Beatriz Cózar-Murillo / Mar 2023
It is difficult to determine the real origin of the blindness among political, academic, and even in some cases military elites within the EU member states. To a large extent it can be attributed to ideology and ignorance, Clausewitz oblivion and an EU bubble atmosphere that is not in line with reality. The truth is that after more than 75 years of relative peace - neither Chechnya, nor the Balkans, nor Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria or Crimea have come to feel like conflicts of our own - and having eliminated war as a means of settling disputes between states within the EU, all the strategic acquis accumulated over the previous centuries has been lost. The consequences are terrible, as they limit our ability to understand the world we live in, to understand how other actors think and act, and to apply all the instruments of power at the disposal of the State - or the EU - where Force - and, therefore, War - is one of them.
The situation became even more complicated after the fall of the Berlin Wall with the advent of a unipolar world, the cashing in of the "peace dividend" and the outsourcing of continental security to the United States through NATO. Thus, a whole generation of Europeans has grown up totally alien to the "war phenomenon" and, in many cases, to anything related to Strategic Studies and its cardinal concepts such as "Strategic Stability", "Deterrence" or "Coercion".
Furthermore, the "War on Terror" and its consequences in Europe, such as the attacks in Madrid, London, France and Belgium, were at certain times a serious problem. However, they were of a different nature, more related to "Homeland Security" than to Defence, and indeed more of a nuisance than a vital danger, despite the hundreds of deaths. Moreover, the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq in which many EU member states have taken part, albeit generally as second fiddle. Precisely, the concepts of "asymmetric warfare" or "counter-insurgency warfare", so much in vogue in the past decade, did not indicate that one of the parties was using completely new means.
If one accepts that all war is a political and social phenomenon, and not exclusively a military one, the three elements of the Clausewitz’s concept of “Trinity” must always come together: the political leaders who provide the rationality in the conduct of the conflict, the military who exercise the will necessary to impose themselves on the adversary, and the population, which provides the emotional and passionate support that helps to make the supreme effort of a war. No current EU state has ever been in this situation, except in the very particular case of the wars of decolonisation, where the survival of the metropolis was never at stake.
Nevertheless, War remains a universal phenomenon determined by constants. Clausewitz warned not only that "war is the continuation of politics by other means", but also that war only occurs between civilised peoples because it arises from a political situation and is provoked by a political reason, before explaining that the efforts and sacrifices involved will normally be proportionate to the aim or the stake being pursued. A phenomenon that involves armies, governments and societies. A clash of wills in which violence - yes, violence - tends to infinity and finds its only limit in politics.
Of course, one can try to make classifications very attractive to those academics who produce best-sellers talking about generations of war, hybrid wars and a thousand and one "ground-breaking" concepts that run out of steam as fast as they are born. However, none of this is War. To speak of War, time and again one must return to Clausewitz's universal dictum: "the continuation of politics by other means". That is why the war in Ukraine is so important and why it is a huge opportunity the EU to re-understand that the use of force, as Russia shows us, is still an entirely valid tool. Precisely for this reason, the EU must lose its fear of using it, if necessary.
After Russia threatened the previous winter to use force ("Strategic deployment") without it serving Moscow's purpose to prevent Kiev's Atlanticist and pro-European drift. Thus, the use of force was their only option. It was not a surprise, except in Europe. European foreign ministries were confident that negotiations and appeasement would work. Even among European nations, as the precedents of the Balkans, Georgia or much more recently Nagorno-Karabakh, should have been enough to demonstrate. This is because we do not live in a Kantian world in which the problems of a global republic are affably solved in the air-conditioned hall of a great Parliament, but in a Hobbesian - or rather Clausewitzian - world in which some problems still require the test of force.