- A recent London meeting revealed sharp differences between
the US and Europe over the role of NATO and the European Union in the field
- At a conference held at the Royal Institute of International
Affairs October 7-8, entitled "NATO: Development in Partnership"Engagement
and Advancement after 2000, US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot
bluntly warned Europe against developing a military capability standing
- He was responding to comments by Britain's Defence Secretary
George Robertson, who is about to become the new NATO secretary general.
Robertson called for a significant increase in European Union (EU) defence
forces and hardware. He told the conference : "We want to ensure that
strong and effective military resources are also available to the European
Union, so that we can take action in support of the Common Foreign and
Security Policy when NATO as a whole is not engaged militarily. This means
that we need to develop the EU's capacity to take timely and informed decisions
on emerging crises.
- Strobe Talbot said of the European Security and Defence
Identity (ESDI): "We would not want to see an ESDI that comes into
being first within NATO but then grows out of NATO and finally grows away
from NATO, since that would lead to an ESDI that initially duplicates NATO
but that could eventually compete with NATO. That's a long-term concern,
obviously, but NATO, after all, is about the long term, and so is this
conference (emphasis in the original).
- Talbot told the conference that the central question
was "the transatlantic relationship in the wake of the conflict in
Kosovo. He said, "On this subject, I sense a basic difference of view
on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Many Americans are saying: never again
should the United States have to fly the lion's share of the risky missions
in a NATO operation and foot by far the biggest bill. Many in my country,
notably including members of Congress, are concerned that, in some future
European crisis, a similar predominance of American manpower, firepower,
equipment and resources will be neither politically nor militarily sustainable,
given the competing commitments our nation has in the Gulf, on the Korean
Peninsula and elsewhere around the world.
- Talbot described the European position as being "determined
never again to feel quite so dominated by the US as they did during Kosovo
or, for that matter, during Bosnia; in the next crisis"whatever, wherever
and whenever it is"our Allies want a say in the conduct of operations
more nearly commensurate with the political onus that they bear in supporting
- Both Talbot and Robertson pointed to the massive imbalance
in military capability between America and the countries of the European
Union, as highlighted in the NATO war against Yugoslavia. Robertson said:
"We Europeans flew only a third of the total number of aircraft sorties
during the campaign, and only 20 percent of the strike sorties. It was
American military power that gave credibility to the diplomatic campaign.
- Underscoring Europe's present inability to mount large-scale
military operations independently of the US, Robertson said the European
commitment to KFOR, "deploying a force of a few tens of thousands,
less than 2 percent of the total military personnel available to us, has
undoubtedly stretched our collective resources.
- Press reports indicate that the European Union intends
to develop its capacity to make a corps-sized deployment of some 100,000
troops. Although the combined size of the European armed forces is over
1 million, a large proportion of these are relatively unskilled conscripts.
In addition, Europe's ability to project its military capacity is far behind
that of the US. It does not have the extensive logistical and transport
facilities required to quickly move and support a large force over a protracted
period. The EU also has a significant deficit on precision guided munitions.
Only France has its own independent intelligence satellites.
- The underlying tensions between American and European
imperialism were brought out earlier in remarks made by outgoing NATO Secretary
General Javier Solana on October 6. Speaking to the press, Solana said
his new position as EU High Representative for foreign affairs would focus
on developing a common European defence policy. "The agenda of the
security of Europe will continue to be one of my main concerns as I move
on to the European Union, he said. "The experience I have learned
here [at NATO] will be without any doubt of great importance for me as
I develop the European Security and Defense Identity [ESDI] looking toward
the twenty-first century.''
- Solana added, "I realise a lot of people in the
United Sates are very sensitive about what we are trying to do." Indicating
the potential for disagreements to rapidly escalate, Solana said, "I
hope we can find ways to calm everybody down."
- At the September NATO ministers' conference, US Defence
Secretary William S. Cohen had cautioned about developing an independent
European defence policy: "What we would insist upon ... is that the
Transatlantic link remain strong.
- The European Security and Defence Identity should not
be "something that is a separate bureaucratic institution, but something
constructed under the umbrella of NATO itself, he said. "Whatever
developments take place under ESDI, there must be a transparency between
NATO and EU, that there should be a sharing of information representatives
from EU to NATO. As ESDI is developed the capabilities remain constant
with those identified in the Defence Capabilities Initiative so we don't
have one set of requirements developing in Europe and a separate set for
NATO, which would lead to certainly a disassociation of those kind of requirements
- At the September conference, Cohen also underscored the
need for increased military spending, particularly on the part of Europe:
"We envision the NATO countries acquiring what we call precision guided
munitions. This was demonstrated during the Kosovo conflict, compared for
example to Desert Storm, where most of the munitions that were dropped
were not precision guided ... those that have them in short supply will
have to replenish them and increase their inventories; those that do not
have them, we hope that they will turn to them as well for the future.
- Washington is keen to spread the financial burden of
military operations such as the war against Yugoslavia, while ensuring
that the ultimate political and military control remains in their hands.
This was Strobe Talbot's message in London.
- For their part, the ruling classes in Europe must develop
a military capacity commensurate with their economic power, or continue
to defer to America. The scramble for influence in the new areas of the
globe opened up for exploitation will not be determined by economic factors
alone. As in the early days of imperialist expansion, the threat of force
must be accompanied by a willingness to apply it.
- See Also: <http://wsws.org/sections/category/news/eu-eu.shtmlEuropean
Union [WSWS Full Coverage]
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