Making European Defense a Reality

BRUSSELS – Anyone reflecting on the value, weight, and relevance of today’s European military forces for global affairs needs to keep two crucial questions in mind: Where do we want to go? What do we want to achieve?

The EU’s goal is to be a global player with its own foreign policy, one shared by its 27 member states. Any effective foreign policy clearly needs to rely on effective military and civilian resources.

But this goal does not mean that the EU will compete with NATO. Whereas NATO is a political-military alliance, the EU endorses the development of a community of national destinies. Moreover, NATO benefits from the military might of a dominant nation, while the EU must depend on the shared voluntary efforts of its members. For two key reasons, it would be more correct to say that NATO and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) are complementary.

First, certain countries turn specifically to Europe for help. Whether in sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East, their populations and governments are more inclined – for political, historical, or cultural reasons – to request European rather than NATO assistance. Conversely, there are certain long-term crises, such as those provoked by terrorism, for which NATO is better placed to act.