European Defense Initiatives - Back to Reality?

Posted in Europe | 31-Oct-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

Europe - members, candidates and non-members.

In October 2005, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued a 95-page report on transatlantic security affairs. The report was co-edited by two very experienced retired generals – General Joseph Ralston , former SACEUR, and General Klaus Naumann, former chairman of NATO’s Military Committee.

The report shows the differences between the numerous European declarations under the label of “European Security and Defense Policy” and European military capabilities. I remember quite well hearing Klaus Naumann repeatedly saying: No identity without capabilities.

We can fill libraries with numerous documents dealing with European defense initiatives and their brilliant rhetoric. Questions remain: What has been achieved so far? What are the main obstacles? Is there a European defense identity for the 26 nation states? What are the reasons for the wish to get even autonomous European military capabilities? What role does the EU want to give to NATO?

In the past, European initiatives were seen as efforts to strengthen the European pillar within NATO.

After the end of the Cold War and through some experiences during the first gulf war in 1991, some European nations – with France and Germany in the lead – wanted to stand on their own military feet and get more – perhaps even total – independence from the superpower USA. Now, about 15 years later, the EU seems to have produced a military paper tiger.

There are chances in Europe to come back to reality. There is a need for new thinking about NATO and the EU. The same movement seems to be emerging in the US. NATO – which was seen by some American officials as a “tool box” – might see a kind of renaissance. There are more and more American pundits who advocate a strong Europe.

There is the lesson learned in Iraq that the superpower US can win any military operation, but it faces huge problems in enduring post-conflict operations.

The success of NATO’s operation “ISAF” in Afghanistan leads to the conclusion that NATO could and should take over full responsibility and accountability in Afghanistan. In addition, the development of the NATO Response Force sends positive signals. On the other hand, most European countries show shrinking defense budgets. There is no political resolve to spend more money on defense.

It is time to come together to find out how common values can be best defended against the huge challenges ahead of us. It might become necessary to reinvent NATO.

It is time to have a closer look at the European side of the equation. Therefore, we present a newsletter on “European Security and Defense Policy” written by Axel Kukuk, a young German officer and student. His analysis shows the shortages in fundamental documents leading to the abovementioned gaps in military capabilities.

The question is whether the EU countries want to continue a more independent and weak European military path or whether they will come back to the idea of a “European pillar within NATO” with prudent burden sharing.