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Algora Publishing - EU Defense Autonomy Lacks a Unifying Voice
                                               For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Tuesday,
EU Defense Autonomy Lacks a Unifying Voice
John Vinocur International Herald Tribune

3 Leading Countries Have Different Agendas
PARIS On his first visit with President George W. Bush last month, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was described as saying it is important for Germany and its European Union partners to allay fears in the United States that an increased European defense profile would be in competition with NATO.
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Acting on the notion that even a willfully clear message can be turned into mist, Karsten Voigt, the coordinator for German-American cooperation in the German Foreign Ministry, came back to the subject in a speech in Boston last week, saying, "In short, the U.S. has to remain a European power."
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Even the French defense minister, Alain Richard, now willing to be seen in the sunlight with NATO, has gotten into the act. He told an audience of French officer cadets a day earlier: "I want to be clear. No European country would have accepted getting involved in building a European defense if it led to a loosening of the trans-Atlantic link."
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Then Mr. Richard added what could be a qualification. He said, "Our concern is to enhance the EU's decision-making capacity, without which our undertaking makes no sense."
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That may be true. But among Germany, France and Britain there is hardly a strict consensus about how that decision-making capacity will evolve. For the time being, no EU government feels it can gain in explaining how the goal of Europe's autonomy in defense - a locus of the project's ambiguity - ultimately will be defined in terms of distance and independence from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
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A British Labour member of Parliament, Denis MacShane, who is active in his party's European policy-making, both acknowledged and shrugged off the imprecision, saying, "After all, Europe has advanced over the years through permanent ambiguity."
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But the fact is, the three big countries that would lead a European rapid reaction force of 60,000 men meant to be operative in 2003, have different strategic motivations for and readings of their own European Security and Defense Policy, or ESDP, the operative packet of initials currently used to refer to the process. In its most narrow, literal sense, that program was described last month in a U.S.-German declaration as "the efforts of the EU to assume greater responsibility for crisis management by strengthening capabilities and developing the ability to take actions where NATO as a whole chooses not to engage."
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With the Bush administration still formulating policies in the area of security, its definitive view of American military engagement in Europe and Europe's attempts to build a higher defense capability remains largely uncertain. But, to a significant extent, so does the underlying substance of the European initiative.
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The reality is that on one hand, Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping of Germany, talking about ESDP, could tell the defense commission of the French National Assembly last week that, "We don't want an unnecessary duplication of capabilities and no competition between NATO and the EU that is damaging to Euro-Atlantic relations."
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In seeming contradiction, but in no less real terms, Paul Quiles, the French defense commission's president, asked, "But why not useful duplication?" And, in a preemptive response to German concerns about trans-Atlantic decoupling, he said: "There's such a thing as a danger of overcoupling. That's in the Americans' missile defense idea. In every respect, it just isn't reasonable to let the Americans confiscate all responsibility, military and political."
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A former Socialist defense minister under President Francois Mitterrand, Mr. Quiles is described by a French security affairs expert as the archetype of the French official who would want ESDP to serve as a lever for Europe's separation from the United States, and the eventual projection, with a central French leadership role, of Europe's growing military capacity on the world stage. The expert stressed, however, that Mr. Quiles's view was not representative of the French Defense Ministry. It, he said, was much more interested in allied cooperation than cosmic strategy.
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Since the French Foreign Ministry is characterized by the security expert as closer to Mr. Quiles's instincts than those of military establishment, whose statements of intentions on European defense are the operative ones?
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Indeed, when it comes to explaining what European defense autonomy might mean in terms of distancing the United States, Europe and NATO from each other over the long run, Charles Grant, a British defense expert and director the Center for European Reform, said, "Britain may be disingenuous."
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With French and German co-authors (Gilles Andreani, former head of the planning staff of the French Foreign Ministry, and Christoph Bertram, director of the international research center Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), Mr. Grant has written a monograph called "Europe's Military Revolution." It strongly advocates a distinct European defense entity, and offers a series of admonitions to the governments involved on how to get there.
