In the wake of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, which has escalated since February 2022, the foundations of the security architecture in Europe have been profoundly shaken. The geopolitical and geostrategic implications of this war have compelled the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to reassess their security and foreign policy engagement with Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus region. Providing military support to Ukraine has become the top priority in response to the conflict. This has involved the establishment of logistical and financial arrangements to ensure a continuous supply of military equipment to Ukraine. Driven primarily by Ukraine’s urgent needs, the scope of Western military support has expanded, encompassing alliances such as the Leopard tanks and more recently the F-16 coalition of countries. Despite the commitments made at the 2023 Vilnius NATO summit to enhance interoperability, establish a NATO–Ukraine Council, sustain the delivery of non-lethal equipment, and establish a NATO–EU coordination platform, bilateral initiatives for arming Ukraine continue to be of paramount importance.
In response to the ongoing war, the EU has deployed an additional military mission in Ukraine, complementing the existing civilian mission established in 2014. The Military Assistance Mission Ukraine (EUMAM) has been established with the primary objective of enhancing the capabilities of the Ukrainian national army. This mission distinguishes itself from other EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions by receiving immediate initial financial support through the European Peace Facility (EPF). This dedicated financial backing provides a more focused and specific budgetary framework for the mission’s operations. The EUMAM’s activities are centred around providing advisory assistance for military planning and preparation, as well as conducting live firing training. However, it is important to note that the scope of EUMAM extends beyond these areas. The mission also covers other critical needs of the Ukrainian army, including logistics, communication, maintenance, and repair.
Simultaneously, the EU has been actively involved in endeavours to stabilize the Eastern neighbourhood, both in close proximity to Ukraine and beyond, where Russia strives to uphold a favourable status quo that undermines the interests of countries in the region. In response to interstate disputes in the South Caucasus, particularly between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the EU has taken steps to deter potential border clashes. The establishment of the EU Monitoring Mission at the Armenian frontier with Azerbaijan (EUMA) exemplifies the EU’s intent to use preventive measures against certain conflicts in its vicinity. In the face of the numerous war crimes and violations of international law perpetrated by Russia against Ukraine, Russia’s international authority has significantly deteriorated. As a result, Armenia sought the assistance of the EU, with the support of France, to find alternative sources of security. This was done to address the imbalances arising from Russia’s declining geopolitical influence and to counter the assertiveness of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.
Another form of EU interventionism aimed at addressing the consequences of Russian militaristic revanchism in the region is the Mission for Partnership in Moldova (EUPM). This mission is designed to foster resilience against Russian interference. Moldova has been grappling with political struggles between a Western and Ukraine-oriented government and pro-Russian political proxies who seek to exploit socioeconomic repercussions to incite mass protests and early elections, potentially triggering a chain reaction of geopolitical consequences. To advocate for an EU mission under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the Moldovan government has highlighted the Russian threat. In different circumstances, such a civil mission would have likely faced rejection, even by the EU, which already oversees a technical mission at the Moldovan–Ukrainian border (EUBAM) tasked with monitoring customs and trade flows linked to the Transnistrian breakaway region.
This edition of the bulletin aims to delve into the recent EU investments in regional security within its neighbourhood by examining the establishment of new civilian missions in specific Eastern Partnership countries grappling with security challenges. It provides an overview of the profiles of the five civilian and one military mission deployed by the EU in Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, with a particular focus on those missions that were established following the full-scale war initiated by Russia against Ukraine in 2022. These missions represent the EU’s commitment to enhancing stability, fostering cooperation, and addressing security concerns in the region.
The “spring” of EU CSDP missions in the Eastern Partnership region
Prior to 2022, the EU had demonstrated a certain level of interest in establishing CSDP civil missions in the Eastern neighbourhood. However, this interest significantly intensified following Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine a year ago. In previous decades, the EU had primarily launched missions in the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East.
The EU’s CSDP missions are designed with the objective of promoting peace and security, as well as fostering stability and building resilience. The concept of CSDP was formulated as an EU policy during the 1999 Cologne European Council, with the first mission (Concordia) being deployed to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (North Macedonia). The expansion of CSDP missions to the Eastern neighbourhood signifies a notable geographical extension of EU involvement and highlights the EU’s commitment to addressing security challenges and promoting stability in this region.
Over the past two decades since the launch of the first Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission in 2003, the EU has deployed more than 37 missions, with at least 12 of them being civilian missions. As of July 2023, the EU currently oversees 22 missions, out of which 5 are located in the Eastern neighbourhood. In the Eastern neighbourhood, the EU has established missions in Ukraine (two missions, in 2014 and 2022), Georgia (2008), Armenia (two missions, a temporary one in 2022 and a long-term one in 2023), and Moldova (2023). The first CSDP mission in the Eastern Partnership region was launched following Russia’s war against Georgia in 2008. This was followed by the mission established in response to the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The direct and indirect consequences of the 2022 Russian war on Ukraine have resulted in a significant increase in the number of CSDP missions in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood. Thus, the total number of missions has reached six, one of which was temporary (see table below).
