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Responding to Geopolitical Threats: The EU Expands its Role

Responding to Geopolitical Threats: The EU Expands its Role

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Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop, Ghent University, Belgium.

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine forced Europe to rediscover the importance of geopolitics. Inviting Ukraine to become a candidate for EU membership is one of the most important geopolitical decisions of this century. An invasion or an invitation: two very different ways of addressing the same geopolitical issue. But the EU also made Moldova and Georgia candidates: can it support those as well as they fall victim to further aggression? Meanwhile, the EU was forced to deploy a naval operation to protect shipping in the Red Sea from attack by the Houthis from Yemen. And it is struggling to maintain a military foothold in North Africa in the face of Russian interference. Can the EU expand its role and deal effectively with all of these issues?



Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop (born in Willebroek, Belgium in 1976) read political sciences and obtained his PhD at Ghent University, Belgium, where today he is a professor, lecturing on the grand strategy of the European Union and the other great powers, and on Belgian foreign and defence policy. In addition, he is the Director of the Europe in the World Programme at the Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels, the think-tank associated with the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sven is an Associate Member of the Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences of Belgium, and an Honorary Fellow of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), an EU agency where he lectures for diplomats, military and officials from all EU Member States. He is also a regular speaker at the Royal Military Academy in Brussels and at the People’s University of China in Beijing, where he is a Senior Research Fellow. His latest book is Grand Strategy in 10 Words - A Guide to Great Power Politics in the 21st Century (Bristol University Press, 2021). Sven has been honoured with the cross of Officer of the Order of the Crown of the Kingdom of Belgium and the Grand Decoration of Honour of the Republic of Austria. Sven lives in Brussels with his Taiwanese-Belgian husband Aberu, amidst a great many books, military paraphernalia, and chinoiseries. Unfortunately, they travel too often to keep a cat.



Daniel Treisman is a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. A graduate of Oxford University (B.A. Hons.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.), he has published six books and many articles in leading political science and economics journals including The American Political Science Review and The American Economic Review, as well as in public affairs journals such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. His research focuses on Russian politics and economics as well as comparative political economy, including in particular the analysis of democratization, the politics of authoritarian states, political decentralization, and corruption.

A former editor of The American Political Science Review, he has served as associate editor or on the editorial boards of the journals Post-Soviet Affairs, Comparative Political Studies, Economics and Politics, Politeia, and the Russian Journal of Economics. He has served as a consultant for the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and USAID. In Russia, he has been a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Higher School of Economics and a member of the Jury of the National Prize in Applied Economics. At UCLA, he has served as acting director of the Center for European and Russian Studies.

His latest book, co-authored with Sergei Guriev, Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century (Princeton University Press, 2022), was one of the “Best Books of 2022” (The New Yorker, Foreign Affairs), “Best Political Books of 2022” (Financial Times), and “Books That Made Us Think in 2022” (The Atlantic, Moment). It has been translated into 12 languages. The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev (The Free Press, 2011) was one of the Financial Times’ “Best Political Books of 2011.” It won the Prix Guido et Maruccia Zerilli-Marimo de l’Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, Paris, and the Arthur Ross Book Prize Bronze Medal, New York.

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[final transcript] sven biscop

Thu, Apr 04, 2024 11:24AM � 1:22:11


eu, russia, china, nato, ukraine, europe, geopolitical, force, remains, european, defense, people, war, issue, question, belgian, point, change, brussels, world


Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop, Daniel Treisman

Daniel Treisman 00:00

Okay, let's get started. I'd like to welcome you all to this talk, which is jointly sponsored by the Burkle Institute and the Center for European and Russian studies. We're very happy today to have Dr. Sven Biscop here to talk. He's a professor at Ghent University, an expert of grand strategy of EU and on Belgian foreign and military policy. He's also director of the Europe and the world program at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Affairs in Brussels, which is a think tank associated with the Belgian foreign ministry. And his latest book is "Grand Strategy in 10 Words: A Guide to Great Power Politics in the 21st Century." So, Professor Biscop is going to talk about geopolitical threats and EU responses. So first of all, Professor Biscop is going to talk then, I'll ask him a few questions and then we'll open it up to questions and discussion from the audience.

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 01:11

Well, thank you very much for having me, and also to our Consul General Sophie Hottat, for facilitating, facilitating this. I'll start by correcting maybe one misconception you might have. In Belgium, I am the only political science professors who always wears a tie. So, I am not representative of the Belgian professor, at least not political science. But I have two jobs, so I am halftime at Ghent University, a Dutch language, government owned University in Belgium. Then Egmont Institute for International Relations is the foreign policy think tank of the Belgian government. So, we're not part of the government but we�re totally state funded, but we never speak for the kingdom. So, what I'm about to say, cannot be held against the kingdom. Of course, you can hold it against me. Geopolitics, my belief, it's really a buzzword in Brussels today. In 2019, when we saw Ursula von der Leyen appointed as Chair of the Commission, she said hers would be a geopolitical commission. And ever since everybody has been sort of using that word to describe everything and nothing, especially since Russia invaded Ukraine. It's of course, good that the EU has rediscovered the importance of geopolitics. But I have the feeling that now in a way, we're overcompensating and now everything is considered to be geopolitics, which is also not really the case. And at some point, it becomes counterproductive, in my view. What is geopolitics?

