October 19, 2017

A European Army: To Be Or Not To Be?

Oleksiy Volovych

Part 1

Discussions around the idea to create joint European armed forces in parallel with NATO troops have been on since early 1950s and have not abated to this day. Since the creation of the European Union in 1992, as part of its activities, a large number of various documents have been adopted today aimed at strengthening the defence potential of the EU countries and their military and political structures. Currently, within the framework of the European Union, there are different forms of cooperation between the armed forces of the EU member states both at the intergovernmental level and at the level of different institutional structures of the European Union. The most debatable issue is the question of the expediency of creating joint European armed forces, the so-called European Army. These discussions became especially urgent and acute after Russia had violently and with impunity violated the Budapest Memorandum of December 5, 1994, having annexed the Crimea and occupied a part of the Ukrainian territory in the Donbas, sparkling a fire of war in central Europe. Given this dangerous situation, the leaders of the leading European countries, especially France and Germany, are increasingly inclined to the need to strengthen the European Union's defence potential, along with strengthening of NATO's capabilities. European security is also threatened by Islamic extremism and terrorism, which has led to an increase in the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and illegal migrants to the EU countries from unstable countries of the Middle East and Africa. The EU needs to have its own armed forces to carry out coercion operations in the territory of the countries with military conflicts raging on and in which Europe has economic and political interests. Today, the attempts of the European Union to strengthen its defence potential by creating the so-called European Army in parallel with NATO can be seen as an attempt to have additional capability of putting pressure on those states whose aggressive actions undermine European security.

After Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the leaders of the EU countries have realized that the world around Europe is becoming less and less secure, and the global world order system is malfunctioning, therefore it is not enough to possess just “soft power” alone, it is necessary to strengthen “hard power” as well. And since NATO's “hard power” is not entirely suitable for responding to local armed conflicts of small scale and low intensity, the military strategists of the European Union think that a more mobile and operational future EU Army could play its unique and irreplaceable role in them.

 

The Project of Creation of the EU Army: Stages of Implementation

The European Union's military policy determines the aim, tasks and algorithm of the EU countries' common actions in the military sphere outside NATO, but coordinated with the Alliance. The idea of a pan-European security system arose before NATO was created. In 1948, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France signed the Treaty of Brussels aimed at deterring and counteracting Soviet expansion, which formally lasted until 2011. Almost immediately after the creation of NATO in 1949, European leaders began to discuss the need and possibility of forming the European Joint Armed Forces in parallel with NATO. Since then, France and Germany have been the initiators of the EU Joint Armed Forces project.

London, as the main USA's ally in Europe, has always supported Washington's position on the European Union's military policy and has been actively criticizing the European Army initiative, emphasizing NATO's non-alternative as a global military organization of the Western world. According to representatives of the British authorities, the European Joint Armed Forces would compete with NATO and eventually weaken the Alliance's combat capabilities.

The issue of the feasibility of establishing the European Army has been considered by European countries at different levels for the past 25 years. In February 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed, which marked the beginning of the formation of the European Union and, in particular, its military policy. The principles of the development of military-political cooperation of the EU countries were formulated in the concept of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which provided for the shaping of the EU's defence policy aimed at creating joint defence forces.

In 1993, on the basis of the Franco-German Brigade, the European Corps (Eurocorps) was created, whose military personal could, if necessary, be increased from 5 to 50 thousand servicemen from France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg. According to some experts, the Eurocorps could be the basis for the formation of the future European Army.

In May 1995, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal agreed to establish a European Operational Rapid Force (Eurofor) to carry out humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in the Mediterranean region. Up to now, the Eurofor has been participating in more than 30 peacekeeping missions mainly in Africa and Asia. In 1995, the French-British European Air Group (EAG) was established to contribute to cooperation between the British and French Air Forces in operations in the Persian Gulf region and the Balkans. In 1997, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands joined this group. In 1995, the European Maritime Forces (Euromarfor, EMF) were created with the participation of the French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish navies to carry out operations such as sea control, humanitarian missions and peacekeeping operations in the Mediterranean basin.

