Germany’s defense minister called for a European “defense union” during his visit to Lithuania. The Baltic state will host about 1,000 troops as part of a deterrence program against Russia. The EU has for long been pondering a closer defense relationship on top of the NATO structures in the face of a revisionist Russia and escalating conflicts in the Middle East.
Britain, which has been a vocal critic of an EU “army”, is not going to block the tighter European defense cooperation following its decision to leave the EU anymore. Germany, France and many Eastern European countries are, by contrast, supporters of the idea of more joint defense. Baltic countries moreover think that it is time for Europe to move towards a defense union, which is basically tantamount to a defense of the Schengen area.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also endorsed the idea of having more military operations with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as well as the Alliance and EU members. The Baltic states have started feeling more and more vulnerable following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Germany has also renewed and strengthened its ties with Poland, France and the Netherlands outside the structures of the Alliance, although neither Berlin nor Paris wants to establish a full-scale army.
“When we have threats that are surrounding us, we all know no country by its own will be able to manage that. But we together, we Europeans, we are very strong if we improve our capabilities as Europeans,” Ursula von der Leyen said. Ms von der Leyen who has been the Minister of Defense since 2013, is the first woman in German history to hold that office. She added that “there will be a comprehensive air defense” as there are “many European friends who want to join, like the Dutch or the French, for example.”