Is Europe Finally Ready for an Army?
Europe is secretly plotting to create a European army, some British newspapers have been proclaiming over the last week. “Britain Will Be Forced to Join an EU ARMY Unless We Leave, Says Armed Forces Minister” read a headline on the Express. Meanwhile, other news outlets have been quick to discredit the idea. “[I]s there a serious, imminent chance of this happening?” asked The Guardian. It answered its question in just one word: “No.”
It’s easy to see why they are so dismissive. Leaders of the European Union have been talking about forming a European army for over half a century, and it’s still not here.
But none of these articles examine why the subject of an EU army has come up again. A look behind the headlines reveals why Europe might actually make some real progress toward a combined military this time.
The latest push for an army goes back to the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. After the attacks, French President François Hollande invoked the EU’s self-defense clause—not nato’s. This was a remarkable shift, as Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry explained at the time:
By invoking the EU’s collective defense clause rather than turning to nato, French President François Hollande was declaring that Europe is more than just a junior partner in America’s defense arrangement. Europe is its own power. It has its own foreign relations, its own interests and its own goals.
Most people didn’t recognize the significance of France’s decision. But it is a choice that will have a terrible impact on America—as well as Britain and the Jewish state of Israel. It will significantly alter the history of these nations, and of Europe.
This pivot made another turn toward Europe after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium.
For the last six months, Hollande has been speaking to European leaders, trying to raise support for military integration so that Europe can collectively defend itself.
Most importantly, he reached out to Germany. On April 6, the day before an important meeting between French and German officials, an interview with Hollande was published by Bild, Germany’s most-widely read newspaper.
“Our two countries must agree to a budgetary effort on defense,” he said. “And to act outside Europe. Let’s not rely on another power, even a friendly one, to do away with terrorism.”
This clearly articulated what his actions had revealed since November: France doesn’t trust America and wants Europe to be able to act independently. “The nation that benefits the most from France rejecting America is Germany,” Mr. Flurry wrote after the November attacks. “Germany has dominated the EU for years. France’s move will bring the European armies together in a way that the EU founders only dreamed of.”
France is looking to Germany to help create this military. “[F]or the French, building a European military force around France and Germany is the necessary precondition for any solution to Europe’s growing challenges,” wrote George Friedman for his website Geopolitical Futures.
“Collaborating on defense budgets, with each nation contributing based on economic size, would mean that Germany would be both the leading economic and military power in Europe,” he wrote. “Within the EU, Germany is first among equals. Creating a substantial military force would cement that.”
Friedman expected Germany to oppose this call to arms, saying it would become yet another point of contention between France and Germany. However, Germany appears to have embraced it. A few weeks later, a German government paper was leaked to Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Financial Times, calling for an EU army. The Financial Times described the paper, writing:
Germany is to push for progress towards a European army by advocating a joint headquarters and shared military assets, according to defense plans ….
Although Berlin has long paid lip-service to forming a “European defense union,” the white paper is one of the most significant for Germany in recent years ….
The paper stated that “Germany is willing to join early, decisively and substantially as a driving force in international debates … to take responsibility and assume leadership” in forming this EU army.
“In this and other areas, its tone reflects Germany’s growing clout and confidence in pursuing a foreign policy backed by elements of hard power,” wrote the Financial Times.
“This is the time of a new Germany,” said Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe think tank. “This is probably the first time a German defense white paper is something like important.”
The paper called for “the use of all possibilities” that are allowed by EU treaties to work more closely together on defense. It wanted an EU military headquarters, a council of defense ministers and for EU nations to produce and share military equipment.
It is in this environment that EU officials are working on a “Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy.” On May 27, the Times published some details on this policy paper which were leaked to them. The text emphasized that “security and defense is where a step change is most urgent.”
“The EU can step up its contribution to Europe’s security and defense,” the draft said, according to the Times. “Our external action must become more joined up across policy areas, institutions and member states. Greater unity of purpose is needed across the policy areas making up our external action.”
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini has been working on this for 18 months. Her regular talks with EU leaders have clearly been affected by this new push for a combined military.
Just like the German paper, this document relies on the Lisbon Treaty’s allowance for Europe to form a defense union. Even if some nations, like Britain, are against it, the treaty allows a group of at least nine nations to push forward.
A well-placed nato source said Paris was concentrating its diplomatic efforts on creating the pan-European force, over which it believes it would wield more control than the existing North Atlantic military alliance. …
The Belgium-based nato source told Express.co.uk [that] French officials were directing their energy towards an EU army at the expense of its existing military obligations.
