Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
By PNW Staff
Slowly and quietly the countries of the European Union are building an integrated military force that will soon be a European Union military in all but name.
Britain has long-maintained its preference for NATO over an EU force and has used its influence to block any moves towards a common European armed forces.
But with Brexit now a reality, there seems to be little standing in the way of the ambitions of France and Germany to lead the EU to realize its ambition of marshalling its own army.
Rather than a single, open political movement in favor of a common EU army, several member states have taken incremental steps to consolidate specific units, divert defense funds into sequestered accounts and create new coordinated command structures.
Language, finances and national sentiment have promise to be obstacles to a single-force structure, but these too are being faced down by French and German initiatives as a host of other European nations follow their lead.
The European Union is, despite the intentions of those in Brussels, a union of separate and distinct nationalities, governments, languages and militaries.
The first and most basic challenge that any proposal for a unified military will face is that of coordination among different command structures. For the first time, the EU created in March a joint military command center.
It is more akin to a proof-of-concept effort at this point, as its only mission is coordinating training missions in Africa (Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic).
The headquarters will act as a model, however, for larger future centralized command centers capable of coordinating large-scale military campaigns.
Other coordinated efforts from Europe include the Nordic Battle Group comprised of a mix of Baltic and Nordic states and the Britain's own Joint Expeditionary Force.
The Nordic Battle Group is only 2,400 strong but the experience gained from coordinating such a collection of nations will be invaluable for the project of larger European military integration.
The second major obstacle is funding both of national militaries and of a joint European force. A newly proposed European Defense Fund would gather financial support for military research and armament from member nations and is projected to begin with a modest funding goal of 3.5 billion Euros from the 19 countries now supporting the proposal.
The countries, which include France, Germany, Italy and Spain, would also benefit from sharing research and resources that would otherwise be duplicated across 19 national systems.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, told the German news site Salzburg.com that "A European army is not a project for the near future.
It is, however, a project that would give additional weight to the European foreign and security policy. Even though the road may still be long, we could already focus our strengths better."
The politicians at the head of the EU understand that small steps are necessary to create a common military over the nationalist sentiments of the European people.
The Cooperative Financial Mechanism, or CFM, could begin drawing funds from the 19 countries as early as 2018, but if successful will be just the first step towards a common financial base for the European military.
Coordinating military campaigns from separate national militaries and starting to form a common defense fund are both incremental steps towards a EU military, but true integration is also now underway through the German Army, the Bundeswehr.
In what amounts to a group of mini-armies under the command of the Bundeswehr, the Netherlands, Romania and the Czech Republic have all integrated brigade-level forces with Germany. The program is known as the Framework Nations Concept.
In the case of Romania, it is the 81st Mechanized Brigade which will join Germany's Rapid Response Forces Division. The Czech Republic's 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, considered the elite frontline force of their army, is now set to integrate into the Germans' 10th Armored Division.
After selling off all their tanks, the Dutch military integrated one of their brigades into Germany's 10th Armored Division as well as combining another brigade with Germany's Rapid Deployment Brigade.
Although no separate military force was created that would fly the EU flag on the battlefield, the result is the same as each member state slowly begins to integrate one brigade at a time into a common armed forces system, all under one command.
In this manner, there has been very little objection and most haven't even noticed the change.
At the same time, the German military is growing both in size and funding levels. Since 2014, the Bundeswehr has seen its funding increased by 4.2 percent and this is projected to grow an incredible 8 percent this year.
As the overall cost-savings become clear for EU nations, it is likely that more countries will choose to integrate into the larger military force commanded by Germany.
Europe faces historic threats to its existence that range from financial, with the slow collapse of both the euro and the socialist model, to cultural, with the immense wave of immigration.
Russian aggression and the dangers of Islamic terrorism also wait at Europe's doorstep. All of these factors are likely to push the continent closer to a common European military in the coming years, especially without the counterweight of Britain to argue the case for NATO.
Will a fully unified EU someday soon be defended by a military to rival that of the United States in size, capability and cohesion? The bureaucrats in Brussels would like nothing more.