I�m not a great theoretical scholar. I'm mostly a think tank, Think Tank guy. So, I tend to go for very simple definition. So, for me, geopolitics is the answer to the question, where am I? What do I need to import? And where does it come from otherwise seek to export? Where does it go to? Where are my friends? Where are my enemies? What are all the lines of communications that that connects them? And of course, that's kind of important to know, when you're deciding strategy, but it doesn't determine your strategy, because the same geopolitical situation can inspire totally opposite strategies. I mean, if you think of the US the most geopolitically safe of all powers, so you could say, well, given that our home is relatively safe, we can afford not to think very much about world politics, sort of pre-World War One. And again, some extent after the war, or at exactly the opposite since after World War Two. Or, think about the UK, which says it's an island off the European continent. So, they can say, you can afford not to think about Europe or precisely the opposite or homebase is a secure starting point from which to interfere everywhere in Europe. And Brexit, you could say, is the latest iteration, in that event in that pendulum movement of British strategic history, hopefully it will swing back again. So what I see now is that people back home calling everything geopolitical, that they tend to forget that thinking about geopolitics does not lead you to one specific way of acting and a lot of people in Brussels said the EU should become a geopolitical actor. I say there is no there's no such thing as a geopolitical actor because there's not� there are geopolitical problems but it's not to say there is one specifically geopolitical way of dealing with a problem. Ukraine is a case in point it's a geopolitical dispute between the EU and Russia. Russia tries to solve it by making war on it. The EU tried to solve it by offering an Association Agreement, but it's not as if one way is the geopolitical way, and the and the other isn't. So, I think that you should be a geopolitically aware, strategic actor, and strategic actor means always have your interests in mind to always have a clear assessment of the threats and opportunities in the environment, including geopolitical threats or opportunities. And then to think in terms of ends, ways, and means. And those scholars talk only about geopolitics. They forget that strategy is about much more. For example, if you think about the EU, and China, geopolitics tells us very little, because between the EU and China, there is no direct geopolitical disputes. So, it is about Chinese economic policy. It's about China's political penetration. But there is no real geopolitical issue between EU and Europeans and China. So, my take is sort of it's good that we've rediscovered geopolitics. But let's not, let's not overdo it. The EU always saw Ukraine, but also its other eastern neighbors: Belarus, Moldova, and then Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, as buffer states, we didn�t call them buffer states, right? That's not so polite. And nobody wants to be told, congratulations, you've been selected as the latest buffer state of the EU, it comes with a bit of subsidies and some high-level visits. But in reality, that's how we saw them. I mean, they were never intended to become members of the EU. They were supposed to be independent sovereign states, in between the EU and Russia, that ideally would have good relations with both. That was the point of the EU neighborhood policy. And its so-called Eastern Partnership now, that has totally fallen apart, of course, because it seems that Russia never stopped seeing those countries as belonging in their exclusive sphere of influence. So, I think whether we wanted to or not the EU entered into this geopolitical zero-sum game with Russia. That came to a head when we had the Georgian war 2008, and the first invasion of Ukraine 2014, the annexation of the of the Crimea, then the EU did a really important thing. We didn't really break relations with Russia, we didn't really change the project. The idea was still that Ukraine would be a buffer state. But we did sign an association agreement with Ukraine after the war. And I think that's the moment when they you committed itself to Ukraine's future. Up to that point, we could have said, well, clearly for the Russians it is very important. They're willing to pay a high price for it. We let it go, you know, sort of Hungary in �56, Czechoslovakia in �68. We don't like it. But we accept that there is a sort of Russian sphere of influence that we didn't we sign the Association Agreement, and that at that point, we committed ourselves to Ukraine's future, not suspecting of course, that there will be a second war. But because there was the 2022 invasion, and because Ukraine survived the initial onslaught that pulled us that pulled us into the war. So, you could say that now Ukraine status in geopolitical terms has changed. It's no longer a buffer state, I think that option is off the table. Either the Russians win. And then Ukraine will become a satellite, which Belarus already is. But by surviving, Ukraine has de facto become a member of the Western security architecture, I would argue, and the EU�s underlined that by making it a candidate for EU membership. So, Ukraine is now a border state if you want. It�s become the border of the Western security architecture. So that you know is it�s the EU�s interest in making sure that it survives, as the strongest possible border state and the largest possible directory, including specifically access to the sea, but the largest possible territory. Of course, ideally, the ideal and goal is that Ukraine liberates all of its territory, but you also have to take into account the feasibility. The military balance of power is such that for the moment, that seems unlikely, right? So, it must have a large enough directory to be to be viable, but sadly, it seems unlikely that they will be able to reconquer to liberate all of their territory. We have another interest though, which is that this remains a proxy war. We are not at war with Russia, the US does not, no EU or NATO member state, it's a proxy war. And that should remain a proxy war. So, we are non-belligerents, meaning we do everything we can to support Ukraine, except shooting at the Russians. That's the nasty bit that they have to do themselves. I always compare it to the US in World War Two prior to Pearl Harbor as a nonbelligerent, doing everything you could to support the UK, except shooting up the Germans that the Brits the Brits have to do. And I really think that should be the line continue to be the strategy. In spite off we can talk about in the discussion if you want statements like that by French president Macron, for example, who said he did not rule out sending ground troops per se. I think that would be that would be a mistake. So now that Ukraine is a candidate, yeah, we have we have obligations. I think many people in the EU still don't realize that we are in totally uncharted territory. We have never offered candidate status to a country that is at war. We have made candidates of countries that came out of war in the Balkans but never to a country that is at war. And we have never faced a situation that EU enlargement is being actively countered by a hostile power. Because enlargement is eminently geopolitical, you change the border. So, you change your geopolitical situation. And what's more, we have made two other candidates, Moldova and Georgia. Moldova, that's kind of logical. I mean, they're all wedged in between the EU and Ukraine. So, if Ukraine holds, Moldova will hold, but then there's Georgia. Georgia, you could argue, well, is it actually in Europe? In pure geographic terms? I would say no. So, was smart to potentially expand the EU beyond Europe? In geopolitical terms. It's an outpost right. It is does not border on the EU, that does border on Turkey, another candidate country, but I think whatever you may wish for, Turkey will never join the EU. That's I think the political reality. Turkey is, of course, a NATO member, but it has its very own special relationship with Russia. People in the EU, we like to talk about strategic autonomy, Turkey has strategic autonomy, they do what they want. So, in case there would be a renewed outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Georgia, how could you support Georgia even if you wanted to? How can you reach it, you cannot go through the Black Sea because the Montreux Convention limits naval access in times of war, they are totally dependent on Turkey's permission to go over land, which is to say the least unpredictable. Personally, I think it was a mistake to offer candidate status to Georgia, but we have done it. So, we must now assume that obligation. So, I've been arguing in Brussels, we must be willing to do for Moldova and Georgia, what we are now doing for Ukraine up to the same scale, if necessary, because having made them candidates we have created, we have created that obligation.

