29.02.2020 Author: Vladimir Platov

Future EU Army As Trans-Atlantic Relations Crumble


“Munich Security Conference reveals frayed trans-Atlantic ties” read the headline of an opinion piece published by Germany’s broadcaster Deutsche Welle about the recently completed summit and the deteriorating state of trans-Atlantic relations as of recent. “Tensions had been simmering for a long time, and now they have come to the fore: At the Munich Security Conference, the deep cracks in the trans-Atlantic relationship have become more apparent than ever. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reply to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s opening speech showed that Europe — or at least Berlin, and even more so Paris — is further away from Washington than ever,” reported the media outlet concluding the summit’s key outcome was that there would be no return to the heyday of close trans-Atlantic ties.

Spanish daily newspaper La Vanguardia has also published a similar opinion. It has pointed out that Europeans and Americans do not simply disagree on certain issues, but, from the moment Donald Trump started using the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, they have come to realize that their interests differ greatly and the divide between them will only continue to grow.

Europe is increasingly wary not only about Washington’s undisguised efforts to assert its political and economic dominance recently, but also its own disagreements with the United States over the latter’s quest to use the North Atlantic Alliance and European territories to spark a confrontation between Europe and Russia, a nation that was and still is an important partner to the former in many spheres, including the energy sector. In a number of countries, Washington’s announcement that the active phases of NATO’s exercise Defender Europe 2020, involving 37,000 NATO military personnel, will start in spring has been met with criticism. During the military drills, more than 18 countries will rehearse the transfer of sizable troops from the United States to Europe and to its border with Russia. And according to many political observers, Moscow will react negatively to such maneuvers in Europe. On 23 February, Bernd Riexinger, Co-chairman of Germany’s Left Party, said on German TV channel Welt that there was no need for such an exercise and staging it at an inappropriate time would send the wrong message. He also pointed out that NATO was to deploy troops to Russia’s western border instead of actively pursuing a policy of seeking peace.

Even in Poland, which has long wished to have U.S. troops on its soil under the pretext of defending itself from the threat posed by Russia, anti-Russia policies have begun to lose their appeal as Poles have realized that their road infrastructure will not be able to handle the weight of U.S. armored vehicles, such as Abrams battle tanks.

Hence, it is not surprising that, recently, Germany and several of its European allies have once again raised the possibility of creating an EU Army that will be tasked with protecting Europe’s core interests. Not long ago, Germany’s Social Democrats again proposed the idea of a 28th EU army, a single supranational armed force. In other words, it will be created at the EU Commission level and will exist “in parallel with national troops”. All EU citizens could apply for the posts in it.

In the opinion of proponents of the EU Army, the advantage of the idea is that it would not be necessary for EU nations “to forego sovereignty” as far as their national security is concerned, or to make amendments to any existing European treaties. And again, any EU citizen will be able to serve in this Army.

Germany’s Social Democrats are convinced that “the establishment of such a 28th EU Army would necessarily trigger a standardization dynamic” within the EU. After all, in order to conduct any joint operations, “military law, procurement, personnel, leadership, training, command structure” and language would all have to be considered together.

It is important to point out that this is not a novel idea. Discussions about it began almost as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, which meant that Europeans were no longer forced to seek USA’s support, at any cost, against the threat from “the East”. Many famous politicians are viewed as generators of this idea. Almost all of the current EU leaders, who came to power in recent years, have had an opportunity to weigh in on this issue, starting from Jean-Claude Juncker, the former President of the European Commission. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this proposal generated a lot of interest during the wars on the Balkan Peninsula, which led to the breakup of the Yugoslav state. Recently, Emmanuel Macron decided to join the proponents of the idea, primarily because Paris would be the only nuclear power in the European Union after Great Britain’s exit from the EU. France spends billions of Euros to maintain its nuclear arsenal and would not mind sharing this financial burden as well as the responsibility of protecting it from a wide range of threats with its European partners. There is also a political aim behind Emmanuel Macron’s proposal, i.e. to reintegrate the European Union by creating a common security system.

French President’s idea had already been well received by Angela Merkel and many other German politicians before. But then again, everything in the EU does not depend on France and Germany. For instance, among the newest members of the European Union, Poland has the largest armed force. Earlier, this country took its guidance from the United States much more so than Paris or even Berlin ever did. And, at present, Poland is in the process of replacing Great Britain as USA’s Trojan horse within the EU. Under the current pro-American, nationalist and populist government, Warsaw is unlikely to agree to the idea of an EU Army, instead showing its support for establishing a U.S. military base closer to the Russian border, which the Poles have promised to pay for with funds from their state budget.
In addition, the Austrian leadership has expressed its disapproval of the proposal to create an EU Army, because the concept of this nation’s neutrality is enshrined in its constitution. Hence, the act of supporting this initiative would be unconstitutional.

However, the possibility of various armies within the EU still exists. In order to create a common European army, France and Germany could form a military alliance to start with while Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are still in power in these two nations. In the meantime, Poland and the rest of Central Europe could remain under the protection of NATO and the United States. It seems apt to rephrase a famous saying here:“Those who do not wish to feed their own, single army will have to feed someone else’s.”

It is clear that the far from novel idea proposed by Germany’s Social Democrats will be costly, but there could be a chance to save money after outdated structures are eliminated. It is now up to Berlin to officially approve this proposal and then find European partners to ensure the idea comes to fruition.

Vladimir Platov, Middle East expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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