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BIPR | New Challenges to Transatlantic and European Security
New Challenges to Transatlantic and European Security

February 7, 2022 - 18:30

Antonio Missiroli, University of Leiden; NATO's Defense College in Rome; Sciences Po Paris

Event Recap

Professor Antonio Missiroli discusses present and future challenges to European and Transatlantic Security. Missiroli begins the presentation with observations regarding the rapidly-evolving nature of regional security issues. He then defines new concepts and terminology that are dominating European security discussions at present, and then ties them to the current issues of the day. He then concludes with the state of cross-European cooperation and implications for the myriad security challenges that face the continent.

First, Professor Missiroli points out the differences in issues dominating the news cycle between fall 2021 and spring 2021, that is, from a focus on the migration issue between Belarus and Poland to the current crisis on the Ukraine border. He does this to show the constantly changing nature of security challenges across the continent of Europe and how political attention shifts quickly from one issue to another.

New terminology has emerged as a consequence of security debates over the last few years, and Missiroli ties these new terms to present issues in Europe. He gives special importance to the term "weaponization." He first notes its conception in reference to American anti-terrorist efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan ("the weaponization of everything"). Furthermore, he explains how its use came into the European security lexicon as terrorism became a fundamental issue in the mid-2010s. The weaponization of social media, the internet, and other elements that were used in attacks were not limited to this, however. Missiroli ties the process of weaponization to the rise in populist movements, social media and interference in elections, and even responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Next, Missiroli discusses the idea of "hybridization," particularly the combined use of military and non-military means below the threshold of war. He begins this discussion with the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. Hezbollah used a combination of tactics from those in conventional warfare and those below the threshold, such as communication technology, to combat the Israeli military. He then links the concept to Europe, specifically noting the Russian use of election interference, military deception, cyber conflict, and other tactics i.a. during the 2014 Ukraine crisis. The tactics used by Russia rekindled the notion of hybrid-warfare within the NATO and European security community. Finally, Missiroli ties these two concepts together, that is, the weaponization of the internet, social media, and other cyber tactics combined with hybrid campaigns. He considers whether and to what extent these actions can be attributed, responded to, and whether they even constitute acts of war – albeit "by other means".

Missiroli ends the discussion with a variety of lessons learned. He argues that weaponized hybrid hostile activities will constitute a cornerstone of future conflict as well as sheer destabilization operations, and that they cannot be easily prevented or deterred. Furthermore, he underscores the importance that democracies must place on maintaining their democratic values and principles in the face of such attacks, despite the higher levels of exposure and vulnerability that they induce More tangibly, he notes present negotiations within and between NATO and the European Union on upgrading capacity and formulating a coherent doctrine to respond to emerging challenges. He states that these two organizations have had success, but shortcomings as well while their capabilities and competences are potentially complementary and could be combined more effectively.

Full Audio:

New Challenges to Transatlantic and European Security
Supported by the Associazione di cultura e di studio italo-americana Luciano Finelli Friends of the Johns Hopkins University

hosted by Professor Michael G. Plummer

Antonio Missiroli
University of Leiden; NATO's Defense College in Rome; Sciences Po Paris

The event will be held in hybrid mode. SAIS Europe students, faculty, and staff are allowed to attend in person in the Penthouse. External guests are welcome to participate by registering for the online webinar using the link below.

Antonio Missiroli is a Non-Resident Associate Fellow at NATO, and until 31 October 2020 was NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges.

Prior to joining NATO, Missiroli was the Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) in Paris (2012-17). Previously, he was Adviser at the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) of the European Commission (2010-2012); Director of Studies at the European Policy Centre in Brussels (2005-2010), and Senior Research Fellow at the W/EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris (1998-2005). He was also Head of European Studies at CeSPI in Rome (1994-97) and a Visiting Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford (1996-97).

Missiroli is a professional journalist and has also taught at Bath, Trento, Boston University, Johns Hopkins SAIS, the College of Europe (Bruges) and Sciences Po (Paris). Missiroli holds a PhD degree in Contemporary History from the Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa) and a Master of International Public Policy degree from Johns Hopkins SAIS.
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