2014 Security Jam

Peace, Security & Defence

This is the third time that the Security & Defence Agenda has organised its biennial Security Jam, yet already this unique open forum for discussing the world’s most pressing security challenges has become a landmark for policymakers and experts around the world.

The 2014 edition comes at a time of heightened tension in the wake of the momentous events that have shaken the international security landscape in recent months, primarily Russia’s confrontation with the West over Ukraine and the new threat posed by the so-called Islamic State organisation in the Middle East.

Early in the Jam, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and VIP jammer, described the Ukraine crisis as an ‘era-defining event.’ It is forcing a fundamental rethink of geopolitical certainties in ways that were unthought of when the last Jam was held two years ago.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its intervention in eastern Ukraine have rocked the post-Cold War order and pushed NATO’s core territorial defence role to the fore after years when the alliance has focused on out-of-area operations, like those in Afghanistan, Libya and the Balkans. The European Union, which has long sought to deepen and expand its partnership and cooperation agreements, suddenly finds itself forced to impose sanctions on Moscow — and face Russian counter-sanctions. As Anna Fotyga, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence, put it, ‘the era of dialogue with Russia is over.’

Ways in which NATO and the EU can best protect their members from the threat posed by Putin’s Russia — from boosting conventional forces on the territory of eastern allies, to developing tactics against the type of ‘hybrid’ warfare tactics used so effectively by Moscow in Crimea, while securing Europe’s energy supplies and countering Kremlin propaganda campaigns — all featured heavily in Jam discussions.

Of course, Russia’s new revanchism was not the only new threat to emerge since 2012. The sudden conquests of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq took the West by surprise and threaten stability across the region. The U.S. and other Western nations have launched air strikes to counter the radical group’s advance, but the success of the so-called Islamic State has raised deep questions about the effectiveness of a decade of Western attempts at nation-building in Iraq, rekindled debate on the future of the Kurds, and injected new urgency into the debate on regional cooperation in the Middle East.

The large numbers of foreign fighters recruited to the ranks of the so-called Islamic State have also blurred the lines between external and domestic threats, creating a whole range of new counter-terrorism challenges, not least the urgent need to answer the question of how the so-called Islamic State’s ultraviolent message is able to win over so many young hearts and minds in the West.

The Ukraine crisis and the success of the so-called Islamic State were common threads running through much of the threeday Jam, throwing into relief other long-standing concerns, principally the agreement of NATO Allies to upgrade European defence budgets to the 2% of GDP target while nations struggle to pull out of the economic crisis.

The place of China in the new global security architecture, the prospects for Afghanistan as NATO’s role morphs from combat into training and support, hopes for greater NATO-EU cooperation as new leaders take over at both organisations, the EU’s role as a security player, and the post-Edward Snowden debate on security vs privacy in the cyber domain all helped to ensure that the Security Jam was more relevant than ever.

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