This is a response to the text entitled “The EU Is Creating Its Own Army“, which was released by SouthFront on November 15, 2017.
Written by Fenrir170; The author served for about ten years in one of the EU armies and did multiple deployments to Afghanistan.
The reasons for the EU politicians trying to achieve the utopian dream of a unified EU army are solely driven by the deep problems the militaries in the EU are facing. They merely try to pretend to the outside world that nothing is wrong, while in reality most of EU militaries lost the capacity to defend their own countries in crisis, let alone deliver an effective expeditionary force outside Europe.
An example of the EU armies’ status today is the monumental failure of the Bison Drawsko NATO exercise in January 2017. It was an attempt to “show Russia NATO’s teeth”. NATO’s all available road transport capacity was insufficient as most vehicles were transported by highly vulnerable civilian rail transport. There were multiple accidents with munition transports in Poland that rendered already scarce munition unsuitable for use. A large part of the NATO vehicles was not suitable for combat, some could not move on their own. Some had potentially unsafe and questionable weapon systems, like gun barrels that exceeded their factory specifications for number of shots fired before needing to be replaced, but had not been replaced still. Gun technicians suspected hairline fractures were present. One such incident resulted in a Dutch CV90 IFV blowing off its rear end of the gun breech, launching it through the rear crew compartment with infantry still inside, and landing outside in the snow. By some wonder, nobody was seriously injured. Vehicles like this with dangerous problems were just brought up for “show of force” as they could move on their own and had “functional” weapons. It ended up being a carefully conducted orchestra, trying to talk tough to the outside world. Most of the hardware did not work, while the ones working posed danger to its operating personnel. Logistics failed so hard and on such a massive scale that western troops could not stay out in the field and had to be relocated to local Polish barracks.
How did the EU forces become like this? After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the EU militaries were in an overall good condition. There were plenty of men enlisted to fight, enough vehicles, ships, aircraft, tanks to fight and enough logistical resources to sustain combat, like spare parts, ammunition/fuel, etc. These were the armies, which could put up a decent fight in a war.
But ever since EU armies got involved in foreign interventions, the strain put on the resources proved to be massive, especially in Afghanistan where almost everything has to be flown in by air. The harsh environmental conditions, with fine dust grinding vehicles down and significantly shortening their lifespans and the intensity of full-scale combat wore the EU armies out to the point where drastic efforts had to be taken to keep operations going.
For example, at some point in time the EU militaries started dismantling perfectly good vehicles in their own countries and shipping the parts to Afghanistan in order to replace broken parts there. The same happened to the ammunition, as the EU militaries vastly underestimated ammunition use as the Americans lied about the level of resistance they had encountered in order to draw EU armies into Afghanistan. During combat-intensive seasons, which in Afghanistan usually are the summer months, the Taliban re-activates. An ambush/encounter with Taliban forces could result in an entire convoy returning to base with its weapons almost depleted.
The NATO logistical lines could never manage the demand of the NATO forces in Afghanistan. NATO relies heavily on charter flights and aircrafts to maintain supply lines. Air transport in Afghanistan is almost the only safe way to move hardware and troops from point A to point B without getting ambushed. You can see more private Antonovs, Ilyushins, MI-26s and MI-8s than NATO cargo aircraft at some airfields in Afghanistan.
This trend has been going on for more than 10 years now, with catastrophic results. Most military capacities have been reduced to as much as 75% from what they were in the 90s.
Here is what the EU troops encounter:
Troops have to buy their own military gear and clothes, as what is supplied by the military cannot be replaced quickly enough, or is of such sub-standard quality they have to buy proper gear themselves. In addition, requisition times for replacement clothes and gear can be as long as 9 months. Most often troops buy Leatherman multi-tools, winter clothing, tactical headlights, weapon optics and tactical vests themselves out of necessity.
Spare parts are pretty much non-existent in most EU militaries. Current policy is, if a vehicle broke down, you cannibalize an identical vehicle. If an identical vehicle is not available, a requisition order is placed for the next fiscal year. Until then it just sits there, collecting dust in the meantime. When money becomes available, it is mostly spent in the first month for spares/repairs, but a large part remains defective. Germany’s submarine fleet is currently disabled. It awaits repairs. Most of Netherlands frigates remain docked in their port of Den Helder because of broken onboard fire suppression systems. The UK barely can crew their own ships and most sail with skeleton crews. The UK has just one handful of operational Eurofighters, almost all of German Tiger helicopters are grounded, and the list goes on and on.
Ammunition is also fully dried up in the EU, as all stockpiles have been expended in foreign interventions. Most EU militaries have enough munitions for basic training and for firing ranges only. During the Libya air campaign, the French resorted to using concrete practice bombs, as they had no ordnance left. When they sent a request to the rest of EU air forces for any bombs, none had any to spare. It is not just the air force. Ordnance, small arms, large caliber weapons, naval ordnance — all are used up. Ground troops just have enough for a year of training. There are no war-reserves. NATO bomb manufacturers like McDonnell Douglas, Raytheon and Lockheed have trouble keeping up with the production to supply the ongoing NATO army operations.
Actual troop numbers have been dramatically low as well. The constant foreign interventions coupled with the poor state of hardware, dishonest representation of the state of the armed forces by politicians to the outside world made many people leave the military, and at the same time, made new recruits reluctant to join a hollow, broken down military. Nowadays more troops resign than people enlist, causing a shortage of manpower across all branches of the EU militaries and a general lack of morale.
This in general is why politicians push this unified EU army program. The EU militaries are looking to compensate for serious deficiencies by exchanging “problems” among each other. For example, the Dutch “leased” 18 Leopard tanks from the Germans. The Dutch sold all their Leopard 2 tanks a while ago, but still have experienced capable crews, although it must be noted that over half left the service after being disbanded without any prior notice. On the other hand, Germany cannot man their Leopard 2 tanks because of troop shortage. So now this is presented as a “mutual cooperation and advancement of the EU army” while basically both armies have serious internal problems that make them unable to address their own defense issues and try to look for politically correct excuses while avoiding the real matters at hand.