Volume 2, Number 2
by William Anthony Hay and Harvey Sicherman
William Anthony Hay, Ph.D., is Executive Director of FPRI’s Center for the Study of America and the West. Harvey Sicherman, Ph.D., is President of FPRI and a former aide to three U.S. secretaries of state.
At the dawn of the new century, the European Union (EU) apparently has resolved on the radical new step of creating its own military force. For Americans accustomed to seeing Europe through a NATO lens, three questions come immediately to mind. Who needs the new force? What does it mean for NATO and U.S.-European relations? And, in the end, will the Europeans spend the money?
Javier Solana, the former NATO Secretary General now responsible for EU security policy, tried to answer the first question by assigning the new force a mission: to act "where NATO as a whole is not fully engaged." But Solana’s formulation leads one to ask where in Europe, or anywhere else, that might be?
As to the second question, the French have one view, the Americans another, and the rest of the allies have feared to follow where those elephants deign to tread. French President Jacques Chirac wants the EU force to operate independently of NATO, though in coordination with it. The Americans want to know exactly what "coordination" entails. This dispute has focused on what appears at first glance to be an obscure bureaucratic point; whether or not the EU force and NATO would share the NATO planning staff. If it did, then a US veto would be implicit. If it did not, then the resulting duplication might leave both diminished to a dangerous degree. As for the third question of whether the Europeans will allocate the necessary resources, they appear ready to spend some money but whether it will be enough depends upon how the other two questions are answered. The new Bush administration thus inherits a potentially nasty transatlantic argument with significant implications.
While the idea of a European force has been a staple of discussion since the Pleven plan of the early 1950s, its latest incarnation took shape when the European Union resolved in to create a Common Foreign and Security Policy as part of the Maastricht Treaty in 1991. This step reflected the EU’s desire to assert an international political role commensurate with its economic strength while preserving Franco-German unity after the end of the Cold War and German unification. A Franco-German corps was formed in 1991 with headquarters in Strasbourg, and later expanded into the Eurocorps, with 50,000 troops from five countries. The corps was largely symbolic for it drew on the same national contingents also formally committed to NATO.
The Franco-German Eurocorps also contended with the survivor of an earlier era, the Western European Union (WEU) that included members of both NATO and the EU. Founded in 1955 and revived in 1984 with a new agenda to improve regional military capabilities, the WEU had never fielded a soldier but remained the main avenue for joint European security efforts. It acted in conjunction with NATO and served as a bridge to France, which had withdrawn from active participation in NATO’s integrated military command in 1966.
Under Britain’s influence, the WEU had an Atlantic (i.e. NATO) focus that the French resisted. Its boldest recent achievement had been to provide a forum for Anglo-French cooperation on nuclear weapons. Then in a June 1992 meeting in Petersburg, Germany, members of the WEU (some of them already involved in the Balkan crisis) established a new, broader mission that included humanitarian and rescue efforts, peacekeeping, and crisis management involving deployment of combat forces.
These "Petersburg Tasks" were to be claimed by the EU at the 1997 Amsterdam Summit. Seeking a less contentious way to associate with the EU than economic integration, the new Blair government in Britain dropped its Tory predecessor’s objections to making the WEU an appendage of the French- dominated Common Foreign and Security Policy. The new Anglo-French harmony was codified a year later in St. Malo with an agreement signed on December 5, 1998. London and Paris declared that the EU "must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible forces, the means to decide to use them and a readiness to do so in order to respond to international crises." The two most capable European military powers were now pledged to work together.
The slow and steady beat of committee reports, conferences, and communiques was accompanied by the sound and fury of a real crisis. The U.S. deliberately had left the Balkans to Europe, and Europe had failed the test. Yugoslavia’s collapse into brutal ethnic conflict brought British, French and Dutch units into Croatia and Bosnia. Bound by UN resolutions, a confusion of command, and hesitant governments, these troops had not distinguished themselves.
By 1995, the Europeans found themselves the subject of moral scorn by Washington for failing to prevent "ethnic cleansing" and under daily harassment by the warring parties. Newly elected French President Chirac demanded that NATO get tough or get out. A majority in the U.S. Congress, led by Senator Robert Dole, insisted that the arms embargo against Bosnia be lifted. Under these pressures, Clinton finally acted, and NATO bombed Serb forces in August 1995, leading eventually to the Dayton Agreement. By that time, what started as a local Balkan conflict had nearly metastasized into a NATO crisis.
The Kosovo war four years later illustrated the military weakness of the European powers once more. The Supreme Commander of NATO, General Wesley Clark, later told Congress that the U.S. mounted roughly 60% of the 38,000 sorties flown and provided two-thirds of the aircraft used in the campaign. European forces could not match American capabilities in surveillance, all-weather precision munitions, and stealth technology, and European units deployed to the region moved slowly and with great difficulty. The U.S. quickly took over target selection and management of the war to a degree that troubled both allies and American domestic opinion. The campaign ended on a particularly sour note when a British general, Sir Michael Jackson, refused General Clark’s order to thwart a Russian takeover of the key Pristina airport after the cease-fire, and the Clinton White House backed Jackson against its own commander.
Kosovo confirmed what the Gulf War had revealed nearly a decade earlier. The major European states simply lacked the capacity to project decisive force beyond their borders, and they had made little progress in changing the situation despite major defense reviews in London and Paris.
