On November 5th, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of a “real European army” by the European Union, during an interview with French radio station Europe 1.
“We will not be able to protect Europeans if we don’t decide to have a real European army,” he said, emphasizing that Europe should be defending itself in a “more sovereign way,” without depending “only on the United States.”
Macron also said that the main victim of US decision to withdraw from the INF with Russia is Europe. Thus, he called for “protection from China, Russia and even from the US,” suggesting that the Trump administration’s decision regarding the INF endangers European security.
“Who is going to be the main victim [of US President Donald Trump decision to leave the INF]? Europe and its security,” the president said.
US President Donald Trump announced the decision to withdraw from the INF on October 20th, accusing Russia of repeatedly violating the agreement. Russia has also accused the US of violating the agreement numerous times in the past. The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Trump’s accusations and said that Russia would be forced to undertake steps to ensure its security if Washington begins developing weapons that were banned under the agreement.
Macron once again repeated his earlier calls for a “stronger, protective Europe,” and voiced his concern of the continent becoming “increasingly fractured,” due to the rise of nationalism.
On November 1st, he spoke to the Ouest-France newspaper, warning that the resurgence of nationalism and populism across Europe may sent the region in a situation similar to the 1930s. He claimed that his aim is to promote “a more sovereign and multilateral Europe,” that is not endangered by nationalism as well as the influence of foreign powers.
In September 2017, Macron also spoke of the need of a European Army.
Also, in 2017, but on November 13th, NATO Ministers of Defense signed the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) agreement in Brussels. PESCO is not yet a fully-fledged EU Army, however it is the main and only pan-European military cooperation product in the realm of military logistics and weapons manufacturing.
So far PESCO is mostly concerned with raising military budgets and attempting to conserve as much resources as possible. In June 2017, a European Defense Fund was established. The starting sum was €5.5 billion per year, which is tiny compared to the US $700 billion and above annual defense budget.
It would be spent in two ways: Integrating all security forces in the EU with each other, with a single security contour by 2021, as well as developing new technologies. The priority is given to unifying the armaments and the weapon systems in the region. The idea is that if PESCO succeeds and becomes a unified EU army, it would entirely substitute NATO.
The US is also pressuring Europe to increase defense spending, but mostly to buy US military equipment, instead of producing its own. Earlier in 2018, the European Commission announced that the bloc’s 2019 budget stipulated allocation of 245 million euros for the European Defence Industrial Development Programme.
However, quite a bit of effort would be needed to form a truly European defense that is independent from the US. On November 1st, German media reported, citing the German Defense Ministry, that out of 97 newly-delivered jets, helicopters and tanks to the Bundeswehr in 2017, only 38 were fully operational, which corresponds to a rate of 39%. The Bundeswehr has an aim of 70% of its weapons systems in operational readiness.
Thus, the need for improvements is glaringly apparent, otherwise the dependence on the US industry, NATO and staying in the Pentagon’s good spirits will continue.