Europe should be able to launch military operations overseas without the United States or NATO help in the future, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told the media, amid a renewed French push to create an EU army. ”So there will be problems in our neighbourhood in which you [the US] will not intervene, and we should be able to do that on our own,” he said, U.S. broadcaster PBS in New York Wednesday (22 September). This comes as most Europeans think that there is a new Cold War unfolding between the US and its rivals, Russia and China, though they do not think their own country is involved, a new polling-backed report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has found. The report, published on Wednesday and based on polling 12 EU countries, also shows that Europeans consider EU institutions to be more likely than their own governments to be in a Cold War with China and Russia alongside Washington.
Also European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week (15 September) called on the bloc to beef up its military capabilities to confront security threats and global crises. In her annual State of the Union address, she told the MEPs she believed EU military forces would be “part of the solution”, as especially after the Afghan debacle the EU needed the “political will” to intervene militarily without US-led NATO. Von der Leyen said she was working with the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, on issuing a “new declaration” on EU-NATO relations by the end of the year. Six EU member states are not in the military alliance – Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden. “It is time for Europe to step up to the next level,” Mrs von der Leyen said, adding that this issue will be discussed in an EU defence summit next year hosted by France.
The rapid collapse of the Kabul government has raised questions about the EU’s ability to drive its own defence policy. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said earlier this month the EU should become “a strategic player to be reckoned with”. Also French President Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of a European army following the UK’s departure from the EU as it feared duplication with NATO. Proposals for an EU rapid-response force first emerged in the 1990s, and later in 2007, so-called battlegroups of 1,500 troops drawn from each member state were created. The battlegroups were declared ready for operations but never used because of disputes over funding and a reluctance to deploy. Most EU nations are also members of NATO and some, particularly states neighbouring Russia, do not want to undermine ties with the US.