21 October 2018

Europe can have its own army:Stoltenberg

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In an apparent reversal of his long-held opposition to the prospect, NATO's Secretary General has suggested the creation of an EU army could be a "good" thing - although it's clear he is determined that any such structure remains subordinate to the traditional transatlantic military alliance. reports citing

Speaking before a meeting of the European Council December 14, Jens Stoltenberg offered muted welcome for the prospect of an EU army and ever-greater European defense cooperation, stating he believed it would be "good for Europe and NATO" alike — but he simultaneously stressed the need for "complementarity" not "competition."

"I welcome the initiative because I believe that will be good for the European Union, for Europe and for NATO. But to be sure that we are able to fulfill this potential we have to focus on especially three things," he said.
For one, he suggested there had to be "coherence" between capability developments of NATO and the EU — failure to achieve this would risk creating "conflicting requirements" from EU and from NATO to the same nations. For two, forces and capabilities developed under EU initiatives had to be available for NATO use — there was no mention of reciprocity in this regard.

"Thirdly, we need the fullest possible involvement of non-EU Allies because they are key to European security. We have to remember after Brexit next year 80 percent of NATO's defense expenditures will come from non-EU Allies and that just highlights the importance of complementarity and not a competition between NATO and the EU," Stoltenberg added.

Asked by reporters whether Brexit would weaken EU and NATO security alike, the chief said while it would change the UK's relationship to the Brussels bloc, it wouldn't alter the UK's relationship to NATO. He concluded by suggesting European defense should not be about establishing "competing structures," or "duplicating what NATO is doing."
There Can Only Be One

Stoltenberg has repeatedly cautioned against the creation of a European army, and suggested Europe could not survive without NATO, in particular, the US and Britain, so his latest statements represent a slight yet still significant softening of stance — but nonetheless, he repeatedly stated European defense should not be about establishing "competing structures," or "duplicating what NATO is doing."

Moreover, he was quick to note while Brexit would change the UK's relationship to the Brussels bloc, it wouldn't alter the country's relationship to NATO.

His comments could well be a tacit recognition that his prior warnings have done apparently naught to dampen Brussels' determination to construct a single EU army, plans which have accelerated significantly in the wake of the UK's decision to secede from the bloc. In June, the European Commission launched the European Defense Fund, to supplement member states' defense research and support EU countries in obtaining military equipment — and there are suggestions such a pan-continental military structure could be in place by 2025.
In any event, EU leaders have long spoken of their desire for "strategic autonomy" from the US — and as the most dominant military force and biggest spender in the military alliance, effective US domination of NATO is virtually automatic.

Similarly, the creation of an EU army will almost inevitably weaken member states' relations with NATO — EU top brass are wise to this eventuality, with the 2017 Munich Security Conference Report calling on EU member states to "set aside" any concerns that investing in EU defense schemes would divert resources away from NATO, on the basis the time had come for the EU's "clout in the world" to come "top of the menu."

Nonetheless, a March report issued by the UK Policy Exchange suggested the biggest problem Europe will have in attempting to break free from NATO will be nuclear deterrence — namely, who or what will provide nuclear deterrence a "strategically autonomous" Europe will inevitably need to achieve great power status?

"Is French power sufficient for this role and what does that entail for the balance of European affairs? This nuclear question is already being asked in Germany and Poland, but there is, as yet, no definitive answer to it. What is clear is discussions on EU defense continue to be driven by political dynamics within the EU rather than genuine strategic calculations," the report stated.

Similar skepticism about the viability of an EU army was expressed in November by Czech military analyst Martin Koller.

"A European army is good in hauling around cargo, but this does not mean it will become combat-worthy. What interests can a Portuguese soldier possibly have in the Czech Republic, and the other way around? The EU is divided along language and ethnic lines and, more importantly, it has different interests. There is no such thing as European patriotism. What will these soldiers fight for? They will be just mercenaries," Mr. Koller previously told Sputnik.

2017.12.14 / 22:44
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