A Greek F-16 fighter jet seen in a file photo. The establishment of a European army would help Greece safeguard its eastern border and spend less on defense.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel caused a stir in May when she said: “It’s no longer the case that the United States will simply just protect us. Rather, Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands. That’s the task for the future.”
On Monday, it was French President Emmanuel Macron’s turn to emphasize that “Europe can no longer entrust its security to the United States alone.” “It’s up to us to guarantee our security, and thus European sovereignty,” he said in a foreign policy speech.
It was no coincidence, of course, that the leaders of the Franco-German axis were on the same page. They have obviously been discussing such issues. US President Donald Trump’s posturing has had a catalytic effect. Brexit too has most likely played a part, though London has vowed that it will continue to be part of European security.
That said, there are a few points that deserve further attention. Merkel was speaking at an event honoring Macron, who received the Charlemagne Prize for strengthening European integration. Meanwhile, Macron’s comments contained a reference to “European sovereignty.” He also added that “I want us to launch an exhaustive review of our security with all Europe’s partners, which includes Russia.” Finally, careful observers probably noticed that Macron’s statement came after Merkel’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Sunday, meanwhile, Euronews, a network with close ties to Brussels, broadcast an interview with Sergei Lavrov in which the Russian foreign minister outlined Moscow’s positions on a series of foreign policy issues.
All that can hardly be a coincidence.
However, it will not be easy to set up a common European security agency, a joint army whose primary objective would be to defend European sovereignty (it would certainly have other, more covert objectives). The United States has a strong foothold in several countries in Eastern Europe. A strengthening of Germany’s military capability (although France would play first fiddle for obvious reasons) would generate reactions and concerns. Meanwhile, no one can be certain of Britain’s position. Global players outside Europe would adapt their policies.
It is nevertheless clear that unless Europe develops its own military force it will never become a substantial player on the global stage.
For Greece, the creation of a European army would be a true gift, particularly if it also entailed an understanding that the defense of Europe’s borders should not depend solely on the goodwill of the country’s partners, as is the case today.
Greece would secure its borders against threats, particularly to the east, and it would not have to spend such a big percentage of its budget on defense. But for the vision of a European army to materialize, the EU will first have to overcome the significant problems that threaten its foundations.