April 19, 2024

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The European Union has become a political arm of NATO

The European Union has become a political arm of NATO

What a real scenario Pure European defence And what we can expect to happen after Trump's potential return to power.

*The following analysis is included in the 18th Bulletin of International and European Developments of the ENA Institute published in enainstitute.org

after The failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the summer and fall, The Western narrative of the situation was that the war was at a “standstill”, the front was frozen (literally) and the Ukrainian army was regrouping in defensive positions until it was ready for the next counterattack. After several months, It is impossible to ignore that things are actually very difficult, and that the Ukrainian army faces a severe shortage of manpower (A cold way of referring to the horrific losses of this war) and equipment – due to the already significant decline in supplies from Western countries – and as a result of the above, are retreating along the entire front.

It is not known how far it will retreat, as well as whether and when the Russian advance will be halted and/or reversed. What is certain is that behind the rhetorical statements of the Europeans, whether during the Munich Security Conference or during the pro-Ukraine meeting held by (who else?) Emmanuel Macron in Paris, one can discern the following:Extreme confusion and anxiety, if not fear. From the point of view of most European countries, especially the Baltic countries And PolandThe military support for Ukraine was – and continues to be – because if Russian aggression there is not stopped by a strategic military defeat for Russia, they will face it sooner or later. This perception was expressed in its most pessimistic version as follows: He added: “We support the Ukrainians with weapons and money in their war with the Russians so that we do not have to fight them.”

But with the data on the ground as they are today, The possibility of Russian military defeat is excluded, While the terrifying Russian military machine appears to be strengthening. European capitals thus face the prospect of having to repel Moscow's military threat (real or perceived) themselves, rather than through proxies. In fact, some scenarios have already been published that suggest this could happen within the next three to seven years.

It is impossible to assess the validity of these scenarios. However, what worries European leaders more than the Russian army itself is the distinct possibility that they will face it alone, that is, without the given and dominant American military presence on the Old Continent. And A significant reduction in the US military footprint in Europe is far more realistic than a Russian invasion. Especially if Donald Trump's imminent return to the White House materializes. from He made no secret of his disdain for Europe's NATO allies. Nor does he intend to withdraw the bulk of American forces from Europe and allow the Europeans to “pay the price for their security.” Therefore, it would not be wrong to claim that Trump scares European leaders more than this Putin.

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Eurodefence Pandemic Model: Ursula takes up her weapon

The post-pandemic era, when the EU had the “luxury” of prioritizing the green economy, climate targets, improving competitiveness, and digital transformation, has been replaced by the cultivation of war alert: now Europe must defend its principles and values. Against the Russian threat, which has marginalized the threat of the climate crisis with impressive ease. Now it's all about dealing with upcoming military conflicts that are presented as almost certain after Ukraine's defeat seems like a foregone conclusion. One might say that the Red Army is already outside the gates of Berlin.

In a masterful display of political timing, Ursula von der Leyen – who began her political career as Angela Merkel's (failed) Defense Minister and with several scandals clouding her – has put together her candidacy for a second term as President of the European Commission. With the first presentation of a package of proposals to finance European armaments programs and strengthen the European defense industry, Including the creation of a commissioner position with the relevant portfolio.

At the heart of the package will be the European Defense Investment Plan (EDIP) which will replace – after its expiration in 2025 – both the Ammunition Support Act (ASAP) and the European Defense Industry Strengthening through Joint Procurement Act (EDIRPA) and will be financed by the European Defense Fund. It also envisages the creation of a new Fund to Accelerate Defense Supply Chain Transformation (FAST), as well as the creation of a high-level European Defense Industry Group, which – supposedly – will contribute to the coordination of defense procurement and planning. And identifying equipment programs of common interest for European funding. Guidance: European integrated air defense systems, anti-ballistic missile defence, drones, cyber security and cyber defense capabilities, space applications and military satellites etc.

