With Russia’s tanks rolling in Ukraine and its fighter jets probing NATO airspace from the Baltics to Great Britain, Europe is facing security issues it hasn’t planned for in a generation. The usual maxim in these situations is si vis pacem, para bellum—if you seek peace, prepare for war. But in Europe, the thinking seems to be si vis pacem, para bureaucracy. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, has the solution—a European Army! The Guardian reports:
Jean-Claude Juncker said such a move would help the EU to persuade Russia that it was serious about defending its values in the face of the threat posed by Moscow. […]“You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in Germany in an interview published on Sunday.“But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”
Somehow, we doubt Putin will be revising his plans over the threat of yet another another joint military staff in Brussels a few years from now.Nor should the U.S. be worried that the EU army project will supplant NATO (however clearly Juncker wishes that to happen). EU military projects, such as the European rapid reaction force, have been proposed since the mid-1990s, and never get beyond either an on-paper pooling of still national forces or transnational commands without much in the way of troops. This is largely for the same reason that the common currency is foundering: there is no European sense of demos, of truly being one people. The nations of Europe still regard themselves as sovereign and have no intention of truly surrendering decision-making power to a central authority. Raising, arming, and deploying an effective force, not to mention persuading men potentially to fight and die for “Europe”, is beyond the EU’s capacities right now.This announcement is consistent with Europe’s lack of military seriousness in the face of an increasingly clear Russian threat. Germany, which is by every other measure now Europe’s leading power, hailed this common army as “the future.” Though Berlin has been talking a good game recently about facing up to its defense responsibilities, it has yet to make significant increases in spending, much less exert its influence to help Europe come to grips with a resurgent, aggressive Russia. Britain (sensibly) rejected the idea—but it’s not exactly covering itself in seriousness by going forward with defense cuts.A serious response to the Russians would be an acknowledgement of how much “the locusts have eaten”—Europe’s share of NATO spending has declined precipitously since the end of the Cold War, and it’s gotten much worse since the Great Recession—and a commitment to making real increases in expenditure and capacity.Then, Europe could credibly discuss from where and how its forces will be marshaled.