The Trouble with European Defense

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Nice summit of EU leaders achieved few of its aims, but it did push the creation of a military identity for the EU, the European Defense Initiative (EDI), forward. That movement, however, is beginning to arouse worries, both in NATO and in the United States.

It has long been a bedrock principle of American foreign policy to endorse any move to further integrate the European Union. If specific US interests might be harmed by such moves, the remedy is to seek revisions in detail, without opposing the overall initiative. Unlike the British Tories, some French Gaullists, and many Danes and Swedes, Americans do not fear the prospect of a United States of Europe, a potential competitor to be sure, but also a much-needed partner on the world scene.

When EDI first emerged, America’s response was no different. Although some outspoken French proponents of EDI made no secret of their desire to replace NATO altogether, this being seen by them as the only way of emancipating Europe from American hegemony, that is not how EDI was officially presented and discussed in the councils of the European Union. That official EDI was to be an auxiliary to NATO not a competitor, its purpose to provide European forces for less demanding peace-keeping operations that did not require the participation of American combat forces.

American diplomacy, therefore, did nothing to oppose EDI, and even welcomed the possibility that it might induce Europe’s political elites to support more military spending, reducing the burden on the US. The seemingly endless Bosnia peacekeeping force is a case in point. If EDI would supply additional troops to allow the US Army to withdraw its 4,600 soldiers, that would suit America very well because there are many other demands on US forces around the world,