Thursday, October 6, 2016

E.U. Defense Post-Britain: Beyond Multinational Military Cooperation

Just months after the British voted to secede from the Union, the E.U.’s Counsel of Ministers discussed “proposals for increased military cooperation” amid concerns from the British state government as well as those of some eastern States that “such collaboration could undermine” NATO.[1] The proposals being discussed were “part of a push by European officials and diplomats to strengthen European ties” after Britain’s vote to secede.[2] I submit that both the expression, “military cooperation,” and Britain’s involvement in the discussion are ill-fitting and inappropriate, respectively.

Federica Mogherini, the E.U.’s foreign minister, said that better cooperation could help the state governments spend their defense budgets more effectively and increase their military strength.[3] Such an enhancement could make continued shifts of governmental sovereignty from the States to the Union more difficult, however, as the states have a more solid power-base with which to resist transfers. Furthermore, in American terms, increasing the cooperation between state militias and the E.U. army goes not go far enough in furnishing a closer Union.

At the time, the E.U. did indeed have an army, so Mogherini’s proposal for a new E.U. military headquarters is not as radical as it may seem by the use of terms such as “multinational military headquarters.”[4] Such a term ignores the governmental sovereignty that the E.U. had at the time. Additionally, the term encourages the category mistake that compares the E.U., a federal system, with NATO, a military alliance. I submit that the concern that the E.U. might duplicate NATO is the same concern that the U.S. might do so as well. In both cases, a union of States is being conflated with a military alliance. A states’ rights ideology is behind the ill-fitting terms.

This leads me to contend that the state of Britain should not have been allowed to take an active role in the discussions, as they pertain to what the E.U. might be like after that State secedes from the Union. Michael Fallon, the British defense secretary, said at the time that his State continued “to oppose any idea of an EU army or an EU army headquarters which would simply undermine NATO.”[5] Such opposition had been part of the reason why a majority of British residents had voted to secede, so it should not play a viable role in determining what the post-secession E.U. might be like. For example, the future E.U. would not have to deal with so much denial—as in that of Fallon saying that the E.U. did not at the time already have an army. Nor would the future E.U. have to deal so much with the category mistake of likening the federal system to a military alliance.

In short, the discussions themselves evinced the E.U. trying to proceed with one hand tied behind its back. Even using the term, multinational military cooperation, undermines the E.U. from being able to move on towards a closer, more viable Union after the state of Britain secedes. 

[1] Julian E. Barnes, “EU Pushes for Deeper Defense Cooperation,” The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.