This raised the question of resources. Are the Europeans prepared to put their money behind the EU declarations? The answer here is complex because the necessary reorganization of European forces is also--hold your focus--a NATO project. Even before the fighting in Kosovo ended NATO launched an initiative to close the gap in five areas: deployability and mobility; logistics and sustainability; consultation, command, and control; effective engagement; and survivability of forces. But the required investments were unlikely. While French spending remained higher than the NATO average in the 1990s, it fell below that necessary to implement plans set out in Paris' own 1994 defense review. Along with Britain and the U.S., France emphasized military reform more than the other allies, especially Germany. Speaking before a Bundeswehr audience in December 1999, U.S. Defense Secretary Cohen directly criticized spending planned reductions for the next few years. But German leaders, still burdened by the costs of reunification with its resentful eastern Lander, have little revenue for defense initiatives. Along with other NATO members, Germany also faces strict limits on deficit spending and government debt imposed by the EU’s 1991 agreement on monetary union. Slow economic growth imposed yet another barrier. NATO’s European members are unlikely to meet alliance goals set for 2001-6.
Understandably then, European leaders preferred to shift their attention from fixing national military deficiencies to the less expensive and far more satisfying task of developing a European framework for deploying their imagined forces. The EU agreed at Cologne in June 1999 to take over the crisis management role of the WEU and designated the recently retired NATO Secretary General Javier Solana for the new post of High Representative for the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.
It was easy enough to pass from those decrees to the paper details of the force itself. A subsequent Helsinki meeting in December called for the establishment by 2003 of a 60,000-strong force drawn from EU states that could be deployed for a year within 60 days and a political body to direct it. The European Rapid Reaction Force announced in Brussels on November 20 followed directly from the Cologne and Helsinki decisions.
Sustaining the 60,000-strong force with air and naval support outlined at Helsinki requires a pool of roughly 100,000 troops, 400 combat aircraft, and 100 naval vessels. The conference named a German, Lieutenant General Klaus Schuwirth, to head the planned EU military staff with a British deputy, Major General Graham Whiting. While Schuwirth’s staff will manage military affairs, Solana’s department will handle political aspects of crisis management. The EU’s November 20 statement expressed concern over European command and control capabilities, and urged cooperation with existing NATO structures to improve them. Significantly, Solana used a later speech in Paris to describe "respect for each organization’s decision making autonomy" as the underpinning of the EU-NATO relationship.
The Balkan crisis thus had been an important catalyst behind the EU’s effort to create its own army. The Europeans did not wish to repeat a situation in which they had found their troops on the firing line with bloody-minded locals in front and sanctimonious Americans behind. An EU force of decisive size, responsive to EU command, and capable of operating without American support seemed the answer. But did they really mean it? Did they want it to operate without the superior planning, logistical, and fighting capability ensured by American leadership in NATO?
At the close of 2000, the U.S. and its allies quarreled over the seemingly obscure, but vitally important, issue of whether the new European force would share NATO’s planning staff or develop its own. In Washington’s view, the European force should be able to act in situations where NATO, and the U.S. itself, does not wish to commit troops, but its actions should not be "independent" of NATO, which is to say against American wishes. As Paris sees it, however, the force should be able to act autonomously.
In a last minute maneuver, Cohen used his valedictory speech before the NATO council on December 5 to propose a common defense planning and procurement process for all 23 EU and NATO countries as "the only logical, cost effective way to ensure the best possible coordination of limited forces and resources." Besides securing cooperation between NATO and the new EU force, it would allow full participation by non- EU allies.
Two days later, the Europeans in solemn conclave at the Nice summit avoided any definitive steps. Beset by unresolved arguments about the basic governing structure of an expanding EU, they said little on defense matters beyond approving some High Commission documents on the framework for crisis management. (These were buried in an annex that followed declarations on, among other things, the "specific characteristics of sport and its social functions in Europe.") Besides rejecting a European army or headquarters outside NATO, the EU directly acknowledged the sovereign authority of its members in committing their forces.
To date, the European plan essentially offers a permanent solution to the temporary problem created by the United States' devolving the Balkan crisis onto European organizations demonstrably unable to handle it. At most this force is no more than a small line item in certain budgets. Still, it has prompted a sharp debate crossing the Atlantic and anxious talk about NATO’s future.
Creating a parallel structure to NATO surely will encourage the "decoupling" analysts have feared for decades. But this need not be the case. A European force capable of acting in situations where NATO should not become formally committed as an alliance serves a valuable purpose, and updating the Cold War formula for dealing with "out of area" contingencies to that end would solve the potential problem created by the force. In this conception, NATO members able to intervene where key interests are at stake should act, while those unable to do so should either support their allies or maintain a dignified silence. This approach draws on painful experience from crises in NATO’s earlier years involving Algeria, Suez and Vietnam. It builds effectively on the different capabilities of national forces within the alliance, and worked well in the Persian Gulf. An EU force that serves as an effective, if unofficial, extension of NATO rather than a substitute is well worth the trouble. The strengthening of capabilities within NATO while ensuring a reasonable distribution of alliance burdens is a necessary corollary to this approach. Operationally, it means a division of labor that assigns tasks to the most capable. The ethos of "all for one and one for all" must remain sacrosanct to avoid creating a "two-tiered" alliance riven by discord. The voice that European allies rightly demand can be secured only by effective participation. But while all members must upgrade their national military forces, European officials were correct when they warned that "dividing NATO into real soldiers and 'escorts' who walk children to school is the first way to divide the alliance itself." The problems posed by so-called humanitarian interventions will not be resolved by dividing the U.S. from Europe or constructing a parallel structure that may, or may not, work.
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On November 15th at the FPRI annual dinner Fouad Ajami was presented with the Seventh Annual Benjamin Franklin Public Service Award. The event was attended by over 360 people.
Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr. was dinner chairman.
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