Comprehensive Conflict Management in Euro-Atlantic Security

November 14, 2012

On November 14, 2012, AGI hosted a seminar with DAAD/AGI Fellow Svenja Post on “Comprehensive Conflict Management in Euro-Atlantic Security.” Ms. Post discussed steps taken by the EU and the U.S. to improve their conflict management coherence, arguing that after a decade of institutional redesign of comprehensive approach principles, there is an opportunity for a transatlantic EU-U.S. agenda on comprehensive crisis management cooperation.

In today’s world, the scope of conflict occurs on such a large scale that it is impossible for one single actor to manage conflict on its own. Therefore, a closely coordinated effort from all actors is required, so as to maximize effectiveness and minimize duplicated efforts. The goal of a comprehensive approach is to adjust crisis management policies to the international environment, requiring coordination of civilian and military capabilities, and developing common and integrated objectives. However, in order to achieve such coherence, institutions that formerly acted autonomously would need to cooperate and share resources and information with other institutions—an idea not too many are fond of. Regardless, international organizations and governments recognize the need for a comprehensive approach. The question remains: how, then, do governments and international organizations organize and coordinate their efforts in conflict management?

In line with these conceptual developments, the European Union and the United States adapted their crisis management concepts and structures over the past years. The Lisbon Treaty introduced many changes intended to make EU crisis management more coherent. Important changes are the creation of the position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as well as the External Action Service, which aim in particular at unifying crisis management responsibilities that used to be split between the European Council and the European Commission. In contrast to the EU’s explicit focus on coherence with a preference for civilian crisis management, the United States has long been criticized for what is seen as its military-centric crisis management policy. In the U.S., the Comprehensive Approach took a situation in which the military was the major actor. However, the U.S. also gradually recognized the importance of the Comprehensive Approach and civilian crisis management instruments.. On the heels of frustrating experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has created civilian capabilities and steps were taken to advance civilian capabilities within the State Department’s crisis response planning structures, such as the creation of the the Civilian Response Corps and the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, which has been promoted to the level of bureau and integrated into the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization which in 2011

As the EU is in the middle of its latest round of reforms for building more effective crisis management coordination, the U.S. finds itself in the middle of its own comprehensive crisis management efforts. And though the EU’s coordination problem is not solved with the new structures, the Lisbon Treaty does constitute an improvement of the previous situation and represent a prerequisite for improved U.S.-EU discussions, facilitating links with the U.S. On part of the U.S., the approach toward civilian crisis management converged to that of the EU. This can be seen as coinciding shifts that occurred in the EU and US somewhat recently and that present the opportunity to advance the EU-U.S. partnership framework on comprehensive crisis management. In the transatlantic framework, EU-U.S. coordination management is already apparent. The U.S. and the EU engage in joint operational experiences, such as coordination in trainings, staff exchange, and joint evaluations, and the common visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton to the Balkans signals a commitment to common transatlantic crisis management.

Also, in the post-Afghanistan context, transatlantic crisis management cooperation is just as important. It is an example of the need for cooperation over strategy, military, and resources, as well as joint understanding of the conflict.. Because the issue in Afghanistan is unlikely to fade away quickly, strong European-American understanding of the situation is crucial, as well as a method of developing coordinated crisis management capabilities.

It is crucial to find not only a common ground for advancement, but also an understanding of each other’s policy approaches. Developments on the U.S. side show that the institutional importance of civilian crisis management has grown and the EU no longer has a monopoly on smart-power appreciation and Comprehensive Approach aspirations. On the other side of the Atlantic, the EU has proved in various situations to be a capable conflict management actor. Great steps have already been made, but more work remains