The EU’s beleaguered Foreign Minister, Baroness Ashton, stated yesterday that she is no longer opposed to the creation of a permanent EU military headquarters to support a European army that will stand separate from NATO. In a flip-flop that would make John Kerry blush, first she was against the idea and now she’s in favor. How quickly the world’s highest paid politician changes her mind.
A permanent EU headquarters is yet another step toward an independent EU defense identity to undermine the primacy of NATO in European security structures, and American leadership in transatlantic affairs. Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns described it as, “the greatest threat to the future of the Alliance.”
Both the UK and United States have long opposed this wasteful and duplicative policy, which is largely the purview of Franco-German elites who want the EU as a counterbalance to American influence in Europe. The EU already has access to national military planning centers for its missions, as well as NATO’s headquarters upon request. It also has a fledgling temporary headquarters for its civilian missions. There is neither the need nor the resources for a second military headquarters, only the political will by Euro-fanatics to erode the supremacy of NATO in Europe.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently decried Europe’s demilitarization and pitiful defense spending. Just four (Bulgaria, France, Greece, and the U.K.) of the 21 EU-NATO members spend the NATO benchmark of 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. The EU can therefore only afford a separate army and its own Headquarters at NATO’s expense.
As NATO renegotiates its Strategic Concept, it will have to better lay out the relationship between itself and the EU, especially on questions of primacy and resources. U.S. planners must take a clearer-headed view of the EU’s ambitions to supplant, rather than complement NATO than they are presently. As Robin Harris, a former member of the Downing Street Policy Unit, has written, “The NATO Web site proudly boasts that there is a ‘strategic partnership’ between NATO and the E.U. There is no such thing, only an incipient strategic competition between America and Europe.”