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But it also says, as if this were the unarticulated subtext of the three big European countries' public positions, "a European defense policy must be based on the principle that the EU can operate autonomously" since "Europe has to learn to develop the mentality of the major power which she could become."
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The book resists the idea that a Europe with credible military strength would necessarily share American views and strategies. Rather, it says without real autonomy as a goal, European defense would be half-hearted, and that only the aspiration for the EU to act fully on its own can drive the initiative forward.
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The three strategists assert the need for "a degree of decoupling" by Europe from the United States in the long run. This relates to Mr. Grant's reference (in an interview) to what may be Britain's lack of frankness in its insistence that the logic of a European defense capability is to draw the Europeans and Americans more tightly together through a demonstration of the Europe's willingness to pull its weight.
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In the strategists' view, since European defense resources are inadequate, and a developing European force requires NATO assets for its operations, NATO and American consent for their use is required for the period of the next 10 years. But in the long run (and presuming the Europeans could get around American resistance to duplication of intelligence and planning assets), they say, "autonomy should become a reality." They say, "A wise U.S. leadership would use the long transition period to gradually adapt the Alliance, so that ultimately it can accommodate a militarily autonomous EU as an equal partner."
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No one in the governments of Britain, Germany or France talks this way publicly, and President Jacques Chirac has not repeated his statement at the EU's Nice summit in December that Europe was creating an "independent" defense. But a strong case can be made that this is the direction pointed to by the EU's explicit goal of the greatest possible European military and diplomatic integration.
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If this is the case, each of the three leading European players has different motivations in moving ahead with a European force. The differences are also potential contradictions.
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In the case of Britain, which has played an initiator's role in the defense project, the original desire of the Blair government was deepening its relationship with France and Germany, and creating an ambitious undertaking at the center of Europe at a time when Britain was outside the euro zone and British public opinion largely doubting of the EU.
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Britain's involvement so far has been successful in terms of its European goals, but also in winning a measure of confidence from the United States, in its most limited contours, for the defense project. Yet British participation may soon come to a problematic point.
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If the Bush administration can be swayed by the arguments of British Conservatives that ESDP, in the long run, will create a competitor and less than totally reliable adjunct of NATO, then Britain's choice could be existential: half-hearted involvement or alienating the United States.
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In a different manner, Germany faces a similar contradiction. It is the most forceful voice in favor of European integration on the widest scale possible scale. That requires full engagement in acquiring a European military capability that would give force to a real European foreign policy.
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At the same time, Germany has made clear that what it now regards as its gradual movement toward preeminence in Europe needs as a guarantee in light of German history both full European integration and a continuing American presence. Mr. Voigt said it again in Boston: The U.S. presence acts as a "safeguard against the resurgence of rivalries in Europe."
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Eventually, the two concepts, American commitment and ESDP, may no longer mesh. Perhaps by coincidence, Walther Stuetzle, state secretary in the German Defense Ministry, said last week that development of a European defense policy can do without "artificial time pressure."
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In France, there is growing sentiment that a combination of German confidence and the French government's botched role as organizer of the Nice summit may mark a durable retreat in the country's role as a significant international player. This is a central issue raised in an article called "Nice: A Diplomatic 'Suez'" in the current issue of the review Commentaire by Francois Heisbourg, a professor at the Institut des Etudes Politiques.
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Of all the zones of opportunity for a reassertion of France's capacity for international influence, ESDP seems to be the most hopeful area. In developing a European defense, France escapes Germany's hesitations in playing a leading military position, as well as both Britain's awkwardness toward the EU and the perceived brake of its special relationship with the United States.
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Yet France hardly seems Europe's ideal point man in generating a new relationship between Europe and an American-led NATO that remains short of clear perspectives about where ESDP is headed.
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No response may be forthcoming by the time President Bush meets with EU leaders in June or in the months thereafter. It leaves the question of Europe's development of an autonomous defense structure open and troubled for the foreseeable future.