In his annual address to the European Parliament and in a speech at the one-day informal summit of the European Union in Bratislava, held on 16 in September, the President of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker once again spoke about the need to further strengthen the defenses of the European Union (EU). The chairman’s statements on both forums actually differed from each other. But, according to him, so far it is not about the fact that the united forces of the European Union will fight under a single flag in the near future. This is still not as close as the EC head noted. But the first steps in this direction should be made in the near future.
OFFERS OF Jean-Claude
The EC Chairman invited the EU countries to implement three defense projects. “I see three specific projects on which we must concentrate in the coming months: the common operational headquarters, the participation of the EU rapid reaction force (EU Battlegroup) in operations in hot spots and the creation of a European defense fund for the development of our defense industry,” said Juncker in one of his latest interviews with the Funke media group (Funke Mediengruppe).
He believes that the need to form a common defense policy of the countries - members of the EU and the strict adherence to its principles has both political and economic meaning.
Such an approach to ensuring the EU's defense capability will allow countries in the Union to save annually from 25 to 100 billion euros. These funds, according to Juncker, could be used for other purposes.
He also stressed that the creation of a single European army is “rather a plan for a not so near future.” “It will take a long time before we send troops under the flag of the EU or soldiers in European uniform,” said Juncker.
In March of last year, when he first voiced the idea of creating a single EU army, the head of the EC was more categorical and spoke directly about the unification of the troops of European countries. Then the belligerent grandfather declared that the total military expenditures of EU members exceed the costs of any country in the world to ensure their security. But in Europe, all these funds go to the maintenance of small national armies. They are spent extremely inefficiently. But the creation of a single army of the European Union would give a real opportunity to ensure peace on the European continent.
He also announced that his own army is necessary for the EU as a tool for defending Europe’s interests in the world. “A common European army would show the world that there will never be a war between EU member states. Such an army would help us implement a common foreign and security policy, ”Juncker said and added that only with its own army, the EU can effectively respond to threats from EU members or neighboring countries. It goes without saying that Russia is spelled out in the list of threats to the allied states of Europe in the first line. “The EU army is needed not to activate it immediately, but to hint to Russia that we are serious about protecting the values of the European Union,” Juncker emphasized.
According to the official, NATO troops can not cope with this task for a number of objective reasons. “Not all members of the alliance are members of the European Union. And this is not about competition with NATO, but about making Europe stronger, ”said the chairman. Juncker emphasized that "Europe has pretty much lost prestige lately" and that it "is no longer taken seriously in foreign policy."
In Germany, Juncker’s ideas instantly found support. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Lyayen said that Europe wants to protect its security architecture, and therefore there is a vital meaning in creating a single army for all EU member states. She noted that the EU countries increasingly have to combine their efforts in the implementation of national security policy. “For such an interweaving of armies with the prospect of ever having a European army, in my opinion, the future,” she said in an interview with German radio station Deutschlandfunk. “We must do everything to prevent the destruction of the world order that we built in Europe after World War II and after the Cold War,” the minister said.
“We know that at present Russia is no longer our partner, but we should pay attention to the fact that Russia does not become our enemy. We want to solve our problems at the negotiating table, but at the same time have an internal core, we want to protect international law and human rights, ”the militant Frau said.
The intentions of Juncker were also positively assessed by the Chairman of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Policy, Norbert Rettgen. He said that the time has come to translate plans to create a unified EU army into life. “Our defense capabilities will remain insufficient from the point of view of security policy as long as we maintain the armies of individual states, which, moreover, for the most part do and buy the same thing, only in small quantities,” said Rettgen.
The chairman of the German parliament’s defense committee, Hans-Peter Bartels, agreed with him. “The last 10 years have brought little to the European defense. We need new beginnings. It is important to start implementing concrete measures quickly. We should not just wait for the overall concept of all 28 EU countries to emerge, but already now start searching for agreements between individual members, ”he said. Juncker’s latest ideas on the direction of the formation of a common EU defense policy, in essence, repeat the proposals of Germany and France on the military construction of the EU Armed Forces, which Berlin and Paris, acting in a single line, offered to its members. True, Germany more clearly articulated its intentions than France.
