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Euroarmy: A Threat to Whom?

BY JACEK BOBOLI
02.24.2000 | POLITICS

First: Some History

After World War II, the French politician Robert Schumann understood the necessity of preventing another war.

He realized that any New European order must be based on a new political as well as economic structures.

He set his mind on the personal aspects of trade: he figured that by lowering the trade barriers between European states, inter/intra-European trade would be markedly enhanced, and, as a consequence, there would be an acceleration of personal contacts and ultimately of interdependence between Continental states and cultures.

But Robert Schumann's European dream was not simply to create a free exchange zone, but also to have coordinated structural policies, from which arose European coal, steel and civilian nuclear policies.

His also believed that if Europe had a common army, it would create ties among military establishments, most importantly between Germany and its former enemies. This 'euroarmy' would provide Europe with greater security from the U.S.S.R. as well as independence from the U.S.A.

As Europe recovered, and was quickly integrated into a U.S-controlled NATO bloc, the idea of a euroarmy languished. The Soviet threat, real or imagined, killed the conversation.

By the mid-1950s, the S.E.D. (Société Européenne de Défense - European Society for Defense) was all but dead. Strangely, the very country where the idea started - France - was also responsible for its failure.

This is so because General De Gaulle, President of France, effectively took France out of the NATO Common Command and as a result the headquarters of NATO moved from France to Belgium.

Why did De Gaulle back the Anglo-US led alliance?

It should be remembered that the core of the Yalta agreements was adopted without France's participation despite the efforts made by the exiled French government and the French resistance/guerilla movement during the war.

It should also be remembered that during the period when De Gaulle was in London as the head of France Libre, Churchill tried to eliminate him politically, urging Roosevelt to help him in achieving this goal. Roosevelt was definitely not against the idea and it was only the existing military establishment which stopped him. (The military was against it because if De Gaulle was eliminated as a political influence, the French maquis (resistance/guerilla) would turn towards Russia and the communists for support.)

De Gaulle was definitely not an idiot. These plots—in addition to the bombing and sinking of the French Fleet at Mars-El-Kebir in 1940 and the 'closed door' policy at the Yalta Conference—could only justify his suspicion of an Anglo-Saxon transatlantic front.

Nevertheless, the English were not members of the European Community at the time: De Gaulle himself had vetoed their entry by then.

So De Gaulle rejected NATO's common command (nevertheless France was still a member) and hence influence in European security discussions of the day. And yet he planted seeds not unrelated to the current possibilities for an independent European defense capability.

For without his somewhat narrow vision there would be no European aerospace industry; ARIANE ESPACE is the world's leading aerospace company as far as satellite launch orders are concerned. There would be practically no European aircraft industry—think of the first French Caravelle's or the curiously Anglo-French Concorde or the fact that last year Airbus Industry signed more firm-orders than Boeing. Who has forgotten about the successful use of Mirage fighters by the Israelis and others, or the French anti-ship missiles the Argentinean Air Force successfully used in the Malvinas/Falklands war against the British ? who has forgotten the pioneering French TGV high speed civilian trains? This list is in no way exhaustive, but is indeed the result of De Gaulle's own long-term policy.

Later, much later, in the nineties, a handful of European countries created a small Eurocorp, including France, Belgium, Germany and a couple of others. It's mainly restricted to joint exercises, rather than being a real corps intended to carry out common political decisions. But it is a start. (The U.K. is not a member of this Eurocorp.)

The recently-elected British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, meanwhile represents a strange and contradictory dual attitude. While maintaining strong UK-USA ties, he seems (discretely) to be trying to bring his compatriots round to a more European position. Meanwhile, after the Kosovo war, he immediately adopted the Germano-French Euroarmy initiative within the European Union.

This body is to be independent from NATO, despite the impression to the contrary that some politicians are trying to create. The fact is that European Union member countries like Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Austria are neutral and any force contribution cannot be under NATO control, directly or indirectly.

Hence that the only way for Europe to exert popularly mandated influence in the world is through participation in a wider but strictly European security structure.

A Threat to Whom?

The Russian Position

It should be obvious to foreign observers that the prime concern of most Russians is just food for the next day.

The prime threat to Russian security comes from within in the form of rampant corruption and Mafia controlled organized crime.

There exists the feeling in Russia today that the Mafia were backed by the U.S.A. themselves in order to prevent Russia from becoming a superpower.