As for the financing (in the tens of billions) that all of the above would need, one idea being discussed is for EU countries to jointly raise money from international financial markets by issuing defense Eurobonds. Following the model of the EU's Next Generation European Recovery Fund. Since the relevant taboo was broken when the EU financed many of these initiatives to help national economies recover after the pandemic, conjuring up a major geopolitical threat to Europe could be the next incentive for joint debt issuance – something that is certainly inconceivable to promote. For example, the welfare state or public health systems, to which the iron rule of austerity applies relentlessly.


NATO offices in Brussels

AP Photos

Olivier Matisse

Obviously many of the above suggestions They will face disagreements between member states, but mainly reactions from already angry European communities, Which – despite the honorable efforts of various opinion-makers – do not seem particularly terrified, nor are they convinced that Russian tanks will soon be paraded on the streets of European cities. Rather, they are not willing to tolerate a further decline in their living standards, while they are angry at the ease with which European leaders, in this era of generalized decline, find money and innovative ways to finance military equipment, but to meet social needs. In order to advance the European peoples, they “scrape the barrel” and the money is not found for some mysterious reason.

It is equally clear that It is not about creating a “European army”, but about a plan to coordinate and support European defense industries, With the aim of European governments jointly purchasing more military equipment of European origin and making related spending more efficient. Defense remains under the sovereignty of member states. For this reason, he will provide details of the program – most likely On March 5 – Commissioner of the Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

At the beginning of NATO: the perversion of “European strategic autonomy”

In theory, the aim of this strategy is to Europeanize supply chains in the field of defense equipment, as well as to create a solid European defense industrial and technological base. Which seems like a legitimate ambition, especially considering this The green economy, energy and digital transformation are areas that do not seem sufficient to halt the process of deindustrialization It reversed the decline of the once powerful European heavy industry.

However, exactly here lies the first big problem: in order for industrial infrastructure to be transformed into the production of defense materials, in other words to create a large-scale war economy, it must exist in the first place. Russia was able to create such a war economy – in effect bypassing Western sanctions – because it inherited the Soviet Union's massive heavy industry largely intact. The United States can do the same. But Europe, after nearly four decades of systematic industrialization in the name of neoliberal industrialization abroad, will find it extremely difficult to develop the rates of mass production of war materials that a high-intensity industrial war like the one that broke out in Ukraine would require. Therefore, despite the stated goal of up to 50% of defense procurement being conducted in Europe by 2035, most of increased European defense spending is likely to ultimately remain in the hands of large US companies. – something Mr. Trump knows well, by the way, when he calls on European allies to “pay the price for their security.”

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And so we come to the second problem, which is nothing but the truth of it The Europeans, on a purely military level, are unable to fill the enormous vacuum that even partial US imperial withdrawal would leave. From Europe. Moreover, even such a folding would in no way signify the willingness of the transatlantic sovereign state to allow the emergence of a truly independent European power (of itself). So any discussion of European defense is – and will remain – strictly within the NATO framework and inextricably linked to NATO, a political and diplomatic body that is indisputably under the control of the United States, and will not change. Even with Dr. Trump is in power. After all that, NATO already provides a complex network of operational headquarters and well-trained and equipped multinational military units; Which would be impossible (and pointless, even if possible) to replicate at EU level. Even without taking into account that doing so would exclude some of the most important member states of the alliance (except for the United States itself), namely Britain, Canada and Norway. (And Turkey).

Therefore, a purely European defense is not a viable scenario. European allies will likely be called upon to fill any operational gaps left by US disengagement, while preserving the integrity of NATO and the United States' dominant structures. That is, there is talk about strengthening the European pillar of the Alliance, for a greater contribution by the Europeans in materials, units and equipment – with a similar reduction from the American side – but which always serves the strategic plans and priorities of NATO. (i.e. the United States of America). So, The apparent “Europeanization” of NATO can also be read in reverse: as the “nationalization” of Europe.

Macron quickly declared NATO “brain dead,” touting his famous vision of “strategic autonomy for Europe.” It is one of the paradoxes that history loves to invent in its days The continent is being rearmed under the wings of the North Atlantic eagle And that the European Union, instead of becoming independent, is rapidly developing into something more like the political arm of NATO.

*Yiannis Gounaris Lawyer, LLM, London School of Economics, JD, University of Athens