The state of votes
EU Common Defense – a project for the future
Military Rhetoric of the European Union
Lyse Mauvais | 2015. March 23. 00:00
Critics of the European Union common defense project have argued that it would be costly at the financial and political level, and would have no actual military use, given Europe’s current involvement with NATO. European politicians and their constituencies have divergent interests, and do not display the same willingness to involve themselves in military matters that concern their neighbors. This, however, does not mean that a common defense project for the EU is unfeasible; in fact, it can be argued that this project could be a crucial element in reviving processes of unification, reassuring European partners and border states, and strengthening Europe’s credibility at the international level.
Organizing a permanent army for the European Union would, many argue, represent a very costly and unnecessary investment for EU members. However, distributing financial cooperation for this project across the various member states would allow for effective funding for this project. Smaller nations would be able to integrate their relatively small national force within the broader European corps, thus considerably limiting their logistical expenditures and benefitting from efficient training and increased access to high military technology for their troops. The marginal costs of sustaining small armies within EU member states is much higher than the potential cooperation fees they would verse in order to sustain a broader, better equipped European army which would have access to much more developed technology. The smallest states would be the ones to benefit the most, financially, for such protection; but large states like France, which are already covering much of the burden –actual and potential- of concrete EU military actions, would also highly benefit, both in terms of morale, budget and scope of action, from such an expansion of EU defense capacities. These countries would, de facto, keep leading European defense decisions while gaining continental legitimacy and financial supports from their various partners – much unlike what is happening today with the cases of Mali and Central Africa.
The forms taken by the European common defense project are potentially unlimited. We could imagine a common, permanent “core” that would be at the center of the mechanism, and which would allow for the training of troops from all over Europe, while concentrating the bulk of European investments in terms of logistics, technology and weaponry. Such a system could represent an effective way to train military corps from military inactive European countries, much like the UN peace corps, while relieving the military burden of smaller nations. Depending on the political will of member states, we could also imagine a more or less broad ring of independent national corps, which larger member states would selectively place under the authority of the EU military cores for precisely defined missions or in times of broader intervention. These national bodies would thus remain under the control, jurisdiction and financial responsibility of their state, which would be able to selectively have them participate in the various military projects voted by the European Commission or Parliament. This would be an excellent way for individual nations to “occupy” their troops and bring their political support to particular military initiatives of the Union. Specific mechanisms of co-decision are far from impossible to put in place; in the coming years, with sufficient political will from EU leaders, we could see potential agreements being signed between major military nations of the EU. We could give the EU a narrowed decision-making potential for crisis interventions, and put all other major missions under the direction of a separate EU organ, with decisions taken at large majorities, and from which member states would be able to pull out their troops –though not their financial support- depending on their degree of political alignment with the EU.
It is unfair to say that a common defense would have no use for the EU; NATO does not fulfill the EU’s roles today. The EU must be able to rely on its members and its forces for its defense, in order to gain credibility, and must in no way be dependent on the USA for such defense. Additionally, organizing our own defense can be a major step in fostering the unity of the EU and will be significant in future integration processes. The EU has integrated economic interests and political values; defending them as one body is the necessary consequence of today’s situation, and offers interesting perspectives for our future.
Justas Kidykas | 2015. April 21. 23:13
Ukraine, Syria, Mali. Countries that are not part of the European political spectrum, yet conflicts in which the European Union has been involved. Recently, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, called for the European Union to create its own army. However, the proposal seems more like a political step rather than a structural choice towards strengthening the military force and independence of the EU.
With an already heavy involvement of the NATO in European defence, Secretary General Jens Stoltenber, in February, had decided to double the NATO Response Force (NRF) troops up to about 30 thousand. This comes mostly as a response to Russian aggression in Ukraine to ensure EU members that, in case of a military attack, NATO affiliates could invoke Article V of North Atlantic Treaty and member states would collectively respond to foreign aggression. Thus, the biggest problem that arises with an EU Army is that its function would clearly overlap with NATO’s objectives. Even though, creating its own armed forces would might increase the military independence and availability of choices for EU, it would might likewise diminish the presence and credibility of NATO in Europe. Fortunately, Article V had never had to be invoked by a European state, and because of the Ukrainian Crisis, NATO is today holding an active and supportive stance in Europe. Hence, the European Union should continue to pursue its long historical cooperation with its Atlantic partners.
One of Juncker’s arguments for establishing an EU army was that it would “help us to develop a common foreign and security policy.” Yet, it is hardly likely to happen. The European Union has already established poicies and organs in charge of defence issues, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), European Defence Agency and etc. Yet, none of these crisis management and external relations committees have really been able to consolidate a unified approach to ongoing conflicts and I doubt that a common EU army would reinforce the unity of EU Member States in itself.
A perfect example to illustrate the European lack of unity is, once again, the conflict in the Ukraine. Baltic States and Poland had been constantly reminding the threat of Russian aggressive foreign politics in the post-Soviet sphere. Yet, only the “green soldiers” and rolling tanks in a neighbouring country opened the eyes of all of the EU states. Nevertheless, there are still many misunderstandings and disagreements about the right approach to the Ukrainian crisis and Russian aggression. Thus, how can we expect that all Member States will consensually agree on the formation of a common European army? Especieally when only Germany, amongst the EU "heavyweights", has publicly supported the idea? Cooperation with NATO and EU seems to be much stronger and cohesive than the partnership within the EU itself.
Lastly, we must consider the contemporary usage and implication of a defensive army itself. The methods of war have changed; it is barely impossible to actually achieve substantial public support for almost any military campaign launched by Western countries. Unpopular decisions in the 21st century had changed the defence policies and countries became more reluctant to engage in military action. European countries specifically, have been using more rhetorics and soft power rather than showing defensive military power. Even though France had quickly responded to the crisis in Mali, the EU had been lagging behind in giving any substantial support to the Ukrainian government in a fight against Russian-supported rebels. Moreover, the aforementioned NATO Response Force has not been used for any military-related reasons, and instead have been called only for humanitarian and security issues. So what would make us believe that the NAF, or a potential EU Army would ever be really used for any crucial defensive military campaign?
European nations have been long relying on the American support, both economically and militarily. Yes, the EU is more independent and self-sustaining, yet defence and security issues usually concern and interest many powers. Even though, some European countries have been questioning the credibility of the NATO, the discontent within the EU over the military issues hardly suggest that an EU army would be an easily achievable concept. Furthermore, the current trends of warfare and rhetoric indicate, that EU leaders believe in a quick normalization of relations with Russia, and the proposal of EU army is more like a play of politics than a legitimate proposal.
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