As a result of recent coming into effect of the Lisbon Treaty on reform of the European Union the latter entered a new phase of its development. Though its institutions were never designed for foreign policy or military affairs, it is moving slowly toward defining a military role for itself in the world. In particular, after creating the post of the EU “foreign secretary” once again question arose, whether someday a post of common European “secretary of defense” will appear.
The discussion was triggered after The Times published an interview with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on November 15, 2009 (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6917652.ece). He said Italy would push for the creation of a European army.
According to Frattini, it would serve as a logical continuation of EU integration and would become an essential step in preserving the EU's status as a global power center. According to him, the treaty had established “that if some countries want to enter into reinforced cooperation between themselves, they can do so.” This was already the case with the euro and the Schengen accords on frontier-free travel, and could now be applied to common European defense.
Many former and today’s European politicians agree that Europe needs developing common security and defense policy, since safety of the continent can not and must be not provided by anyone other. This idea was publicly supported, for example, by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President of France Nicolas Sarkozy and his polish colleague Lech Kaczynski.
Of course, after introducing common currency the joint army would become one more impressive symbol of the European integration. Therewith, from purely economic point of view, continuing existence of national armies in the EU member states cannot get rational explanation. They are not necessary for a long time already; costs for their maintenance are burdening national budgets more and more heavily. Meanwhile the main part of resources is spent for personnel that results only in their wasting. While the aggregate military budget of the European countries forms 60 percent of the US one, and their military power is tenfold less than America’s.
For example for many years the talk is going how it is important not to allow duplication of nomenclature of the weapons and military technologies, however the situation remains to be the same. Europeans have today four different main types of tanks (American – one), sixteen different types of armored combat vehicles (American – three) and eleven different types of frigates (American – again one). It is evident that association in military sphere would allow the most optimal way to utilize material and human resources.
Strictly speaking, formal prerequisites for the unification exist already. Thus, in preamble of the basic Maastricht Treaty (1992) it is allowed that the EU can become a defensive alliance as well. Several corresponding declarations were accepted later on (Saint-Malo, 1998; Cologne, 1999; Helsinki, 1999; Nice, 2000). At present the EU Military Committee exists, which concerns questions of common security of the European countries. It consists of secretaries of defense of all 27 member states; they have their permanent representatives in Brussels. In February the European Union has decided to create the EU rapid-reaction force, kept aloof from NATO and independent from USA.
Moreover, in 1993 Belgium, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg and France have created the Eurocorps composed of nine brigades with 60 thousand servicemen from these countries. At the end 1990s it was decided to create European rapid-reaction forces. Ten years passed, but these forces, as before, exist only in theory. They were replaced by smaller ‘battlegroups’, which – only theoretically as well – can be deployed at any point of the planet during 5-10 days following the decision of the EU Council.
Thereby, one cannot name the aforementioned units the European army though European countries have reached the certain level in forming common security and defense policy. There is also a concept of further development. The document ‘A Secure Europe in a Better World’ was published in June 2003, prepared under the aegis of the EU High representative for foreign and security policy Javier Solana. Its key positions were later approved as official security doctrine of the EU.
It is stated there that being a subject of the world scale the European Union must conduct more active and coordinated foreign and security policy, to create military and political potential corresponding to its role, to be capable to undertake different kind of operations – including power ones – outside its geographical borders.
However the reasons that prevent creating the European army look much more serious. First of all it is difficult to agree with multiple statements that without real military power the European Union will not have sufficient influence in the world. The example of Japan, the third world economy, which is not worried too much about its constitutional restriction of the military budget by one percent of GDP, seems to be very convincing. So sufferings on this cause remind a yearning for the former greatness.
In order to define the expedience of the European army one has to assess the existing threats. In the aforementioned ‘Solana document’ it is claimed that military aggression against any EU member state (in other words, assault from the East) it impossible today. Presently there are practically no experts in the West, who considered large-scale war in Europe to be probable. That is to say, from the Europeans standpoint practically all contemporary perils are not of the character of the classical hostilities.