The EU's Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) demonstrated the European Union's determination to play an independent role in the international arena. Under this Treaty, in case of a relevant decision of the European Council, cooperation between the EU countries in the formation of a common defence policy, in military planning and crisis response, participation in peacekeeping operations, as well as in the sphere of joint production of armaments and military equipment was envisaged. In the autumn of 1998, were promulgated the main principles of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), within the framework of which at the Helsinki Conference on 12 December 1999, the concept of the EU Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) and the relevant structures of military-political governance and planning were presented. At the same time, the prerogative of the UN was recognized in making decisions on the beginning of peacekeeping operations. The project was supported by the Washington Summit in April 1999.

In 2004, a fundamentally new approach to the organization and functioning of the EU Armed Forces was approved, which provided for formation of small mobile units at the level of the reinforced battalion numbering up to 1,500 servicemen and called “Battle Groups”. A total of 6 to 10 such groups were planned to be formed by 2007. “Battle Groups” could be created by one of the EU member state, or jointly by several countries, in cooperation with the NATO Response Force (NRF). Ukraine unsuccessfully tried to include a unit of its Armed Forces into one of the battalion-tactical groups, which was being formed from the countries of the Visegrad group.

The EU Treaty of Lisbon (2007), which came into force on December 1, 2009, spelt out in detail the EU's activities in the sphere of common security and defence policy. In particular, this agreement highlights the possibility of forming the EU's common defence against external threats. Under this agreement, EU countries can form multinational units from their armed forces to strengthen their defence capability and use their troops to conduct peacekeeping missions outside of Europe.

In early 2015, an idea to create the EU's own armed forces was put forward by one of the main lobbyists of the European Army, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who was motivated by the need to “respond convincingly” to threats, including the “Russian aggression”. In an interview with the German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” in March 2015, J. C. Juncker said: “A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries. Such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world”.

The issue of possible creation of the European Army is consistently spoken on by Federal Minister of Defence of Germany Ursula von der Leyen. In March 2015, she expressed her support for plans to establish a joint army of the EU: “Europe needs to think about creating a joint army to protect its security, since only such a model of collective security will be effective in the future”. U. von der Leyen's position naturally corresponds to that of Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, who stated in May 2017 that “Europe cannot rely entirely on its allies and must take its fate into its own hands”. The fact that the CDU/CSU Union's victory in the elections to the FRG Bundestag on 24 September 2017 will allow Angela Merkel to form a ruling coalition and to lead the German government for the fourth time, suggests that Berlin will intensify its joint activities with Paris to create a European Army.

 

September 26, 2017, in his speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris, President of France Emmanuel Macron laid out his vision of further development of Europe, pointing out that the European Union needs a “common strategic culture” to act collectively in the international arena. He stated that “at the beginning of the next decade, Europe must have a joint intervention force, a common defence budget and policy”. E. Macron also called for creation of a European intelligence academy to better fight against terrorism, joint civil protection forces for natural disasters and a fully-fledged EU police for protecting the EU's borders.

September 16, 2016, France and Germany presented at the informal summit of the EU leaders in Bratislava a plan to create a “joint military force of the EU countries at the NATO level by defence potential”. On 23 November 2016, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which contains provisions on the formation of a military-political structure within the European Union for the implementation of collective defence. In particular, this document called for the creation of a multinational European Army for the purpose of military response to crises, hybrid threats and terrorism, posing a threat to European security. However, on 14 November 2016, at the meeting of the foreign affairs and defence ministers of the EU member states, was adopted the implementation plan of the EU global strategy on foreign and security policy, which does not provide for creation of a united European Army.

The process of strengthening the EU's defence policy in 2017 has developed quite dynamically. February 16, 2017, the European Parliament supported the resolution on the creation of joint armed forces of the EU. In June of this year, in Brussels, the Military Planning and Conduct Capability for the European Union's military operations was created to advise the armed forces general staffs in countries where there are armed conflicts.

In early June 2017, the European Commission reveled a document on the prospects for the EU's security and defence policy and, in particular, on strengthening the defence capabilities of Europe for the period up to 2025. The document contains concrete proposals for the establishment of a European Defence Fund, aimed at increasing the costs of member states allocated to common defence. Commenting on this document, Vice President of the European Commission, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini pointed out that “Through the European Union, we cansupport member states in developing military capabilities and investing more efficiently in defence. We have come a long way in less than one year, and we are determined to keep this pace”.

