Europe as No. 3 Superpower? — EU Divided on the ‘Rapid Reaction Force’ Idea

Written by | Thursday, September 9th, 2021

The European Union wants the ability to rapidly deploy several thousand troops as part of a larger strategic plan to be discussed and possibly adopted in November. The issue was debated among 25 EU ministers of defense in Slovenia last week (2 September). This comes as voices around the bloc are mounting, calling for the EU to become the world’s third-largest military superpower, as the debacle in Afghanistan has shown. ”Europe has to become the number three super-power besides China and the United States. Let’s open our eyes, we’re facing threats and we cannot rely anymore on the protection of the United States”, French defense minster Bruno Le Maire said at a business congress near Lake Como in Italy Saturday (4 September).
In the wake of the Afghanistan crisis, calls have reemerged for the EU to develop a European rapid reaction force, the bloc’s own joint military capability. This proposal, along with the possibility to move towards ad-hoc military cooperation between interested EU member states was also recently discussed by the EU defense ministers. Speaking to reporters ahead of the informal meeting, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the chairman of the EU military committee Claudio Graziano urged member states to revive the idea to set up a rapidly deployable military force to intervene around the world. “The situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Sahel shows that now is the time to act, starting with the creation of a European rapid reaction force, able to show the will of the Union to act as a global strategic partner,” Graziano added. While EU diplomats say they want a final deal on design and funding by March. France takes over it the EU’s six-month presidency in January, the main problem is that not all of the member states are on board.
Eastern Europeans, with the exception of the Czech Republic and Slovenia, were absent from the position paper published earlier this year that campaigned for the idea, which was signed by fourteen member states, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. “We have been quite skeptical about the rapid reaction force, as it is not clear what will be the added value vis a vis the battle groups,” an Eastern European diplomat told the reporters. The proposal of a European rapid reaction force was also not welcomed by non NATO-member Sweden. “I do not see that as the main line for solving these problems,” the country’s defense minister Peter Hultqvist said. The link across the Atlantic remains particularly important for the balance and stability “in our part of the world,” Hultqvist said, pouring cold water on the current EU defense debate. His statement is in line with the views of the Baltic States and Poland, while neighboring Finland has been a stronger advocate for an European rapid reaction force. Experts point out that the problem lies with the fact that any such operations would require unanimity among the EU27, and so far no one has dared to touch that principle.

Article Categories:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.