the Russian-Ukrainian border and were captured only a hundred miles away from the border. It seems that they should have at least secured some advance arrangements with appropriate partners in Ukraine, who would allow them to enter the Ukrainian territory safely and find shelter on the Ukrainian soil. Moreover, in Russia they consider a ‘Ukrainian involvement’ in the recent terrorist attack to be a logical continuation of what Ukraine has already been doing for a long time. On many occasions, Moscow accused Kyiv of sponsoring and even of directly organizing diverse terrorist activities deep in the Russian territory, including acts of economic sabotage and assassination attempts against prominent politicians, journalists and opinion leaders. The ongoing investigation should help clarifying the issue of the customers and instigators. However, it is clear that even if a Ukrainian trace is finally confirmed and proved by the Russian side, the West will still continue to deny any connections between Kyiv and the terrorist act in Moscow. The odds are that the Western leaders will continue to reject any piece of evidence that the Russian side might bring to the table. If so, the terrorist attack in Moscow will remain an open file for a long time—just like the file of the Nord Stream pipeline explosions in September of 2022. Another important question that remains unanswered is about the warning of the terrorist act that the United States sent to Russia a couple of weeks ago. In Washington they now claim that they did their best having informed Moscow of a high probability of a large-scale terrorist attack on the Russian soil a couple of weeks ago. However, in Russia they argue that the information from Washington was very general, unclear and therefore not really usable. There are thousands and thousands of popular public spaces in Moscow, and if the warning did not contain any reference to specific probable targets, the net value of the warning was limited at best. Moreover, in Moscow they accuse the United States and NATO of assisting Ukraine with planning its own sabotage and reconnaissance operations, including multiple strikes against civilian targets, which are defined in Russia as acts of state terrorism. This indirect polemics between Washington and Moscow raises a bigger question: is an efficient international cooperation in fighting against terrorism possible in the era of intense geopolitical competition? Is there any hope for success, when this competition in itself turns out to be a fertile soil for terrorism? The current trends are not very reassuring. Though the world has not recently witnessed terrorist acts similar to 9/11 events in New York and in Washington, hundreds of civilians died in the massive attacks in Paris and in Madrid, in Bagdad and in Berlin, in Beslan and over Sinai, in Gamboru (Nigeria) and in Mumbai (India), with new names added to this tragic list every so often. Large-scale terrorist attacks are now few and far between in the United States, but there have been more of them in Europe, let alone in the Middle East and in Africa. Why, then, is the goal to wipe out terrorism not achieved so far? In the first place, the international community has failed to agree on a common definition of terrorism’s origins, driving forces and character. What some actors explicitly dub as “terrorist” may look like a national liberation struggle for others. Bring up the issue of terrorism in Kashmir in a conversation with Indians and Pakistani, only to see there can hardly be a common denominator in this matter. Talk to Israelis and to Palestinians on how they define terrorism, and you will find striking differences as well. The United States routinely accused the Islamic Republic of Iran of sponsoring terrorism, but looking from Tehran you are likely to define the above-mentioned US assassination of Genal Qassim Soleimani as an unquestionable act of international terrorism. Throughout history, many self-confident leaders have attempted to draw a line between ‘bad’ terrorism and ‘good’ terrorism, aspiring to manage and to use terrorists as convenient foreign policy tools. However, this arbitrarily drawn line between ‘bad’ and ‘good’ terrorists has always got blurred, and former seemingly obedient and efficient servants have again and again revolted against their short-sighted masters. Second, any success in the fight against terrorism entails a high level of trust between the interacting parties—simply because they would have to exchange a lot of sensitive and confidential information. In today’s world, trust is thin on the ground. An apparent and mounting deficit of this resource is not only present in the relations between Moscow and Washington; it also takes its toll on the relations between Beijing and Tokyo, between Riyadh and Teheran, between Cairo and Addis Ababa, between Bogota and Caracas, and the list goes on. It would be tempting to try to somehow ‘insulate’ the fight against international terrorism, separating it from the overall geopolitical competition. However, it is practically impossible since any international cooperation on terrorism is inextricably linked to the very core dimensions of national security. Third, international terrorism is far from an issue that is set in stone. It is gradually changing and evolving to become more resilient, sophisticated, and cunning. The recent events at the Crocus City Conference Hall is a clear indication of how much damage can be inflicted by a relatively small, but well-armed and well-prepared group of militants. Similar to a dangerous virus, the terrorist threat is mutating, generating ever new strains. Another lesson that we should learn is that the modern highly urbanized and technologically advanced post-modern civilization—be it in Russia, in China, in Europe or in the United States—is extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Rapidly changing and increasingly complex social and economic infrastructure, especially in large metropolitan areas, is an enabling environment for hard-hitting terrorist attacks. Besides, international and civil conflicts—like the one raging in Ukraine—drastically heighten the accessibility of modern arms for would-be terrorists. Such conflicts inevitably generate large numbers of trained fighters with a lot of combat experience, access to sophisticated weapons and, sometimes, with severe mental problems. These fighters are easy prey for recruiters from international terrorist networks, or they turn into dormant ‘lone wolves’, who could go hunting at any moment. One should not dismiss the kind of terrorism bred by anonymous mavericks and amateurs rather than the sort represented by well-known transnational extremist movements—individualists are the hardest to track and neutralize, while plans of amateurs are harder to reveal. The current progress in military technology, coupled with other trends in the contemporary international arena, portend a new spike in terrorist activities in the coming years Add to this a comprehensive setback in the resilience of global economy, which may be fraught with more social tensions and an inevitable rise of pollical radicalism and extremism in a broad range of countries. An obvious foretelling: In this “nutrient broth”, the virus of terrorism, which has not been wholly eradicated, stands all the chances for an “explosive” growth. Taking terrorism off the agenda is only possible if humanity effects a transition to a new level of global governance. It is either that the leading powers are wise and energetic enough for this, or the tax that international terrorism imposes on our common civilization will be progressively higher. First published in Chinese in the Guancha.