And I would hope that we have some contingency plans in the making. And as you know, both countries are very vulnerable, because we have Russians already in Transnistria in Moldova, and in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. It would be very easy for the Russians to stir up trouble, let's say without having to invest enormous, enormous assets in that part of the world that really sort of dropped down the diplomatic order of priorities for the for the EU. Then of course, we were reminded by the 7th October Hamas terrorist attacks, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict always has the potential to undo the balance in the whole region. And we were forced to engage again. The EU has a long-standing position. And in fact, its predecessor, the European Economic Community that was instrumental in getting the PLO recognized as an interlocutor, and in getting the legitimate Palestinian demand for state acceptance. So, the two-state solution remains the official EU position, which the EU is also totally opposed against terrorism. But several European leaders in my view rather clumsily created the impression that that the EU exclusively sided with Israel in this dispute in this war. Now, they are changing the position as we have seen also here the position of the US government I think change, becoming ever more critical of the of Israeli retaliation. The EU has such, sadly, very little leverage on it, but I must say I'm quite impressed by the constructive regional diplomacy that President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are waging here to try to prevent escalation. I think it seems clear that the other big players, the Saudis and the Iranians, did not seek escalation, otherwise it would already have happened. But the risk is still there, of course. And, you can see Iran, Saudi Arabia, also have to take into account their constituencies. Saudi Arabia suspended normalization of relations with Israel that was on the way being mediated by the US. And Iran acts indirectly through its traditional clients, Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen. They undertake attacks against American targets, primarily, but also against Western targets. Then, especially these Houthi attacks started in 19 November, basically, cut off the single most important shipping route for Europe. We want to talk geopolitics, well, we are very dependent on maritime trade. 90% of our trade is seaborne, and a really big part of that goes through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea or to the Gulf, or across the Indian Ocean, to Asia. So, when that artery is cut, you would expect swift action. And then I personally was very disappointed that it took us three months to deploy a naval operation to protect our shipping there. Now, if you know, if you're familiar with decision making in the military sphere, three months is really fast. I know that. But if you're sitting on the ship that is under fire, by the Houthis, three months before his interaction is rather long. I assume the US was there after three weeks or so with an ad hoc coalition Prosperity Guardian, which some EU member states participate in actually and the UK. So, my view is that this could have been done a lot better. And we probably need to think of the EU in terms of permanent naval presence there, right? That�s not a new concept for us because this this is our most important sea line of communication, not yours, ours. So, we have to take that into account. It also makes me think maybe we have got our geopolitical priorities wrong. If people in Brussels, say geopolitics, maritime security, everybody will sort the other buzzword, Indo Pacific, right? But what is the Indo Pacific? Personally, I'm not convinced that the Indo Pacific exists, to be honest, right? It's a really big piece of water, all the way from Madagascar to Alaska. I'm quite sure that the security dynamics around Madagascar are somewhat different from those around Alaska. So, it doesn't make sense to talk about this as if it were one region. It can make sense if you're in Australia. I was in Canberra last December. But, seen from Brussels, I think it doesn't make sense to talk about the Indo Pacific, what matters to us is not the entire Pacific. And I think we have to distinguish in Europe, it's my argument, between Sino-American rivalry for dominance over the Pacific and our specific interest, which is again, the security of the maritime, the sea line of communication, so Red Sea, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, East China Sea, that is our specific interest. Where is that sea line of communication threatened most directly, actually not in Asia, right? I mean, China's not about to cut that sea line because it's their trade with us that passes there. Why would they cut their own trade? It could become collateral damage, if Sino American rivalry escalates, or, more likely, if China's own really aggressive pushing of their totally spurious territorial claims in the South China Sea, if that would lead to incidents and escalation, then it could cause collateral damage for the sea lane. But, the most direct threat to that sea line of communication is much closer to home. It's in the western half of the Indian Ocean. It's in the Gulf, it's in the Red Sea. And that I think, should be our focus as Europe. Two more stops. Just so you know, I'm going to talk briefly about the Africa coast. In geopolitical terms, the real border, the southern border of the EU, is not the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean doesn't cut us off from Africa, that connects us to it. So, the real border is North Africa. It the Sahel all the way from the west coast and then to the east coast to the horn. We have to stabilize that sort of belt if we want to keep our own southern border stable. That's, of course, the region that has been totally destabilized by a whole series of coups and coups within coups, and then Russia has played into that really adaptively and has managed to turn several governments against Europe and also large parts of the public opinion. And that is very dangerous for us. Because I mean, we have to manage migration flows, we have to manage our supply routes, we have to manage consequences of climate change, or that would be challenging enough if we tried to do it in partnership with our southern neighbors. But to do it against the will of our southern neighbors would be really tricky. And there is no obvious answer there. We have suffered real setbacks there. France has been kicked out of Mali, along with several other countries. Now we're sort of having a debate, should I go? Or should I stay in the places where we still are. There's still a small EU training mission in Mali, for example. Some people in Brussels argue we should pull out because they're just sitting there. Others like me say, you shouldn't, you should think of it as a presence not as an operation with a specific goal to be reached by a specific timeline. But just as a presence that has a strategic foothold. If you abandon it voluntarily, when will you get it? To continue my tour clockwise, we go around Europe, now I'm in Eurasia if you want in Russia, and China. Just two points I want to mention there. China-Russia relations, the million-dollar question. I think we should look at those in a very nuanced way. There are each other�s closest partners, so they will not drop each other. But they also surely don't always support each other. So, I think what you can see is China tried to play a really nuanced game, doing enough for Russia to keep it on board, but not so much that it would lead to a rupture with US and EU. So, no direct military support, for example. But of course, also no economic sanctions, but two thirds of the world doesn't have economic sanctions against Russia. At the same time, the Chinese are really exploiting Russia's weakness by forcing it into all kinds of economic concessions. I would argue that even if Russia wins the Ukraine war, it would not be sufficient to hold its decline as a great power, it will continue to decline. And it has made itself even more dependent on China than it already was. The Chinese, of course, are not going to provide a solution for this war. Rhetorically, they lean closer to Russia, but they make gestures like their 12 points position on the war, which is something for Ukraine and something for Russia, also something really against Russia. And I think you see a subtle game going on there. If there would ever be peace negotiations, then I think China could play a constructive role, because we have influence over Kyiv, but they have some influence over Moscow. Then the final flashpoint, there is of course, Taiwan. Taiwan, which is again, from an EU point of view, has no real geopolitical importance, but it has a geoeconomic importance if you want, as the world's sole producer, almost, of the most high quality, advanced, semiconductors, and it's a democracy. And of course, there is a natural sympathy for any democracy. I tend to believe that we cannot create democracies where there aren't any, that we should defend democracy, where it exists. We were in Taiwan for our Christmas holiday. And in the run up to the elections, a lot of people are very alarmist about this. They�d say if the DPP and China skeptical party would win the presidency, then China would somehow react. But I always said, well, but they've been in power for eight years, you know, so why would China say okay, eight years, maybe, but 12 years? Never, you know. So, DPP then won the presidency, and China did exactly nothing.

So, I think here to my assessment, at this point in time, is that China is not seeking any sort of forcible change to the status quo by military means, because they don't need to change the status quo as it is still works well for everybody. There's the political dispute on the one hand, and China is increasing military pressure on Taiwan, but at the same time, the economic relationship remains extremely tight. And it seems that regime in Beijing is much more focused now on its grave domestic problems, economic challenges, with also consolidating Xi's power. It's really difficult to read those tea leaves, but its hold is not yet as secure as it may seem from the outside, and China has a lot to lose, right? It may be different here. But in Europe, people think of China as an enormous economic challenger. Who certainly doesn't always play by the rules. See our recent dispute about electric cars as an enormous political challenge, of course, but not as a territorially expansionist power. Or as a militarily aggressive power, but the moment they use military force to change the status quo of Taiwan, that whole perception will tilt. And all the Europeans will really alter their relationship with China, I think. So, the Chinese have a lot to lose from using force, which is not to say that they may never do it, because it's a symbolic issue. It's a highly ideologically charged issue. And we all know that when symbolism comes into play, rationality sometimes gives way.