Table. The EU CSDP missions launched in the Eastern Partnership region before and after the 2022 Russian war against Ukraine
|Before 2022||After February 2022|
|2008: Georgia – EUMM – civilian
2014: Ukraine – EUAM – civilian
|2022: Armenia – EUMCAP – temporary- civilian
2023: Ukraine – EUMAM – military
2023: Armenia – EUMA – civilian
2023: Moldova – EUPM – civilian
Source: Author’s compilation
Despite the unsuccessful attempts to gain control in Ukraine, the threats posed by Russia continue to persist and have the potential for cascading and transboundary effects. The Russian government has targeted Ukrainian civil and critical infrastructure with missiles, further escalating tensions. Furthermore, Russian military forces have demonstrated their capability to carry out sabotage operations, as seen in the attack on the Kakhovka dam, which poses a significant threat to the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
The strategic alliance between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexandr Lukashenko has been strengthened, adding to the complexity of the situation. Russia is intentionally proliferating sources of threats to European security by deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Furthermore, the units of the Russian private mercenary army known as the Wagner Group, which have not been integrated into the Russian regular army, have been relocated to Belarus. The geography of the Wagners’ future operations, the Group’s relationship with the Kremlin, and the purpose of the units that relocated to Belarus are uncertain and represent a future security challenge.
Russia still maintains influence over the “frozen conflicts” in the EU’s neighbourhood. However, the dynamics surrounding the Transnistrian conflict and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are not entirely aligned with Russia’s strategic interests. The separatist elites in these regions are increasingly isolated, and the engagement of the EU through diplomatic means or market attractiveness has impacted Russia’s leverage in these conflicts.
Regarding the EU’s diplomatic contribution, since December 2021, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has been hosting trilateral meetings in Brussels with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. These meetings play a vital role as a platform for dialogue and engagement aimed at promoting peace and stability in the region. During the sixth meeting held on July 2023, several important topics were discussed. The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders reaffirmed the territorial boundaries, with Armenia covering an area of 29,800 km2 and Azerbaijan covering 86,600 km2. They expressed support for ongoing delimitation efforts based on the 1991 Almaty Declaration. Additionally, the leaders discussed the need to unblock transport and economic links. They also addressed the necessity to normalize the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh, a longstanding issue in the region.
On the other hand, in managing the Transnistrian conflict, the EU indirectly leverages its market power. According to estimates by the EUBAM, in 2022, 64% of exports from the Transnistrian region were destined for the EU, while only 17% were directed to Russia.
All of these considerations reveal that the security landscape in the EU neighbourhood remains fragmented and susceptible to unforeseen “black swan” crises that can catch the EU off-guard. In light of this, expanding the EU’s CSDP civil missions within Russia’s ‘near abroad’ can contribute to enhancing the preparedness of the EU and its partner countries in the neighbourhood. These missions can aid in addressing certain structural threats that exist in the region.
Ukraine: extension of EU CSDP missions
The EU came up with the idea of a second CSDP mission in Ukraine to provide support for the training of the Ukrainian military forces. This mission, known as the Military Assistance Mission Ukraine (EUMAM), commenced its operations in November 2022. Prior to the establishment of EUMAM, the EU launched the Advisory Mission (EUAM) in 2014. The objective of EUAM was to assist with reforms in civilian security sectors, with a specific focus on the Ministry of Interior and the police. Following the outbreak of the war and the granting of EU candidate status to Ukraine in 2022, EUAM’s mandate underwent an expansion to encompass new areas of operation. Currently, the mission operates in various sectors, including international crimes and criminal justice, national and state security, police management, and combating organized and cross-border crimes, as well as integrated border management.
Unlike the previous CSDP mission, the Military Assistance Mission Ukraine (EUMAM) is a military mission specifically focused on the training of Ukrainian soldiers. The primary objective is to both deter and respond to potential new Russian military offensives. Initially launched for a duration of two years, with Vice-Admiral Hervé Blejean serving as the mission’s chief, the mandate of EUMAM is likely to be extended based on the evolving situation of the war and the needs of Ukraine. Currently, the mission primarily allocates its resources towards financing the training of Ukrainian military forces. This assistance encompasses a wide range of areas, including specialized medical support, demining training, communication strategies, maintenance, repair, and more.
