Thursday, 31 March 2011


Will the current NATO campaign in Libya result in common EU foreign, defense and security policies, or will it expose the intense competition behind the cooperation of Western allies? The US has managed to use the Libyan crisis, as it did Iraq and Afghanistan, to keep the Europeans militarily divided and dependent on the leader of the free world by marginalizing the European Defense Agency (EDA), always with the help of UK, and strengthening NATO. As the world's hegemonic military bloc without a deterrent role in the absence of a Communist threat, is NATO's role one of rapid deployment in regional conflicts - mainly Islamic countries- and if so, what does this reveal about the reason for its post-Cold War role and EU as America's military partner?

In 2004, the EDA sparked a great deal of interest on both sides of the Atlantic and in Asia, in so far as its operations have broad geopolitical implications for the European and world balance of power. In the last six years, NATO has been restructured to reflect greater EU influence and the reality that Russia is not an imminent military threat.

As NATO's largest contributor, the US continues to use it as its private military bloc, as though the Cold War is continuing. One concern of the creation of EDA was that Europeans would divert resources from NATO, while another was the issue of greater EU foreign and defense policy independence from the US. After all, there was no Cold War, so why not create a post-Cold War defense agency to reflect changing conditions.

The enemy is  no longer Communism but Islamic countries, at least as far as the US is concerned and some Western European nations following the same policy. If the new Cold War has targeted mainly Islamic nations, is Europe following US foreign and defense policies instead of sharing in the decision making process? The EDA was intended as another instrument to define EU as independent from the US. Neo-isolationists in the US have tried to use the EDA as a pretext to demand that Europeans must pay entirely for their own defense. Other US defense experts cautioned that US political and military needs in Iraq and Afghanistan - now Libya, make cooperation with the EU indispensable.

But is the structure of the European Defense Agency a reflection of the EU political or economic integration model, or is it a NATO appendage, which in reality translates into US appendage? While the initial goal of France was to create a defense agency with a European post-Cold War identity separate from NATO, the UK vehemently objected and its view prevailed largely because the cost burden would have been enormous otherwise.

Although defense ministers from all EU members participate in the Defense Agency, in essence it is an Anglo-French entity, given that 2/3 of its budget comes from London and Paris. Just as France has a close working relationship and collaboration with Germany on financial, economic, and trade issues, it has a very close military relationship with England, something that appeals to the US that wanted to make certain the balance of power between Germany, France and England is not tilted toward one side or the other. Understanding how the EDA operates helps to place the US-UK, French (crusading trio) campaign in Libya into context, including intelligence operations before the air strikes of March 2011.

EU Defense Agency's purpose is to foster joint procurement, research and development, and rapid deployment, partly ­with the goal of moving toward a common EU military policy within the context of NATO cooperation. Despite the EDA and an estimated one-and-half million troops, despite the publicly stated goal of a common EU defense and security policy, Europe remains America's junior military partner not very different than it was during the Cold War, dragged into conflicts that the US initiates and/or is interested in carrying out.

Considering that only UK and France that are at the heart of EDA are staunchly behind the war in Libya, with Italy and Germany on the cautious side, NATO's lead role in the operations has exposed the myth that EU has a common defense or foreign policy. Playing a hawkish role in the Libyan campaign by joining UK and US, France has damaged its relations with Italy and Germany whose cooperation it needs for all other matters. Other than benefiting the US is strongly committed to NATO as the strongest military bloc on earth, exactly what will France gain by testing the strength of EDA only to expose its weaknesses?

Theoretically, the U.S. and EU would cooperate in managing the world militarily as they do the economy in the G-8, and divide the contracts for their national businesses after conflicts accordingly. This is what the cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now unfolding in Libya are supposed to prove. However, amid a very deep fiscal crisis for most NATO members, if conflicts like the one in Libya last a long time, we will discover that the European Union remains weak because it remains divided on foreign, defense and security policies. EU's weaknesses benefit the US as the world's sole military superpower, even if the bulk of post-Gaddafi businesses go to the Europeans as they would in any event.

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