So, knowing all of that, to conclude, what does that mean for the EU? Just a few bullet points. One, it does mean that we will have to assume a lot more of the burden for our own security and defense. That's not new. US administrations have been saying that for 50 years. Will we now do it? People in Europe get nervous again because of pronouncements in the campaign by Donald Trump? But actually, we have known since President Obama and his sort of pivot to Asia, that we are no longer priority number one. I always say that it would be prudent to assume that if ever, America was engaged in two wars at the same time, one in Europe and one in Asia, that you are likely to say, the European allies, not to worry, as soon as we have defeated China, we�ll come and help you against Russia. But until then, please hold the line. Can we do that today? No, or not without great difficulty, because if you add up all the Armed Forces of Europe, you do not have a complete set of forces. We miss key strategic enablers that only the US can contribute. So, our forces are only fully operational with that American plugin. If that American plugin is not there, we have a problem. So, in my view, what we need to do is to remedy that not through the EU but within NATO, to align the European contribution to NATO in such a way that Europeans by themselves would constitute a complete, dare I say, autonomous force package, that is fully operational even without a single American. I would say we will need one, one guy, SACEUR, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, every one�s American. The NATO new force model is moving in this direction. To some extent, I think this should go much, much further. It's a massive investment if we want our own strategic enablers. But it seems to me to be a strategic necessity. In addition, we need the credible expeditionary force to deal with crisis outside Europe, in our broad neighborhoods. We also need to think about our economic prosperity, which is the basis of all other powers. The EU launched a term of de risking which the US then took over. We will diversify your dependencies, you will always have dependencies, even after the greening of the economy. But to diversify them, you install certain export controls inward, and also inward and outward investment controls, but we have to be more precise about it and decide what is still allowed and what is not. When it comes to advance semiconductors. The US moved really fast and basically created the fait accompli and set the rules for everybody. I'm not saying that the rules are wrong, but they should have been an EU decision for the single market as a whole. And the EU should have moved faster. I also think we need a positive story to the outside world. Because we realize if you move around the world and you say, look, isn't Russia evil invading Ukraine? Many governments say, yeah, sure. But we don't feel the urge to pronounce or to interfere, right? The great powers sometimes do what the great powers do and that�s it. You travel around the world and say, isn't China becoming too powerful? Then the government say maybe, but actually, the Chinese are offering me this, that and the other? What are you offering me? So, we, in addition to this, we need a positive offer. This should be the Global Gateway, and the EU's answer to the Belt and Road Initiative for own global infrastructure investment program, with the aim basically of promoting an open border policy to go and say to key countries, look, we're not asking you to kick China out on or even to kick Russia out, we'll be suggesting you to diversify, because if you only work with the Chinese, then maybe one day you will wake up and you will realize your sovereignty is not what it used to be. So, we offer you a chance to diversify and that would be a mutual interest. Then of course, we have to develop that offer that requires a lot of investment. Finally, we need to invest in the multilateral institutions. In a way, I remain optimistic in the sense that I think the structure of world politics is multipolar, that different great powers, they compete, cooperate, rival with each other in ever changing constellations. But they're not always divided on each and every issue into neat camps, you know. We and you against the Chinese and the Russians. That's not how it works. See China's position on the Ukraine war, which is good news, it gives us still more leeway and margin to maneuver. And what do the other states do classically? Well, they hedge. And we were surprised that so few states outside the EU and NATO refused to adopt sanctions against Russia. But that's perfectly natural behavior, from their point of view, they engage in hedging. So, in a way, multipolarity is normal, I think, right? If you look at the history of world politics, it's always multipolar, except for the Cold War. And so, the third stage non great powers, they always engage in history. So, I think, instead of always trying to distinguish those two neat camps, the good guys and the bad guys, we should have a much more nuanced diplomacy, work issue by issue, see which states our interests coincide on that issue, and we can work with them, and which not. And another issue might be the other way around. And actually, whether those states are democratic or not, is not so relevant from the point of view of strategy. To manage all of this, we must continue to invest, I think, in strong multilateral institutions, because from Brussels, we have a really strong interest in keeping all players including China, within the system, more or less operating by the same core rules. So, I would say, my motto for EU diplomacy would be we have to keep the world together. That should be our leitmotif keep everybody in the system and as a way of managing the tensions and avoiding the risk that the system would fragment again, and break up into rival blocks that would start in a worldwide race for creating exclusive blocks and spheres of influence. That's my agenda. And I look forward to your take on all of this. Cheers. Thank you.

Daniel Treisman 32:22

Wow, there was so much in that it's hard to know where to begin, you really did cover the world in those remarks. Let me start by asking you a question about what the EU really is. Because we tend to think of the EU as being an economic association, economic organization, primarily economic priorities and goals. And then there's NATO, which is the military alliance, which provides for the defense of now just about all the almost all of the European countries. But and when you were speaking a minute ago, this is a little bit at odds with that image. You were mostly speaking about security issues. And the EU, it seems to me sometimes maintains a kind of ambiguity on this point. When it serves its purposes, it's an economic association. But at other times, it does also talk about security issues. And there has always been this this element of military coordination. I don't know if it's still called the West European Union, but 30 years ago, there were projects to expand cross national cooperation on military matters. Not at odds with NATO, but separate from NATO. This is really important, it seems to me because that ambiguity, I think, was very important in 2013 to Putin. 2013, The EU is saying we just want an economic association agreement with Ukraine. But Putin read the documents and there was a military element in the documents that Ukraine was being asked to sign. And I think that was a big part of why he felt at that point, that this was unacceptable, from his perspective, and I remember Romano Prodi arguing with him in person and saying, look, Vladimir, its economic association and Ukraine can be part of your trade bloc, while also being part of our trade bloc, which, again, Putin did not think was honest because you can't really be part of two trade books as Northern Ireland demonstrates these days? So is the EU, how do people in the EU these days think about whether it's an economic organization or a military organization, or both? It isn't really productive to be a military organization when you have NATO, as well as Macron who doesn't really want to be part of any, completely part of any military organization.

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 35:32

Yeah. Well, I will definitely say economic and political right. I always say, you're a member of NATO, but you are the EU. Right? It goes very deep. I am an EU. I'm a Belgian citizen. But I'm also a citizen of the Union, which comes with rights that are directly enforceable under Belgian law, right. There are EU rules are directly applicable in every member state law. So that in some ways, it is almost like a federal state in some areas, right. And the Brits have shown how difficult that is to extricate yourself from that, from that set of rules and regulations and laws that that you've been a part of. So, it goes very, it goes very deep, except in foreign policy and defense where it remains entirely intergovernmental. So, I think the problem is, we don't know who we are, right? One of my lines in Grand Strategy is that grand strategy is basically the answer to the question, who am I? Which role do I think I'm playing on the world stage? And we don't know, half of us more or less say, well, we don't have to play a great role, our role is simply to be the most loyal ally of another power, the US. And the other say, no, we have to be a power in our own right, a pole of the multipolar world, just like US, China and Russia. And as long as we don't agree on that, we will always be an inconsistent player. Now, I think it makes sense, though, whichever role you think you're playing, to say, look, we have 30-odd European states with relatively small-scale forces. I mean, from an economic point of view, it makes absolutely no sense, right, not to align those more because it's totally not cost effective. The EU tried to do that since 1999, with a common security and defense policy, sadly, so that's now exactly 25 years. It sort of was my pet topic, and I started writing about it as a master student. My impact clearly has been nil because it's a total failure. We have not managed to really integrate to European defense efforts. But I remain convinced that it is necessary if we want to be able to defend our own territory, I would say in conventional terms I'm not talking about nuclear weapons. And I'm now arguing look, the problem is it's very easy for any European leaders to convince him or herself that in the end, the US cavalry will come. Because once you believe that, then nothing is urgent, right? Then we can go have lunch now. And since I'm Belgian have a glass of red wine or two maybe. But I think that's no longer good strategy, because we are not sure that the US cavalry will always come or will come in the numbers or at the time when we would like it to, right, because domestic evolutions there, and because of priority given to China and Asia. So, I would say let's then try within NATO to align the European contribution more hence my argument, so that the first line of conventional deterrence and defense is credible, even if mounted only by Europeans under the American nuclear umbrella, which I think is much less impacted by the shift in American strategy, but America's conventional posture is I think. This is my point of view. I'm not saying that this will happen. I think the NATO new force model goes in that direction because it says we want 300,000 troops in high state of readiness on the eastern border of NATO. 300,000 European troops, but it doesn't go so far as to say, with European enablers. The Americans still have to provide the strategic enabler. So, I would go further and change that as well. Costly, though it will be.

