This weekend, the German press reported that French President Emmanuel Macron proposed specificating collective defense provisions of the EU Treaty.
The French president believes that amendments to the Treaty are necessary to ensure the security of the European Union on its own, if the veto is applied to Article 5 of the NATO Charter, according to which, in case of an attack on a member country, other members of the alliance should provide military assistance.
Macron believes that it is necessary to consolidate the principle of collective defense in European law since EU member states such as Sweden, Finland, Austria, Cyprus, Malta, and Ireland do not participate in NATO.
A few days ago, Macron talked about the fact that NATO is in a coma, its “brain is dead”, and there is no coordination between the member states, he stressed that the EU should become an independent “geopolitical force”, otherwise “it will not be possible to control its fate”. France is contributing to deepening the split among NATO member countries.
Macron leads his game in the EU and hopes to transform the organization into an independent center of power. That's just not all Europeans share his ideas.
Macron spoke about the advisability of amending collective defense in the EU Treaty after the visit of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to Washington. After meeting with Trump, Stoltenberg said that since 2017, member countries have increased defense spending by 100 billion dollars and will continue to increase contributions to 2% of GDP.
Trump urges NATO member countries to increase defense spending to 2–4% of GDP to offset the efforts of the US military in ensuring Euro-Atlantic security. The United States spends 3.4% of GDP on defense.
Macron's logic is that if European countries have to increase defense spending under any circumstances, it is better to create their own defense structure within the EU without US participation. Macron believes that the Americans turned their backs on the Europeans, who have been their key allies since the end of World War II.
It just so happened that some European governments have a consumerist attitude towards NATO and believe that the guarantee of their security on the part of the United States is a payment for supporting their position on international issues. The Trump team’s attempts to force Europeans to bear the equal burden of spending in NATO were met with hostility.
Macron advocates the creation of a European army with a central command with the participation of the armed forces of the EU member states. In 2017, 23 of the 28 EU member states supported the PESCO Pact, which provides for military integration.
Currently, EU member states are implementing 47 defense projects, including mobile hospitals, logistics hubs, and officer training courses. 5.5 billion dollars were invested in the development of drones. The creation of a European army is seen as a cheaper alternative than an increase in defense spending within NATO.
This idea is not new. In 1952, French Prime Minister Rene Pleven proposed the establishment of a European defense community with the combined armed forces of France, Germany, Benelux, and Italy. Then the French parliament voted against this initiative.
Macron is trying to revise Pleven’s ideas and reduce the importance of security cooperation with the US and NATO amid a deterioration in relations with the Trump administration.
Macron’s Napoleonic plans play a role: if he does not revive the status of world power for France, then at least put the republic at the head of a united Europe. If Germany positions itself as the EU’s most powerful economy, Macron wants to turn France into the “muscles of the European Union” and the guarantor of regional security.
According to the Global Firepower rating, in 2019 France in number five in the world in military power, and its armed forces (388,000) are the most combat-ready ones in Europe. After Brexit, France will become the only EU member state possessing nuclear weapons and a navy of the open sea capable of mobile operations anywhere in the world.
The French army is mobile and has experience of rapid deployment in third countries. After 2001, French troops took part in military operations and peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, Libya, Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic, Syria, and Iraq.
According to Business Insider, the French counterterrorism unit, National Gendarmerie Intervention Unit (GIGN), is ranked 5th out of 8 strongest special forces units, second only to Israeli, British and American special forces.
French cannot fully rely on the support of their European brothers in arms. Armed forces of Germany have problems associated with the obsolescence of the fleet of military equipment, the lack of pilots. German pilots often change the seat of a fighter to the helm of a civilian airliner because of a higher salary.
Germany's defense spending does not reach 2% (plans to increase to 1.5% of GDP by 2024). Of all the NATO member countries, only Latvia, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Greece increased defense spending to 2% of GDP and above. The share of American contributions in the NATO budget is 22%. To date, 65,000 American troops are deployed in European countries. Half of them are housed in Germany.
According to the Global Firepower rating, the armed forces of 18 EU member states are inferior in terms of military power to the Ukrainian armed forces (8th place among European countries), despite supply problems, outdated weapons, and equipment, flourishing corruption, slow reform according to NATO standards.
Only 15,500 people serve in the Danish armed forces, 11,500 in Ireland, and 5,300 thousand in Estonia, respectively. In 2018, former Danish Minister of Defense Klaus Frederiksen noted that the country relies entirely on the United States to ensure security. Macron's idea is far from the real state of the armed forces of the EU member states.
Deepening NATO split
Macron’s demarche says the split in NATO is deepening. The drift of France followed the initiative of Turkey, which, despite membership in NATO, launched a military operation in northeastern Syria without coordination with Brussels.
NATO is no longer the same monolithic Atlantic camp as during the Cold War. All because the countries of Western Europe and Turkey do not perceive Russia and China as serious challenges to European security, they believe that they will cope with the threat of Islamic extremism without the help of Americans.
A negative role was played by the position of the Trump team, which saves on European security. NATO is losing importance because the US is trying to take some costs off. Macron’s idea of a European army is unpopular in Washington and can be used to refuse to guarantee the security of its European partners.
However, Trump forgets that the European partners in NATO have always been the stronghold of US influence in Eurasia. In the context of a split in the alliance, it will be easier for Moscow to play on the contradictions of Washington, Brussels, and Ankara, to intervene in the political processes of European countries.