U.S. to join EU military transit project as EU considers rapid response force
Two Reuters stories from today address the growing role of European Union military forces and the inclusion of non-EU NATO powers in joint endeavors with the EU.
A meeting of EU defense ministers scheduled for tomorrow is expected to approve the U.S., Canada and Norway (not a EU member) joining a project to expedite the transit of troops across the European continent in accordance with NATO demands for such streamlined deployments, which, as the report phrases it, NATO “sees as vital in the event of a conflict with Russia.”
The entire initiative is NATO’s, with the EU, as always, obligingly following suit. The expectation from the EU is that it will use its infrastructure budget to upgrade and modernize bridges, rails and roads to, one is tempted to say, NATOize transportation routes from the Atlantic to the Russian border. The EU has set aside 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion) from its common budget to upgrade military mobility in support of NATO for the next seven years.
The EU will incorporate the three non-EU states into a project to overcome delays in moving troops across Europe, diplomats were quoted as saying, in a current political context in which that could only mean moving them to the east.
If as expected the EU defense ministers approve the participation of the U.S., Canada and Norway in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) component of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), in which 25 of the 27 EU’s armed forces pursue structural integration, it will mark the yet further integration of American, NATO and EU military policies and activities. (The only EU member states not currently participating in the CSDP are Malta and Denmark.)
Reuters cites a European diplomat saying of the initiative, “It is also very important for transatlantic cooperation, good cooperation between EU members and NATO allies.”
For decades there has been a school of thought that the EU, twenty-one of whose twenty-seven members are in NATO, and of the remaining six only Cyprus not a NATO partner, somehow pursues a common foreign policy distinct from if not in opposition to NATO and/or the U.S.. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In 2002 the EU and NATO signed the NATO-EU Declaration on European Security and Defence Policy, described as a strategic partnership.
It binds the two parties to:
- effective mutual consultation;
- equality and due regard for the decision-making:
- autonomy of the EU and NATO;
- respect for the interests of the EU and NATO members states;
- respect for the principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
- coherent, transparent and mutually reinforcing development of the military capability requirements common to the two organisations.
The following year the two Brussels-based blocs launched the Berlin Plus agreement. That arrangement was signed by EU High Representative Javier Solana and NATO Secretary General. Lord Robertson. Robertson had succeeded Solana as NATO’s secretary general, so interchangeable seem the roles. That pact commits the EU and NATO to the following:
- a NATO-EU Security Agreement (covers the exchange of classified information under reciprocal security protection rules);
- assured EU access to NATO’s planning capabilities for actual use in the military planning of EU-led crisis management operations;
- availability of NATO capabilities and common assets, such as communication units and headquarters for EUled crisis management operations;
- procedures for release, monitoring, return and recall of NATO assets and capabilities;
- Terms of Reference for NATO’s Deputy SACEUR [Supreme Allied Commander Europe, always an American] – who in principle will be the operation commander of an EU-led operation under the “Berlin Plus” arrangements (and who is always a European) – and European Command Options for NATO;
- NATO-EU consultation arrangements in the context of an EU-led crisis management operation making use of NATO assets and capabilities;
- incorporation within NATO’s long-established defence planning system, of the military needs and capabilities that may be required for EU-led military operations, thereby ensuring the availability of well-equipped forces trained for either NATO-led or EU-led operations.
Since those two treaties were signed, EU and NATO commanders, assets and units have been interchangeable. For example, NATO and the EU have run complementary operations in the Balkans and off the Horn of Africa, and a decade ago Britain’s General Richard Shirreff was simultaneously NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (always a Briton) and the commander of the EU’s Operation Althea (formerly European Union Force Bosnia and Herzegovina), the commands being coterminous. (In 2014 Shirreff called for the deployment of NATO military forces to the Baltic states after the overthrow of the government in Ukraine and the beginning of fighting in the Donbass.)
Another Reuters feature of today cites a major EU official saying fourteen of the EU member states, including the bloc’s two main powers France and Germany, have proposed a common rapid response military force that could “intervene early in international crises.”
The source said that under the proposal the EU would create a brigade of 5,000 troops with possible naval and air support to “to help democratic foreign governments needing urgent help.” It will be taken up tomorrow at the same defense ministers meeting that will deliberate on the inclusion of the U.S., Canada and Norway in the cross-continental military transit project. Reuters mentions the more assertive approach of current EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who recently made hyperbolical claims of Russian troop numbers near the Ukrainian border and in the past has criticized the EU for not being ready to intervene in nations like Libya.
The countries reported ready to contribute to the response force are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. All except for Cyprus (as mentioned above) are NATO members or partners, and all of those sent at least small contingents of military personnel to serve under NATO in Afghanistan.