Berlin, March 15, 2024: Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron

The French - German tension

by Juan Antonio Sacaluga

That there is a miscommunication between Paris and Berlin is something that is already being unreservedly acknowledged even among the power leaders in the two capitals. The rift caused by the war in Ukraine is the arena in which tensions are being played out. But there are underlying factors that have contributed to making this gap a major concern for the European stability. We point out the following: The strategic factor Geography determines strategic choices. Germany has always looked to the East as a pole of concern, but also as a pole of opportunity. The former has almost always outweighed the latter. Wars have historically conditioned coexistence with Rusia, regardless of the political regime that has existed in each historical stage. There is one incontrovertible fact: Germany has never won a war against Russia. On the other hand, when talking about peace, German interests have prevailed. Hence in Berlin (or in Bonn, during the first Cold War) there has always been a tendency towards appeasement towards Moscow. Earlier, Hitler wanted to postpone the inevitable confrontation with Stalin’s Russia with a tactical, not a strategic pact (in 1939), a move to gain time and consolidate his domination of Western Europe. With the victory of the Soviet Union, Germany endured the division of the country for almost half a century, a punishment even more humiliating than the previous ones. The western part prospered, and the eastern part stagnated. However, this underhand triumph did nothing to facilitate the reconciliation. Willy Brandt understood this very well when he launched his ‘Ostpolitik’ (Eastern policy) in the early 1970s. The initiative caused concern in Washington, not so much because it was opposed to a thaw it shared, but because of the risk of losing control of the process. There was also some reluctance in Paris. De Gaulle and his heirs had always maintained an open channel of cooperation with Moscow but were distrustful of German overtures. With the crisis of the Soviet system, Franco-German tensions surfaced again. A united and strong Germany awakened the ghost of three devastating wars for France. The Chancellor at that time, Kohl was Gorbachev’s main supporter and acted as a fundraiser for a Soviet Union that was falling apart at the seams. Germany’s repeated commitment to peace and European integration did not seem to be a sufficient antidote to the vision of an Eastern Europe, ‘germanized’ by the economic weight of the new political and territorial power. Germany’s actions in the Yugoslav wars, initially perceived in Paris as ‘dynamiting’, contributed to increase those fears. After the failure of the democratization trial in the ‘new’ Russia, largely caused by a predatory capitalism encouraged from the West, Germany continued to cultivate very close relations with Moscow to prevent an undesirable drift in the Kremlin. Until the successive crises in Ukraine have brought this strategic project to a halt. In France, there has always been an interest in an autonomous relationship model with Moscow, whether in collaboration with Germany or the United States, but in no way subordinate. Gaullist nationalism has survived, both on the right and on the left. Somehow, the French elites have tried to avoid Paris from playing a secondary role in relations with the Kremlin, whether in cooperation or confrontation. Hence Macron (‘more papist than the Pope: more Gaullist than the General’), will attempt a risky mediation game with Putin after the phantom intervention in Crimea and the more obvious one in the Donbas, in 2014; and eight years later, when the invasion of Ukraine was consumed. There has been much speculation about the true intentions of the French president’s trip to Moscow. Macron is anything but naive. Perhaps it was indeed the inevitable need of the Elysée Palace to leave its mark. Now that any conciliation with Moscow seems distant, Macron takes the lead among the ‘hawks’ and pretends to forget that he once wanted to look like a ‘dove’, by suggesting that, although there is no allied consensus, sending soldiers to Ukraine cannot be ruled out to prevent a Russian military triumph. Of all Macron’s gambits, this has been the most or one of the riskiest. And the one that has provoked the most irritation on the other side of the Rhine [1]. Since February 2022, Germany has buried the various branches of the ‘Ostpolitik’, a task falling to a Social Democratic chancellor, perhaps the most unremarkable and least suited for high-level leadership. Olaf Scholz announced the ‘zeitenwende’ (translatable as “change of era, or time”). Half a century of rapprochement with Russia was called into question. The economic equation (energy raw materials in exchange for machinery and capital goods) in bilateral relations was dissolving under the weight of Western sanctions against Moscow. Moreover, the pacifist post-Hitler Germany committed to a military effort of $100 billion (to start with), aimed rejuvenating, strengthening, and expanding the Germany military apparatus. But in everything there is a limit, or a red line. Germany has not been shy with Putin, despite being the European country most harmed by embargoes, limitations and constraints in the Russian oil and gas consumption. Economic war was accepted as inevitable in Berlin. However, caution has been exercised, particularly in the supply of arms to Ukraine. Nonetheless, Germany is, after the United States, the largest net contributor to Kiev’s arsenals [2]. Let’s not forget that. France has also taken its precautions in pressuring the Kremlin, as has the US, despite the rhetoric and the cold war propaganda prevailing for the past two years. That is why Macron’s latest ‘provocation’ has annoyed Berlin so much. Moreover, as usual in his boasts, the French president added insult to injury by suggesting that Ukraine’s delicate fragility demanded more “courage” and less timidity from the allies [3]. Scholz replied with diplomatic and bureaucratic discretion, without any outbursts, recalling that NATO’s decisions ruled out ‘boots on the ground’ (sending troops to Ukraine). But his Defense Minister, Pistorious, could not resist returning the favor and admonishing him for his new moral lesson. The foreign ministers of both countries attempted to ‘diplomatically’ solve the crisis days later, but did not risk holding a joint press conference in order not to show that the political wound between Berlin and Paris was still open. The leak of a meeting of senior German military commanders, spied on by Russian agents, further clouded the atmosphere [4]. Another element unchanged since the Cold War: Berlin may support the European autonomous defense project, but it has never ceased to consider it as subordinate to NATO. The American nuclear umbrella is untouchable, then and now. And not even an eventual (and only speculative, for now) strategic availability of the French nuclear arsenal is capable of changing that axiom [5]. Political factors Apart from strategic considerations, domestic political factors have also played a role in this latest crisis. Macron faces the European elections with the apprehension of a seemingly inevitable victory of the far-right ‘Rassemblement National’. It was once considered a pro-Russian party and even generously funded by the Kremlin. In recent years, the party’s chairwoman has tried to distance herself from the Kremlin but has not entirely succeeded. And Macron wants to exploit this supposed vulnerability of a woman he has defeated twice in the presidential elections, but who seems destined to occupy the Elysée Palace in 2027 if she achieves successful results in this year’s European elections. In this week’s parliamentary debate on the bilateral security agreement with Kiev, Marine Le Pen ordered an abstention. She made it clear that she supports the Ukraine resistance, so that there would be no doubt about her change of attitude towards Russia. But he saw in the initiative of the President’s party a clear intention for