Military alliance: Towards a EuroNato?
21 December 2010
Notwithstanding claims made by participants, the Nato summit in Lisbon did not constitute a turning point: the alliance continues to be undermined by a profound crisis, highlighted not only by the problems it faces in Afghanistan, but also by nagging doubts about the effectiveness of mutual assistance in the event of threats to security.
Today, the trajectories of Europe and the United States are obviously divergent when it comes to Afghanistan. At the same time, Nato's current structure is increasingly an obstacle to its further development, and will have to be overhauled. The main problem is that the clear vision of a common threat, which justified the existence of the alliance between the United States and Europe in the Cold War period, no longer prevails. As it stands, the allies could restructure their defence around a shared vision of a world order in which the United States would take charge via Nato of the security of the Western world. However, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the failure of the American strategy which consists of the unilateral instrumentalisation of Nato as the Western world’s main weapon in the global war against Islamic terrorism.
A progressive Europeanisation of Nato accompanied by the military emancipation of the European Union could provide a solution to the incompatibility of interests between allies, and space that is freed by a US withdrawal from Nato could pave the way for a benevolent European hegemony, in which Europe would utilise its potential to establish peace and a new moral order on an equal standing with the United States.
The recent Franco-British military cooperation agreement is a testament to the growing appeal of this vision in Europe. However, a scenario in which the United States would rapidly withdraw from Nato remains unlikely. A disengagement on this scale would undermine the supremacy of the United States, upset the global balance of power and constitute a danger to Europe, which still needs time to construct a military pillar if it is to take on the mantle of world leader.
America’s current global hegemony is supported by the twin pillars of Europe and Japan, which are both dependent on the US economy – a dependence which has been all too evident in the painful consequences of the financial crisis. At the same time, both the European Union and Japan have remained under the military protection of the United States – a situation that has enabled Washington to exercise a gentle influence on decisions by both of its protégés, notably through allusions to threats posed by China, or by Russia.
Any bid to establish Japanese military independence has been made impossible by article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which bans the use of force as a means for the settlement of international disputes and stipulates that the country should not have an army with offensive capacity. At the same time, the development of EU military autonomy has effectively been blocked by the structure of Nato, which continues to be dominated by the United States.
As long as Nato exists in its current form and as long as the European Union remains militarily fragmented, it will be unable to enter into an equal partnership with the United States, or with Russia, and even less so with China. Military force continues to be an integral component of the foreign policies adopted by Washington and the Kremlin, and unfortunately this is not the case in Brussels. It is striking to see how Russia, even though it is economically weaker than the EU, succeeds in exerting a considerable diplomatic weight on Brussels, simply by alluding to the extent of its armed forces and its nuclear arsenal.
Without an army and a common defense policy, the European Union will be obliged to follow a political line that is alternately dictated by the United States and Russia, like a rudderless ship adrift without a destination. And as long as this situation prevails, different countries within the EU (like Poland for example) will continue to seek protection from outside of the European Union.
The military emancipation of Europe and the establishment of an army to provide support for a "European hegemony” would split the Western world into two powers of comparable capacity. In such a scenario – with American power counter balanced by an equal partner in the form of the European Union – Western civilisation would have every chance of holding its own in the competition for world leadership.