France and Germany are pushing to create a European Union military body to gain independence from U.S. influence in Europe.
Both countries believe the “common defense” proposal will give the organization a brighter purpose, in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU. Britain indicated one of its last acts within the EU would be to block the proposal, saying any effort to establish another European common defense structure would bleed resources from the NATO alliance.
French and German officials are upset at Britain’s opposition.
“They can’t prevent anything from happening in the long run, so it would make sense if they stayed out of it,” one German member of parliament told Reuters. Another EU official speculated they may be able gain British approval for the defense plan if the EU gave Britain a more favorable trade deal upon its exit.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, an Italian, presented a European army proposal to a meeting of EU defense ministers in late June. Mogherini wanted to balance the NATO alliance with strong European “hard power” to give the EU “strategic hegemony.” Britain’s objections tabled the proposal at the time.
The United States and U.K. have long called on Europe to increase its defense spending. Only five of the 28 NATO members currently meet their defense spending goals, many of whom are EU members endorsing this new plan. U.S. and U.K. leadership in NATO prevented the Soviet Union from dominating the European continent during the Cold War.
European advocates for an independent collective security apparatus say NATO will remain an important strategic partner but that a European army will “enable the EU to act autonomously while also contributing to and undertaking actions in cooperation with NATO.”
Europe, devoid of U.S.-led NATO leadership, was unable to curb Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from massacring Kosovar nationalists. The U.S. politically pushed NATO to act in Kosovo, prompting Milosevic’s fall from power and a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Many of the facets of the new EU plan exist within NATO: The plans call for command structures, increased defense cooperation, and naval resources all mimic existing NATO infrastructure in Europe. The plan also calls for a rapid response if a member state is threatened or hit by a terrorist attack, another facet mimicking NATO’s exact purpose.
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