WHITE WORKS OF THE CHANCELLOR AND THE PRESIDENT
In the middle of this year, the Cabinet of Ministers of Germany approved a new national security strategy - the White Book 2016 (BC). In this document, Russia is positioned as a "source of threats to European security." German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a cover letter to the BC noted that Germany and other countries "observe and feel the impact of a lack of freedom, crises and conflicts." “We feel that peace and stability are not something taken for granted even in Europe,” the chancellor wrote. And the German Minister of Defense von Ursula der Lyayen in her preface to the book stated that the Federal Republic of Germany is facing a "wide range of security challenges" and therefore Germany must "responsibly respond to these challenges now and in the long term."
True, of all the security challenges of the FRG only in one Russia appears. The BC states that Moscow openly calls into question the peaceful order prevailing in Europe and intends to use force to fulfill its interests and to change the borders of European countries guaranteed by international law. By this method, the Kremlin acted in the Crimea and continues to destabilize Eastern Ukraine. Such a policy of Russia, noted in the BC, has far-reaching implications for the security of all European countries, including Germany.
Moscow does not seek to realize any opportunities for close cooperation with the West and considers the movement in the direction of strategic competition to be its priority. In the international arena, Russia is positioning itself as an independent center of power, whose aspirations are global in nature.
This is manifested, for example, in the expansion of its military activities on the borders of the EU countries and the NATO bloc. By actively modernizing its armed forces, Russia is showing its intentions to test the effectiveness of existing international agreements. Using intensively hybrid tools of counteraction in order to blur the boundaries between war and peace, Russia creates an atmosphere of misunderstanding of the nature of its intentions. This state of affairs necessitates a response from the countries to which its actions are directed, as well as from the EU and the North Atlantic Alliance.
If Moscow, according to Berlin strategists, does not fundamentally change its policy, then in the foreseeable future it will remain a challenge to the security of the European continent. But meanwhile, it is indicated in the BC, Europe and Russia are connected with each other by a wide range of common interests and interstate relations. As the EU’s largest neighbor and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it has regional and global responsibility to counter common challenges and resolve international crises. Europe’s security and prosperity cannot be ensured without close cooperation with Russia. Therefore, the EU in relations with Moscow, on the one hand, must find the right balance of measures to increase the flexibility of its collective security, and on the other, new approaches to the development of the defense sphere of its member states and regional cooperation.
Three years ago, Paris published the French Defense White Paper: 2014 – 2025. In this document, relations with Russia are considered in various planes. It says that the growth of military spending of the Russian Federation and the expansion of the capabilities of its Armed Forces occur against the background of increasing contradictions between Moscow and the bloc countries on a number of critical issues, including European missile defense, assessing threats to international security, energy security, and some other problems. But it said nothing about the need to unite the armies of the EU on the eve of the Russian attack.
Moreover, the book noted that a positive factor is the cooperation between NATO and the Russian Federation in a number of areas, including the Afghan transit, the operation in Mali, and military-technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and France. The document defines the relations between Russia and NATO as a whole as “unstable equilibrium”. It expresses the hope that such relationships will persist for a long time. The need for cooperation with Russia in ensuring security in Europe is also noted.
In early July of this year, France Presse agency, French President Francois Hollande, reported that after arriving at the NATO summit in Warsaw, he said that Russia should be seen as a partner, and not as a threat to Europe and the world. “NATO does not set the tone for relations between Europe and Russia. For France, Russia is not an enemy and not a threat. Russia is a partner who can sometimes use force, as we have seen in Ukraine, and which we have condemned for joining the Crimea, ”said Hollande.
Nevertheless, the French leader very actively supports his colleague, the Chancellor and Chairman of the EC Juncker. They even formulated joint proposals for military construction in the European Union.
PLAN OF PARIS AND BERLIN
On September 12, four days before the summit in Bratislava, French and German defense ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Ursula von der Lyayen sent the EU-wide EU-EU defense plan to EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. According to some Western media, this plan envisages the creation of a permanent single headquarters of the EU Armed Forces and the European Defense Fund to finance joint research and development of military technologies. In addition, this very brief document outlines measures to accelerate and increase the effectiveness of so-called 1500 combat groups of people who “on a rotational basis could be deployed in the territories of the EU member states and be mobilized within 15 days”.
Before sending the plan to Mogherini, von der Lyayen visited Vilnius. There she announced the need to create a “European defense alliance, a kind of defense Schengen,” and justified it by saying that “the North Atlantic Alliance needs strong support in Europe.” At the end of September and in the middle of November of this year, the Ministers of Defense of the EU member countries intend to hold meetings, which will make it possible to formulate concrete proposals within the framework of the German-French plan.