 

Speaking at the EU High-level Defence & Security Conference in Prague (June 9, 2017), President of the European Commission J. C. Juncker stated: “The European Union can no longer use its deference to NATO as a convenient alibi to argue against greater European defence efforts”. According to him, the entire European Union as a whole spends half as much on defense as the United States, but even then, it achieves only 15 % of their efficiency in defense spending.

September 13, 2017, J. C. Juncker spoke in the European Parliament with the annual “State of the Union Address”, in which, in particular, he proposed to create a “fully-fledged European Defence Union by 2025”. By the end of 2017, the European Union intends to put into operation the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) of the EU member states in the field of defence. The EU member states joining the PESCO agreement, must meet certain criteria and commit themselves to defence.

 

Cooperation between NATO and the EU in the Defence Sphere

One of the arguments put forward by the European Army's supporters, is the assertion that NATO is a rather complex bureaucratic structure, all decisions of which are made on the basis of consensus after lengthy discussions and consultations among member states. If at least one country from 29 Allies opposes a decision, it will not be taken. Such an absolute democracy in some situations can reach the point of absurdity. For example, according to data for 2016, the smallest member of NATO, Luxembourg, whose army has 900 servicemen (a light battalion), and the military budget is 0.55 billion US dollars, can veto the proposals of a powerful member of NATO — the United States, whose strength is 1.4 million military servicemen and about 700 thousand employees, and the military budget is 619 billion US dollars. This is absolutely unacceptable in case of a critical situation on the European continent, when the EU countries must immediately respond and take decisions on the use of their armed forces to perform local tasks concerning only countries in Europe. But in reality, almost always “little brothers in arms” listen to the opinion of “big brothers”. Today, President of the European Commission J. C. Juncker calls for increased centralization in the European Union. Thus, in his speech in the European Parliament on September 13, 2017, he proposed to abandon the principle of consensus in some foreign policy decision making and to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting.

One of the problems with NATO's work is that the USA's partners are not enthusiastic about raising military spending to 2 % of GDP, and the United States is forced to provide about 70 % of the budget of NATO, which allows some anti-American-minded political scientists and experts to assert that NATO is the USA's project, into the orbit of which it drew Canada and European countries. According to NATO, in 2017, only 5 out of 29 NATO member states will spend more than 2 % of the national GDP: the United States (3.5 %), Great Britain (2.1 %), Greece (2,3 %), Poland (2.0 %) and Estonia (2.14 %). In 2017, only Romania will reach the established by NATO level at 2 % of GDP. In February 2017, Pentagon Chief James Mattis said that the USA could reduce its obligations to the EU if European partners did not increase their contribution to NATO and their military spending to 2 %.

It is well known that the NATO budget is the cumulative defence budget of its 29 member countries. In 2017 it amounted to almost 946 billion US dollars, while the USA's military budget was more than two thirds of the total budget of NATO — 619 billion US dollars. Thus, in 2017 the military budget of 28 NATO countries (without the USA) amounted to 327 billion US dollars, which is about 40 billion US dollars more than the total military budget of China and the Russian Federation in 2016 (respectively — 215 and 69 billion US dollars).

At the moment, the European Union and NATO have common structures for mutual informing, consultations and joint meetings at the level of representatives of military and defence agencies, foreign ministers and ambassadors. Regular contacts are held between the officers of the NATO’s International Staff and the EU Military Staff. Recognizing NATO's leading role in maintaining security in Europe and in the world, the EU has been granted access to NATO's military planning bodies, including access to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons (Belgium).

As for the EU's access to NATO military assets for the EU troops' operations, this issue is regulated in accordance with the EU-NATO Declaration on the European Security and Defence Policy signed on December 16, 2002. NATO and the European Union are actively cooperating on the prevention and resolution of crises and armed conflicts both in Europe and outside of it within the framework of the “Comprehensive Approach” to crisis management and operations, the main idea of which is the effective use of a set of military and non-military resources. An important condition for the effective cooperation between NATO and the EU in the military-political sphere is to remove duplication of joint actions.

Currently, the NATO’s leadership does not see any contradictions between the strengthening of the European Union's defence and a strong Alliance. On September 27, 2016, during the meeting with Foreign Ministers of the EU member states in Bratislava, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated: “I welcome the debate which is now taking place on how to strengthen the European defence and European defence cooperation. Because there is no contradiction between strong European defence and a strong NATO. Actually, it reinforces each other”. According to him, only a transparent and open dialogue between the EU and NATO will help avoid duplication.