The military nature of EUMAM also entails training programs for junior military leadership, focusing on the preparation of companies, battalions, and brigades for collective manoeuvres and tactics. The mission is open to the participation of international organizations, which in practice may also include NATO, as well as third countries. Currently, the trainings have primarily been conducted on European soil, with the participation of 24 member states. The activities of the mission have incurred costs totalling approximately 106 million euros. Two Combined Arms Training Commands (CAT-C) located in Poland and Germany have been entrusted with training 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers, in addition to the training provided in other European states. The EU has committed to doubling the number of trained military personnel in 2023 by training an additional 15,000 soldiers.
The EUMAM mission is closely linked to the financing provided through the EPF, which is expected to be renewed with a budget of 3.5 billion euros. However, the utilization of the EPF is frequently impeded by Hungary, which has vetoed its activation. Hungary’s latest demand to lift its veto has been conditioned on Ukraine’s review of the list of “international sponsors of war”, where Hungary’s largest commercial bank was included. This Hungary’s objection is complicating the delivery of the financial aid to Ukraine.
The duration and focus of EUMAM’s mandate will depend on the ongoing developments of the war and the specific requirements of Ukraine. As the conflict progresses and new challenges arise, the mission will have to remain flexible in adapting its support to meet the evolving needs of the Ukrainian military.
EU civil mission in Armenia: Diversification of the “security guarantors”?
The aggressive actions of Russia against Ukraine and its subsequent isolation by the international community have significantly weakened Russia’s geopolitical authority. This decline in authority has been pervasive in Russia’s mediation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan following the brief but impactful war in 2020. The created regional shifts present a complex dynamic for Russia. On one hand, it must redirect its political, economic, and military resources to address the urgent demands of the war of aggression against Ukraine. On the other hand, both Armenia and Azerbaijan are actively seeking to diversify their sources of security in the South Caucasus, aiming to transition away from a security framework heavily dominated by Russia. Armenia, in particular, is seeking to break the cycle of relying solely on Russia for security. It recognizes that Russia instrumentalizes the threats posed by Azerbaijan to maintain its own geopolitical relevance in the region. Armenia’s membership in the Russia-controlled Collective Security Treaty Organization and its adherence to the Eurasian Economic Union could be jeopardized if Russia fails to demonstrate its effectiveness in ensuring Armenian security.
As a consequence of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the European Political Community (EPC) has emerged as a platform for discussions on security among European states, excluding Russia and Belarus. The idea of launching an EU Monitoring Capacity (EUMCAP) was supported by the EU, specifically France, during the Czech Presidency of the EU Council in 2022. Azeri authorities agreed to cooperate with the short-term civilian mission. The EU drew upon the experience gained from its civil mission in Georgia (EUMM) in the context of its engagement in Armenia. As part of this process, a number of EU officials in charge of monitoring the Administrative Boundary Lines with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia were temporarily deployed to Armenia.
Following the conclusion of the temporary EU Monitoring Capacity (EUMCAP) mission, the EU responded to a request from Yerevan and agreed to launch a comprehensive two-year civilian mission in Armenia. The mission comprises a liaison office in Yerevan and six strategically located Forward Operating Bases near the border, with a coordinating centre in Yeghegnadzor. Its operations are confined to the internationally recognized borders of Armenia and do not encompass Nagorno-Karabakh or the Lachin corridor. Currently, only the Russian peacekeeping forces have obtained approval from both Armenia and Azerbaijan to operate in these areas. However, Armenian authorities are not satisfied with the performance of the Russian peacekeepers.
The EUMA mission in Armenia is notably large, with 103 international staff members who will serve under the initial command of Mark Ritter, a highly experienced official from the German Federal Police who has previously been involved in other CSDP missions. Moreover, Member States have the opportunity to deploy their own specialists to contribute to the mission’s activities.
The EUAM in Armenia has specific tasks and objectives. Firstly, the mission is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the security situation along the eastern borders of Armenia with Azerbaijan. This region experiences frequent shooting incidents, with both sides accusing each other, while the EU maintains a neutral stance. Secondly, the EUAM aims to contribute to the human security of Armenian areas that are adjacent to the Azerbaijani borders, where the exchanges of fire occur. Lastly, the mission seeks to build confidence between the two sides. The presence of the EU mission theoretically serves as a deterrent against the renewal of the hostilities. However, since the official launch of the mission, there have been recorded incidents of shootings along the Armenian borders, indicating that the mission alone cannot guarantee peace. Additional diplomatic and political efforts are required to sustain stability in the region.
