Europe Is Ready for Its Own Army

European leaders are already thinking about how to cope with a scenario where they face a resurgent empire to the east, and a fading—and no longer friendly—superpower in the west. Under these conditions, a real European army could emerge for the first time…

Some quarters of Europe, most prominently in French defense circles, have long aspired to a continental military force powerful enough to grant Europe a degree of autonomy in global affairs proportionate to its population and level of economic development.

France has resisted the temptation to offload its security entirely onto the Americans all along, and has maintained a unique and outspoken degree of independence even within NATO. France has its own, highly developed arms industry and runs its own missions and deployments, notably in Francophone Africa, without asking anyone for permission. The French army is almost never not at war somewhere, officially or otherwise. France coordinates European defense projects where it alone lacks the capacity to sustain an entire sector, as in the case of airpower (Airbus) and space (the European Space Agency).

So it should not be surprising that France has been the first to call for the formation of a European army. What is new, is that most other Western European countries agree, and most significantly that Germany agrees. Merkel agrees, former German Defense Minister and incoming President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen agrees, Merkel’s appointed successor in the German center-right Christian Democratic Union party agrees, and Germany’s main center-left party agrees. That last is especially unusual—the West German left has been the most opposed to anything military, for obvious historical reasons. But a European army would let Germany project power without getting into the constitutional and political mess of reconfiguring the Bundeswehr itself, a strictly self-defense force…

The formation of a European army is as consequential to the reality of national sovereignty for the nation-states of Europe as the withdrawal of the U.S. empire from the continent is. Those who view the nation-state as the natural unit of sovereignty will be extremely wary of the scope and capacity of any proposed European army. In effect, the only way the formation of such an army will not impinge on national sovereignty is if individual member states retain their own separate forces with complete operational autonomy and each state has a veto on anything the European force might want to do. The formation of a European army is as consequential to the reality of national sovereignty for the nation-states of Europe as the withdrawal of the U.S. empire from the continent is.

With the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the formation of a European army would no longer be vetoed by the U.K. So that does increase the likelihood that efforts in this area will be successful.

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