“The times when we could rely on others is past.” – Angela Merkel
Europe has undergone a monumental shift in mentality in the last seventy years. No longer are the geopolitical questions of the day decided on the battlefields of Europe or their overseas possessions. In fact, Europe hasn’t seen this lengthy a stretch of relative peace in 2000 years: quite an achievement and one Europeans should be proud of.
However, in Europe’s internal struggles “…to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe,” as stated in the preamble to the Treaty of Rome, it has forgotten that the European project aims at an end, not forever dwelling on the means. The foundations have long since been laid, yet the E.U seems to be inching ever closer to integration but never actually getting there.
An important question one might ask is when did the founders of the European Project envisage this culmination of nations to come to full fruition? An even more important question is how and a key part of that how lies in a European Army.
It is my opinion that Europe should have looked back on and taken from its exemplary military record and tradition when the European Union was created. This does run contrary to the peaceful initiative of the European Project but allow me to explicate my reasoning.
Some of the finest soldiers, leaders, strategists, tacticians and armies served for European militaries. The European military industrial complex churned out an unbelievable quantity and quality of weapons in its time as lion of the world, albeit often for disdainful purposes. But we live in a different Europe now, no longer do nations yearn of conquest and subjugation but for an everlasting peace in a beautiful land, where liberal democracy and free-thinking reign.
This Pax Europaea cannot stand a chance if there is no one there to maintain it. If Europeans put as much effort amalgamating their military prowess as they did using it against one other, Europe would have a seemingly unbeatable military and a sustainable peace. One might argue that NATO is the most sustainable guarantor of this peace, but I disagree.
What began as an economic adventure soon turned into a political one and throughout the period of expansion the social development of the European Union blossomed into the integrated network of people we know of today.
But one key aspect was forgotten: The military one. Since the Second World War Europe has relied on NATO as it’s shield against those who would dare provoke the old nations of Europa and admittedly this state of affairs worked as it should have during the Cold War: The Red Army stayed on it’s side of the iron curtain. America stood as the protector of the free world and stoically garrisoned Europe till Europe could stand on her own two feet once more, yet with the recent Trump presidency Europeans are left wondering whether Americans are still willing to stand and fight beside them again.
Although a more reconciliatory tone emanates from the White House with a much-needed Joe Biden in office, Trumpists still remain as fervent as ever and their focus is on America, not on foreign, geopolitical intrigue in the Old World. And who is to say a Trump-like figure will return to power and overturn the status quo for good?
Meanwhile the E.U on continental soil stands in a very awkward position today. They contribute only 20% of the NATO defence budget yet are the cornerstone of the alliance. Equally they are in effect the epicentre of the organisation as NATO pointed its sword eastwards from Europe at its inception.
The E.U is also in a precarious situation with their two old adversaries: Turkey and Russia. Russia stands all powerful over Europe as they export the vast majority, nearly 75%, of their crude oil and condensates to Europe. At the same time nothing could stop Russia’s innumerable armoured columns overrunning Europe in a matter of weeks.
The absurdity of this is that Europe should have recognised this situation long before the collapse of the Soviet Union and began assembling a credible defence force in response. At the same time Turkey is not only flexing its powerful military across the Caucasus, Africa and the Middle East, it is doing so off the back of NATO, flaunting its defensive principles while also clashing with the E.U over maritime disputes in the Mediterranean.
This situation also frankly laughable as all of the E.U is obliged to defend one another in the case of a violation of a member states neutrality which means that Ireland, as a member of the E.U, although not a member of NATO would theoretically join neutral Austria and Sweden along with the rest of the E.U in a defensive war with Turkey should Turkey be attacked by a third party even though the E.U are currently at odds with the Turkish state. Pax Europaea certainly seems tenuous at best when things are shed in this light.
It could be argued Europe escaped catastrophe by the skin of her teeth and by sheer luck avoided conflict without a unified military. The fate of Europe should not be left to luck however and it has never been in the European spirit to leave its fate to blind chance.
This is echoed in a special barometer of the E.U in 2017, it found that seventy five percent of respondents favoured a common defence and security policy and fifty five percent supported the creation of a European army so to a greater or lesser extent I am not alone in my reasoning. Besides geopolitical problems, the creation of a European army would serve as an excellent basis for the fostering of European nationhood as an extension of integration.
All over the world countries think pridefully of the men and women serving the defence of their homelands. I think of the great powers of the US, Russia and China particularly in this train of thought. An army where Germans and Poles, Frenchmen and Bulgarians, Irish and Greeks and Portuguese and Finnish would serve together would come a long way in finally edging the European Project towards its dream of integration into a nation state.
There are a plethora of other arguments one could conjure in support of a European army but the basis remains the same: for the benefit of security, democracy, and integration, an army flying the European standard is by now long overdue.
There are of course a large number of opponents to a unified European army, especially considering the consequences of achieving this goal, war at home and abroad would always be a threat.
If Europeans value everything that they have created in the years following the War and wish to maintain it for long after it, is time for them to but push for it and not let bad luck and circumstance decimate the continent as it has too many times before and for the first time in its history we might live in a world where everyone on the continent of Europa will say “I am European”, and mean it.