Proceeding from existing international context, the hierarchy of ‘hard’ threats to the European security looks as follows: international terrorism; local conflicts and instability in Europe and on its periphery; spreading the weapons of mass destruction; organized criminality.
Thus, potential threat for Europe is created by its vicinity to the centre of instability at the Middle East. One cannot exclude attacking the EU territory using tactical nucleus weapons from, e.g., Syria or Lebanon. It requires making the efficient system of antimissile defense. The problem gains even more urgency in connection with the crisis of the nonproliferation regime of the weapons of mass destruction.
Certain risks are carried also by conflicts and instability on periphery of the continent. Consequently, the European Union has to be able to participate in peacekeeping and peacemaking operations. Necessity to provide the Union energy safety (guarding infrastructure, maintaining stability and peace near sources of raw materials, etc.) requires the same.
So, list of tasks for the European army includes:
struggle against terrorism;
- peacekeeping and peacemaking operations;
- police functions;
- guarding infrastructure;
- protection of the EU territory (primarily, antimissile defense);
- rescue operations.
Theoretically it would be too rashly to exclude finally the danger from Russia, especially in the light of militant statements made by its authorities. Regrettably until leaders like today’s ones remain in power in Kremlin, there cannot be warranties of security in this direction.
But war between the European Union and Russia cannot be local because of obvious weakness of Russian conventional forces. It was confirmed by the recent statements by high-rank Russian generals concerning new military doctrine: it will allow using nucleus weapons while repulsing an ‘aggression’ with usual means in regional and even in local wars. Moreover, in critical for national security situation a preventive nuclear strike is not excluded.
However it is clear that nobody will prepare the European army to the global war, the more so in this case the United States will not remain aside undoubtedly.
It is evident that for fulfilling the aforementioned tasks (excluding surely the antiballistic missile defense) the best approach is to have relatively small, mobile and well equipped armed forces.
Right here the contradictions begin to appear. In ‘Solana document’ an urgent need was noted to increase resources for military purposes. However majority of European governments does not want to allocate the required amounts. On the whole, in Europe strong opposition exists to the military expenses rise. Calls to increase them can bring the ruling political parties to losing power.
The enquiry is that in mass consciousness of the majority of Europeans, including political elite, feeling of the threat, on a large scale, is absent. During ‘cold war’ Europe was shielded by American security umbrella that has allowed it to develop its economic integration without paying too much attention to the defense. And after disappearance of the Soviet threat the European countries have lost the interest to increasing their defense potential even more.
In the report prepared for the European Council on Foreign Relations, former head of the European Defense Agency Nick Witney declared that military industry of the European Union needs deep reform. He offered a corresponding strategy that concerns, first of all, changing the order of spending military budgets by the EU member states, partly provides introducing market mechanisms as well as unification of scattered companies into corporations.
But, on his words, it is extremely difficult to carry out reforms in this sphere since each state considers its military and industrial complex and defense as solely ‘personal’ business. Accordingly, they do not like to allocate money on joint projects, whether it being ABM, strategic reconnaissance or contemporary technologies.
Meantime, Europe has fallen far behind the United States with respect to amount and quality of arms. Hitherto the European forces demonstrated complete inability to act effectively while performing combat roles, for instance, in Balkan wars, without American reconnaissance information, heavy transport aviation and high-tech weaponry. The old problems of all international forces – different languages, collective decision taking, division of power and rivalry – are remained as well.
And this is only a technical aspect. Much more serious problem is caused by the ambiguity, following from the NATO existence. As is well known, 21 EU countries are simultaneously members of the alliance, that is three fourth of its structure.
There are two points of view at the coexistence of two blocks. According the first, the dominating US position in modern world is so firm that only opportunity for Europe to affect American behavior is to remain a faithful ally, which never criticizes Washington publicly.
