Blog ‘Kings of War’: Comments on ‘the silent death of European defence, the quiet awakening of European security (2)
August 25, 2010
This is the follow up of a previous post, published some days ago. Number one is to be found here:
Looking more precisely at the current UK coalition, I was really sceptic in the past. I even wrote a rather pessimistic post on this issue. The latest developments of the budgetary crisis have convinced me that the government has opted for a more pragmatic approach, publicly expressed at the House of Commons and confirmed by the statement of French Minister of Defence, Mr Morin. In that sense, British language is very close to the French one: you do not say what you mean, and anyway you do not write it. It means that the real action of a government is to be found in the understatements and euphemisms. Making use of a previous post, I will quote a document handed over to the Members of Parliament: “the Armed Forces must be structured first to deter and second to deliver the use of force in support of the UK’s national interest and to protect national security. This does not mean that the UK must be able to do all things at all times. The UK will need to be smarter about when and how it deploys power, which tasks can be done in alliance with others and what capabilities will the UK require as a result”.
Usually, in military or any language, when you require capabilities as a result, it means that you do not necessarily all the assets but that somebody else, who owns it, gives you a hand to achieve the task. If Britain were to go up to this level of task sharing with a European partner, it would not constitute, institutionally speaking a permanent structured cooperation, in the sense of Lisbon treaty, but it would be for sure a great step towards integration of European defence forces.
However, I do not expect the current government to make strong and bold statements on the issue. It could be understood as a self-denial on the principles enounced in the conservative manifesto, and therefore jeopardize the next elections on an issue, which is all the more sensitive that the UK are at war in Afghanistan. By the way, a reinforcement of the defence links with continental Europe would not betray anybody: European Defence is not included in the coalition agreement.
How could I conclude?
I would say that European Defence is not close to show clearly its face. I do not think our public opinions or at least our defence forces able to admit easily that they have to share assets, or have lost the remaining autonomy they had still a few years ago. Why? All our assets, regulations, specifications, know-how, maintenance, testing facilities, barracks, hierarchies are conceived around national defence forces. Multilateral cooperation until now did not go in depth: even nations owning the same aircraft were not allowed in a regular basis to maintain the aircraft of their ally only because of the diverging upgrades applied to initially identical aircragt. The problem is that our political leaders, looking desperately for money, have started drilling in the defence forces. And they have the impression that they could have discovered a bonanza, created by the redundancies of multiple and incompatible equipments and structures, although our ministers meet the allies in the same country, on the same base, doing the same job.
Therefore, European Defence is not dead (otherwise I should immediately close down this blog and I simply do not want -yet), but it is going forward on a informal way, far from the sun lights, and apart from Brussels, as the interests of the 27 are so different and in some cases opposing that a consensus on the topic can not be envisaged for the time being.
Regarding the development of security on which Mr Dover is elaborating and for which there is place to develop, I will not comment on it, as the cooperation between the justice and home affairs ministries of Europe are continuously developing, as well without making use of large media coverage: the Schengen system is creeping silently.
Finally it seems to me, sometimes, that European Defence is getting well, mainly when we do not hear about it.
For more details on the British shift with regards to European Defence, please have a look at this previous post:f.