Hence the fact that assertive Russian action anywhere, when successful—like in the Pristina airport situation—gets the support of the Russian people, especially if it shows up the U.S.A. In fact, it is not so much the support for their army that is important, but the fact that their army provides a lesson for the Americans; those hated Americans who in their eyes were once heroes (briefly) when communism broke down. A dominant attitude that they are now able to impose worldwide thanks to the submission of Russian society to the Mafia which, even if it would never be recognized officially, at the very beginning were probably backed by the American secret services, just as occurred with the American Sicilian Mafia during WW II prior to landing in Sicily.

It is obvious that no economy in the world can afford to have 40-60% under the control of the Mafia.

Within this context of social crisis, it can be assumed that a Euroarmy, independent from NATO—and hence from the USA—would certainly not present any problem in the eyes of the Russian people: it would be fully welcomed as proof that Russia is no longer alone in resisting, in a sense, control by the Nš 1 superpower. It is possible that a less militaristic bloc than NATO could allow Russia to focus on problems at home and not find a hegemonic conspiracy to the west, as it does increasingly to the south.

It is inconceivable that the Russian army would harbor expansionist projects with regard to Western Europe anytime soon.

During the last decade, Western Europe has never played a hero to Russia and hence it is not likely that in the foreseeable future it will become a villain. NATO, however, so closely associated with Washington, is (correctly) seen as dangerously expansionist. A Euroarmy would quell Russian fears and bring stability to the international political order.

The U.S. Position, as Seen From Europe

And here we come to the heart of the problem, as seen in Continental Europe. The problem with a European army is neither with the Russians, nor the Chinese, nor the Senegalese, nor, of course, with most Europeans who see it as the only chance for a truly independent Europe.

The only problem regarding the Euroarmy is with the U.S.A., which is against a Euroarmy superseding NATO.

It has to be clear that events such as the Kosovo war greatly inflamed anti-NATO and anti-US sentiment: the great majority of the citizens of continental NATO member states were against the intervention and that majority was similar in both NATO and non-NATO (neutral) countries.

Ex-President Carter as well as former Vice-President Dan Quayle were two Americans who understand the long-term consequences of the bombing, not only in the minds of non-friendly nations, but also in the neutral nations, as well as among the population of the allied nations themselves.

It must then be clear that for most continental Europeans, the attitude of the US-government towards the Euroarmy appears fundamentally negative. What's more, many continental Europeans feel that the US pushed the U.K. into the new European structure as a kind of Trojan horse (of course, de Gaulle would have vetoed any such a participation).

This obstinacy of the US-government will surely have a boomerang effect sometime in the future: such an attitude cannot be maintained long-term against the will of any population, European or otherwise.

The Western European Position

It is useful to separate European public opinion from official statements. The Euroarmy idea is widely popular and has mass credibility.

The general attitude is something like the Russian one: most Europeans feel humiliated—even if they will never admit to it.

The Europeans know their welfare and health systems are better than the US equivalents and do not envy US wealth disparities. The feel they should have a defense capability equal to their achievements in other realms.

Obviously, that would make NATO redundant in its current form.

A full equal partnership would be welcomed by most of the Europeans as a means of dealing with scenarios outside Europe, but only outside Europe (Russia is not seen as a danger any more, for the reasons mentioned above).

A Global View on Rights and International Law

The opinion amongst European continental citizens is not that the globalization of human rights should be limited geographically. The polls show this clearly.

Nevertheless, Washington policy reflects a more narrow concern for human rights as seen within the context of US 'interests'. While a coordinated Kosovo strategy, if presented in a non-dominating way and within the framework of international legality, would surely have been backed by a large majority of continental Europeans—and probably would never have generated ethnic cleansing and counter-ethnic-cleansing—the way in which the USA handled it generated a marked increase in continental European anti-US feeling and aligned most of the continental European citizens, militarily speaking, with the Serb army against NATO. It was this recognition that eventually forced NATO to compromise its demands made at Rambouillet.

In clear contrast, a strong and efficient Euroarmy would eliminate anti-American sentiment and allow real collaboration between the USA and Europe to develop on an equal basis, with approval from the continental European population itself.

For the full, unabridged version of this article, go to http://web.wanadoo.be/le.hussard.aile/euroarmy.htm.

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