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Several weeks ago, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, once again raised the idea of creating a European army.
Arguing for the need to respond immediately to Putin’s affronts in Ukraine, Juncker went even further by underlining the effects that the construction of a common military structure could have on the future of Europe, on its security independence with regards to the United States, and on its capacity to project its heavy power.
- The construction of a common military structure is a vital question for the future of the European Union
- Today Europe is coming out of its adolescence and it must enter straight into adulthood: What does it want to be? Where does it want to go? What does it want to accomplish?
- A Grand Strategy is not only a necessary strategy of security, it is a great common project
Today, more than ever, this question is vital for a Europe at the crossroads. In fact, is the future of Europe even conceivable without creating such a structure and without the elaboration of a “Grand Strategy” at the height of its potential if not of its ambitions?
Built on the ruins of World War II, protected by the American shield and by the United States’ will to drive back Sovietism, the Europe of the Union only saw the light of day because it was able to reinvent itself by somewhat eluding the military question.
With Germany and France at the heart of the Union, it was inconceivable that the two major continental military powers, which had been fighting each other since the Seven Years War (1757 – 1863), could outline a future together around a common army.
Indeed, it was from this initial postulate that Jean Monnet and the founding fathers of Europe worked. The attachment to the principles of sovereignty from which the national military structures were conceived made the idea of a common army impossible.
The failure of the European Defense Community (EDC) in 1954 testified to this reality. If, in theory, the idea of a common army went to the heart of European construction, it was at the time much too premature, and this failure postponed the project indefinitely.
From then on, the security field was sufficiently covered by the United States, NATO and the UN system of collective security so that the question of a European army could be conjured away ad vitam aeternam.
Without the concern or the costs that the construction of a continental army could bring, the Europe of democratic peace was born and the most bellicose region of yesterday became a haven of peace.
Since then, an inter-State war within the EU has become inconceivable. On the scale of Europe, the perpetual peace anticipated by Emmanuel Kant and the philosophers of the Enlightenment has become a reality.
Nevertheless, the deep geostrategic transformations that resulted from the end of the Cold War oblige us to reconsider several certainties and, above all, to reanalyze the current situation in a more realistic manner.
The fact is that the success of European construction, if it results in Kant’s ideals, is forged on a political chessboard that conforms with the harsh reality of realpolitik, that of the balance of powers, of power struggles, of arm twisting and all kinds of threats, including nuclear.
By leaving Washington with the task of getting their hands dirty, Europe in a way washed its own, all the while pandering to public opinion by criticizing such unworthy practices from another time… It is in Europe more than in America that the isolationist policy has best expressed itself.
The 1990s rocked us of another illusion, that of a quiet sliding towards an ever more democratic world, prosperous and pacifist, happy and stable. But behind this thin façade, this “end of history” did not take into account the numerous remnants of a twisted and complicated history that left too many populations in growing confusion and prone to resentment.
A quarter of a century after the collapse of the Berlin wall, the unified and larger Europe still stands, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the tumults shaking the surrounding world.
As to the United States, they now pay the price of their choices, and the weakening of their social foundations coupled with dubious strategic decisions have seriously undermined their capacity to weigh in upon the big affairs of the world.
In any case, new sources of worry and instability ask for multilateral solutions. But Europe, which, officially at least, has become the champion of multilateral action, sees itself forced to reply to pressing problems by calling forth the only two countries capable - militarily and politically - of intervening efficiently abroad, France and the United Kingdom, which are still permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
But France’s actions in Mali or in Central Africa, for instance, leave a strange after-taste since this kind of action can only remind us of postcolonial French Africa, not to mention colonial times. This type of intervention from another age, even supported by Europe and the ’international community,’ is not viable in the long term even if it constitutes the least bad alternative, given the current conditions.
It is therefore obvious that Europe, after eluding the problem for decades, is now forced to take up its responsibilities. The Ukrainian crisis, those of Syria and Libya, without even mentioning the rest, lead Europe today to reconsider its entire security approach and, above all, to reintroduce the fundamental question of its future and of its existence.
In some sense, Europe is coming out of its adolescence. From this point on, it must enter straight into adulthood. What does it want to be? Where does it want to go? What does it want to accomplish?
These questions that go to the very heart of its identity are those to which it must now begin to form an answer. By refusing to do so, Europe runs a huge risk: that of being swept away by history.
Concretely, then, Europe now needs a fundamental element that at any time and in any geo-cultural context defines a great political project: a Grand Strategy.
Let us go back a moment: at the beginning of the 17th century, at a period of violence and chronic instability, an emerging Europe was facing its destiny. Conscious of the stakes, a man of vision, the Duke of Sully, unveiled an ambitious and premonitory Grand Strategy for Europe in the name of King Henri IV.
Unfortunately, Europe still threw itself headlong into the horrible conflict that we now know as the Thirty Years’ War, and three decades of war and millions of dead were necessary for Europe to reinvent itself and draw its new future with the famous Westphalia Treaties.
