Is There a European Union Army on the Horizon?
Support has been growing in the EU states for not just greater cooperation between nations, but its own trans-national army. This “true European army,” as French President Macron called it, would be responsible for the defense of all Western Europe. Proponents for the EU Army cite the United States’ alleged unreliability and the emerging threats of Russia and China, but where some see a step towards self-reliance and peace, others see a concerning concentration of power in the hands of a select few, especially when public sentiment is turning against handing national power over to transnational bodies like the EU.
Tensions between the United States and the European Union began to mount almost immediately after US President Donald Trump took office. In addition to unpredictable statements, he has directly threatened to withdraw American forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and has voiced displeasure that the American taxpayers are forced to pay for “close to 90 percent” of Europe’s defense. In fact, one of the main charges American Conservatives level against social welfare policies in Europe is that they are only made possible by Americans paying the defense bill. Whether these policies can continue alongside increased military spending is yet to be seen.
As of yet, there are no formal plans to create a European army, but EU leaders are indeed drafting plans for closer cooperation between member states’ militaries. Interestingly, Macron included the United States in his list of threats against which Europe must defend against. From his speech to the EU parliament matched with his earlier rhetoric, it is likely Macron sees a European Army as a single military force independent of any one country, which answers to the EU leaders in Brussels. By contrast, NATO is comprised of many independent militaries working in close coordination and promising to defend each other.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in support shortly after Macron’s proposal, including a so-called “European joint intervention force.” Furthering the sentiment for a homogenous EU Army, she stated that having 160 different weapons systems and “independent administrations, support and training,” makes the EU inefficient and difficult to cooperate with. Her speech was met with a mix of cheers and boos from the parliament. While the diversity of European militaries’ structures, equipment, and administrations does make cooperation more difficult, integrating them under a single organization would be surrendering the power that sovereign nations are supposed to have.
Merkel clarified that this “intervention force” would not replace independent national armies, nor even NATO, stating that it would actually complement and cooperate with NATO, but others are not convinced. President Trump mocked Macron on Twitter, drawing analogies to World War 2 to caution the French President against allowing the Germans to have too much influence in the affairs of others, writing “They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Nigel Farage sarcastically “thanked” Merkel for the idea, since it was that kind of rhetoric that convinced the British to vote to leave.
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