26 November 2019

Defence strategic analysis at the nick of time

Ştefan Oprea

Placed between two conflict breeding grounds, the former Yugoslav space and the former Soviet one, full of ethnic tensions, persistent ideological ambiguities and the national identity as a dominant element for the international relations, Romania continues to be a stability island, strongly connected in terms of vision and values to the European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation structures.

Image source: Mediafax

The current strategic context, which is erratic and extremely volatile, has essentially changed comparing to the last 10 to 15 years. The current defining benchmarks are:

- Russia continues its anti-NATO neo-nationalist agenda, having an extremely important strategic relevance for NATO’s interests and allies in Europe, an increased activity in the Mediterranean Sea, a strategic partnership with Serbia and a growing influence in the Western Balkans;

- NATO is experiencing an erosion process, determined by a combination between foreign and internal pressures;

-Europe is going through a structural change, related to the transatlantic relations with the United States;

- Turkey is manifesting its regional ambitions in the Black Sea Region – its military intervention in Syria, but also Iraq and the procurement of the latest air defence systems produced by the Russians, which are totally opposed to Alliance’s policies;

-France’s fundamental isolationist attitude, aiming at keeping “the national strategic autonomy”, from an operational, technological and industrial perspective, part of a larger vision towards the European strategic autonomy;

- the Republic of Moldova frequently sends convulsive signals, determined by the internal political breaches and the Transnistria conflict;

-Ukraine has lost Crimea for good, now experiencing a crisis in the Azov Sea and being in a conflict with the East area, all connected to the Russian Federation;

-the frozen conflicts around the Black Sea area,

are pushing Romania, which is geographically close to these security challenges, to rethink its options and deterrence posture.

With a steadfast foreign policy, based on mutual respect, being a full NATO and EU member state, part of the “Strategic partnership for the 21st century” with US, having strategic partnership with France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Turkey and Hungary, Romania is, today, facing challenges in terms of approaching the essential causes of this instability arch’s effects through intelligent and agile solutions in using influence and power tools, coordinately, to provide its citizens safety and the possibility to stay and bloom in their own country.

In terms of security only, the recent developments, determined by Russia’s influence spheres and China constantly trying to include on its global-sized projects as many states as possible, the Defence Strategic Analysis turns, for Romania, into an urgent request, starting from which, based on the State project, there will be set the strategic objectives for the following 10 to 15 years, including for the National Defence Ministry and the entire national security system.

Unfortunately, Romania does not have a background for such an analysis. There were some attempts starting with 2001, but the lack of knowledge, the ignorance or fear of the possible results emerged from the analytical process pushed the policy makers, during time, to take the pot luck, alternatives such as partial analyses.

These have highlighted some shortcomings, mostly repaired, but still limited by financial matters. Furthermore, the wrong or biased assumptions have led to inappropriate recommendations and the clear-cut result was not optimized by state’s defence capacity.

If until now the self-sufficiency did not do led to anything wrong or bad, the current strategic context asks for the initiation of this complex analytical process, one to identify the strategic objectives, the ambition level and the necessary practical actions to really strengthen Romania’s defence capacity.

The Defence Strategic Analysis (DSA) is a military and political interinstitutional process, by which are examined, in detail, state’s interests in terms of defence, accordingly with the challenges of the current security environment and the national objectives,  being an effective review of the defence demands and the ulterior planning of institutional solutions for reaching those needs.

The main purpose of this analysis is promoting discussions, presenting analytical models, identifying solutions and stimulating decisions regarding state’s essential interest (protecting its national values and defending its citizens) and resource’s use to that end.

The DSA value comes, firstly, from the correct understanding and the estimation of the strategic security environment, as well as its influence over the country. Afterwards, the identification and estimation of current resources and forces (people, capabilities, infrastructure, etc.) will offer policy makers the necessary data to currently estimate the existing condition, shape its decisions accordingly with the effective situation and differentiate between wills and possibilities. Not least, the responsible factors, based on these information, will be able to plan the proper resources to establish the desired force type in the future and prioritize effort following partial and essential objectives.

As a pre-condition for DSA’s elaboration process, responsibility must be in the hands of the highest national leadership level, creating benefits in terms of the property right on the analysis, confidentiality of collected data and its results, elimination of bureaucratic elements, the political responsibility assumption and, not least, political leader’s ability to influence or change discussion’s direction, from pre-existent ideas and thinking to new ones. Also, including these leaders in the decision-making process, along with representatives of the academic and associative environment with large experience in the field, experts of the military domain and the reality demanded by the global and regional security situation and willing to propose implementation solutions of analysis’s results, turns into a desideratum.

Without approaching the details of establishing such a document, we must mention that planning this process is essential, and we must be aware that after such process, we will have answers for questions like:

- what is country’ strategic ambition level (the will to have greater influence in the region or only concerns for our own borders/ security?)

- what is the national character as strategic player (geographic role or interference in the regional dynamic)?

- how important is national security comparing to education, health, economy and other social issues etc.?

-is there any consensus between the political parties for DSA’s elaboration?

-are there any similarities and connections in national policies elaboration processes with the neighbor (partner) countries and how or on which level can these emerge?

-are there any regional partners which have the same interests?

-are there any international organizations which could be involved in its elaboration?

-which will be the regional expectations after implementing the decisions following the DSA?

For the military men, the answers to these questions will obviously establish the military objectives and missions to be accomplished. Based on such things, they will shape the ideal forces and force structures, legitimizing them through adequate scenarios, following the identification of capabilities’ shortcomings. Therefore, answers to questions such as: the available capabilities, their condition, world’s requests and how could the Armed Forces respond to them, how we could project the force structure on the current strategic direction etc. can represent that complex image by which available resources will be evaluated accordingly with the desired force type. Implicitly, prioritizing objectives considering the available resources will be also eased by analysis’s results. From that perspective, DSA is a detailed inventory of the entire defence system to identify the advantages and weaknesses of the system and the essential military capacities to accomplish those missions, as well as the necessary mechanisms and resources to do it.

The DSA results will not be a solution for the current issues, but it will be the foundation of all proposals in terms of the national defence strategy development, the conceptual and organizational changes plan’s elaboration, the defence capabilities development and the measures that would satisfy state’s defence needs.

The need for a complex visions on the Armed Forces, able to answer to current and future threats, considering the available resources, will be the foundation of the future defence policy development. It is a difficult task and a huge organizational challenges.

Such an analysis will vanish the dilemma of choosing between quality and quantity, will provide the necessary data to create the saturation of battlefields and will establish a vision of Armed Forces, out of a detailed analysis of the real defence needs and not just based on “intellectual models”, which proved to be ineffective.

The conclusions and recommendations, based on experts’ opinions for each research field, both as identifying the condition and making predictions, will come with an answer for the question: which are Romania’s current and future defence needs and what shall be done to reach them? Based on this answer, the policy makers, having rational approaches, will be able to approve an optimal model for Romania’s Armed Forces for the next 10 years, develop the necessary capabilities to establish an effective deterrence posture and, not least, improve its role within NATO and become a leader nation for the allied activities on Alliance’s Southeastern flank.

Translated by Andreea Soare