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|NATO Complains ‘EU Army’ Would Duplicate Them
by Jason Ditz
NATO’s civilian and military chiefs are making the rounds in Europe today, warning the European Union against creating a possible EU-wide military on the grounds it would “duplicate” military resources NATO already has.
A handful of EU member states, including Finland, Sweden, Austria, and Ireland, are not in NATO, so there wouldn’t be perfect overlap between an EU military and the NATO alliance.
The more likely objection is that a unified EU military would make the vast amount of superfluous military spending in Europe all the more obvious at a time when the US and NATO leadership are pushing EU member nations to spend more.
The EU is presenting a unified military as a counter to Russia, but the reality is that the EU spends many times what the Russian Federation does on military forces. Small EU nations might not realize the disparity so much now, but a unified force would make this all the more glaring, and subsequently harm NATO’s fear-based efforts to get them to spend more.
EU Needs Own Army to Deter Russia, Juncker Says
The Moscow Times
The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats as well as restore the bloc's foreign policy standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper on Sunday.
Arguing that NATO was not enough because not all members of the transatlantic defense alliance are in the EU, Juncker said a common EU army would also send important signals to the world.
"A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries," Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "Such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world."
Juncker said a common EU army could serve as a deterrent and would have been useful during the Ukraine crisis.
"With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighboring state.
"One wouldn't have a European army to deploy it immediately. But a common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values."
The 28-nation EU already has battle groups that are manned on a rotational basis and meant to be available as a rapid reaction force. But they have never been used in a crisis.
EU leaders have said they want to boost the common security policy by improving rapid response capabilities.
But Britain, along with France one of the two main military powers in the bloc, has been wary of giving a bigger military role to the EU, fearing it could undermine NATO.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Juncker's proposal: "Our future as Europeans will at some point be with a European army," she told German radio.
The EU and Whose Army?
by Editors - Bloomberg View
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has correctly identified a serious problem: Europe's military and diplomatic ineptitude, most prominently on display in its weak and disorganized response to the crisis in Ukraine. Unfortunately, his proposed solution -- an EU military force -- is unworkable, impolitic and unwise.
European military budgets are declining at a time of multiplying threats, and even the most capable of Europe's armed forces -- the U.K.'s, for example -- are being hollowed out. At the same time, Europe spends 190 billion euros ($200 billion) a year on defense, and collectively boasts 1.5 million troops. That's about the same number as the U.S. has, and more than twice as many as Russia.
Yet there is so much duplication and waste that, in terms of deployable force, the European Union's capabilities remain comparatively meager. Worse, any common military or diplomatic response requires unanimity among 28 countries -- which, as Javier Solana, the EU's former chief diplomat, points out, have different threat perceptions and security interests. Solana is similarly calling for a common EU command, though not an army.
Where Juncker and Solana go wrong is in viewing these fissures as some kind of aberration. They are core facts. The idea of an EU army ever being deployed against Russian President Vladimir Putin is risible, because unanimity among Cypriots, Greeks, Italians and Austrians on the need to fight Russia is unimaginable. That's one reason the EU's Battlegroups -- rapid-reaction battalions that have been operational since 2007 -- have never been deployed.
Worse, to the extent that an EU army would have any meaning, it would divert available troops and equipment from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- an alliance that's much more likely to take action. And however complementary to NATO that EU officials say their parallel institutions would be, competition would be inevitable.
Europe has been talking about creating a common military since 1950 (France killed the idea back then), and for a decade, the European Defense Agency has been tasked with pooling capabilities and coordinating production among Europe's defense industries. It hasn't achieved much. That doesn't bode well for any attempt to form a pan-European force, which would require sacrificing national sovereignty over the decision to put soldiers in harm's way.
A more practical recommendation, made this week by Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, would be for European nations to simply meet their commitments to NATO. The task force Solana recently chaired on the subject also offered good ideas, including creating a single market for Europe's defense industries. But what Europe most needs is the political will to give NATO the military capabilities it requires -- not a new layer of helmeted bureaucrats to staff a permanent command in Brussels, much less its own military.
More generally, Juncker's and Solana's proposals play into exactly the kind of disillusionment so many Europeans are feeling about grand EU projects. In the midst of an economic crisis prolonged and deepened by a common currency, the last thing Europeans need is a fight over a common military.
(Corrects euro figure for EU defense spending in second paragraph.)
To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making NATO defunct: Is EU Army intended to reduce US influence in Europe?
An EU military force is being justified as protection from Russia, but it may also be a way of reducing US influence as the EU and Germany come to loggerheads with the US and NATO over Ukraine.