Both Russia and Azerbaijan have reacted hostilely to the EUAM, perceiving it as a destabilizing factor in the region. Russia’s negative position stems from the understanding that the success of the EU mission could potentially lead to a reduction in the Russian military presence in Armenia. The Russian viewpoint is driven by the concern that the EU’s involvement could actually undermine Russia’s strategic interests and influence in the region.
EUPM mission in Moldova: a new generation of EU civil missions
The EU Partnership Mission to Moldova (EUPM) is one of the most recent additions to the EU’s portfolio of civilian missions. It was officially launched in May 2023 and became fully operational in April, preceding the second EPC summit held in Moldova on June 1. This particular type of civilian mission represents a new generation of missions, as it is specifically designed to assist the host country in countering hybrid threats.
Throughout the duration of the Russian full-scale war on Ukraine, the Moldovan government has heavily relied on the support of the EU to mitigate the repercussions of the conflict. The EU has provided both technical and financial assistance to help Moldova address the various crises arising from the war. This support has encompassed areas such as managing the influx of refugees, tackling energy inflation and ensuring gas supply, facilitating market access for Moldovan goods, and enhancing border management capabilities. To address the energy crisis, the EU initiated assistance measures in the autumn of 2021. Furthermore, in 2023, the EU adopted a country-specific sanctions regime dedicated to Moldova for the first time. These sanctions are targeted at Moldovan fugitive politicians and businessmen, as well as Russian individuals accused of engaging in activities that destabilize the country. In July 2023, the Moldovan intelligence services reported the dismantling of a Russian agent network that aimed to exert influence over the sociopolitical and information space of Moldova.
The hybrid threats associated with Russia aim to undermine the legitimacy of the Moldovan government in support of pro-Russian and/or Eurosceptic factions. This objective is closely tied to the upcoming local elections in 2023, followed by the presidential election in 2024 and parliamentary polls in 2025. Consequently, it appeared necessary and timely for the EU to incorporate the addressing of Russian hybrid warfare as an area of assistance. Both the EU and the current Moldovan government anticipate that the EUPM could effectively mitigate the risks of Russian hybrid interference in the electoral processes. The spectrum of Russian threats varies from the Russian military presence in the Transnistrian region to information campaigns that amplify and weaponize the political and socioeconomic challenges faced by Moldovan authorities. These efforts aim to fuel public discontent, particularly in regions with a strong Russian cultural affiliation like the Gagauz autonomy.
The EUPM in Moldova, led by Romanian diplomat Cosmin Dinescu, has an initial two-year mandate and is currently in the process of staffing. The mission, headquartered in Chișinău, will ultimately consist of 40 international staff and 7 local staff members. It will work in coordination with the EU Delegation in Moldova. The primary beneficiaries of the EUPM are Moldova’s crisis management institutions. Given the regional geopolitical instability, the mission aims to enhance preparedness and resilience against hybrid threats. Additionally, the mandate includes activities related to cybersecurity and countering foreign information manipulation and interference (FIMI). The initial budget allocated for the mission is 13.4 million euros, which may be adjusted based on evolving needs.
The EUPM in Moldova sets itself apart through its specific emphasis on addressing hybrid threats emanating from Russia, rather than conventional ones. The capabilities it cultivates possess the potential to yield enduring positive outcomes in crisis management, early warning systems, and threat detection, identification, and attribution within the security sector, irrespective of the geopolitical backdrop surrounding the threats. If this mission achieves success, it could serve as a replicable model for other regions where the EU confronts foreign information manipulation and interference involving such geopolitical actors like Russia or China.
The launch of four new CSDP missions in the EU’s neighbourhood represents a significant milestone in the EU’s geopolitical ambitions in the region. It is essential for the EU to adopt a geostrategic vision when deploying these missions, as they have the potential to contribute to stability and security of the eastern borders. A more predictable eastern neighbourhood has far-reaching implications for the enlargement process, as well as for the connectivity and energy security of the EU as a whole.
The EU possesses the necessary resources to support the stability of its neighbouring countries, many of which are already part of the enlargement package. The EUPM mission in Moldova plays a critical role in providing assistance to enhance institutional capacities against disinformation and boost the country’s resilience against malign interferences. The establishment of the military EUMAM in Ukraine holds significant implications for bolstering the country’s national security, thereby increasing its prospects for a more effective EU accession agenda. The EUMA mission in Armenia plays an important role in reducing the potential for conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The resulting improvement in regional security in the South Caucasus region can also have a positive influence for the stability of neighbouring Georgia.
In sum, the deployment of the CSDP missions underscores the EU’s growing commitment to promoting stability and enhancing regional security in its neighbourhood. Nevertheless, in order to ensure the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of these missions, the EU must have geopolitical stamina, access to sound financial resources and flexibility to adapt to shifts in the security environment.