At the annual Munich Security Conference, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has called for the creation of a European army. Following the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU thinks that it is ready for the big time, ready to assume the burdens of international leadership. Last February, they sent a six-page letter to President Obama, seeking to play a greater role on the international stage.
But the United States should be in no hurry to relinquish its transatlantic leadership role to the European Union. Lady Thatcher described the creation of an EU army as “a piece of monumental folly that puts our security at risk in order to satisfy political vanity.” Rather than representing a genuine attempt to increase Europe’s military contribution to vital missions, such as Afghanistan, the EU is merely seeking to advance its own political ambitions. Rather than realizing America’s need for Europe to take on more of its own security burden, a European army is more likely to drain the already limited military capabilities of member states, and draw resources away from NATO.
The Lisbon Treaty has not created a stronger Europe capable of handling global, or even regional, security. As the Haitian earthquake demonstrated, the EU will continue to stand impotent before crises, incapable of independently mounting major humanitarian or security operations.
A cross-party group of former senior British ministers commented in 2000 that the creation of an EU army was “an openly political project.” Now, as then, no additional troops are available for this paper army. Either troops already committed to NATO will be counted twice, or, in the worst case scenario, troops will be withdrawn from existing NATO missions, such as Afghanistan.
Foreign policy is an attribute of statehood that must remain at the nation-state level if it is to be meaningful or effective. If the United States wishes to continue enjoying the benefits of its long-standing relationships with the countries of Europe, it must oppose the creation of a supranational EU foreign policy and the undermining of NATO by the European Union.