In recent years, the EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence has assumed paramount importance, driven by shifts in the geopolitical landscape and the imperative to update collective policy approaches. In this context, the enlargement of NATO and the ramifications of the Russo-Ukrainian war pose significant questions (Kolovos, A., 2023). More specifically, these geopolitical shifts underscore the urgent need for a unified defence system against potential common threats. This is an especially complicated task considering that the space domain presents nuanced challenges akin to those of the Arctic, where borders lack the tangible delineation seen in traditional realms of air, land, or maritime boundaries. In this sense, the new approach to space defence and security includes both military considerations and political and legal dimensions.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Munich Security Conference (MSC). From February 16 to February 18, one of the central forums for debate on foreign and security policy took place in the Bavarian capital. The conference was marked by a palpable sense of urgency and concern regarding European defence. It was largely overshadowed by the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the fall of Avdiivka, the death/murder of Alexei Navalny, ammunition shortages in Ukraine, and former U.S. president and current Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s comments on NATO (Dorman, 2024), all of which contributed to an uneasy atmosphere. This News Flash dissects the key topics and most significant issues and challenges in European defence and Transatlantic security policy covered throughout the conference. The present analysis explores the two following panel discussions as primary sources: (i) Europe’s Finest Hour? Building a Defense Union in Challenging Times (MSC, 2024a)and (ii) In It to Win It: The Future of Ukraine and Transatlantic Security (MSC, 2024b).
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 immeasurably disturbed the European security landscape greatly fuelling fear of Russia's neo-imperialistic ambitions, particularly in the former Soviet sphere of influence. In Eastern Europe, especially in the Baltic states and Poland, these fears have grown steadily since Russia's hybrid forms of aggression against Ukraine in 2014. In particular, Poland has felt threatened by various hybrid threat scenarios since the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, including a potential attack on its own territory. Poland's response to the war in Ukraine has been and continues to be influenced by both geographical and historical considerations. With a border shared with Russia's exclave, Kaliningrad, and the escalating tensions since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the fear of a Russian invasion through the Suwalki Gap, a crucial Polish-Lithuanian border, emerged as a concerning potential contingency since the collapse of the Eastern bloc. As a result, Poland has decided to act decisively. In concrete terms, this has materialised as the massive expansion of its defence forces and staunch support for its attacked neighbour.
Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, expectations of a stable, predictable, and indivisible European security order have seemingly failed to materialise. Given the implications of the war, debates surrounding nuclear weapons returned to public scrutiny after long being confined to a niche of experts and policymakers. Arguably, the conflict triggered the most serious nuclear crisis since the end of the Cold War, which is exacerbated by the allusive wording of Russian officials and pundits regarding the use of nuclear weapons. Anxiety about Moscow’s first strike against Kyiv or its allies slowed down support for the invaded country. As such, this InfoFlash considers the implications of Russian nuclear posture for Ukraine and Europe, analysing the structure of Russian nuclear forces and doctrine, and their relations with Moscow’s strategic goals.
NATO, when required, carries out disaster relief operations and missions in response to natural or humanitarian disasters. In response to the devastating earthquakes in Turkey in February 2023, NATO established temporary shelters for thousands of people and coordinated an airbridge to deliver vital supplies from allies and partners. The mission, complying with the general principles of International Humanitarian Law, acted in a very unstable political environment, considering the strategic position of Turkey as a powerful state in the Mediterranean Sea and a member of the Alliance. This paper analyses the legal framework in which the mission has been acting, and its conformity to it,as well as its political implications in the light of the complex diplomatic relations between Turkey, United States, and NATO.