Debate on the European army reaches a new level

The largest faction in the European Parliament (the European People’s Party) voted to create a European military unit independent of NATO. According to the deputies, Europe should rely on its own strength

Debate on the European army reaches a new level

At the first stage, it is proposed to deploy from 5 to 20 thousand servicemen of the “united army”. At the same time, Brussels admits that real steps in creating their own army are still far away, some political forces of the EU and the state are categorically opposed to this, declaring the presence of NATO. However, the number of supporters is growing, especially after the US and NATO fiasco in Afghanistan.

The Alliance, meanwhile, is highly skeptical.

“I welcome European defense efforts, but something like this can never replace NATO. It also needs to ensure that Europe and North America stick together. Any attempt to weaken the North American-European bond will not only weaken NATO, but also divide Europe. It is partly a matter of money, as 80% of our defense spending goes to non-EU allies”, says NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Most experts call Stoltenberg’s position not entirely convincing against the background of the hasty flight of the Americans from Afghanistan.

“Mistrust in the United States and its willingness and ability to defend its allies has led to increased sentiment in favor of the creation of a NATO-independent European armed forces,” wrote Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov on his Telegram channel.

“Afghanistan will haunt the United States for a long time to come. And this is not the only consequence”, the politician said.

Experts remind that talks about a single EU army did not start yesterday. In 1999, the member countries of the community agreed to form armed forces of up to 60 thousand fighters. However, instead, since 2007, the bloc has acquired the so-called European battle groups. The project envisaged the creation of 18 battalion tactical groups of about 1.5 thousand people each. They were to be formed on the basis of the armed forces of each individual EU state. It was assumed that these groups would be on duty in turn.

By the end of 2007, these subdivisions formally appeared on paper, but their real application was limited by various difficulties. For example, the financing of the operations of each of the battle groups fell on only one EU country. This created a serious cost imbalance in the case of real combat conditions.

The project remained on paper, the EU militant groups have never been used in conflicts, and for its humanitarian missions the EU collects a mixed military contingent each time. The theme of the European army received a second wind after the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House. The Republican then made it clear that he was no longer going to spend billions of dollars to protect allies who do not show the due loyalty to him personally. He also demanded that his partners increase defense budgets and withdrew the American military from Europe.

Joe Biden managed to change the agenda. He declared his readiness to help traditional allies and defend Europe. However, then the so-called “Afghan factor” emerged.

“What happened in Afghanistan was a watershed moment”, – The Washington Post quoted Natalie Loiseau, chairman of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on security and defense, as saying. As Loiseau notes, when the United States decided to leave the country, it was not too worried about the opinions of partners.

Due to the fact that Joe Biden refused to extend the terms of evacuation from Afghanistan after August 31, the EU countries had to throw in danger not only their Afghan allies, but even their own citizens. This was a major disappointment for Europe and re-energized discussions on the creation of a European military force.

“I insist that the EU’s need for its own defense system became apparent after Afghanistan,” said European diplomat Josep Borrell at a meeting of EU defense ministers in Slovenia.

According to him, “the historical events in Afghanistan prompted the development of a European security concept” Strategic Compass of the EU “, the final draft of which will be presented in October-November.” As part of this discussion, EU countries are also discussing the creation of their own rapid reaction forces, numbering about 5 thousand people.

The approval of the EU’s Strategic Compass, and with it the plans to create an EU rapid reaction force, should take place in March 2022.

TASS agency experts remind that the European Union was conceived as an exclusively economic and cultural space. The bloc countries managed to create one of the world’s largest free trade and cross-border zones. It was economic prosperity that was to become the main weapon of the EU. But global challenges have put everything in its place. To become a full-fledged player on the world stage, Europeans cannot do without their own army.

However, even in Europe itself, not everyone agrees with this statement. The European army was sharply opposed in Sweden. As the Minister of Defense of the country Peter Hultqvist stated, the connection between Europe and the United States should be preserved, “since it is very important in our part of the world.” The irony of this statement is that Sweden itself is not a NATO country. Poland and the Baltic states adhere to a similar position.

On the other hand, French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the most ardent supporters of this idea. During the Trump presidency, he repeatedly called for the creation of a “real European army” and at the same time stated the “brain death of NATO.”

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also a NATO supporter. In addition, it is in Germany that there are almost 35 thousand American troops who ensure the security of European borders. However, it is not yet clear what position will be followed by her successor.

In the discussion about the European army, the issue of financing occupies an important place. The EU has already committed more than $9 billion to the European Defense Fund until 2027. The new structure will require additional defense spending from each country in the community. This could be a problem, given that only nine European countries are willing to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, based on an agreement with NATO.

The idea of ​​creating a common armed forces of the European Union is dictated by the desire of the EU countries to be more independent from the United States, but it is extremely difficult to imagine a European army. This is the opinion of the political scientist Vladimir Yevseyev. On the pages of Izvestia, he said that leading European countries, primarily Germany, agreeing to 2% of GDP for military needs within NATO, meant that this money would be spent to strengthen European security. At the same time, the United States assumed that these funds would simply purchase American weapons, he added.

“It is very difficult to imagine a European army, because most of the European states are members of the alliance. Indirectly, this, of course, will strengthen NATO as well. But it is very difficult to understand how they will separate NATO and non-NATO”, Yevseev pointed out.

At the same time, he recalled that the rapid deployment forces, which are in Europe, are just included in the NATO component, adding that these are the most combat-ready, combat-ready, mobile units of the formation.

Yevseev suggested that behind the discussion about the European army, most likely, there is not an attempt to create a military alternative to NATO, but a desire to weaken political dependence on America.

Alexander Kostin, deputy director general of the Institute for National Strategy, believes that the discussion about the European army is a discussion of European independence. 

“A sign of sovereignty is the ability to provide security on our own. So far, a single EU space has not been formed, the economic center of the union, Germany, refuses an independent foreign policy”, the expert emphasizes.

According to Kostin, the amorphous structure of the EU does not yet allow even effective operational management and responding to non-military threats, such as coronavirus or, for example, refugee flows. And issues of general security require closer cooperation.

“I think Joe Biden’s coming to the White House and his support for the European security format in the NATO system will close the discussion for a while. At the same time, the position of France remains, which even before Macron claimed the right to independently determine defense policy”, Kostin recalls.

In general, the expert believes, the dispute over the armed forces will boil down to what Europe should be: the current EU model is falling apart before our eyes.

At the same time, no other options for interaction have yet been announced. Largely because European leaders lack political will. Most likely, the Americans simply will not allow the creation of some European parts independent of them. And even more so the European Committee of Chiefs of Staff. Since the formation of commanding of an independent European army would immediately undermine the leadership role of the United States in the military and military-political sphere of Europe. And first of all, the Europeans themselves are not ready for this.

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