Somewhat earlier, the addressee of the German and French ministers of defense noted that “the European army is not something that should appear in the near future,” and even that such troops can appear only through 60, and maybe in 100 years. She believes that at present the EU countries need to “develop a commitment to promoting European defense policy.”
The head of European diplomacy does not forget about the need to calm the leadership of NATO and, above all, Washington. She refers to the fact that at the Warsaw Summit 8 – 9 in June between the EU and the North Atlantic Alliance a special memorandum was signed on expanding defense cooperation. According to Mogherini, a single EU army will only strengthen this cooperation.
Recently, under the leadership of Mogherini, a draft global EU strategy on foreign and security policy was developed under the heading “Common views, common actions: a stronger Europe”. In this document, which occupies the 60 pages and directed to the leaders of this community, the head of European diplomacy tried to formulate the main directions of EU action at the present stage and in the future.
As emphasized in the introductory part of the draft strategy, today Europe needs strength. “Our citizens and the world need a strong European Union like never before. In difficult times, a strong union is one that thinks strategically, shares vision and acts together. This is even more relevant after the British referendum, ”Mogherini noted in the preface to her document.
Relations with Russia are given a special place in the draft strategy. As stated in this document, “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of states, the inviolability of their borders and the peaceful resolution of controversial issues are the basic elements of ensuring order in Europe, and in the world as a whole. These principles apply to all states, both within the Union and beyond its borders.
The authors of the strategy claim that “peace and stability in Europe no longer exists.” The list of major threats to European security is headed by Russia, which, as announced in this document, violates international laws and destabilizes the situation in Ukraine. Together with prolonged conflicts in the Black Sea countries, this situation is a blow to key security standards in Europe. The EU must maintain a firm unity in ensuring compliance with international law, in developing democracy, in respecting human rights, in interstate cooperation, as well as in ensuring the right of any country to freely determine its future.
OPPONENTS AND SUPPORTERS OF JUNKER'S PLANS
One of the main ideologues of creating a unified army in Europe is Federica Mogherini. She argues that in Europe for the first time in recent decades, a “political space” has emerged to realize this intention. “We have reached a turning point. We can restart the European project and make it more functional and more powerful for our citizens and the rest of the world, ”the vice-president said to European diplomats.
To date, the United Kingdom, which is the main ally of the United States in European theaters, has repeatedly blocked any proposals for the creation of a united EU army. Now that London is leaving the Union, the EC has got a real opportunity to realize Juncker’s ideas. Military cooperation of the EU countries will be organized in accordance with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty approved at the EU Summit 13 December 2007, officially called the Lisbon Treaty on Amendments to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Establishment of the European Community.
It is planned that the armies of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland will form the basis of the permanent military structure. This formation, consisting of 18 national battalions, will act on behalf of the EU. Center for Military Planning will be located in Brussels.
As reported by the British newspaper The Times, the plan of the President of the European Commission caused alarm in a number of European countries, including those bordering Russia. Eastern European countries such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland supporting them intend to "criticize the plan for a single EU army." According to politicians of these countries, the implementation of this plan will lead to the undermining of the "European defense of NATO against Russia."
The Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevich said: “We take the idea of creating an EU army very skeptical. I see no value in the EU army. ” According to him, the single EU army will be a competitor of NATO at a time when countries need to strengthen the military presence of the North Atlantic bloc in the Baltic countries and Poland.
France and Germany fully support the need to develop a common military strategy for the European Union, including the creation of a joint headquarters of the command of civil and military operations of the EU, a common satellite surveillance system and the exchange of logistics and military medical resources.
Some politicians of “neutral countries”, such as Ireland, Austria, Sweden and Finland, expressed concern that the common European army could drag them into armed conflicts.
At the end of August of this year. The head of the Czech government, Bohuslav Sobotka, called for the creation of a unified army of the European Union. Finnish President Sauli Niiniste supported the idea of creating a European army. And Czech President Milos Zeman back in April of this year. spoke about the need to create a single army of the European Union. He explained the need for its formation by serious problems with the protection of the external borders of the EU countries during the migration crisis.
Time will tell what will happen in reality and how the EU will formulate and solve its military tasks and build a unified army. But most likely the leaders of the Union, if it eventually does not fall apart, will meekly walk behind America and do what Uncle Sam from Washington orders.