A Sight on European Defence

Mrs Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State is said to have “has warned the European members of NATO against making excessive cuts in their defence budgets”, as reported by the European Voice.

However I do not know, whether the USA are concerned by the defence cuts and the subsequent reduction of armed forces or if they are worried by the strategic direction taken by the UK, I mean a closer partnership with its European neighbours, of which France.

Until now the USA had called for more investment and an improvement of the military capabilities. This was rather sound, as Afghanistan shows every day that the European countries capabilities are severely hampered by their military back office, mainly provoked by the duplication of command, control and support structures.

Now, the Europeans move forward and are willing to make the system work better through more commonality or even mutualisation of assets. Of course, this is accompanied by drastic reductions of defence budgets. This is the usual purpose of rationalisation. Simultaneously everybody can see that our current, and exclusively nationally structured defence organizations, did not work that much.However the USA express their concern, although I believe that they are perfectly aware of the budgetary crisis which has struck all European countries.

Then, one could assess that the problem is not strictly a budgetary issue:
-Until now the situation of European defence forces was such that they did not need to go that far in mutualisation or pooling processes. Therefore, they could easily think nationally, which is quite comfortable for the major ally, when you want to convince one or the other partner: being divided, it is rather easy to build up a bilateral privileged relation.
-With the French-British partnership and the mutualisation of assets, even strategic assets, the USA will have to deploy much more efforts to build up a coalition. Of course, from a military point of view they do not need the support of a coalition. This is first a matter of diplomatic and political legitimacy. For instance, let us go back to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003: what would have been the support of Great Britain if part of its strategic assets had been mutualised with a partner like France, strongly opposed to this war?

May be this is the real concern of the USA: they anticipate the future efforts to build up coalitions, when their European allies will no more play separately but together, or at least those who have a significant international and military legitimacy.

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