Daniel Treisman 39:31

Yes, well, maybe we'll get back to that. But I wanted to ask about the current situation between the EU and Russia. So you said the EU is not at war with Russia. But it's also not at peace with Russia. We I was just reading about this incredible reporting on Havana syndrome. So, The Insider, Der Spiegel, 60 minutes have documented that a secret unit within the military intelligence of Russia, the GRU, had operatives in various places all around the world who was apparently sending acoustic energy beams to incapacitate diplomats in US embassies around the world. And there�ve been attacks within Europe, in Frankfurt and in other places. At the same time, Russian hit squads have assassinated on multiple occasions, assassinating people within the borders of Europe. And Russia has engaged in massive efforts to influence elections in Europe and to influence politics. It has many people who have been bought, one could say, to influence politics within the European setting. So, how should we think about this current situation? If Europe's not at war with Russia and not at peace with Russia, you talked about the need for nuanced diplomacy. But it's not just a matter of finding areas on which we have a shared interest with Russia. There was a time when that seemed like the optimal strategy. What should we be doing? What should the EU be doing to defend itself? While not overreacting? I'd say.

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 41:37

I still like to make quite strong distinctions between war and peace. Because if we were at war with Russia, well then, on both sides, a whole other range of instruments would become available, and a whole other range of targets, right, then we would be doing other things. But we're not at war, though, clearly, Russia and other states is using illegal, what people called hybrids actions, undertaking hybrid actions against us, right, trying to subvert our decision making, basically. And I would say, what we are missing is a doctrine of how to deal with that. We deter classic military aggression. Can you deter hybrid actions against yourself? There's an element of it, because in NATO, we have set a hybrid action. NATO reserves the right to decide that the hybrid action is an act of war, and then respond through Article Five, but that's only in really grave cases, of course. So, I think there, we don't really know yet how to deal with that. Look at the recent UK US decision to attribute 2021 interference to China, right? And then we react by what we do kind of symbolic sanctions against two or three people and one entity or so. Is that enough? I think this requires a lot, a lot more debate. So, this is one of them. But I think currently with Russia what we have is more like a Cold War. I would say a mini Cold War because this does not determine world politics. But it's a Cold War between the West and Russia, and as long as there is no consensual solution to the war in Ukraine, this will remain the case. So, it's to a large extent, we have decoupled the economies. Diplomatic relations, of course, still exist. And it's very necessary to make sure that we manage the risk of escalation, but all cultural and academic exchange also has been cut. So, I think that will be the future for some time to come. And indeed, you could say, I mean, my point is that the EU should try to keep everybody within the system within the rules, but Russia has now put itself outside. So, the question for the future is, will there at some point be a more pragmatic regime again, post Putin? Or will there remain a spoiler for a long time? I think the good news is that, I mean they are a great power, so they can launch a war against Ukraine. We can't force them, we can hurt them, but we can't force them to stop it. But they're not as powerful as the Soviet Union. So, they're not powerful enough to undo the system. They can step out of the system, but they cannot undo the system. Certainly not if China does not really fully support.

Daniel Treisman 44:24

Okay, so if it's a Cold War, even if they're not as powerful as the Soviet Union, during the Cold War, the Western countries, NATO countries, were investing far more in their military. I mean, now, there's a huge fuss about getting up to 2% of GDP. During the Cold War, rates were higher three, maybe four, US much higher 7%. And, you know, the key to surviving a Cold War is making sure it doesn't become a hot war. For that you need very strong conventional deterrence. Right. And we don't have that on the borders with Russia in the Baltics. I mean, it would take days for Russian force to take over Estonia. Estonian army is 5000 men, no tanks, or until recently, no tanks. So, even if there's, it's sort of under the NATO umbrella, if Putin was willing to take that risk, it's not defended. So, I guess the question then is, is there the right, is there the necessary sense of urgency In Europe? I mean, Schultz has said 100 billion euros. That's amazing, but it's nowhere near enough. Right. And it has to be all the countries contributing a lot more if there is going to be this, this kind of European leg of the NATO defense, which you were advocating. Is there that urgency? What could create that urgency? Or are we just going to fail again?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 46:14

Yeah. What it's really difficult to see what could create an urgency because, in reality, every crisis that occurs, rather deepens the divide within Europe, right? Ukraine war happens, half the member states say, you'll see when things get serious, you need NATO and the Americans, so why bother about the whole European stuff? The other half says, yeah, you see, when things get serious, the only way to have an impact is by acting collectively, as EU. So, everything that happens basically deepens the divide. So, I don't see some external crisis that could easily provoke the consensus that the urgency, yes, but not the consensus on how to, how to deal with it, although now you could say the energy has really shifted to implementing the NATO new force model. And then the question is, can we, how to say, can the states who want to, in order to meet those targets, pool their efforts and organize to do So collectively, either on a buy, try on some trilateral basis and so on? But also using some of the new instrument like the European Defense Fund, we now have commissioned money to invest in defense industry. So, I think there is a trend there, everybody is increasing defense spending, even Belgium. But the sense of urgency is clearly closer, greater the closer people are to Russia, that that's obvious. But everybody everybody is increasing. Presenter is always find that a difficult discussion, right? I mean, clearly, many European countries were not spending enough money on defense relative to the size of the force. So, they had to spend, they were under spending, that's clear. Where do they need to reach? I would say you need to decide what do you need? You don't, it doesn't have to be necessarily a certain percentage of GDP, but that we need more than what we have now. I would agree, but my argument remains, if all European states spend more, even if we all would spend 3%, that everybody in their own corner, without aligning our effort, we would still remain totally dependent on US to actually use the Force. Unless we align our efforts and we collectively create the enablers that we need to use the force without needing a single American assets. And then you have credible European conventional deterrence in the east but also vis a vis our southern neighbors. I think having a credible Expeditionary Force also plays a deterrent role in relations towards our southern neighbors. But this will, as it stands now, we'll go again, it's moving, but again, rather slowly.

Daniel Treisman 48:59

I have lots more questions, but I want to open it up for questions from the audience.

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 49:06

Please, sir.