The New York Times also reported that “France is reverting to its traditional skepticism toward the alliance, which it sees as an instrument of American policy and an infringement on its sovereignty.”
In a separate push, Europe is also moving ahead with plans to create an armed border and coast guard force. “EU institutions are fast-tracking plans to establish a European border and coast guard (ebcg) agency,” reported the EU Observer on May 31. The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs approved and expedited the proposal the day before.
“The legislative process has been fast by EU standards,” EU Observer wrote. “The commission presented its proposal in December 2015. EU ministers rubber-stamped it in April.”
The Paris attacks and the migrant crisis have caused this haste. Before these crises, work was progressing in a much more leisurely fashion. Eighteen months ago, one source told EU Observer that it thought the EU Border Agency would open around 2030 to 2035. Now, the EU wants to have it operational by the end of summer. That’s an ambitious goal and may well be missed. But it shows the EU’s radical new sense of urgency.
This border agency would mark a huge change for Europe. EU Observer also reported that “meps endorsed a clause which gives the council the right to send teams even to a member state that does not want the help. The country’s objections can be overruled by a qualified majority of the other member states.” In other words, the European Union would be legally allowed to send in soldiers to another EU country, even against that country’s will.
Finally, Germany is also moving forward with its own efforts to create a multinational army. It has absorbed the core of the Dutch Army into the German Army and unveiled plans to set up a multinational panzer division in the coming years.
Put all these news stories together, and it’s clear that the push for an EU military has new momentum. The only reason there hasn’t been more discussion on the topic is Britain’s June 23 referendum concerning its EU membership. Few things could turn Brits against the EU more quickly than the threat of a European army.
Talk on this subject has been deliberately delayed until after the referendum. The German defense paper will be published after the vote. The European paper will be sent to EU governments on June 24; currently only a small circle of EU ambassadors have access to it. Then on June 28, EU leaders will discuss the issue at a summit.
A spokesman for Mogherini said the plans “in no way aim to set up the EU army.” In the short term, that is correct. The main focus is on ensuring Europe can act as a major power on the world scene. Thus far, when European nations work together, that cooperation has been managed through nato. Europe will have to create a separate management structure that excludes America.
The EU also aims to build the capacity to act without America. Europe will evaluate its military strengths and weaknesses as a whole, rather than on a country-by-country level, and look to address these issues as a whole. For example, when Europe launched its military mission in Mali, it had to hitch a ride from the American Air Force—it lacked the transport and logistical capacities to deploy to Mali alone. The EU will look for ways to fix these gaps.
European nations will begin relying more and more on each other. In doing so, they may not “aim to set up the EU army,” but they’ll be taking a major step in that direction.
Herbert W. Armstrong forecast for decades that European nations would form a military union. In May 1953, he wrote, “This time, 10 powerful European nations will combine their forces.” In 1978, he warned:
The Europeans are far more disturbed about their safety in relying on United States military power to protect them than Americans realize! The United States is not loved in Europe. European confidence in U.S. protection against their next-door Communist neighbor has been lessening and lessening.
Europeans want their own united military power! They know that a political union of Europe would produce a third major world power, as strong as either the U.S. or the ussr—possibly stronger!
We see the same forces at work in Europe today. But Mr. Armstrong also saw that this unification would not come easily. “The nations of Europe have been striving to become reunited,” he wrote in 1979. “They desire a common currency, a single combined military force, a single united government. They have made a start in the Common Market. They are now working toward a common currency. Yet, on a purely political basis, they have been totally unable to unite” (emphasis added).
Even now, military union will not come easily. Friedman points out, for example, that the leaked documents show no signs that the hard questions—like who will pay for a combined EU headquarters—have been addressed.
But Europeans are already under considerable pressure. The terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the migrant crisis, and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine are all forcing this push for a combined military. That is why this push must be taken seriously, despite all the failed rhetoric in the past.
None of these pressures are going away. If Europe’s efforts stall, it will only be a matter of time before one or more of these forces begin pushing Europe again.
These crises are putting Europe under a strain that it has not faced in decades—this is why it is finally time for a European army to begin to emerge.
Every indication is that American leaders will be happy to help Europe unify its armies. But distrust of America is at the core of this push. Europe has not been able to project power outside of the Continent without U.S. help since the Suez Crisis in 1956 (if you count the United Kingdom as part of Europe; since World War ii if you do not). The arrival of an independent military force would be a truly radical development. At the same time, Germany is emerging as a clear leader in this drive to form an army. For more on where this will lead and why it is dangerous, read Gerald Flurry’s article “The Terrorist Attacks That United Europe.”