electoral gain. Divisions were evident on the left: rebels and communists voted against, while socialists and ecologists voted in favor, but the latter rejected the suggestion of troops deployment. Scholz also faces a challenge from the far right, with elections this autumn that could consolidate the dominance of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) in the eastern states (Eastern Länder). This party has won over citizens who do not have such negative memories of the GDR, but in its rise, it has also bitten into the social democratic base. The chancellor does not want to appear too hostile to an electorate that does not participate in the anti-Russian discourse. Institutional factors In this Paris – Bonn clash, as in previous ones, the structure of the respective political systems also exerts a disturbing influence. The French political system is presidential; the German one is parliamentary. In France, the President has exclusive and personal authority over foreign policy. He does not even need his own majority (in this case, the minority that supports him) to formulate his international proposals. In Germany, by contrast, the Chancellor has to negotiate foreign policy with the coalition partners, and even on rare occasions when there has been a single-party majority government, the Bundestag has exerted considerable influence. Personal factors Finally, personal style is also not to be dismissed. It is not unusual for the Elysée Palace and the Chancellery to be inhabited by like-minded characters. The French President is conditioned by the aura of a political system that relies on an exalted figure and demands real, but also impactful, leadership. Both being and appearing so. The Chancellor, on the other hand, is a sort of ‘primus inter pares’, no matter how prominent. Therefore, since 1945, the personal stature of German leaders has always been framed in firm structures that prevent hyper-leadership. It is the Chief’s (Fuhrer) chastisement. This limitation (historical and political) is sometimes reinforced by a purely personal style. At present, the gap is perhaps the widest in the last eighty years. A French President who likes to talk and a Chancellor who is perhaps the most discreet since the post-war period. De Gaulle and Adenauer cultivated little personal relationship, but neither intended to. Pompidou and Brandt never got along particularly well, although the German took great care that his growing popularity did not irritate in Paris… until the Guillaume scandal ended his career. Giscard and Schmidt gave their cooperation a technical character, forced by the oil crisis following the wars in the Middle East. Mitterrand and Kohl raised the tone of the bilateral relationship but did not always adjust their personal dynamics. The German was the longest-serving post-war chancellor and so, the most mediatic, but the Frenchman never renounced, on the contrary, the solemnity with which the office was exercised. Merkel played down Sarkozy (and later Hollande), but not to highlight her personal qualities, but to put them at the service of Germany’s undisputed economic leadership in post-Cold War Europe. Macron wanted to put an end to this French ‘inferiority’, with difficulty. It is not clear that he succeeded against a retreating Merkel, but he thinks he has it easier with the unremarkable Scholz. Notes [1] “France-Allemagne, un tándem secoué par l’épreuve de la guerre en Ukraine”. PHILIPPE RICHARD & THOMAS WIEDER. LE MONDE, 9 de marzo. [2] “German Chancellor pledges to boost [ammunition] production for Ukraine”. DER SPIEGEL, 5 de febrero (versión en inglés). [3] “Le débat sur l’envoi de soldats en Ukraine révèle les profondes differences de vision de la guerre parmi les allies”. LE MONDE, 6 de marzo. [4] “Now It’s Germany’s turn to frustrate Allies over Ukraine”. THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 de marzo. [5] “Dans cette nouvelle ère où l’affrontement a remplacé la cooperation, la question de la dissuasion nucleaire reprend tout son sens”. SYLVIE KAUFFMANN. LE MONDE, 7 de febrero.

