Well dear readers, most of this article has little to with Ukraine……unless the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was to seek full independence again, in which case European Union policy would seem to have a precident in the Bosnia Kosovo issue as discussed here.
This is not the reason I picked this article to ponder however.
I have chosen it for this end section and then to extend the thought to Ukraine and its position between Russia and the EU.
Ms Ashton’s speeches are being watched for clues on how she plans to shape EU foreign policy over the next five years.
Her Belgrade statement depicted the EU as a guarantor of security, a role formally reserved for Nato, but with French and German leaders recently speaking out in support of a European army.
“In this world, the small and medium-sized states of Europe cannot provide real security. That is why the European Union is essential for our future,” Ms Ashton said.
The highlighting is obviously my own and this is a subject which I have touched on before, specifically when commenting upon the sale of French Warships to Russia despite concerns of fellow EU and NATO allies.
Now there is of course, something in Mr Sarkozy’s statement when he said about the sale, words to the effect that how can NATO keep saying it sees Russia as an ally if we do not treat it as one. A reasonable point to some degree …..particularly if you have a shared point of view about European security as France, Russia, possibly Germany and few others have, but of course not the whole reason for the sale.
More honesty would be found in the fact that French shipyards are suffering and lay-offs of hundreds and thousands of workers will happen if the sale does not go through. The actual price of the warship, a paultry Euro 500 million makes little difference to France in the long run of course, but employment now, in a time of recession and faultering recovery does.
This sale will happen for domestic reasons in France irrespective of the “concerns” of fellow EU and NATO members such as Latvia for example.
The sale has been accommodated by the current NATO head also, stating there was nothing wrong with it.
Why is this, as 5 years ago, such a sale would never have happened?
The answer of course is France has now returned to the NATO limelight after years on the sidelines and has a powerful and influential figure in Mr Sarkozy which is able to use his persoanl abilities to make this happen.
Germany and Italy also have good economic and energy reasons not to oppose such a sale with Russia.
What has this to do with an EU Army?
Well, for many years France has been an advocate of such an entity and Germany has not raised any decent towards the idea…….which has been interpreted as silent agreement. I have not read anywhere as stated in the article that Germany is now vocally supporting the idea although I am not surprised and even amongst British political ranks some agreement on this issue can also be found……as long as it does not scupper NATO.
In many ways, there are already what would be classed as “specialist divisions” already existing of an EU Army with EU member states being part of several such units which do not answer to NATO. At present the control of these units is done by a 6 month rotating national leadership of those which make up a specific “specialisation”…….similar to the 6 month rotating leadership of the EU prior to the Lisbon Treaty.
Almost every nation in the EU is in at least one of these “special divisions” including the UK.
The Lisbon Treaty has now created “figureheads” for the EU. As Henry Kissinger once said, “Who do I call when I want to speak to Europe?” That question has now been answered, even if a swift reply would not be forthcoming as those figureheads can only speak for the EU when a consensus of opinion has been formed by the 27 member states…..so the answer would be, “Ill make some calls and get back to you”
What is really lacking to make an EU Army a reality is a command structure for the numbers of men, women and armour to go behind the ”specialist divisions” already exisiting. That is purely down to the lack of political will to do it of course…….at the moment.
Several issues arrise from the creation of such an entity.
Firstly, there is the NATO question. Would the creation of such an entity spell the end of NATO? Probably not in all honesty. If the EU Army was to take on Article 5, namely the “one for all and all for one” clause in defence of another NATO member for the continent of Europe only and EU members only, then this would be very much a defensive geographical institution and much less costly for many members then sending their people to far flung corners of the planet on NATO expeditions (with or without UN mandates) where their headcount and expertise really makes no difference in the NATO ranks on the ground in these theatres.
Maybe a set levy for NATO membership to share financial costs only would be the answer or even reconstruction works only and a fee for not fighting. In effect, similar to the British Army which has teeth arms……the front line fighters and artillery……and then those which are not teeth arms but logistical. The Netherlands now looks set to remove its troops from Afghanistan when August arrives for financial as well as political reasons.
Of course this would have the USA and some Commonealth nations quite upset as they will be seen by their public to be sending their men and women to die on the pretext of defending a nation which is not putting their own in harms way…….but that is happening now anyway whether they chose to recognise that or not……and most of those nations did not support at least one of the recent NATO “expeditions”.
