Security practitioners discuss state of European security

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From left, Lars Erik London, Richard Froh and Bert Versmessen discuss the current security issues within Europe at the CLA on Monday night.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

Three European security practitioners gathered Monday at the College of Liberal Arts to discuss how security relations among European countries have fared in the last 25 years.

After 9/11, the international community began to group organized crime and terrorism together, according to Lars-Erik Lundin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy.

“Terrorists organize large funds, use cyber Internet, etc., and this further broadens and complicates the concept of security,” Lundin said.

The 2014 Ukrainian revolution is an example of hybrid warfare, a strategy that blends conventional and cyber warfare, said Richard Froh, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations. 

The members of NATO say an attack on one ally is an attack on all, but it is no longer clear if something is an attack, according to Froh.

“Is a cyber attack an attack?” Froh said. “Would that then call up collective defense? How do you counter that? How do you fight propaganda to reassure your own people and respond to adversaries?”

NATO guidelines state two percent of Gross Domestic Product should be spent on defense. Now, according to Froh, only three of the 27 NATO members — the U.S., the United Kingdom and Estonia — are meeting this stipulation.

“There is an importance in helping others develop defense capacities,” Froh said. “NATO needs to work with others. We are part of the solution, but we are not the solution. We all need to work together.”

The security situation is in good condition because the European Union as a peace project has succeeded, according to Bert Versmessen, assistant to the Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service. 

“In the 25 years since the Cold War, we have successfully integrated some of our former enemies into democratic market economies,” Versmessen said.

Regardless of the democratic integration, Europe continues to have a deteriorating security environment, Versmessen said. 

“For the first time since World War II, there has been a change in ordinance by force, such as the phenomenon of domestic fighters and the rise of extremist groups,” Versmessen said. “We have to let this sink in.”

As international organizations face conflict from multiple sides, the “my threat is more important than yours” dynamic becomes a problem, according to Vermessen.

“The unity is there, but we need to maintain it,” Versmessen said.