During the U.S. election campaign Trump threatened to abandon U.S. allies in Europe if they did not spend enough on defense. Apart from undermining the deterrence-effect of NATO, this policy would be disastrous for European security. Fortunately U.S. President Barack Obama has said: "In my conversation with the president-elect he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships and so, one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance." Although president Trump will retain America’s commitment to the NATO alliance, Europe is awake now after dozing in under the U.S. security umbrella. Guy Verhofstadt: "A Trump presidency will lead to an epic geopolitical shift: for the first time since 1941, Europe cannot rely on the US defense umbrella; it now stands alone. (...) The EU should treat Trump’s election as a wake-up call to take charge of its own destiny." Does the European Union need an army?
The European Union needs a military headquarters to work towards a common military force, the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has told MEPs in Strasbourg. But Mr Juncker said a common military force "should be in complement to NATO". "More defence in Europe doesn't mean less transatlantic solidarity." The Members of European Parliament advocate more defence spending up to 2% of GDP, creation of multinational forces and EU operational headquarters too. They want the EU to respond faster and more robustly to real threats, which they say requires European armed forces to work together better. “Two thirds of EU citizens would like to see greater EU engagement in matters of security and defence,” says the text, referring to June 2016 Eurobarometer survey.
High Representative Federica Mogherini has proposed an Implementation Plan on Security and Defence on 14 November 2016, to turn into action the vision set out in the EU Global Strategy.The Implementation Plan sets out a Level of Ambition for the European Union's Security and Defence, focused on three priorities: enabling the European Union to respond more comprehensively, rapidly and decisively to crises, enhancing security and defence capacities of our partners and strengthening the European Union's capacity to protect European citizens, working in a coherent and integrated manner on our internal and external security. The Plan has been welcomed by the European Union's Foreign and Defence Ministers gathered in Brussels on 15 November 2016 and will be presented to the EU's Heads of State and Government at the next European Council in December 2016.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with EU Defence Ministers on Tuesday (15 November 2016) for talks on European defence and closer NATO-EU cooperation. The "European Union-NATO Declaration on the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)" and the "Berlin Plus" arrangements are the basic documents for the EU-NATO strategic partnership. Mr. Stoltenberg stressed that efforts to strengthen European defence can contribute to a stronger NATO, through better defence capabilities and higher defence spending in Europe.
Only five EU countries, including Britain, meet a NATO target of spending 2 percent of economic output on defense. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon : "Rather than dreaming of a European army, the best approach to the Trump presidency is for European countries to step up their own defense spending." General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defense of The Netherlands armed forces has expressed his concerns in an interview with NRC. In his view, the Dutch army has not been able to predict the Arab Spring and the upcoming of Islamic State. Cutting in military (intelligence) expenses has lead to a diminished ability to anticipate on armed conflicts.
Now Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine directly affect EU member states’ security, the European Union needs to strengthen defence cooperation in order to respond more adequately in the future. It includes strengthening the EU's borders and promoting greater security co-operation between member states, as well as greater military centralisation. To conclude in Verhofstadt's words: “The EU must become independently capable of ensuring its own security. Anything less will be insufficient to secure its territory. This is a difficult but vital decision that the EU has postponed for too long. Now that Trump has been elected, it can wait no longer.”[number of readers: 460]
A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection
- Dyson, T. and Konstadinides, T., European Defence Cooperation in EU Law and IR Theory, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
- Müller-Graf, P.-C., Europäische Union und USA - Europas nordatlantische Aufgabe, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2016.
- Petersson, M., The US NATO Debate: from Libya to Ukraine, New York, Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.