European defense alliance: EU discusses the idea of joint army

Author : Mykola Beleskov

Source : 112 Ukraine

The idea of ​​a European army, which has long been considered a utopia, in recent weeks suddenly became very topical
13:26, 28 February 2017

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The idea of a European army, which has long been considered a utopia, in recent weeks suddenly became very topical.

Why assessment of the Europeans have changed? First of all, because of the radical approach of Donald Trump on the future of NATO. Actual ultimatum of Vice President Mike Pence that the EU should show tangible progress in increasing defense spending may contribute to the emergence of new European initiatives in the field of security.

Europeans are actually afraid that the US can fail to fulfill its obligations within NATO.

New start - before and after Brexit

The idea of military integration within the European project is not new today. The first attempt to create common European armed forces was made yet in the early 1950s, but it was unsuccessful.

For the second time this idea became popular in the 1990s, when the Balkan conflict has demonstrated that without NATO, Europe is not able to successfully conduct military interventions.

But ultimately the result of the second attempt of military integration within the EU has been the emergence of military tactical teams (18 teams in total, each numbering 1.5 thousand people), never used since 2007.

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The third time the idea of the practical dimension of a common defense and security policy of the EU began to circulate in 2016 - long before Donald Trump figure loomed over the US. In early June 2016, it was reported that European countries are preparing to initiate strengthening security cooperation until the end of the month.

In this context, Brexit ultimately can have a positive impact on future initiatives in the field of security and defense. First of all, Berlin and Paris see strengthening cooperation in security and defense of other countries began as a way to give new impetus to European integration.

Especially when the UK as the biggest enemy of strengthening of such cooperation within the framework of the EU no longer prevents this. And this is the second positive development.

At the end of June 2016 a policy document "European global strategy" was published. It stated that the aim to increase defense is to act autonomously from NATO.

Also this basic program dealt with the financing of new developments on a multilateral basis through pan-European funds.

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Thus, in essence, the EU would solve the problem of duplication and lack of interoperability of the armed forces, which did not allow to convert 210 billion euro annual defense spending and the total armed forces to 1.5 million people in the capacity to act independently of the United States if necessary.

In early September 2016, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini expressed a number of proposals to the actual content of the European idea of a global strategy to strengthen cooperation in security and defense. She meant creation in Brussels headquarters for the management of European battle groups in the event of their application. This in turn would evolve into the headquarters for the management of all future transactions.

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It also dealt with the combination of the resources of the EU, which are necessary for the development of defense and security sector. But in any case, as Federica Mogherini said, no one was talking about creating the European army.

September 11, 2016 the defense ministers of Germany and France sent to Brussels their own vision of strengthening cooperation in defense within the EU. First of all, they proposed to create separate headquarters, which led to all EU operations abroad.

In addition the pan-European center should coordinate the issue of care, sharing airlift, intelligence sharing. The joint battalion group must be in full combat readiness, and introduced a common budget for the development and purchase of transport aircraft, satellites, and UAVs. However, that was not the creation of a supranational structure in the form of common European army, but only greater cooperation between Member States.

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Moreover, the emphasis was on strengthening cooperation between Member States. The logical development presented in early September initiatives was that September 27, defense ministers of EU member states discussed plans to strengthen security cooperation.

The result of these discussions was the proposal published November 30 in the form of the European Commission action plan on defense.

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This plan became the embodiment of the idea of strengthening cooperation between Member States for their joint developing new technologies through pan-European funding. The development of this initiative would take 25 million euros in 2017 with bringing this figure to 90 million in 2020.

However, after 2020 a specific research program of development in the defense sector would be launched with a total budget of 500 million euros a year. Separately, the plan foresees allocation of 5 billion euros a year for the joint procurement of jointly developed UAVs or helicopters. However, these figures are clearly inferior to the annual US budget of $ 75 billion on new developments in the military sphere.

In parallel with this, the European Parliament upheld a more ambitious idea of creating a European defense union by voting on November 22.

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Thus it took six months to go from specific proposals on how to step up cooperation in security and defense specific to the approved plans, which, however, were not too ambitious.

Trump Factor

New variable in the calculation of European security was the 45th US president, who in July 2016 questioned the US commitment to safeguards under Article 5, and a few days before his inauguration he called NATO an outdated organization.

Trump’s criticism was not caused by the fact that only 5 of the 28 members of NATO spend the minimum required 2% of GDP on defense.

At the same time, official Berlin is the main object of criticism from the US because of its largest among all European countries disparity between economic potential and military expenditures. As a result, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen recognize a problem in terms of defense spending, but promise to gradually increase funding.

Thus, defense spending in 2017 increased to 1.2% of GDP from 1.08% in the previous year, and in 2020, it might reach 2% of GDP.

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However, the aforementioned ultimatum by the vice president Mike Pence or statement of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who on February 15 demanded that the Europeans presented clear plan by the end of the year to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP, were actually a shock to the Europeans.

Not all Europeans have decided to remain silent in response to such claims of the United States. The first man who clearly voiced his opposition was the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (supporter of the idea of a single European army). According to him, the US military confused the safety and security as such. However, unlike the Americans, the EU spends far more on humanitarian aid and development assistance. Juncker notes that united Europe must not succumb to blackmail the United States to increase defense spending.

Head of the European Commission was supported by the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said not to reduce safety exclusively to military issues. Most of the German population, 60% of which is against radical increase in defense spending, has the same opinion.

In such circumstances, it is not surprising that Germany is betting on increased cooperation with partners on the efficient use of existing capacity, and new initiatives common in some areas.

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On the way to full autonomy

Quite modest ambitions of new European initiatives in security and defense areas give some certainty that they will be implemented.

However, their implementation will give the EU the possibility to get full autonomy from NATO, and this structure would guarantee the safety of members and conduct large-scale operations to stabilize the situation in neighboring regions.

EU should move from point plan for the joint creation and use of weapons in the European programs. Only this will finally solve the problem of duplication and interoperability, which eat up the lion's share of defense spending.

Finally, the successful implementation of this plan cannot be imagined without the gradual increase in European military budgets. However, the uncertainty provoked by the Administration of Donald Trump can make this necessity inevitable, and hence contribute to the emergence of a European Defense Union, especially if countries such as Germany, fulfill a promise to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP.

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For Ukraine, the development of autonomous European defense structures opens the possibility for intensifying cooperation with the EU and parallel maintenance of the defense capabilities.

In June 2016, a note was signed, under which Ukraine joined the Battle Group of the Visegrad Four. In addition, in the first half of last year, the Armed Forces units involved in alternating EU Battle Groups "Helbrok" and the Visegrad countries.

In the process of deepening cooperation with the EU is mutually beneficial process, during which Ukraine contributes to Euro-Atlantic security, on the other hand, during training exercises and receives the necessary experience.

In June 2016, a note was signed, under which Ukraine joined the Battle Group of the Visegrad Four. In addition, in the first half of last year, the Armed Forces units participated in EU Battle Groups "Helbrok" and the Visegrad countries military trainings.

In terms of deepening cooperation with the EU, both parties are experiencing mutually beneficial process, during which Ukraine contributes to Euro-Atlantic security, and receives the necessary experience.

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