European Defense: If Not Now, When?

Varenna Italy jets
Italian Air Force jets create the country’s tricolor with green, white and red smoke trails over Varenna, September 29, 2019 (Wikimedia Commons/Achille Ballerini)

Pre-Trump America is not coming back. If last week’s announcement of a trilateral defense pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (“AUKUS”) doesn’t convince the last Atlanticists that Europe needs to take matters into its own hands, I don’t know what will.

The new alliance excludes Europe. It snatches a deal to build nuclear submarines from France, the EU’s top military power. And it was negotiated in secret. The three English-speaking leaders didn’t even bother to give their European allies a head’s up!

The French, who would lose a €56 billion contract to build submarines for Australia, have called the snub “a breach of trust” and “a stab in the back.” French ambassadors have been recalled from Canberra and Washington DC for the first time ever.

Other Europeans are frustrated too, with officials calling the Australian about-face “unacceptable.”

Inevitably, it has been dubbed a “wake-up call” by everyone from Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign-policy coordinator, to Michael Roth, Germany’s European affairs ministers. But canceling an Australia-EU trade deal, which the European Commission had hoped to finalize this year, or postponing transatlantic talks about technology cooperation, which are scheduled for next week, won’t make Europe safer. What Europe needs to do is take its own defense seriously. Read more “European Defense: If Not Now, When?”

“Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals

Angela Merkel Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron watch Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte walk into a European Council meeting in Brussels, July 18 (European Council)

Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte belong to the same European liberal family, but they take different views on the future of the liberal world order.

The French president believes Europe should become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade. He argues for “strategic autonomy” in everything from the digital economy to defense to environmental policy.

The Dutch prime minister has doubts, rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of overseas trade.

Both have allies.

Macron has the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister.

Rutte is backed by smaller countries in Central and Northern Europe as well others in the European Commission. The Financial Times reports that plenty suspect “strategic autonomy” is a fancy way to dress up French protectionism; are wary of formally endorsing the principle if it means undermining NATO and open trade; and are skeptical of the push for reshoring of industry and supply chains.

They have reason to be. Read more ““Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals”

Why Europe Needs Its Own Army

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NATO troops participate in a military exercise on the German-Polish border, June 18, 2015 (NATO)

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” and 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”

When Will Europe Finally Take Its Defense Seriously?

French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle
French jets fly in formation over the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (Marine nationale)

France and Germany are calling for closer EU defense cooperation in a policy paper seen by Bloomberg News and supported by Italy, Spain and other nations.

The ambition isn’t new. Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel called for a “true European army” in 2018.

But the timing is conspicuous, coming days after President Donald Trump said he would pull 9,500 American troops out of Germany, bringing the total to a post-Cold War low of 25,000.

Will this finally convince Europeans to get serious about their own defense? Read more “When Will Europe Finally Take Its Defense Seriously?”

With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely

German soldiers
A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013 (Bundeswehr/Alexander Linden)

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).

But a proper army, she said, would make war in Europe impossible and “complement” the NATO alliance. Read more “With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely”

Nine EU Countries Establish Joint Military Intervention Force

American V-22 Osprey aircraft
Commandos from four NATO countries fast-rope from an American V-22 Osprey aircraft during an exercise at Montijo Air Base, Portugal, October 27, 2015 (USAF/Chris Sullivan)

Nine European countries have agreed to establish a joint military intervention force. The proposal came from French president Emmanuel Macron.

The European Intervention Initiative is separate from the EU and NATO, allowing the United Kingdom, which is leaving the European Union, to take part.

Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain will also provide troops.

Italy, under a new populist government, has backtracked on its initial support but not ruled out joining later. Read more “Nine EU Countries Establish Joint Military Intervention Force”

France Eyes Non-EU Military Force, Trump Governs by Bluffing

Reuters reports that France is looking to create a European military crisis force outside the EU, so the United Kingdom can participate.

The idea aims to bring together European countries with a military capacity and political desire to collaborate on planning, carry out joint analyses of emerging crises and to react to them quickly.

Almost all EU countries have committed to deepening military integration inside the union as well under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

All of this, of course, is happening against the backdrop of America’s withdrawal from Europe under Donald Trump. Read more “France Eyes Non-EU Military Force, Trump Governs by Bluffing”

EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops

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.

Also read Tobias Buck in the Financial Times, who reports that Germany still has a long way to go before it can lead a European army. Read more “EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops”

EU Countries Deepen Military Cooperation Outside NATO

German tanks
German Leopard tanks in Bergen, January 23, 2015 (Bundeswehr)

European countries have agreed to deepen defense cooperation outside NATO.

The so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation involves 23 of the EU’s 28 member states.

Ireland and Portugal are expected to join later. Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom will probably stay out.

All EU countries in Central and Eastern Europe have signed up, despite their wariness of weakening defense ties with the United States. Read more “EU Countries Deepen Military Cooperation Outside NATO”

European Military Cooperation Need Not Weaken NATO

French frigate Ventôse
Three American sailors board the French frigate Ventôse in Norfolk, Virginia, June 27, 2011 (USN/Marie Brindovas)

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.

Without plans, commands and sophisticated weapons in meaningful numbers, the Europeans may not on their own impress Russia, he warns — “and may therefore be unable to deter it from misbehaving.” Read more “European Military Cooperation Need Not Weaken NATO”