Euro­pean Union looks for an al­ter­na­tive force to NATO

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Andrew Borowiec

NICOSIA, Cyprus — With 2 mil­lion men and women un­der arms, the Euro­pean Union is seek­ing ways to make them an in­stru­ment of the grow­ing de­mand for a mil­i­tary force in­de­pen­dent of the United States.

How­ever, the views and ob­jec­tives of the 25 EU mem­bers vary and have led to dis­puted pro­pos­als, con­tribut­ing to the dif­fi­culty plagu­ing the EU’s search for one joint voice on the global scene.

The most stri­dent EU states seek to end its mil­i­tary de­pen­dence on NATO, an al­liance that emerged vic­to­ri­ous from the Cold War but is in­creas­ingly seen in Europe as a tool of Wash­ing­ton’s for­eign pol­icy.

Such de­mands have led to a clash of ideas and what some Euro­pean press de­scribe as a “per­ilous ri­valry,” harm­ing mil­i­tary ef­fec­tive­ness.

All pro­pos­als for a united and in­de­pen­dent Euro­pean mil­i­tary force have run into prob­lems of cost and op­po­si­tion from NATO’s Cen­tral and East Euro­pean mem­bers, who pre­fer the pact’s tested um­brella, com­bined with U.S. in­volve­ment. Money ‘not com­ing’

“The money is sim­ply not com­ing,” said Javier Solana, EU for­eign pol­icy chief, re­fer­ring to the strug­gle for funds re­quired by the ex­pan­sion of re­search and weapons, of­ten du­pli­cat­ing those of NATO.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel main­tains that NATO “should re­main the cen­ter of po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sion on the im­pli­ca­tions of the crises and var­i­ous threats.” But the latest pro­posal for a strong Euro­pean army has come from the So­cial Democrats, part­ners in Mrs. Merkel’s “grand coali­tion” since last year’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

In an un­prece­dented state­ment from a Ger­man po­lit­i­cal party, Kurt Beck, leader of the So­cial Democrats, has sug­gested that Europe be­come “a global peace power” with its own mil­i­tary pol­icy.

While con­ced­ing Europe’s lim­ited means and po­lit­i­cal clout to solve world crises, Mr. Beck said the pro­posed in­de­pen­dent Euro­pean force should es­tab­lish “a part­ner­ship based on equal­ity” with the United States, rather than fol­low U.S. de­ci­sions.

This echoed an ear­lier state­ment by Gunter Ver­heugen, the EU’s com­mis­sioner for in­dus­try, that a sep­a­rate Con­ti­nen­tal de­fense sys­tem “is in­dis­pens­able to our in­de­pen­dence and po­lit­i­cal sovereignty.” Al­most a U.S. ‘tool’

Com­ment­ing on the pro­posal, Paul Du­nay of the Stock­holm In­ter­na­tional Peace Re­search In­sti­tute (SIPRI) in Swe­den said: “The prob­lem is not with NATO as such, but with how the al­liance has be­come al­most a tool of the United States.”

One of the first re­ac­tions was from Poland’s arch-con­ser­va­tive Pres­i­dent Lech Kaczyn­ski, who, while agree­ing with the con­cept of a Euro­pean army of 100,000, stressed that such an army should be firmly linked to NATO. For some time, the al­liance has ad­vo­cated the need for Europe’s greater role in se­cu­rity and de­fense.

Mr. Kaczyn­ski’s view is shared by sev­eral gov­ern­ments in the for­mer Soviet bloc and its dis­solved War­saw Pact, which think that NATO’s long-es­tab­lished pres­tige and U.S. in­volve­ment of­fer a bet­ter se­cu­rity guar­an­tee than an un­tested joint Euro­pean army.

The feel­ing re­flects East Euro­pean con­cerns about what th­ese coun­tries per­ceive to be the in­creas­ingly na­tion­al­ist poli­cies of Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Poland in par­tic­u­lar fears an eco­nomic part­ner­ship be­tween Rus­sia and Ger­many, both its tra­di­tional foes. Bri­tain: No — France: Yes

Bri­tain has also been an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of a sep­a­rate EU mil­i­tary com­mand, con­cerned that it would un­der­mine NATO, while France ar­gues in fa­vor of a strong and in­de­pen­dent Euro­pean army. This clash of ideas be­tween Europe’s two ma­jor coun­tries has been a long­stand­ing prob­lem for NATO.

France, a found­ing mem­ber of the al­liance, with­drew its troops from NATO com­mand in the mid-1960s while re­main­ing in its po­lit­i­cal wing. Some Euro­pean an­a­lysts feel that, since then, France has tried to drive a wedge be­tween the U.S.-led NATO com­mand and its Euro­pean mem­bers.

Ac­cord­ing to an as­sess­ment by the Ger­man In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional and Se­cu­rity Af­fairs, “there has al­ways been a ten­dency by France to sep­a­rate the EU’s de­fense pol­icy from NATO.”

