Despite Britain’s move to block an EU army, a growing number of experts believe a recent German defense paper shows Berlin has ambitions to run an EU army, and has a plan to cut through Brussels red tape and create one by itself. But at what cost to NATO?
While EU defense ministers openly discuss with NATO chiefs how to create an EU army, many might think the haste for the EU to go ahead with such a grandiose plan stems from its own credibility being at an all-time low in the wake of Brexit.
For EU federalists in Brussels, there is indeed some truth in this. But Brussels is also worried about being left behind or dwarfed by Germany’s own plans which would leave the EU in a weak position to negotiate who gets to call the shots in an official EU army, when it is finally created.
And the EU has good reason to worry. Germany is impatient and is looking to position itself as the military leader of a coalition of EU countries which would no longer take orders from NATO, but also would not necessarily even be part of an official EU army.
Few journalists want to report in Brussels that there is a race between the EU getting a formal army together and Germany getting its own renegade pan-European army, which could ultimately present itself to the European Commission as already up and running.
According to one respected military expert, Germany is positioning itself to be the country which would be the dominant force in a new EU army, regardless of its structure.
A German defense white paper recently released argues strongly for an EU army and was ordered by Angela Merkel to be kept under wraps until after the British referendum vote on June 23.
But now military experts are examining the detail of the ‘Weissbuch’ (‘white paper’).
It reveals a radical change in German plans to not only boost its present army’s mandate in troubled hotspots around the world, but also clearly states that it should be running any multinational military organizations, such as the proposed EU army.
The initiative is a bombshell for the head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg who recently attended the EU meeting of Defense Ministers in Bratislava. NATO was hoping for an EU army to work under it. “Clearly a key point for us is to avoid duplication and make sure efforts are complimentary” a spokesman told me, while another NATO official told me that such a subject is not one that the organization wants its German generals commenting on.
Furthermore, according to the US professor, the paper reveals that Germany is ready to take charge of a formal EU army – run by Brussels – or an informal one run by Berlin. That could mean that if an EU army cannot be formed in time, Berlin might simply ask a number of EU countries who are keen to join its own army on international missions, to be part of its ‘coalition’ – thereby creating an informal model which would be later adopted by EU chiefs, who would have little choice than to support it.
But there are stronger arguments for Germany to take control of a formal EU army run by Brussels.
Although some might argue Germany would go ahead with military plans in a given war zone – and then invite others to join such a pact – practically, it is more likely that it would run the EU army as a deal with Brussels guaranteeing that EU countries would not break away from the regular EU army and join Germany on missions.
Brussels would certainly have to give in to German demands, in order to save face and keep its own “EU army.”