One of the key issues raised by those who campaign to keep Britain within the European Union is that its security is enhanced by remaining. It is mooted that the military and intelligence assets of the EU add to British security by providing for the formation of a European Army and a proposed European intelligence service working alongside it. This proposition flies in the face of any historical analysis and is founded on the delusional idea that Europe has adequate armies or any important intelligence to share. The operational armed forces that Europe does have are primarily British, and the intelligence Europe receives is largely as a result of sharing information gained from Britain through co-operation between British intelligence at GCHQ in Cheltenham, the U.S. intelligence agencies and those of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Europe's security does not rest on the abilities of the feeble and run-down military establishments of Europe (except for Britain), but on NATO; that is a euphemism for Europe free-riding on U.S. and Canadian taxpayers.
It has been cited in the campaign to remain in the EU that somehow European unity has maintained peace in the continent since the end of the Second World War. This is a preposterous delusion. Europe's peace was maintained because half of Europe was occupied by the US and the other half by the USSR until 1990.The US and the USSR had the good sense to keep their European allies in check because of the danger of Mutual Assured Destruction which would result from the two major nuclear powers moving beyond a cold to a hot war. It had very little to do with Europeans.
European nationalisms have had very little time to establish themselves. Europe was, is and forever will be a cockpit of petty nationalisms and rivalries where the concept of national sovereignty is important but is of recent origin. There is a popular fantasy in which people refer to European nations as if they have been around for a long time. This is patently untrue; the landmass has been there but the united, organized sovereign European nation state is of relatively recent origin. Many states did not exist until well after the end of Napoleon's Grand Tour of the continent.
Holland and Belgium weren't established until the mid-1820s; Germany until Bismarck in the 1860s was a hotbed of petty princedoms; Italy didn't come into existence until the early 1870s. Most of what is now Eastern Europe and the Balkans was made up of small regional entities owned and operated by a more powerful local political entity. When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote, "workers have no country" they were not only writing rhetorically. For most workers in Europe, this was a fact. They were occupied, some-times by a foreign power; sometimes by an imposed twiglet of the Hapsburg-Hanoverian family trees. This included the waning days of the Holy Roman, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires.
These independent nations barely surfaced until after the First World War, only to be subsumed again in the maelstrom of World War II. These maxi and mini-states of Europe emerged from World War II as international basket cases, in ruins. It wasn't until almost three years into the Marshall Plan that they were able to afford a foreign policy. Only Britain and Russia (the two nation states not to fall to Napoleon) and the rump state of France proceeded to their own political reorganizations unaided. They maintained some continuity with the past, even if the vision was economically sustainable only through the exploitation of their foreign colonies.
The post-war nations of Eastern Europe defaulted to their original status as nations occupied by a powerful neighbor, the Soviet Union, until the early 1990s, when Germany was reunited.
And today in these reconstituted states of Europe there is little respite from the very tribalisms and divisions that have always plagued them. Europe has never fully resolved the questions raised by the Thirty Years' War. The ethnic splits that divide countries like Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Holland and others mirror their Catholic-Protestant schisms. The Balkans are divided at the margins of the Ottoman Empire where Muslims and Christians face each other across a great divide.
It is wickedly ironic that the seat of European unity is installed in Brussels (a French-speaking enclave in a Flemish region) where language-ethnic riots are not infrequent and whose country operates a parallel ethnic track in every ministry and agency. For example, there is a Flemish-speaking foreign service and a French-speaking foreign service. Promotions, etc. are made by "track" and in strict proportions. There are similar parallel divisions in every govern-ment agency, ministry and many municipalities. On reflection, Belgium is probably is a good mirror of European unity.
In 1949, it made some sense to create an alliance to preserve the unity of the wartime alliance in the face of the perceived Communist threat in Soviet-occupied areas of Eastern Europe and the outbreak of the Korean War. The unequal relationship between US military might and economic muscle and the pitiful remnants of the Western European armies, and a "degraded" European infrastructure was tolerated by US planners because they knew that if a vacuum was left, there were candidates ready to fill it. The goal, according to Lord Ismay, the first NATO Secretary General was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".
When the Europeans were left on their own to pursue a military strategy after the end of the Cold War, they were incapable of doing so. Their first attempt was in the hostilities in the wake of the break-up of Yugo-slavia. In the early days of the war, in Croatia and later Bosnia, it was the Europeans who insisted on excluding the US (except financially) from its military and politi-cal planning. Egged on by Genscher's insistence that Croatia and Slovenia should be free, the leadership of Croatia (Tudjman and his Ustashi cronies) was emboldened to declare independence from the Yugoslav Federation based on territory that included many ethnic Serbs. These Serbs had already had a long experience with ethnic cleansing conducted by the black-shirted SS battalions of the Croatian Ustashi of Ante Pavelic. Needing no reminder of their welcome in an independent Croatia, they turned to Russia and asked for assistance. Russia and US politicians and military leaders discussed this amongst themselves and felt that a common resolution was possible. However, before anything was undertaken, the Europeans in NATO vetoed this initiative. They reiterated that "Croatia is a European problem" and had to be dealt with by the Europeans if they were ever to maintain any credibility as a politico-military force. Lord Carrington and David Owen were dispatched to bring to the Balkans their skills in diplomacy developed in the debacles of Rhodesia and Portadown. They were able to achieve what everyone expected and feared, and soon it was the responsibility of the US and the Russians to bring the parties to table and establish a fragile Balkan peace despite the Europeans. This was repeated in Kosovo.
The Europeans again wanted to show they had some independent military capability. The amount of bombs, missiles and other tactical devices used in the first two weeks of the Kosovo campaign exceeded the arsenals of the totality of the European Community. The amount spent per day on the bombing of Kosovo, including indirect costs, amounted to over $12.5 million. It would have been far cheaper to buy Serbia than to bomb it. NATO could have offered each Serb $10,000 a head plus moving costs and still saved money. Under NATO rules, the US was obliged to pay two-thirds of these costs.
This was just as true in Libya. The Europeans (calling themselves NATO) quickly ran out of ammunition, bombs and money. The US spent almost $1.5 billion in the first wave of attacks by the French and British. As Secretary of Defence Gates said in his speech, ""Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform -- not counting the U.S. military -- NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops -- not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters; transport aircraft; maintenance; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and much more."
He went on ""We have the spectacle of an air operations centre designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150. Further-more, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country -- yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference."
The notion of costs and contributions, highlighted by the European failure in Kosovo to match its budgets with its ambitions, is the root of the current problem. Europe, despite its elaborate plans for a European Defence Force, has refused or been unable to pay for the maintenance of a supra-national military. Defence spending has dropped from an already low level by around 15% in the last ten years. This general statement masks the fact that the biggest cuts have been in the provision of transport aircraft, leaving most transport of military personnel to be done by the US. Left on their own, the Europeans would have to walk, paddle or catch cabs to the frontline.
This is not to say that the Europeans, especially those in the Common Market/EU didn't make arrangements for a European Force. In the early 1950s, France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries made an attempt to integrate the militaries of mainland Western Europe, through the treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC). This scheme was vetoed by the French Gaullists and the French Communist Party. The Europeans tried again in 1954, with an amendment to the Treaty of Brussels. They succeeded in replacing the failed EDC by the political Western European Union (WEU) out of the earlier established military Western Union Defence Organization. Out of the 27 EU member states, 21 were also members of NATO. In 1996, the Western European Union (WEU) agreed to create and implement a European Security and Defence Identity within NATO. After the passage of the Lisbon Treaty these functions were passed to the EU.