Audience Member 49:07[UBC1][UBC2]

I guess a couple of things. Is there a kind of a concerted number which we should be taking into account as far as the EU force is concerned? Where is it mainly focused on? Which country would you say? Or, is it an amalgamation that comes together once that is required? And secondly, I have a question of the euro. The, probably you know, it is going down, what is what is the natural kind of tendency of the stock market? Is that when the dollar erodes, the safe haven is yen? And why has the euro not come into the picture in spite of 25-30 years? Because this is the natural, kind of, flow. Asian markets open up then we come to the European markets, and the dollar market opens up, and then the alignment is to see how the Yen is floating rather than how the Euro is floating? And why do you think that kind of discrepancy is?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 50:04

Right. I'll do the unproffessorial [UBC3][RD4]thing and say on the second issue, I have no idea, outside my area, sorry about that. On the military question. So, there isn't really such a thing as EU forces. There are no NATO forces in the sense of NATO owned or EU owned. So, we're talking about Member States Armed Forces, then nobody is talking about the idea of an EU army or European army, meaning that you would replace national forces by a single force with people on the EU payroll[UBC5], that would be an EU army, right? That's nowhere being discussed. The idea is rather, you can enhance the the effectiveness of your forces, of your national forces, by by conceiving them as modules of larger multinational structures, right? To give you an example, Belgian land force for the moment. It's a land army of below 10,000. Right. So, it's one special operations regiment, paratroopers and special forces, and one brigade motorized, so wheeled vehicles. But that brigade will be soon fully equipped with French vehicles, and take on takeover French doctrine also. It's, of course, a splendid brigade. But it's not complete. There are sort of capabilities that you need around the brigade to make it employable in every scenario, that we don't have, for lack of skill. Think of air defense, yeah, okay, move a brigade into a combat zone without air defense tricky. But if you say, my Belgian brigade remains a Belgian brigade, with only Belgians in it, but at the same time, it becomes part, permanently, of a French division, then a division level, you can collectively organize all the capabilities around it, that you need to deploy it. And thus, you remain, your forces, basically, the core modules remain national, but they become part of bigger multinational composite forces. That's the idea. And what you see is that you have islands of that, a cluster here a cluster there. German Dutch army to army cooperation is very deep, Franco-Belgian army to army, Scandinavian air to air, Dutch-Belgian Navy to Navy, but it is not the generalized tendency yet.

Audience Member 52:28[UBC6]

Yes, so you spoke about how the EU has made an obligation to Georgia and Moldova, and that might not have been the right decision, but the decision has been made. And so now it's important to keep up with that obligation. And I just ask, kind of why is it so important for the EU to maintain that obligation? Instead of kind of recalculating and changing course?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 52:52

Well, I think to say, the offer of membership, so, candidate status, must mean something, right? Otherwise, you you you really erode, I think, the credibility of the EU, but also in the end, the credibility of its commitment towards its own members, right? If you're not, if you say this country is so important, that I see it as a future member of the club, and that means a whole, very complex and expensive process of adaptation. But then that country is now is aggressed, and you don't do anything, then how important is it truly? So, you really done erode totally, I think, the trust in any, any EU commitment. So, but but I, my feeling that in Brussels lots people that this this is only now sinking in, that you know, because in the past, you know this, this is new, right? In the past, of course, I said a enlargement is geopolitical. But but nobody was contesting it, right. So, it could be run as a sort of technical project, basically, of legal adaptation, economic adaptation that were done by the people in the commission, who knew how to do this, you know, go go through [UBC7][RD8]the whole, go through the manual, so to say, right? And the geopolitical dimension was very implicit. Now, it's only become very explicit. And we must realize, yeah, this has a bearing on our security. In this, you could, say directly linked also to our collective defense if you're NATO, because why do we feel confident to support Ukraine without fearing direct Russian retaliation against us? Because we have deterrence to NATO, right? And it will be the same for Georgia and Moldova. But that deter, NATO deterrence, is credible, because the US happens to be a member of NATO. The more the US reorganizes its defense posture, and focuses on Asia, the more Europeans we will have to beef up our contribution to NATO, to make sure that conventional deterrence remains as credible as always. Nuclear deterrence is there, but in your scenario, if the Russians put the 1000 troops in Estonia, we're not going to nuke Moscow right away. So, you need something in between and the in between bit will have to be increasingly provided by by us, that that's the huge challenge that I see. Please.

Audience Member 55:20[UBC9]

Two questions. First, what's the EU�s view of the BRICS or BRICS plus attempt to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency? And second, is the EU had any initiatives intended to enhance maritime cooperation with India to improve maritime security in the western Indian Ocean?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 55:47

Thanks, yeah. The first one, again, this is somewhat outside my area. But you could say that there are mixed feelings. I mean, nobody would be happy with the BRICS countries replacing the dollar with their currencies. But at the same time, there is always some bad feeling about US sometimes abusing the power of the dollar, also vis a vis us right? So, and the whole notion of unilateral universal sanctions and so on, extraterritorial sanctions, and so on so forth, weighs very heavily on the relationship. That's a big irritant within that, I mean, overall, of course, very, very deep and good relationship. But that's an irritant, but the solution is not obviously, the BRICS. As such, I am not too, I mean, the enlargement of the BRICS,I did not see that coming, is really interesting. But I don't think we should be very alarmist about it. Because, again, in a multipolar world, it's quite normal, that countries are a part of different clubs. So, it's [UBC10]not because some countries have not joined the BRICS that we have lost them. You know, again, there are issues which we will come in India to get to your second question, is a case in point, right. It's in the BRICS. It's also in the quad with you, Australia [UBC11]and Japan. But EU India is a tricky one. I mean, there's first, I think, on both sides, a lack of of true [UBC12]knowledge, maybe a lack of interest to some to some degree even. There's very little Indi expertise, [UBC13]I think, in Europe, certainly not in Brussels, but also it seems anecdotal, but sitting where I sit in a Brussels-based think tank, which Asian embassies are active, right, China, of course, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, even Bangladesh, never India. Hardly ever see or hear anything from the, from the Indian Embassy. So, I think there's a lot that could be done there. Because the relationship we have is mostly focused on economics. I think there's a lot that could be done in security and defense fields. But I don't think seen from India, what the EU that the EU has a lot to offer, I think in their minds. And to some extent that that that's true. But I agree, maritime security would be would be one. There is some coordination, in the sense that the EU naval operation in the Indian Ocean has been there since 2008, if I'm not mistaken. Atlanta coordinates with the other navies, India but also, but also China. But so yeah, that's really a partnership that I think we should try to deepen, again, in this framing of this, a multipolar world, is something is actually a global world power, India, but it's a really important regional power. And we have many interests in common, I would say.

Audience Member 58:48[UBC14]

In the recently published book by Emmanuel Todd, French journalist, The Defeat of the West, he says that the terrorist act of the Nord Stream gas was done by the US and Norway. And do you know anything about it? And is that true? Which brings me to my question of, you know, what is the EU, or what is the, why is there Cold War, exactly? I'm coming from Serbia and Macedonia, which have not been accepted in the EU for vastly economic reasons. And I'm very surprised that Georgia is asked to be part of it. I'm also coming from Switzerland, which is starting to flood the site to describe neutrality in their constitution because they're being forced to not really be neutral by events and they don't want to, or at least some parts, we'll see how, how it goes. But I'm just, this kind of, I think I have a solution for everything: let's get Russia into the EU, all of it will stop. I mean, I know this is crazy and will decrease. Why? Because of NATO, obviously, because of the US, but not necessarily because of [unintelligible].

