French president Emmanuel Macron called for a European army in 2018, arguing the EU needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America.”
Two years later, the argument for a common European defense is even stronger.
China’s authoritarianism can no longer be denied. It has effectively revoked the autonomy of Hong Kong, is carrying out a cultural genocide against the Uighurs in west China, threatening its neighbors around the South China Sea and extending its reach as far west as Europe and as far north as the Arctic.
Russia continues to abrogate international norms. It still supports Bashar Assad in Syria, who is responsible for driving millions of his compatriots from their homes, many of them fleeing to Europe; it still occupies the Crimea and still supports an insurgency in southeastern Ukraine.
The United States are led by an impetuous president, who has accused the EU of “taking advantage” of America, called NATO “obsolete”, withdrawn 9,500 soldiers from Germany, but expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin and doubts that he ordered the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a defector, and Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader. Read more “Why Europe Needs Its Own Army”
It looks like a European army might really happen.
German chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, endorsed the call of French president Emmanuel Macron for an EU fighting force.
She praised the 25 member states — Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom are not participating — that committed last year to enhance interoperability, pool their defense procurement and improve military logistics under the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
Americans continue to worry that closer defense cooperation in Europe might compromise NATO.
Echoing Madeleine Albright’s “three Ds” — no duplication, no decoupling, no discrimination against non-EU NATO states — Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States ambassador to NATO, warned on Wednesday that European efforts shouldn’t be “protectionist, duplicative of NATO work or distracting from their alliance responsibilities.”
“In Texas we say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” the former senator added.
But transatlantic solidarity goes two ways. On the same day Hutchison cautioned European allies against weakening NATO, Defense Secretary James Mattis hectored them for failing to meet their defense spending targets.
Their boss, Donald Trump, has in the past declared NATO “obsolete”. Little wonder Europe is making its own plans.
Many of which complement NATO, from improving mobility by creating a “military Schengen” to developing a European infantry fighting vehicle.
Tomáš Valášek, the director of Carnegie Europe, argues that European allies cannot assume Donald Trump’s aversion to NATO is an anomaly and the next president will put things right. The United States have been cooling on NATO for years, he writes:
A number of factors — a crisis in Europe that grips Americans’ imagination, an articulate pro-European leader in Washington, a crisis in the United States that the European allies help resolve — could revive America’s flagging interest in the alliance it created nearly seventy years ago. But for now, the passage of time and memories work against NATO.
Valášek is nevertheless uneasy about Europeans exploring a “backup” to the Atlantic alliance, arguing that continental security cooperation cannot come close to what Europe and North America have now.
I argued here last year that a European army wasn’t going to happen. Only the French were interested, I wrote. The Germans were ambivalent. The British were against it. “Defense is a national — not an EU — responsibility,” they said at the time, when Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, floated the idea of a defense union.
Now Juncker is back with his proposal and the difference, of course, is that the British are leaving.
The Luxemburger reiterated his support for an EU army in a speech to the European Parliament last week, sending Britain’s Euroskeptic press into a frenzy. “Nigel Farage was right!” roared the Sunday Express. “Got out just in time,” opined The Sun.
It’s easy to dismiss Juncker’s idea as just the latest tone-deaf European federalist scheme that will go nowhere — and this would have been true if the United Kingdom wasn’t on the way out.