January 10, 2019 | By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week's Reads: Should the European Union Have Its Own Army?

 

President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw from Syria and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' subsequent resignation, compounded by Trump's earlier declarations that the European Union was a "foe" and NATO "obsolete," have added new urgency to an old debate: Should the European Union have its own army?

France and Germany seem to have determined that the Trump administration will continue to call US support for Europe into question. As a result, President Emmanuel Macron warned Europe could not be protected without a "true, European army," and Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the idea by declaring that "the times when we could rely on others are over."

To some, the concept of a European army—a single military force unified under the command of the European Union—contains an interesting Catch-22. A retreating American security umbrella might mean Europe needs to step up and do more to defend itself in case the United States ends its seven-decade commitment to Europe’s security and defense. But moving too quickly might cause a backlash and ultimately accelerate an American withdrawal from European defense. As Francois Heisbourg, former defense advisor for Macron's presidential campaign, put it, “We have to hedge. But it is a very tricky situation: When does the hedge become a wedge?”

While Europe needs to be careful in how it moves forward with defense cooperation, fears that improving European defense capabilities would cause a backlash from the United States are misplaced. Increased European defense spending has been a US goal for decades. In 2014, NATO members committed to bringing their defense spending to two percent of national GDP by 2024. Though it's a relatively modest goal, all European allies are increasing defense spending and most are slated to meet the commitment.

What’s important is for Europe to do more on defense—and if it does so within a European context, even as a hedge, then that is fine if it in fact leads to real, additional capabilities. Anything that gets the Europeans to take their defense seriously, in my book, is a good idea. And anything that strengthens Europe’s capacity to defend itself, in the end, will enhance the overall transatlantic alliance.

To be clear, I do not think we have to worry about Europe actually succeeding in building a European Army any time soon. None of the EU members, starting with France, is ready to give up the national autonomy over military decisions that a “true, European army” implies. But that does not exclude closer cooperation—on developing and buying weapons, training and deploying forces, and operating in actual combat situations—all of which would add real defense capabilities.

A stronger, more capable Europe will lead to a stronger, more capable NATO—so long as both sides of the Atlantic remain committed to their collective defense.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. If you haven't done so already, please click here to subscribe to This Week's Reads.

Is Europe Ready to Defend Itself?

Yaroslav Trofimov / The Wall Street Journal

As Donald Trump’s America pulls back and Vladimir Putin’s Russia looms, France and Germany are leading a renewed drive for a common European Union military.

How Trump Made War on Angela Merkel and Europe

Susan B. Glasser / The New Yorker

The German Chancellor and other European leaders have run out of patience with the President.

‘America First’ Is Only Making the World Worse. Here’s a Better Approach.

Antony J. Blinken and Robert Kagan / The Washington Post

Kagan and Blinken offer a foreign policy mixing preventative diplomacy and deterrence, trade and technology, allies and institutions, and immigration and refugees.

Trump Didn’t Kill the Global Trade System. He Split It in Two.

Greg Ip / The Wall Street Journal

Allies find relations modestly tweaked, despite the president’s rhetoric, while relations with China are entering a deep freeze.

After a Rocky 2018, Populism Is Down but Far From Out in the West

Max Fisher / The New York Times

The West’s populist leaders and parties have grown defensive, retreating into ever-starker messages of us-versus-them. The approach excites their most dedicated followers. But it can be risky, forcing voters to pick sides at a moment when the populist right holds declining appeal.

RIP, Axis of Adults

Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay / POLITICO

It was never a real thing. But with Jim Mattis’ exit, the idea that Trump’s advisers could restrain the president is finally dead.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices and conduct independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion in blog posts are the sole responsibility of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.

Archive

| By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week's Reads: Springtime for Illiberalism

Illiberalism thrives when popular concerns about external threats are directed toward internal institutions and protections. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's reelection used this ideology to reject the "other" and establish deeper illiberal roots in Central Europe.


| By Brian Hanson, Dan De Luce, Dion Nissenbaum

Deep Dish: What's at Stake in Syria Strike

President Trump said Syria would pay a "high price" if it is confirmed that the Assad regime deployed chemical weapons in the attack on Douma, Syria. Deep Dish weighs what his options and the consequences are for such a price.


| By Iain Whitaker

Lessons from a Global Affairs Limerick Competition

In the lead-up to our "Poets of the Podium: The Art of Speechwriting" program with the Poetry Foundation, the Council hosted a global affairs limerick competition - quite possibly the first ever of its kind. Now, having pored through the prose, here are our five wholly un-academic takeaways.



| By Niamh King

Honoring M. Cherif Bassiouni

Niamh King, vice president for programs and strategic content at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, briefly recounts a few of Cherif Bassiouni’s appearances at the Council and highlight the moments and insights that have stayed with her.




| By Brian Hanson, Gabriel Weimann

Deep Dish: Terrorism in Cyberspace

Social media, the internet of things, and the dark web are the latest battlegrounds in a new era of asymmetrical warfare. Premier cyberterrorism expert Gabriel Weimann joins Deep Dish to discuss how terrorists and bad actors use cyber networks to recruit members, spread propaganda, and cause physical harm.


| By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week's Reads - Putin on a Roll

No one can doubt that Russia is acting like a major international threat, and Vladmir Putin's reelection means that the threat is here to stay. Fortunately, we are seeing signs of the West beginning to step up.







| By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week's Reads – Off the Rails

Developments this week from Europe, Russia, China, Syria, and here in the United States show a world in turmoil that needs strong leadership. But these days, that leadership can come from nontraditional players.