Presidential election 2024 in the United States. Voting day, November 5.

Elections in USA: a fast-paced race

by Raquel López-Portillo

As rarely in history, elections in the United States have accelerated their tempo at a dizzying pace. The Triumpist tsunami that has swept through this initial primary election process is striking in terms of the acceleration of the process. In 2016, it was not until May that the former President Trump secured the Republican Party candidacy, while in the 2020 cycle it took Biden until June. This hastening has not only impacted domestically but has also put Mexico in a delicate position ahead of the general elections in both countries. It is nothing new that migration is a central topic of debate and dispute, even more so when its politicization increases in an electoral environment. However, the US electoral process has placed Mexico, literally and metaphorically, as a campaign stage. As evidenced by the visit of the two potential candidates for the US presidency to the Mexican border a few weeks ago, the importance of our country today takes a prominent place both in the priorities of the electorate and in the respective campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This leaves the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a tenuous position in an already complex scenario. The fact that the focus of the conversation has been set on the border so soon leaves at least eight months of a potential spike in tensions. Biden’s rhetoric is no longer the same as when he began his term, nor is it attached to the human rights-centered line that has traditionally characterized the Democratic Party. In contrast, Biden has insisted in recent days on the passage of a bipartisan initiative to allow for the deployment of more border agents and asylum officers, detection technology, and increased capabilities to close the border when it is overwhelmed. In this scene, it is possible to expect that the diplomacy and repeated high-level meetings that have been held in recent months will now come laden with even greater demands and ultimatums. In addition, our country is also expected to be at the center of the legislative debate. While the most radical wing of the Republican Party has been the main protagonist of the budget attacks, the immigration crisis has provoked some democrats to take tougher positions. Politically, this situation has become a thorn in President Joe Biden’s side. He is perhaps the most damaged between the pressures of his closest supporters and the Republican resistance to give him legislative victories, at a time when every message or decision could influence from the presidential race to the elections in the local legislature, where the Democrats seek to recover lost spaces. For the time being, everything points to the fact that the greater the chaos on the border with the country, the greater the political gains. Finally, the border with Mexico has also found a place in the electorate’s priorities. According to various polls, eight out of ten Americans (with or without party affiliation) place immigration as a priority issue. Likewise, at least 28 percent of the polled by the Gallup Agency stated that immigration is the most serious problem that faces the country, ahead of issues such as the economy, inflation, or crime. This also impacts Mexico because it is not only limited to a matter of perception but is inevitably reflected in everyday life. Considering that migration, drug trafficking and insecurity are generally considered as part of the same problem, this has a significant impact on the increase of xenophobic positions, particularly against Mexican nationals living in the United States. Regardless of how the electoral pace continues or who ends up in the White House, Mexico should pay special attention to the speeches, proposals and actions of other people competing at the local or federal level for a position in the next government, particularly on issues that concern our country, such as migration, security, or the fight against organized crime. It is precisely these people who will determine the future of our most important bilateral relationship.

The High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, Cristina Gallach, during her speech at an event.

The growing discourse of rejection of the 2030 Agenda in Latin American governments

