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Europe: Sea, Land or Air? Strategic Priorities

An initial answer would state that it depends more on whether Europe wants to execute more Peacekeeping operations or to counter the Russian modernization and its increasing assertive attitudes on the Baltic, Eastern Europe and the High Arctic (Klein & Pester, 2014Perry & Andersen, 2012). And Russia could wage a contest with Europe for controlling the newly discovered resources at the Arctic, using its newly modernized and increased naval assets (Laruelle, 2011Zysk, 2010).

Europe then, should increase its naval assets. It could fight piracy and terrorism among other threats, protect resources and commerce, and even provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (Swartz, 2011). Navies can take the land and air assets where they are needed, if Europe prioritizes the execution of peacekeeping and assistance missions abroad. But if Europe wants to focus more on Russia, the sea domain could perform some tasks such as to protect Europe from seaborne attacks, protect trade and even block the potential adversary’s ports and coasts, contest the dominion of seas and oceans (Artic and Mediterranean), act as a nuclear deterrent backyard, and support the armies (Swartz, 2011). Sea power could base an “anti – access and sea denial” strategy to suffocate Russia for the worst of the cases, and acting as a “flank force” supporting the defensive operations of the armies.

In turn, land combat systems – from infantry to armoured divisions – are important for the immediate defence of European territory. They demonstrate the resolution of every society to achieve a certain political outcome and, they can capture, occupy, hold and even retake territory (Gray, 2008). In the event of an increased Russian aggressive attitude, the land power can deter or take most of the weight of the defence. If priority is set for peacekeeping, land warfare assets can meet the objectives and assist both government and civil community and enforce political agreements.

However, if naval power can take troops abroad for peacekeeping operations or act as a supportive strategic branch for defence, and if land power can ensure peace on the assisted countries abroad or defend Europe’s territory, air superiority provides a protective umbrella over these forces. It decides the strategic outcome of operations in the battlefield, and can act as a fast and long – ranged train of supplies and delivers support for the operations of both land and sea (USAF, 2011Lambeth, 1999). Thus the close air support and naval aviation along with aircraft carriers are vital to control the battlefield.

Through strong air power – from the single and smallest drone to the most sophisticated satellite – Europe can gain supremacy over every scenario and for either territorial defence or peacekeeping operations, thus being able to drive the strategic events to its benefit through this particular domain. Because of this, Europe should prioritize on that one. But it is important to mention that air power should be gained and executed with a strong cooperation and coordination, along with a joint mentality (Dobrowolski, 2013). The other domains are, in the end, interdependent, and cannot prevail by themselves alone.

*Cover image ‘TLP C130 EUFOR ET 2000N‘ by Rock Cohen


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