While speaking to the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced the time has come for the creation of a unified EU military force. Juncker used rhetoric about “defending the values of the European Union” and nuanced anti-Russian polemics to promote the creation of European army, which would convey a message to Moscow.
The polemics and arguments for an EU Army may be based around Russia, but the idea is really directed against the US. The underlying story here is the tensions that are developing between the US, on one side, and the EU and Germany, on the other side. This is why Germany reacted enthusiastically to the proposal, putting its support behind a joint EU armed force.
Previously, the EU military force was seriously mulled over was during the buildup to the illegal Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Germany, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg met to discuss it as an alternative to US-dominated NATO. The idea has been resurrected again under similar circumstances. In 2003, the friction was over the US-led invasion of Iraq. In 2015, it is because of the mounting friction between Germany and the US over the crisis in Ukraine.
Re-think in Berlin and Paris?
To understand the events behind the call for a common EU military, we have to look at the events stretching from November 2014 until March 2015. They started when Germany and France began showing signs that they were having second thoughts about the warpath that the US and NATO were taking them down in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
Franco-German differences with the US began to emerge after Tony Blinken, US President Barak Obama’s former Deputy National Security Advisor and current Deputy Secretary of State and the number two diplomat at the US Department of State, announced that the Pentagon was going to send arms into Ukraine at a hearing of the US Congress about his nomination, that was held on November 19, 2014. As the Fiscal Times put it, “Washington treated Russia and the Europeans to a one-two punch when it revealed its thinking about arming Ukraine.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to Blinken by announcing that if the Pentagon poured weapons into Ukraine, Washington would not only seriously escalate the conflict, but it would be a serious signal from the US that will change the dynamics of the conflict inside Ukraine.
Realizing that things could escalate out of control, the French and German response was to initiate a peace offence through diplomatic talks that would eventually lead to a new ceasefire agreement in Minsk, Belarus under the “Normandy Format” consisting of the representatives of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine.
Pessimists may argue that France and Germany opted for diplomacy in February 2015, because the rebels in East Ukraine or Novorossiya, as they call it, were beating Kiev’s forces. In other words, the primary motivation of diplomacy was to save the government in Kiev from collapsing without a fair settlement in the East. This may be true to an extent, but the Franco-German pair also does not want to see Europe turned into an inferno that reduces everyone in it to ashes.
Trans-Atlantic differences were visible at the Munich Security Conference in February. US Senator Robert Corker, the chair of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, commented during a question-and-answer session with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel that it was believed in the US Congress that Berlin was preventing Washington from publicly ratcheting up US and NATO military aid to the authorities in Kiev.
Chancellor Merkel was explicit in her response when she told Senator Corker that the simmering crisis in Ukraine could not be resolved by military means and the US approach would go nowhere and make the situation in Ukraine much worse. When Merkel was pressed on militarizing the conflict in Ukraine by the British MP Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Parliament, she said that sending more arms to Kiev was useless and unrealistic. Merkel told the British MP “to look reality in the eye.” The German Chancellor also pointed out that there cannot be security in Europe without Russia.
Germany’s public position at the Munich Security Conference flew in the face of US demands to get its European allies to militarize the conflict in Ukraine. While US Secretary of State John Kerry went out of his way at the gathering to reassure the media and the public that there was no rift between Washington and the Franco-German side, it was widely reported that the warmonger Senator John McCain lost his cool while he was in Bavaria. Reportedly, he called the Franco-German peace initiative “Moscow bullshit.” He would then criticize Angela Merkel in an interview with the German channel Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), which would prompt calls by German MP Peter Tauber, the secretary-general of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), for an apology from Senator McCain.
German resentment of US control of NATO
Back in February, Bloomberg wrote: “For all the alarmist rhetoric about Russian barbarians at the gate, NATO countries are reluctant to put their money where their mouth is. Only the countries closest to Russia’s borders are increasing their military spending this year, while other, bigger ones are making cuts. Regardless of what their leaders say about Vladimir Putin, they don’t seem to believe he’s a real threat to the West.”
Washington, however, did not give up. When the Franco-German peace offensive began in February, General Philip Breedlove — who is the supreme commander of NATO’s military forces —said in Munich that “I don’t think that we should preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option” in Ukraine. General Breedlove is a US Air Force flag officer who takes his orders from the US government, thus subordinating NATO’s military structure to US command. While Berlin and Paris were trying to deescalate, Washington was upping the ante using Breedlove and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
After speaking to the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives, General Breedlove would claim that Russian aggression was increasing in Ukraine. Germany, however, would rebut Breedlove’s statements calling them “dangerous propaganda.”
“German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR),” Der Spiegel reported on March 6.