On pa­per, NATO’s “Re­sponse Force” of some 7,000 troops from its 26 mem­ber na­tions is ex­pected to be able to de­ploy in ar­eas re­quir­ing in­ter­ven­tion within five days. The Euro­pean Union so far has been more am­bi­tious, propos­ing a “Rapid Re­ac­tion Force” of 60,000 troops.

Both in­ter­ven­tion forces have suf­fered from the re­luc­tance of gov- ern­ments to com­mit funds and sol­diers for re­quired ro­ta­tion pe­ri­ods. Costly du­pli­ca­tion

Crit­ics of in­tri­cate mil­i­tary prepa­ra­tions point out the ex­pen­sive du­pli­ca­tion of per­son­nel and equip­ment. The most glar­ing ex­am­ple is the fact that of NATO’S 26 mem­bers, 19 are also in the Euro­pean Union, and both their in­ter­ven­tion-force head­quar­ters are in Brus­sels, a short dis­tance from each other.

The two forces have been known to com­pete with each other in the world’s trou­ble spots. The EU’s mil­i­tary plan­ning, still in an em­bry­onic stage, is han­dled at five area head­quar­ters, and the com­bined de­fense bud­gets of the bloc’s mem­bers to­tal an es­ti­mated $250 bil­lion a year.

Com­ment­ing on the U.S. pro­posal to trans­form post-Cold War NATO into a global se­cu­rity force, Michele Al­liot-Marie, the French de­fense min­is­ter, warned that such a change would alien­ate Europe and dam­age trans-At­lantic re­la­tions.

“We must en­sure that the al­liance is not wa­tered down through fuzzy new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” she wrote in the Ger­man daily Die Welt.

One of the ar­gu­ments for a sep­a­rate EU army lies in the num­ber of troops ac­tu­ally serv­ing in mem­ber coun­tries, some of which rely on vol­un­teer and highly pro­fes­sion­al­ized de­fense forces while oth­ers, in­clud­ing Ger­many and Italy, use the draft. 2 mil­lion EU force

The com­bined EU de­fense forces num­ber around 2 mil­lion per­son­nel, con­sum­ing 60 per­cent of the joint mil­i­tary bud­get on pay and pen­sions.

De­spite the sig­nif­i­cant in­volve­ment of var­i­ous Euro­pean con­tin­gents in Kosovo, Bos­nia and in such dis­tant ar­eas as Iraq and Afghanistan un­der NATO or EU flags, most of Europe’s sol­diers re­main in their bar­racks. Bri­tain’s pro­fes­sional army has par­tic­i­pated in all ma­jor peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions, and French sol­diers have been de­ployed in sev­eral parts of France’s for­mer African em­pire.

Af­ter this sum­mer’s war be­tween Is­rael and the Hezbol­lah guer­ril­las in Le­banon, Ger­many of­fered pa­trol gun­boats to po­lice the coastal ar­eas. Pre­vi­ously, for sen­si­tive his­tor­i­cal rea­sons, Ger­many had avoided show­ing its flag in ar­eas where Is­raeli and Arab forces were in­volved.

The cost of peace-keep­ing mis­sions and of weapons sys­tems du­pli­ca­tion weighs heav­ily on the coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in both NATO’s and the EU’s mil­i­tary mis­sions, which are paid for by in­di­vid­ual gov­ern­ments.

The re­sult is that NATO and the fledg­ling Euro­pean corps com­pete for the same funds. Stan­dard­iza­tion is­sue

For years NATO — and now the Euro­pean Union — have been try­ing to stan­dard­ize their weapons to fa­cil­i­tate train­ing, avail­abil­ity of spare parts and am­mu­ni­tion sup­plies. None­the­less the prob­lem has never been solved.

Thus EU mem­bers use 10 types of mil­i­tary he­li­copters — some dat­ing back to War­saw Pact days — and 23 types of ar­mored ve­hi­cles.

Lo­gis­tics is a daunt­ing prob­lem dur­ing joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises.

Un­til now, Euro­pean com­po­nents par­tic­i­pat­ing in dis­tant mis­sions have had to rely on con­sid­er­able sup­port from NATO — and es­pe­cially its U.S. mem­ber. This has in­cluded trans­port air­craft, he­li­copters, satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions and night-vi­sion equip­ment.

En­thu­si­asts of a sep­a­rate, strong Euro­pean mil­i­tary force claim that all such prob­lems will be pro­gres­sively elim­i­nated as Europe de­vel­ops its own state-ofthe-arts arms pro­gram, and, above all, re­search.

And here the prob­lem of cost ap­pears hard to elim­i­nate: EU mil­i­tary plan­ners had con­sid­er­able dif­fi­culty in cre­at­ing an ini­tial re­search fund of $60 mil­lion — ap­prox­i­mately one-fifth of an­nual mil­i­tary re­search spend­ing in the United States.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel squared off with a sol­dier of the Ger­man Bun­deswehr in pro­tec­tive clothes dur­ing a visit two weeks ago to the troops in Let­zlin­gen, in east­ern Ger­many. Mrs. Merkel says that NATO “should re­main the cen­ter of po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sion on the im­pli­ca­tions of the crises and var­i­ous threats.”

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