by Rostislav Ishchenko, president of the Center of System Analysis and Forecasting
Translated by Aleksey
Against the backdrop of a decision by the IMF to loan Ukraine 17.5 billion over a span of four years’ time (it is still a trick to receive these funds – the previous bailout, agreed in 2014, has not been fully received) the talk of a creation of a European armed forces has been lost from conversation.
This is in vain, the overriding theme being that perhaps we are on the threshold of a new military configuration capable of, in the future, changing the geopolitical map of the Old World.
The first such attempt was undertaken in 1948 with the establishment of the Western European Union (WEU). However, a year later after the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the WEU became a purely formal bureaucratic structure – a structure for slackers, successfully eradicated only in 2011. During that time, the existence of the WEU was known only by specialists.
However, that does not mean that the idea of a European army was buried. For some time the consideration of the possibility of creating a single structure similar to that of the British Army of the Rhine, which was pushed into oblivion in the mid-90s. From 1989 to 1999 there was also a Franco-German Brigade, which was scheduled to deploy and replace the latter to create armed forces in Europe.
All these attempts failed and came to nothing because “the single European army” in fact already existed – it is, in fact, a union of the armed forces of NATO. This same army has covered Europe from the only potential enemy, whom she really feared (USSR and then Russia), and was fully equipped by the US armed forces. Since the beginning of the 80s, even the most powerful national European armies were suitable only for colonial operations. The maximum that the strongest European military power, the UK, could afford was a local war with Argentina, and then only fighting via the sea and operating on a 200-mile radius of the coast of Britain. The British forces were not up to the task of a full scale conflict, and even in a war in which it had an advantage in numbers and in military technology, the UK managed to lose.
By the mid-90s the armies of European countries were members of NATO and built their military doctrines around the principle of specialization, focusing on solving one particular task. Moreover, all these armies were indeed added as ligaments and extras to the skeleton of American armed forces unit in Europe, and the soon following expeditionary military ventures. As a result of this approach, the European states managed to save a lot of money on the armed forces, but the armies ceased to be single operating organisms.
It must be said, that this suited the Europeans. Their military doctrine did not include combat operations against other members of NATO. On the border countries which were also in turn buffer states, they were defended by the US armed forces from Russia. The other countries within arm’s reach were inferior in military-technical terms, states with whom a war would look something like an expedition of Lord Kitchener, whose machine guns shot down an army of a hundred thousand brave Mahdis (army of Abdullah al-Taashi of Sudan) at Omdurman during the battle of September 2, 1898. And thus, Europe felt secure, and never spent much money on this protection, and has always been able to demonstrate to the Americans their “participation in the common effort.”
But why should Europe need a full private army now? It seems to me it is because the contradictions between the EU and the United States during the Ukrainian crisis had gone too far. The first pill to swallow was the initiative of Hollande and Merkel heading to negotiate with Putin in Moscow, and then following that up by persuading Poroshenko to pursue peace in Minsk – this all contrary to the clearly stated position of Washington. Then the same Merkel blocked US arms supplies to Ukraine, speaking publicly against the American line. The European press, (at least the part of it that is not controlled by the US) has seen a month since its position has changed in light of this same schism regarding the Ukrainian conflict. Europe now saw the Nazis in the Ukrainian pro-government armed groups, endemic corruption in Kiev authorities, and German intelligence suddenly “dropped” to the media the information of a 50,000 casualty toll in the fighting in the Donbass (UN recognized no more than six thousand).
There are many such examples in the past, and they are all distinct. And now there is a new one, “European army”. Of course, it is only food for thought. But six months ago, nothing like this would have been expressed. On the contrary, there were calls to strengthen transatlantic solidarity. And the idea of a European army undermines this solidarity, as armed forces in Europe could only be created instead of NATO. This means that the players would all remain the same, but would exclude the USA.
Now Europe is in a crisis, which occurred in part due to the blind following of US policy. There is no money for the army, yet it is necessary to survive. In fact, the battle-worthy European army that would replace the joint armed forces of NATO, is only possible if the place of the US in this scheme (albeit unofficially), was taken by Russia. Nothing changes, except that Europe will not be defended by America from Russia, and by Russia from America. Political developments in the world show that protection from Washington to ensure the survival of the EU is more relevant.
It is definitely not a fact that a European army will be created. But “a” has already been stated (the military-political expediency of the US presence in Europe has been questioned). Events are now moving faster and faster, looking and waiting, one can only assume the arrival of “b.”