While Berlin has tried to downplay the reports about a rift with NATO over General Breedlove’s misleading comments, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier candidly admitted that it was true that the Germans disagreed with the US and NATO while he was in Latvia on March 7. What Steinmeier actually did was diplomatically rebuked and dismissed both the US and NATO statements about the ‘Russian aggression’ in Ukraine.
In Latvia, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini added her voice to Steinmeier’s. She told reporters in Riga that the EU will pursue a realistic approach with Moscow and will not be pushed or pulled by anyone into a confrontational relationship with Russia. This was a tacit message to Washington: the EU realizes that there can be no peace in Europe without Russia and does not want to be positioned as a US pawn against Moscow.
Germany itself is the ultimate prize for the US in the conflict in Ukraine, because Berlin has huge sway in the direction that the EU turns. The US will continue to stoke the flames in Ukraine to destabilize Europe and Eurasia. It will do what it can to prevent the EU and Russia from coming together and forming a “Common Economic Space” from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which is dismissed as some type of alternative universe in the Washington Beltway.
The Fiscal Times put it best about the different announcements by US officials to send arms to Ukraine. “Given the choreographed rollout, Washington analysts say, in all likelihood this is a public-opinion exercise intended to assure support for a weapons program that is already well into the planning stages,” the news outlet wrote on February 9.
After the Munich Security Conference it was actually revealed that clandestine arms shipments were already being made to Kiev. Russian President Vladimir Putin would let this be publicly known at a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest when he said that weapons were already secretly being sent to the Kiev authorities.
In the same month a report, named Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do, was released arguing for the need to send arms to Ukraine — ranging from spare parts and missiles to heavy personnel — as a means of ultimately fighting Russia. This report was authored by a triumvirate of leading US think-tanks, the Brookings Institute, the Atlantic Council, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs — the two former being from the detached ivory tower “think-tankistan” that is the Washington Beltway. This is the same clique that has advocated for the invasions of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran.
Watch out NATO! United EU military in the horizon?
It is in the context of divisions between the EU and Washington that the calls for an EU military force are being made by both the European Commission and Germany.
The EU and Germans realize there is not much they can do to hamper Washington as long as it has a say in EU and European security. Both Berlin and a cross-section of the EU have been resentful of how Washington is using NATO to advance its interests and to influence the events inside Europe. If not a form of pressure in behind the door negotiations with Washington, the calls for an EU military are designed to reduce Washington’s influence in Europe and possibly make NATO defunct.
An EU army that would cancel out NATO would have a heavy strategic cost for the US. In this context, Washington would lose its western perch in Eurasia. It “would automatically spell the end of America’s participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard,” in the words of former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.
The intelligentsias in the US are already alarmed at the risks that an EU military would pose to American influence. The American Jewish Committee’s influential Commentary Magazine, which is affiliated to the neo-cons in the Washington Beltway, has asked, as the title of the article by Seth Mandel illustrates, “Why Is Germany Undermining NATO?” This is while the Washington Examiner has asked, as the title of the article by Hoskingson says, “Whatever happened to US influence?”
This is why Washington’s vassals in the EU — specifically Britain, Poland, and the three Baltic states — have all been very vocal in their opposition to the idea of a common EU military force. While Paris has been reluctant to join the calls for an EU army, French opposition politician Marine Le Pen has announced that the time has come for France to come out of the shadow of the United States.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government responded to Jean-Claude Juncker by slamming his idea as an outrageous fantasy, declaring that the military is a national responsibility and not an EU responsibility. Poland and Latvia also reacted skeptically towards the proposal. These statements all serve US interests in preserving NATO as a tool for its influence in Europe and Eurasia.
10 Downing Street has contradicted itself about the military being a national issue and not a collective issue. Just as recently as 2010, London signed treaties to essentially create joint naval units with France and to share aircraft carriers in what is an amalgamation of military. Moreover, the British military and military-industrial sectors are all integrated to varying degrees with the US.
There are some very important questions here. Are the calls for an EU military, meant to pressure the US or is there a real attempt to curb Washington’s influence inside Europe? And are moves being made by Berlin and its partners to evict Washington from Europe by deactivating NATO through a common EU military?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Nato is a threat to Europe and must be disbanded
by Jonathan Steel
They walk the walk. They talk the talk. But they don't think the think. In the wake of the huge support given to George Bush last week, it's time we realised how different America's majority culture is, and changed our policies accordingly.
What Americans share with Europeans are not values, but institutions. The distinction is crucial. Like us, they have a separation of powers between executive and legislature, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law. But the American majority's social and moral values differ enormously from those which guide most Europeans.