The supporters of the non-alternative to NATO and/or opponents of creation of a European Army, insist that only NATO can be the most effective deterrent to Russia's aggressive course, while the supporters of the creation of a European Army in parallel with NATO indicate that the responsibility for protecting the EU countries from Russia rests directly with the countries of Europe, therefore it is necessary to create a European army. Washington is concerned about the European defence initiative, fearing inconsistency and mixing NATO-EU military-political responsibilities, reducing European contributions to NATO programs, contradictions and inconsistencies between the United States and the European Union during military and peacekeeping operations. According to some US experts, the creation of a European Army could negatively affect NATO's effectiveness and combatant value.

Some American analysts see the EU Army project first of as an attempt to decrease Washington's influence in Europe, therefore, in their view, the idea of the creation of a European Army contradicts the interests of NATO and the United States. A number of Ukrainian experts think with their American colleagues, among them — Professor H. Perepelytsa, who in his interview with the newspaper “Day” of November 23, 2016 stated: “as long as NATO exists, an independent Defence Union of the EU has no chance”. However, in our opinion, after the Brexit, new opportunities are opened for the implementation of joint defence projects in Europe, as London has already lost the right to veto decisions in this sphere.

 

The European Defence Industry

Today, the capabilities of the defence industry of the European Union almost fully meet the needs of the national armed forces of the EU countries and could possibly meet the needs of the European Army in case of its creation. Since the mid-1990s, integration and cooperation in the defence industry has been developing in the EU. At present, there are about 800 firms in the European defence industry, employing more than 600,000 people. Besides, in the defence industry, there are about 80 thousand subcontractors, giving jobs to not fewer than 1 million employees.

November 12, 1996, the Defence Ministers of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy established the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), but the legal status of OCCAR was achieved only in January 2001, when the parliaments of the four founding countries ratified the OCCAR Convention. Belgium and Spain joined this Organization respectively in 2003 and 2005. Other states may participate in OCCAR's programs without becoming a member state. Within the framework of the OCCAR, EU-based defence industry enterprises cooperate in research and technology, harmonization of military standards, information security and the protection of intellectual property rights.

The European Defence Agency, created in 2004, plays a key role in consolidating the European Defence Industry. The main directions of its activity are as follows: development of defence potential; promoting European co-operation in the sphere of armaments; creation of a competitive European market for weapons; enhancing the effectiveness of European defence research and technology. According to the European Parliament, there are about 50 large industrial defence companies in the EU. In 2016, they produced weapons worth about 100 billion euros.

In 1995–2016, the EU member states jointly developed various types of conventional weapons. At present, 170 different types of armaments are manufactured in the European Union: 17 types of tanks, 15 types of armored fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 29 types of warships, 20 types of combat aircrafts, as well as dozens of types of helicopters. However, this does not prevent European defence industry from cooperating with foreign partners. Thus, the USA supplies engines for warships to the EU countries, participates in the joint development of the 5th generation JSF F-35 fighters. The share of US weapons in the European market is 18 %.

Prior to leaving the European Union, British arms companies had developed “Astute” submarines and, by 2030, had been planning to reinforce the EU navies with “Elisabeth” class aircraft carriers and Type 26 “Destroyer” frigates, and land forces — with infantry fighting vehicles of the “FRES” programme. The British “BAE Systems” accounted for 40 % of the procurement of armaments for ground troops in Europe. Today, supplies of Israeli weapons to the EU countries account for about 1/5 of all EU countries' arms imports, and in the near future they will amount to 1/3.

At the end of 2016, under the European Defence Action Plan approved by the EU Council, was established the European Defence Fund (EDF), which will finance joint EU development initiatives in the defence sphere, as well as joint procurement of the latest military equipment. Financial support will be provided to those defence industry projects that involve at least three European companies. According to some reports, in 2017, the European Union will allocate 90 million euros to “military innovation”, and by 2020 this sum will increase to 1.5 billion euros, which will allow to create by the end of the current decade 3–5 prototypes of new purely European arms systems. Some experts believe that massive infusion of budgetary funds into the European Defence Industry could become a tool for stimulating the European economy as a whole.

To be continued…