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 1:00:16

That I disagree, because I would say, Russia is, in reality, not part of Europe, it's a neighbor of Europe. And that is why it cannot be a member. Half of it, you know, we once had the Russian chief of defense at Egmont, I mean, in temporary non suspect, I'm talking 2006 or so, we have a really long winded speech in Russian went on for an hour and a half or so. And the very end spoke that three sentences, which I guess were his message, he said, Russia is Russia, Russia is not Europe, Russia is not Asia, Russia is Russia, four sentences. And I think that's exactly it. You could argue that in the past, let's say, from Peter the Great to Stalin, Russia was one of the European powers and in all the European wars that were in one coalition or the other, right, but there are no more European powers, there is the EU. So, the core of the European security architecture is the EU that keeps the peace among its members. And around that as a second layer, you have NATO. The Russia can never be a member of the EU in the sense of having decision making powers, because it's simply too large, and it would totally undo the balance that we now have in the EU, it is just not possible. So, all I hear people talking about post war maybe needs a new Pan European security architecture, yes, in the sense of an OSCE like thing. But a structure, in the sense that NATO that Russia is a member of it, and so also has decision making powers about what happens in Belgium, and vice versa, is just not possible, because that's how we say in geopolitical terms, Russia is not European, I would say it's a neighbor of Europe, and the Russians have to decide they want good neighborly relations. And then we have to find a deep institutional format for that, I would say reactivate the NATO Russia Council and find a new EU Russia format. But if not, then we remain stuck in that, in that cold war. I fully accept that that we also made some some mistakes[UBC15][RD16]. For me, the 2008 NATO decision to say that Georgia and Ukraine could join the Alliance was a mistake. But, but yeah[UBC17][RD18]. Nobody forced Russia, if it felt it was losing influence in Georgia and Ukraine, to restore its influence by going to war. Could have done it another way as well. Maybe one more thing on the Nord Stream point. I mean, I work with open sources, right. But all the people I talk to in various UN NATO countries, in the security sphere, they would at least say that they don't know. And if they don't know, because so it means that they're not pointing the finger at Russia. Because if that would be clear cut that it would be Russia, they would just say it. But the answer the answer always is they don't know � Well, or somebody else. But But clearly[UBC19][RD20], they're not pointing the finger at Russia, which leaves some ambiguity. It leads back to the point about how do you deter hybrid threats, sort of sabotage? And it was quickly, how to say, pushed aside, because in the end was not on land, but underwater. Makes it a bit easier to say, okay, let's not attach too grave consequences for them. It's a really tricky balancing act. You cannot give whoever, but certainly not Russia, the impression that as long as it's a hybrid action, you get away with it, because they will always push a little bit further. But you don't want to trigger total escalation either. So, this sort of thing remains strictly. And Swiss neutrality, yes. I think the problem is military neutrality is still relatively easy to maintain, right. Within the geo-economic sphere, how do we remain neutral? Almost impossible, I would say. And that's the problem for, for Switzerland. In geo-economically speaking, it's really tricky to stay, to stay neutral. You can stay military neutral. That's easy. Don't join NATO, you don't join any military operations. But, but yeah[UBC21][RD22], if if all countries around you are freezing Russian assets, what do you do? Right, then you're doing a truce. Yeah, but I mean, you see, but then you're no longer, than neutrality is in a way not an option. If you don't freeze them, some would argue you support Russia; if you freeze them, Russia would argue, oh, you've chosen side against us. So, my [UBC23]point is just in economic and geo-economic terms, neutrality is much more difficult to maintain than in classic military, military [UBC24]terms. I'm not arguing that necessarily Switzerland should change its policy. I don't know enough about it. But I can see the dilemma, is just my point.

Audience Member 1:05:04[UBC25]

Two-part question for you. I think it was maybe the Treaty of Lisbon that paved the way for a sort of the official creation of a European Commissioner for foreign affair, foreign insecurity policy, which was not initially envisioned, at least at the earlier stages of the EU�s development. Could you speak to how successful that position, or not successful you think that position has been? In this area of security, that's also officially part of the portfolio. I mean, obviously, I, I don't, it doesn't seem that person in that office doesn't seem to have a lot to say on that topic. Should there be an EU commissioner for defense and national security, the way the foreign portfolio was created 15 or so years ago? Would that be any more successful in trying to organize the 27 member-states into a more cohesive and unified force? And then, you know, one of the problems for Ukraine right now is simply the lack of munitions and the lack of hardware. You know, that the US Congress has delays around this or clear problem on the battlefield in Ukraine. You see the Czechs, Europeans tried to put together efforts to get, to get, to get munitions to Ukraine, but it's limited. What is the opposite? We Europeans are very mercantilist. I mean, the whole EU was created with an economic and commercial interest, as well as, you know, let's have peace in Europe orientation. You know, there's plenty of economic benefits that come from having a military industrial complex, which Europe clearly lacks, is, is there a future for that? In the EU, as you see it? And I guess that sort of ties back to my first part of my question, you know, does the EU need to have an institutional change that paves the way for some of this?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 1:07:12

I mean, on to start from the second point, defense industry, or the commission has now sort of assumed that authority. Some would say a creative interpretation of the treaties that it has. So, the European Defense Fund, they can fund defense industry, and it's within the portfolio of all of the commissioners. So, you're under a commission system with, how to say, more supranational decision making, but the money is still relatively limited. But I'm optimistic about this, because the commission is not entirely dependent on the member states to act and you can steer, steer that policy. Clearly, to say we have, we have cut back our defense industry too much. So, the defense industrial base is not broad enough to support the force that we have. The problem now is that the funds industry companies don't want to invest in a large, if they don't have guarantees for long term orders. And so not just like now, or now next year for Ukraine, but over the next 10 years or so, and governments seem unwilling to give those guarantees, although I would argue that demand is obviously there. Because it's not just that we have no ammunition for Ukraine, we also have no ammunition for ourselves. So, there is an enormous amount to be, to be produced an ordered, but the click hasn't really, hasn't really happened yet. To bring that to the first question, would that be better if we have a Defense Commissioner? It's a bit nominally bet. I think it's a bit creating false expectations. And because if people hear Defense Commissioner, they will hear, oh, it's like a defense minister. But yeah, the EU Commission does not decide where you deploy troops or even which kind of troops who has. As the treaty is now, it can only deal with defense industry. So, it would actually be a Defense Industry Commissioner. I would be in favor of moving the whole defense and foreign policy bit, which is now intergovernmental, also to the Commission side. So, you decide by majority instead of by unanimity, then you can go further, right? But that's not now on the table. You could do that, but you will change, you have to change the treaty. And eventually we will have to change the treaty. Again, it's a multi-year [UBC26]process. But you can't do that now. What you could do now is start, after the elections, the process of treaty review, which means that for the moment, you have to work with the consensus-based decision making. So, whoever has that post of High Representative for Foreign Security Policy. Yeah, he or she is not really the chief of the 27 foreign ministers and Defense Ministers; it is sort of Primus inter Pares, at most, right. And he or she can never make policy against the national colleagues. That will never work. But if you have an active person there, that can sort of drive the others and try to corral them, and also use the mandate� and Solana, the first incumbent of that position, did very well� to always push the boundaries a little bit further. And to always, Solano was very good in his first term, to always himself go just a little bit outside his competences, actually. But doing something eminently useful, and so he was able to craft to craft a position. But yeah, in the end, whoever has the post, as long as you don't change the fact that it's unanimity based, nothing much will, will [UBC27][RD28]change in my view.