There would be those who would say OK, but don’t expect us from the US and Commonwealth nations to come rushing to your aid if you are invaded, but then that would not be an issue if the EU Army is taking over Article 5 guarantees for the geographical region of Europe, if only by way of direct and imminent invasion of a foreign power.
In effect the EU would be taking responsibility for the defence of the EU which it certainly can afford to do and certainly has the military numbers to manage in a defensive capacity as long as it does not go globe trotting playing the world policeman which NATO has become.
In this respect there would be room for both organsiations, one responsible for EU defence and another to act as global bobby for the UN…..and of course, those countries which want to be “influential” in global policies would not leave NATO.
We also have to be honest and recognise that of the worlds top 5 arms manufacturers there are 2 EU nations amongst them, both of which are also nuclear, in the shape of France and the UK…..with Ukraine coming in at number 6 in the world for arms sales.
Europe really does not need US technology in arms, but of course, why not let the US not only pay for “missile defences” but also rent to the US the ground they put them on as well……money and defence for free, (even if some of the voting public are against it, a small price to pay), with the added bonus of a stimulous to the immediate local economy!
You have to wonder about the US taxpayer in all that though……providing Europe a free defence shield and then after paying for that, the US also has to rent the ground on which the missiles will be housed from that nation. Maybe they are all under the impression that Europe doesn’t know how to make weapons or has a military other than the UK military?
What has this to do with Ukraine? Well much would depend on whether the EU Army would be an army made up soley of EU nations, namely full members, whether it would be made up of all nations on the recognised continent of Europe, which would then include Russia which manages to get part of its territory into Europe even if the vast majority is Eurasia and therefore obviously would include Ukraine, or whether it would be EU nations and those with assocaited status like the Eastern European Partnership program which again involves Ukraine and quite possibly Russia in some of the programs.
Of course this would please both Mr Medvedev and Mr Sarkozy as both have the same European defence agenda even if the methods and reasons are different……if the reasons are different at all.
(Lets face it, with Iraq and Afghanistan on-going, France chose a strange time to re-enter the NATO limelight……unless it had an agenda which was not being heard from the shadows).
The next question, assuming it was formed, is who would control it? A rotating command struture would seem quite pointless now there are official figureheads to call (for Mr Kissinger) which have been appointed under the Lisbon Treaty…….and we would only be talking about European defence and not proactive and pre-emptive strikes elsewhere around the globe, for that would remain a NATO remit……or so we are to believe.
Just as in NATO it would still remain a soveriegn nations decision to commit its military to any conflict…..but of course if the conflict is actually happening on European soil (again) then there is much more interest in a united EU effort than that of poppy fields in Afghanistan, Taliban in Pakistan or mythical WMDs in Iraq.
Given the difficult balancing act Ukraine has already with keeping its trading partners happy both in Russia and the EU…..and it cannot afford to lose either one, then of course joining a purely defensive force would be a fairly cheap and attractive proposition, especially with both EU and Russian involvement and would certainly assist in the European intigration in more ways than just militarily……without the historical hangover of being “NATO”, and therefore much easier for the public to swallow.
It is debatable about how much additonal economic growth or how much of a boost to the economy the creation of an EU Army would have, but of course, France, the UK and Germany would all make some additional money in defence/arms contracts…….as would Russia and Ukraine should they be included in it.
NATO can then go chasing insurgents around the globe due to the lack of any serious coventional military threat from anywhere……including Iran which may be a nuclear threat but is not going to invade Europe, therefore not warranting the numbers of military people retained in NATO when anti ballistic missiles will nullify the threat.
In this day and age it is simply not necessary to have 500,000 troops anywhere (unless China was to become empirialsitic) to confront a conventional military force, particularly as has been shown, guerrilla warfare is far better at getting results than sending the calvery charging in over the ridge and several thousand people can keep one hundred thousand plus busy for 9 years or more with no recognisable gains as yet.
We will see what happens in the future of course, but it will take only one or two more NATO expeditions to be far more costly, politically divisvie and less timely than invisaged to make an EU Army constrained by mandate to only defend the continent of Europe from invasion, far more acceptable to the average European voter than it currently is.