Yet, without a Grand Strategy worthy of its name, without a common foreign policy and without a military structure which would serve as the instrument of this strategy, Europe is not only condemned to play a secondary role but, above all, puts its own security in danger since the worrisome instability of regions like the Middle East has already had repercussions on the European continent.
The political difficulties of overcoming this important step are therefore huge given a European public opinion that does not seem ready to assume global leadership or the cost and sacrifices that such responsibility implies.
This explains why European foreign and common defense policies have only moved forward slightly, since only immediate threats are capable of producing a bit of momentum here or there.
The institutional organization of the Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) and of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) – which, and it is annotable fact, benefit from the favors of European public opinion – have allowed for the installation of landmarks, but they are nothing but landmarks; and in reality, as far as foreign and security policy are involved, Europe as such gets erased behind national driving forces. And the latter are limited; no European State today being capable of aligning itself with the world’s superpowers.
We can only note that since 2009 and the Lisbon treaty, Europe has not moved forward much on this strategic file. Actually, Lisbon constitutes a notable progression after Maastricht (1993, creation of the CFSP) and Saint-Malo (propositions for a European Policy of Security and Defense, CSDP, 1998) by introducing an important clause, that of mutual Defense, which formally ensures the assistance of other Union members if a state is the object of aggression.
Moreover, the treaty adds three missions – joint actions in the matter of disarmament; missions of advice and assistance in military matters; and operations of stabilization at the end of conflicts – to those that already appear in the CSDP program; namely, humanitarian missions and evacuation missions; missions to prevent conflicts and to maintain peace; and missions of combat forces for the management of crises.
With these increased powers, the European Defense Agency ensures better coordination than before, which the Permanent Structured Cooperation now complements. But such a commitment does not really equal a global strategy, and these commendable advances are insufficient to provide Europe the status of superpower, which would enable it to affect the order of things and to ensure that tomorrow’s world is a better world.
History never ceases to remind us that great decisions are only made in critical situations, and today Europe is indeed facing a wall. If it does not act quickly, it is the whole edifice that threatens to collapse, as well as the many economic and social advantages considered by a majority of Europeans as their due, and even their right. With the regular rising of Anti-European extreme right parties, the opportunity to forge forward will not last forever.
The question is to know how to proceed: should we create a tool that defines a Grand Strategy for Europe? Or should we wait – but until when? – to have a common foreign policy to define strategic orientations and then create an adapted tool? Until now, Europe has moved forward on these three fronts simultaneously but shyly and without really reaching a critical level.
Its common strategy, as expressed in the European Security Strategy, is more an answer to threats than a real Grand Strategy which would define and affirm Europe’s role on, not to mention its great return to, the main political chessboard. Because a Grand Strategy is not only a strategy of security. It is foremost a vision of the future, of the necessary role and capacities to affect this future. It is a great common project.
Thus, the question is not to know how to answer certain threats in the near future but what world does Europe need. Yet, it is from an ambitious strategic vision without concession that Europe will find the momentum to institute a common foreign policy.
And it is from there, as well, that it will find the impulse to construct a military tool adapted to its Grand Strategy. The strength, equipment, resources, and knowledge already exist in this field. We still need to assemble everything coherently, and it is probable that the sharing of these resources will permit even more important savings. It is thus a question of political will.
And it is indeed here that there is a problem and that the atavisms persist and hinder the advancement of history. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany are the key actors of this revolution. Used to playing the arbiter of the balance of power for centuries within Europe and between Europe and the United States, London is thus in an awkward position that is uncomfortable for everybody, a position that it needs to assume the courage to abandon.
Is it possible to move forward without London’s support? France already provides a certain impulse to the Europeanization of foreign and security policies and it must continue on this path.
A dramatic gesture, not without risk, would be to propose a permanent seat for the European Union at the UN Security Council. Germany must skillfully throw its weight in the balance without simultaneously frightening its partners.
Elsewhere, particularly in sensitive zones such as Central Europe and the Mediterranean, some or other people are going to foster a feeling of urgency propitious to giving back momentum.
The time is now over when nations could content themselves by summarizing their strategies with ordinary declarations of the merits of multilateralism or the necessity to fight terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
If Europe wants to perpetuate its model beyond its frontiers, if it wants to continue to exist, it needs a greater plan for the future. Europe is the only one that can write a travel warrant for the 21st century.
But for the message to be credible, Europe must give itself the capacity to talk in the only language susceptible to be heard by all, that of firmness. The world is not Europe, and the world is sometimes aggressive, brutal, violent and pitiless.
It is thus Europe that must uplift the world, otherwise, it will see itself irremediably hurled downward. The reality of globalization makes it impossible for anything but these two alternatives to exist.
In a world where numerous interlocutors only understand the language of force, the presence of a Europe that expresses itself in one voice, a Europe that is determined, independent, sure of itself, confident, thoughtful and ready to use force if necessary, is more than a necessity: it is the only guarantee for durable peace and stability, in Europe, and beyond.
Translated by Jennie Dorny and Raimes Combes
Source: Eutopia Magazine