NEWS, ANALYSIS AND COMMENT

The New Army of Europe

Looks a lot like the old one . .


“The term European army is very imprecise. It is a bit like talking about the United States of Europe: you can talk about it but it is clearly not meant to happen tomorrow,” Ulrike Franke - European Council on Foreign Relations.

Much has been made in recent news of French Premier Macron's call for a European army. Interpretations vary between this being a continuation of anti-trump rhetoric, a genuine move to centralize European defense, or a more nuanced effort at closer cooperation in the age of resurgent Anglo-Saxon isolationism. Sober analysis leans heavily towards the latter explanation.


Although the German Chancellor had loudly voiced her support, the realities of preexisting commitments and the limitations of European defense capabilities and multilateral-ism, strongly suggest nothing much is likely to change.


Nearly all strategic thinking for the past 50 years regarding the defense of Europe has hinged upon NATO, which European leaders seem determined not to directly undermine despite Donald Trump's insistence on doing so. There's also no way around the fact that European NATO members have consistently failed to meed their commitments in funding, namely the oft discussed 2% of GDP target for military spending. This is not a new phenomenon and predates the severe economic recession that was particularly acute for the eurozone. This lends sudden calls from Europe for greater commitment to mutual defense, an less reliance on the belligerent US/UK axis, an unwelcome air of self-indulgence


The initiatives proposed and agreed recently by the EU are significant, including a series of joint efforts in intelligence training, capability development and better integrated planning and load balancing on existing and future operations. Decision making remains ultimately up to Nation States, a fact of life that is unlikely to change short of a major, existential crisis to the continent.


Cooler heads also prevail when considering the mid term, appreciating that Trump and his outlook, may remain a 4 or at worst 8 year chapter in Transatlantic relations, and the rising challengers of Russia and China aren't going anywhere.


In the foreseeable future, NATO remains the cornerstone of European defense in the short and long term. There's broad agreement that Europe needs the US much more than the US needs Europe, from a defense cooperation perspective, and thrifty European governments are wary of wasting limited funds on simply duplicating capability and command structure that is largely in place through existing NATO infrastructure.


Separating rhetoric from reality, the European Army remains at its most plausibly ambitious, a committee driven Army of Europeans.

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