While it is true that the creation of an independent European military force is being negotiated from the very beginning of the European structure, it is also evident that those plans are far from being realized. That is, the member-states, despite theoretically supporting solidarity, unity and cooperation, have always been extremely reluctant to resign from their exclusive right of sovereignty and completely dismantle their national defense industries. According to a research published by Statista and the Forbes magazine, the EU currently possesses 178 major weapon systems, including 17 different types of main battle tank, 20 different types of infantry fighting vehicles and 27 different howitzers. In a tactical level, that is translated into a chaos of incompatibility, while politically speaking, it is highly unlikely that any country would risk sharing their military technology or stop producing armory altogether.
Furthermore, over the decades, the EU has made itself very much known as a sui generis organization, achieving exciting goals, but reserving the originality of its structure at the same time. That being said, there is no need to be so naïve as to transform it into something that it is not: a state, or a military organization. The common steps towards the evolution of the Union have always been realized after serious consideration and multiple analysis of the benefits and risks associated with each option. That is the way in which a limited partnership between six war-torn countries has turned into a global economic and diplomatic power, comprised of 28 states, that are now proud to benefit from the European acquis framework. Forcing a European army into existence, ignoring all the objective constraints that such a venture poses, as well as the reasonable reservations of many member-states would be, in fact, the most anti-European decision Europe could make.
Even if the Europeans decide to cooperate and create a European army, there will be many problems in its operation. First of all, who will lead and who will fund the army? It is very ambitious to assert that all countries will pay the same amount of money. Therefore, France and Germany may be the states that will lead the army, as they are among the major European powers. In this case, it is very likely that these countries will try to promote their own interests against their alleged partners.
However, we cannot forget one of the main reasons of NATO’s creation: the willingness of all nations to supervise Germany. It is well known that Germany, having the military force, committed many crimes against humanity, especially during the Second World War. These cruelties and their consequences are etched in the memory of Europeans. So, it is doubtful to say that Europe will feel safe with the re – equipping of Germany.
In addition, it is widely known that the US contributes enormously larger amounts to the North Atlantic Organization than anyone else, but the fact that it is currently the most technologically advanced force on the planet, with acute organization structures is common knowledge, too. We, as an EU corps, could not, and honestly, do not need to burden ourselves with that kind of draining competition. Besides, let us not confuse the involvement of the US in NATO with the actual leadership of the organization, which is assigned to completely impartial and capable professionals, first of whom is the Secretary General, currently the Norwegian ex- prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg.
What is more, President Trump’s unorthodox methods have puzzled the international community over a variety of agendas, but complaints about insufficient EU contributions to NATO are not unprecedented. This notion was first introduced during the Johnson administration in the 1960’s and became academically known as Mansfieldism, assuming the name of the US Senator who raised the issue. However, withdrawal from NATO without a sufficient substitute is not the solution to the budget quarrel. Apart from that, let us not resort to nihilism and assume that the uncertainty that some might feel due to Mr. Trump’s possibly idle threats is worth the very real, tangible uncertainty that the abandonment of NATO’s article 5 collective defense would result in.
We are convinced that it is dangerously naïve to believe that the EU does not need to be involved in regional tensions and be fully capable of preventing a disastrous escalation that would finally affect its member-states. The examples of situations that the EU does not need to have control of, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as well as ISIS emerging as a regional player are at least unfortunate. Ukraine is a vital key to EU energy supply, as it serves as an intermediary between the Union and Russia, the union’s primary natural gas provider. When the energy flow towards Europe was blocked due to the Crimea crisis, it was European citizens who froze half to death. So, if the monitoring of this conflict is in anyone’s jurisdiction, that would be the EU, which, for the record, failed to produce an effective response in due time, leaving the crisis to be handled by the UN and NATO. As for the ISIS, the immediate results from the Syrian war, the immigration flows to Europe, as well as multiple extremist terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe and destabilization of Middle East altogether should be enough to convince us that the containment of these crises is in our best interest, but unfortunately, not solely in our power.
Concluding, we consider that the case study of the French-Atlantic relationship is one that provides us with the clarity to declare the European army plan as utopic. Even the country of the Great Charles De Gaulle, who, in 1966 withdrew from the military part of the Alliance, is now officially back, admitting that NATO’s presence in Europe is of utmost importance to peace and stability in the region. The dilemma between creating a European army or staying in NATO is a bone of contention. The relationship between EU and NATO can be described as a “marriage” of tension. Nevertheless, our history has shown us that these two institutions overlap. Let us make sober and cautiously calculated, not superficial and arrogant decisions.