European Deterrence Initiative: the transatlantic security guarantee

Briefing 09-07-2018

The illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 marked a crucial moment for European, transatlantic and international security. Acting like a wake-up call, this event redefined strategic and security considerations in individual EU Member States, in the United States and in international organisations such as the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Russia's increasingly assertive military posture is unsettling for its European neighbours. Four years ago, in June 2014, US President Obama announced what was to become a key security guarantee from America to Europe. The European Reassurance Initiative, as it was called during the first half of its existence, is a military programme supporting the activities of the US military and its allies in Europe. In 2017, it was renamed the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) to reflect the shift in the international security environment characterised by a prioritisation of deterrence. Activities under the EDI include training of forces, multinational military exercises and development of military equipment and capabilities. They all take place under the umbrella of Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) whose core mission is to enhance deterrence. Despite recent turmoil in transatlantic relations, the budget for building up defences in central and eastern Europe through the EDI has seen major increases; even under the Trump administration. The EDI has deepened security and defence cooperation between the US and the main beneficiaries of OAR, namely Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. The US European Command, which coordinates all EDI and OAR activities, is working to forge enhanced interoperability between different countries' military forces through joint training, staff exchanges and exercises. The Command's leadership also recognises the cyber domain as a pressing area where integration is needed, although the EDI budget for 2019 makes no mention of it. The recent proliferation of EU defence initiatives and the revamp of EU-NATO relations should also contribute to EDI's core mission: to establish a strong deterrence posture able to meet today's security challenges.