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Culture, the missing link to cooperation?

Culture, the missing link to cooperation?As promised, here are my thoughts and reflections on the 2012 Security Jam. First of all, over this weeklong discussion, the numbers have been quite impressive with over 15.000 logins, 3.000 posts, and experts from 110 countries. These facts give an idea of the extent and depth of the discussions taking place in the eight established forums. Naturally, I will only review and express my thoughts based on the forum that I was monitoring, International Cooperation in Capabilities. Considering the economic climax faced by the members of the Euro-Atlantic community, this forum was quite important and raised central questions around several themes: Pooling & Sharing (P&S), Smart Defense (SD), and NATO-EU duplication.

Coincidently, in this context of international discussion on how to foster and increase the P&S, the European defense ministers led by the Director of the European Defense Agency, Claude-France Arnould, met on March 22 in Brussels to discuss the P&S and defense spending. Following the meeting, it was reported that Ms. Arnould declared that the numbers were worrisome. Since 2006, the budget on research and technology (R&T) has decreased by 22%. The research & development (R&D) and R&T are crucial for any states wanting to play a role on the international stage. According to the NSF, the US, for example, has spent 55% of its entire R&D budget in defense representing almost $85.2 bn. The two charts illustrate the rise in spending in R&D.

Culture, the missing link to cooperation?Culture, the missing link to cooperation?

According to the EDA, the EU has spent six times less than the US on R&D. In the case of the Europeans, the P&S is more important than ever and the only solution considering the economic climax. Along with many experts, I saw the financial crisis back in 2008 as a great opportunity to foster the pooling of capabilities and deepening the integration in defense among EU Member States. Unfortunately, another trend has appeared; EU Member States have limited their desire to continue this defense experiment. Afghanistan, Libya, Ivory Coast and the Arab Spring are the most obvious examples.

Back to the forum and the JAM discussions, several recurring arguments have emerged and can be grouped into five arguments. First, the concept of national sovereignty is the elephant in the room. Cooperation is already difficult to attain in low politics, so it is even harder to establish in high politics. One reason is the fear of free-riders. Second, the problem of trust is a considerable point of discussion. The issue of trust is not only a national problem but also an industrial one. Oftentimes, cooperation in R&D does not occur between corporations and agencies due to lack of trust. Third, the identification of specific and common threats – some experts encouraged the use of the term ‘risks’ – would boost cooperation as well as contribute to deeper P&S and SD, ultimately resulting in a process that is threat-centered. Fourth, it appears that the pooling of capabilities is much easier when powerful states accept to undertake a common mission and are committed to a similar engagement. This was the case in Libya, but not in Afghanistan. Fifth, in the case of the EU, in the long run the path for further cooperation could go in two directions: either, creation of a supranational council overseeing defense questions (advised by one expert); or the creation of Eurodefense group based on the idea of the Eurogroup (my expectation). During one of my interviews with a French expert, I asked, “how can the Europeans improve their cooperation in defense?” He replied, “who pays decides.” This attitude is representative of the approach to European security and defense in Berlin, London and Paris. For such reason, I tend to believe that a Eurodefense group could be the best option. Libya exemplifies such approach as Paris and London cooperated with Washington through NATO. This is not a usual case of pure multilateralism, but more of a 2+1 operation.

Culture, the missing link to cooperation?The best conclusion, however, can be found in culture. One of the experts claimed that Smart Defense was not doing security on the cheap, but rather doing more with the budgets and capabilities available. Ultimately, he argued that SD is in fact a mindset. I cannot agree more with such argument. The creation of a new culture can be achieved between historical partners like the members of the Euro-Atlantic community. Discussion and meetings are the only way to create a common culture, which may be the only viable strategy to enforce compliance and boost trust. It will be interesting to see if NATO leadership and NATO Members decide to follow this path in Chicago.


Chart 1: NSF

Chart 2: EDA

Picture 1: French Aircraft Carrier. Source:

Picture 2: US Mission to NATO



Maxime H.A. Larivé

Maxime Larivé holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and European Politics from the University of Miami (USA). He is currently working at the EU Center of Excellence at the University of Miami as a Research Associate. His research focus on the questions of the European Union, foreign policy analysis, security studies, and European security and defense policy. Maxime has published several articles in the Journal of European Security, Perceptions, and European Union Miami Analysis as well as World Politics Review.