by Javier Surasky

In September 2015, the delegations of the 150 presidents participating in the Sustainable Development Summit were part of the 193 States preparing to adopt the outcome document of this meeting. This meeting represented the end of the most participatory negotiation process in the history of the United Nations: the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. The sense of optimism and of moving towards a common goal was palpable. Eight years later, the progress of the 2030 Agenda has fallen far short of expectations. Unfulfilled promises, lack of financing, the health crisis generated by COVID-19, the recent wars, and the global economy that has faced first recessionary and then inflationary pressures all have made the idea of finding common solutions to the problems afflicting the world lose momentum. Misinformation on the 2030 Agenda On this fertile soil, conspiracy theories sprout that see multilateralism as the origin of today’s problems. The 2030 Agenda is, in many cases, at the center of these distorted visions. Three conspiracy theories are being raised against the main global sustainable development agenda. Theory of the “New World Order”: This theory is based on the idea that an elite (Bilderberg Club style) formed by a small group of the most powerful people in the world governs the destinies of the planet for their benefit. The “Great Reboot” theory was proposed in Davos after the pandemic, and with the UN’s “build back better” vision, the theory focuses on the economic dimension. It suggests an orchestrated plan by the most powerful countries to appropriate all the world’s wealth. They claim the intentional creation of a pandemic to initiate their plan. “Trickle-down communism” theory: After the fall of the Soviet Union – and knowing that communism could never take over the West – the “left” began a worldwide campaign to slowly insert its ideas into Western societies so that by the time the plan was discovered, the West would have embraced the communist ideal without realizing it. All three conspiracies arrive at the same result: the 2030 Agenda is creating a group (an economic elite, a group of powerful countries, or international communism) aiming to appropriate the world’s wealth. These stories contradict reality and seek to misinform about this milestone for international cooperation, which, despite the difficulty of addressing it, is a renewal of the concept of international development. The disinformation of the 2030 Agenda happens, in most cases, through social networks, and their expressions claim, for example, that this is oriented to Forcing citizens to eat insects instead of meat. Confine the world’s population to neighborhoods where they cannot leave without permission under “15-minute cities”. Feminize men to reduce the world population. Despite the absurdity of the “arguments,” they have served as a basis for those who seek to debate the value of the 2030 Agenda in Latin America. José Luis Chilavert, former goalkeeper of the Paraguayan national soccer team, became a candidate for president of his country in the 2023 elections. He obtained 0.7% of the votes but explained his decision: “I got into politics to fight against Agenda 2030. They want to destroy us.” Sandra Torres, three-time presidential candidate for the Partido Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE by its acronym in Spanish) party, said in a video in the 2023 election campaign: “I will never let them impose an international agenda on us. We Guatemalans will set Guatemala’s agenda. I believe in life, family, and religious freedom. No to Agenda 2030.” In Chile, Congressman Cristóbal Urruticoechea Ríos, with an active mandate until 2026, stated in his country’s congress that “the dehumanization of human beings and the humanization of animals, the destruction of language, the destruction of the middle classes, the liquidation of the sovereignty of nations, the attack on families, life and roots. This is part of the 2030 Agenda.” After Jair Bolsonaro’s defeat in the last Brazilian elections, his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, became the face of the Liberal Party. His position is forceful: “The more we fight against Agenda 2030, the greater our electoral success will be.” In Costa Rica, New Republic deputy David Segura said in a speech at the chamber that the 2030 Agenda was adopted to “confuse people and, of course, to impose little by little the great modern enemy of all families, which is the nefarious gender ideology,” and then added that Agenda 2030 “opens the door to promote nothing more and nothing less than abortion, financed by international capital giants that pursue their interests, which are far from being yours, mine.” At the level of presidents we have Nayib Bukele, recently reelected to govern El Salvador, maintains a cautious position: “On the issue of Agenda 2030, I am very suspicious of this type of international agendas of the UN, the World Economic Forum, or wherever they come from and their intentions”. Although undoubtedly, the greatest exponent of conspiracy theories in the region is Javier Milei, current president of Argentina, who, during his campaign, stated, “We are not going to adhere to Agenda 2030. We do not adhere to cultural Marxism. We do not adhere to decadence” (read in Spanish), and, already in office, he explained that he was traveling to the Davos Forum with the aim of “planting the ideas of freedom in a forum that is contaminated with the socialist agenda 2030 that will only bring misery to the world”. With such positions, one of the few well-established consensuses in the region during the last 10 years is cracking. The fact that the discussion is settled will be a setback that cannot be allowed. It is up to Latin America’s leaders to armor their support for the 2030 Agenda by being clearer in their positions and more active than before in their policies to implement the SDGs. The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development must make a strong statement in that direction. When the UN Secretary-General stated that we are facing a “breakdown or breakthrough” dilemma, it seemed a rhetorical question. For Latin America, it is no longer so.