Audience Member 1:10:37

Take it further for me to talk. Just, can you imagine a scenario in which, if Trump's comes comes back to power and isolationist foreign policy adopted by US here? European countries decide to follow individual foreign policy instead of getting more integrated together, given the multipolar nature of things, and also the cost of confrontation with Russia, China and other regional powers?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 1:11:08

Really good question. I mean, what you saw last time, and what you mentioned now again, is that is it always that couple of European countries have tried to buy individual insurance from the United States. Right, and by creating the individual bonds, also, under the first, dare I say, hopefully the last, Trump administration. So, you saw that Poland at a time, for example. So, if Trump wins the election, you will certainly see that again, to some extent. But will he be interested? Does he care, right? I don't know. To think of it out of the box is very provocative, but I sometimes say to those in very east of Europe, who continue to put all of their trust in the US and NATO. I say okay, but I know that you are an Atlanticist, but how Atlanticist [UBC29]will the US remain and its decision makers, right? And if the US is faced with, let's think really out of the box, if the US is faced with a really big strategic dilemma, and with a two-front war, let's say hypothetically, China, and Russia, right. Where is the red line for the US in Europe? Is it the border between Poland and Belarus, or if push comes to shove, is it the border between Germany and Poland? Now what is considered vital by the US in such such a [UBC30]scenario? So, I would think it more logical that Europeans would, the first layer now would be to trust ourselves, and then in addition, continue to invest in the transatlantic partnership. But the problem is, we do not trust ourselves. Because if you ask any Finn or Pole if Russia invaded, who will come and save you? Everyone will say the United States, they will not say France or Germany, they will say the United States, even though historically speaking, that's not the experience, right? In 1914, or 1939, the US did not declare war, France and Britain declared, declared war. The US might well have never entered the first world war if it hadn't been for rather clumsy German strategy. It would probably always have entered Second World War, but later if it hadn't been for, for Pearl Harbor. So, history does not predict the future. But I mean, I would say if I were European, I would not, not bet onlym only on that horse, but I'm sure if Trump wins, some European leaders who feel, ideologically affinities with him, say, would immediately rush to go and meet and do their bilateral thing, you know. Viktor Orb�n, of course, would probably be first, first in [UBC31]line. And then sadly, we have our own, our own people [UBC32]who think, think[UBC33] very much like that. And it's a challenge in every European country� the rise of right wing or extreme right-wing [UBC34]populist parties. Please.

Audience Member 1[UBC35]:14:05

On Thailand issues, what are the stakes for European countries? And my second question is, which country will be responsible if the EU will try to enforce some assumptions on China?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 1:14:26

Economic sanctions on China depends on what? I mean, you mean, related to the Taiwan case, I mean? Look, my argument is, I mean, militarily, Europe cannot deter China from doing anything, clearly. But economically, we have some deterrent power. I mean, my position is that the EU should make it clear that if China ever uses force to change the status quo in Taiwan, that that ends the economic relationship as we know it. That's my view. Relatives, I think, that I can imagine that some governments would say, ha, how many Taiwanese are there? 23 million? How many Chinese are there? 1.3 billion? And this 23 million, they already speak Chinese. Are we really going to risk our prosperity for 23 million Taiwanese? So that might be the reality. Not, not my not my position. Of course, what will really determine a lot is how the US will react, right? And for US, Taiwan is important in geopolitical terms, and as one part of US alliance system, right? For us, it�s much more difficult as a principal issue of being against use of force, of the potential destruction of a democracy, and then of the economic, of the economic impact, of course. But so, how to say. So, I think the real significance seen from Brussels of Taiwan issue is not so much Taiwan itself, apart from the semiconductors. But it's rather that, if this were to happen, Chinese use of force, the repercussions for the whole of world politics and the potential of a great power war, in which we would then be sucked sucked into it. But one in and of itself. Yeah, is there's not so many EU interest directly at stake, I would, I would argue. It's true, we ask any European leaders to say something about Taiwan, they will all say, oh, it's an island, they have semiconductors, and there's something going on with with China. So, I don't think usually the knowledge is so so very deep, sadly.

Audience Member 1:16:49[UBC36]

I have a question regarding the Trump issue of potentiality, that next year he is going to be in power. Because I was reading in January, this scenario of all the people in the last year, the last six years, he has already gathered for being in power, and also what he says already now. And the reaction that some leaders in Europe already take that very serious, and he is not in power yet, you know. I mean, the follow up, I give you in February was about what you just talked about, the military considerations. So, my question is, I mean, maybe there is not many speeding readers in the world. But obviously, the Europeans are more sharp, sharply aware of the danger that could possibly go out to the world. Do you see anything that could be done to make the Americans more aware that it would be dangerous, maybe, for them too? That's my question.

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 1:17:58

That I think is beyond me to say. Yeah, I mean, when I give talks, especially for the for civil society groups, one of the current, the recurring questions always, what is the biggest threat? And my answer is always the biggest threat is internal, its domestic. I can definitely imagine, you know, China taking the EU down or, or Russia destroying the EU, but we could easily destroy ourselves. And I think the same applies to the United States, the US could destroy itself, or to destroy its position as a global power by being becoming totally embroiled in a chaotic domestic dispute. And the same potential exists in in Europe. So, I'm not just focusing on you here. That's sort of my line that I tried to use when I give talks, talks, back home, right, but I wouldn't dare to presume how to advise you how to deal with this year. Thank you.

Daniel Treisman 1:19:03

What about Orb�n[UBC37]? You mentioned, Viktor Orb�n. This, is the EU now changing its internal rules to make it less vulnerable to blackmail?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 1:19:12

Yeah. I mean, we have. It was a long and painful process, because nobody ever thought that, that member states would sort of go back right, and become less democratic again. Although if you think about it, look to the 30s. There's no guarantee that a democracy stays democratic, right? But, so yeah, there are no ways of, how to say, force countries to abide by the rules, although it remains difficult, especially if you have more than one country that sort of, of the same, follows the same line and then they support each other, because in many cases, you need unanimity. So, the previous Polish government was always supporting Hungary and the other way, the other way around. So, it remains really, it remains really difficult if you have a government in Europe that really goes against the treaties, is not so easy. What happens in France after Macron, right? Nobody knows, because Macron basically destroyed the political landscape as we knew it until then. What will it look like after him, if ever the French extreme right wins the presidency? How do you deal with that, right? Because Hungary, with all respect, but it's Hungary, right? So, it cannot tilt the balance of power in the EU. If you had, if you would have a Orb�n type leader in France, then you're, already you could say with Milan in Italy, very borderline, right. But the core of it remains France and Germany, really, I would say can be in the middle. So yeah, there is, there is interesting.

Daniel Treisman 1:21:05

Is it still a unanimity rule on all the important votes, or?

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop 1:21:08

I don't know the details of that, it depends on on [UBC38]the area. There are parts of that can be done by, by, by a majority, indeed, depends on the specific area. So, in different ways, there are ways that you can use the money that the members would have to receive to say, well, you will not receive it, unless. And that remains a complicated process, but it can now, can now be [UBC39]done. But it still requires the courage of the other member states to want to do it. Rather, instead of rather saying oh, well, you know, do we really care as long as it's the internal to, right? Internal to Hungary. But Hungarians are really, very provocative always. Orb�n is always breaking consensus also on foreign policy issues, often issues that you say what is the specific Hungarian interest here? I think usually there isn't one, he just does this to prove that he's a force to be, to be reckoned with.

Daniel Treisman 1:22:03

Any other questions? Okay, well, please join me in thanking Prof. Dr. Biscop.

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