Its dangerous ignorance of the world, a mixture of intellectual isolationism and imperial intervention abroad, is equally alien. In the United States more people have guns than have passports. Is there one European nation of which the same is true?
Of course, millions of US citizens do share "European" values. But to believe that this minority amounts to 48% and that America is deeply polarised is incorrect. It encourages the illusion that things may improve when Bush is gone. In fact, most Kerry voters are as conservative as the Bush majority on the issues which worry Europeans. Kerry never came out for US even-handedness on the Israel-Palestine conflict, or for a withdrawal from Iraq.
Many commentators now argue for Europe to distance itself. But vague pleas for greater European coherence or for Tony Blair to end his close links with the White House are not enough. The call should not be for "more" independence. We need full independence.
We must go all the way, up to the termination of Nato. An alliance which should have wound up when the Soviet Union collapsed now serves almost entirely as a device for giving the US an unfair and unreciprocated droit de regard over European foreign policy.
As long as we are officially embedded as America's allies, the default option is that we have to support America and respect its "leadership". This makes it harder for European governments to break ranks, for fear of being attacked as disloyal. The default option should be that we, like they, have our interests. Sometimes they will coincide. Sometimes they will differ. But that is normal.
In other parts of the world, a handful of countries have bilateral defence treaties with the US. Some in Europe might want the same if Nato didn't exist. In contrast, a few members of the European Union who chose to take the considerable risk of staying neutral during the cold war - such as Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden - see no need to join Nato in the much safer world we live in today.
So it makes no sense that the largest and most powerful European states, those who are most able to defend themselves, should cling to outdated anxiety and the notion that their ultimate security depends on the US. Do we really need American nuclear weapons to protect us against terrorists or so-called rogue states? The last time Europe was in dire straits, as Nazi tanks swept across the continent in 1939 and 1940, the US stayed on the sidelines until Pearl Harbor.
There is a school of thought which says that Nato is virtually defunct, so there is no need to worry about it. That view is sometimes heard even in Russia, where the so-called "realists" argue that Russia cannot oppose its old enemy, in spite of Washington's undisguised efforts to encircle it with bases in the Caucasus and central Asia. The more Moscow tries, they say, the more it seems to justify US claims that Russia is expansionist - however odd that sounds, coming from a far more expansionist Washington.
It is true that Nato is unlikely ever again to function with the unanimity it showed during the cold war. The lesson from Iraq is that the alliance has become no more than a "coalition of the reluctant", with key members like France and Germany opting out of joint action.
But it is wrong to be complacent about Nato's alleged impotence or irrelevance. Nato gives the US a significant instrument for moral and political pressure. Europe is automatically expected to tag along in going to war, or in the post-conflict phase, as in Afghanistan or Iraq. Who knows whether Iran and Syria will come next? Bush has four more years in power and there is little likelihood that his successors in the White House will be any less interventionist.
Nato, in short, has become a threat to Europe. Its existence also acts as a continual drag on Europe's efforts to build its own security institutions. Certain member countries, particularly Britain, constantly look over their shoulders for fear of upsetting big brother. This has an inhibiting effect on every initiative.
France's more robust stance is pilloried by the Atlanticists as nostalgia for unilateral grandeur instead of being seen as part of France's pro-European search for a security project that will help us all.
Paradoxically, one argument for voting no in the referendum on the European constitution is based on this. Paul Quiles, a French socialist former defence minister, points out that Britain forced a change in the constitution's text so that Europe's common security policy, even as it tries to gather strength, is required to give primacy to Nato. Without control over its own defence, he argues, greater European integration makes little sense.
The immediate priority on the road to European independence is to abandon support for Bush's disastrous Iraq policy and get behind the majority of Iraqis who want the US to stop attacking their cities and leave the country. They feel US forces only provoke more insecurity and death.
Since Bush's victory two Nato members, Hungary and the Netherlands (which has a rightwing government), have said they will pull their troops out in March next year. Their moves show the falsity of the "old Europe, new Europe" split. In the post-communist countries, as much as in western Europe, majorities consistently opposed Bush's Iraq adventure, whatever their more timid governments said. Wanting to withdraw support for US foreign policy is not a left or right issue.
Ending Nato would not mean that Europe rejects good relations with the US. Nor does it rule out police and intelligence collaboration on issues of concern, such as the way to protect our countries against terrorism. Europe could still join the US in war, if there was an international consensus and the electorates of individual countries supported it.
But Europeans must reach their decisions from a position of genuine independence. The US has always based its approach to Europe on a calculation of interest rather than from sentimental motives. Europe should do no less. We can and, for the most part, should be America's friends. Allies, no longer.
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