The second one is grounded on the assumption that the European Union and United States perceive the world rather differently, so Europe must strive for its own goals and develop its own potential thoroughly. One of the explanations of such moods was given by Damien Tresaye, expert of the French Fondation pour l'innovation politique: “We cannot send troops to the other side of the globe every time, when American president is dreaming terrorists or illegal nuclear weapons.” (http://www.rbcdaily.ru/2008/06/09/focus/350945)
In the aforementioned interview Frattini also warned that “there is the risk that Europe will become irrelevant,” and that it would be bypassed by a U.S.-Chinese alliance. Hypothetical political threat from the U.S. has been cited for the first time. Therefore the future of transatlantic relations becomes an issue of primary importance.
Last February Nikolas Sarkozi has proposed to create elite forces of the EU defense on the base of six largest member states of the organization: France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland. There are a lot of reasons to suppose that instead of increasing European contribution to NATO, Paris consciously aims to create the alternative and even competitive military structure and armed forces. France and those who share its standpoint persistently try to achieve military independence of Europe because consider it as vitally important attribute of the new superpower, capable to contend with the United States.
Thereby, the main motive of creating independent European army has political, rather than defense, underlying reason. It nudges to rivalry, rather than to cooperation with NATO headed by America. In this case the European military project is capable to undermine the alliance’s cohesion.
In other words, some Europeans convict the United States for destructing terrorists and advancing democracy, but at the same time they are sure that American must keep order all over the world. Frankly speaking, such behavior looks not too decent. Though, unlike previous Washington administrations, the present one seems not to be against significant reinforcement of Europe’s role in the sphere of security and defense.
And one more moment, connected with NATO. In the opinion of Russian specialists, for Moscow forming the European army will have positive consequences: the more resources the Europeans will allocate to their own forces, the less of them will be remained for NATO, which is regarded as the main enemy (http://nvo.ng.ru/forces/2009-11-20/2_stary_svet.html). I am not convinced that such development of events will satisfy the Western world.
Finally, the main obstacle on the way of creating European army is the need to transfer management in military area to supranational bodies.
Armies belong to states. In order to create a European army one has first to create a European state. But until now nation state remains the basic unit of political account in Europe. The European Union has neither abolished nation states nor even reduced their sovereignty. Instead it has provided them with a legal and political framework that governs their relations with each other and, to some extent their relations with other countries.
A European army will not be useful if it is not backed by a political power capable of taking decisions. The current decisions of the Eurocorps are still taken by consensus, which seems unrealistic for a European army gathering all member states.
The progressive integration of military structures between the European countries and the setting up of an ad hoc European army are creating an unbalanced situation between military means and political power. The European Defense will be efficient only if it is backed by a European government with competencies in foreign affairs. Even if the heads of states agree to set up a European army, it would represent only one step, which shall be closely followed by amendments to the treaties in order to balance the decision-making power in the field of foreign affairs with adequate military means.
It is obvious that many European states are far from being ready to that. The European Union has no clear concept for its prospects. Until countries turn aside from the answer to the principle question, whether they agree to abandon completely the ideas of national state, or their purpose is solely a political consolidation, there is no sense to speculate about creating the European army and similar supranational projects.
The suggestion appears unintentionally that at all loud-mouthed statements about the common values, the EU member states have the certain mistrust to one another, concerning unevenness of the allocation of material and human resources. One can assume that some day any kind of mutually acceptable solution will be found, however, by all appearances, it is far from being happened soon.
Thus, like baroness Ashton actually is not a foreign secretary of the EU, in foreseeable future there are no grounds to expect that anybody will be the Union’s secretary of defense. Certainly, coming into effect of the Lisbon Treaty has become a certain step towards the ‘United States of Europe’. However in comparison with the remained distance it is extremely small. Moreover at the moment there is no confidence that this way will be passed at all completely.