Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

Nato chief: EU soft power is 'no power at all'

  • Rasmussen spoke in the run-up to an EU summit on defence in December (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Nato head Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said there cannot be a credible EU foreign policy without the military means to back it up.

"We Europeans must understand that soft power alone is really no power at all. Without hard capabilities to back up its diplomacy, Europe will lack credibility and influence," he told MEPs on the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee in Brussels on Monday (6 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"If European nations do not make a firm commitment to invest in security and defence, then all talk about a strengthened European defence and security policy will just be hot air," he added.

Twenty one out of the 27 EU countries are also Nato members.

Rasmussen said they lack "transport planes, air-to-air refuelling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets."

He noted that, given the financial crisis, it is "too expensive for any individual [EU] country" to buy the hardware that Nato needs Europe to have.

He also indicated that European countries are too dove-ish in their approach to foreign crises.

"We must also have the political will to use them [military means]. To deal with security challenges on Europe's doorstep. To help manage crises further away that might affect us here at home," he said.

Rasmussen spoke in the run-up to an EU summit on defence in December - the first one since the financial crisis erupted in 2008.

His remarks on EU foreign policy prompted questions on whether he is interested in taking EU foreign service chief Catherine Ashton's job when she departs next year.

"I haven't started thinking about the next step," he said, referring to his own career.

He envisaged EU-level security co-operation with Nato as a mixture of police missions and diplomacy.

Taking the Western Balkans as an example, he said: "Nato has shown its capacity to act quickly and in high intensity crises, while the European Union is able to deploy a wide range of civilian and military expertise to help rebuild nations."

He commended Ashton on her recent diplomatic breakthrough in helping Belgrade and Pristina to end a frozen conflict in north Kosovo.

But he added: "Both parties wanted assurance that Nato would guarantee the security to implement the agreement."

MEPs also quizzed Rasmussen about Syria.

The civil war saw two new developments in recent days.

Over the weekend, Israeli jets struck several Syrian targets, including a military complex near Damascus. Reports say they killed more than 40 soldiers and that they did it to stop Syrian weapons getting into the hands of Israel's fiercest enemy, the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

A UN investigator, Carla Del Ponte, also told Swiss TV on Sunday "there are strong, concrete suspicions" that Syrian rebels have used Sarin gas, a banned chemical weapon.

The developments saw the Russian foreign ministry ring the alarm on Monday.

"We are seriously concerned about the signs that global public opinion is being prepared for a possible armed intervention in the Syrian conflict," its foreign ministry spokesman told Russian media.

For his part, Rasmussen in Brussels repeated the long-standing Nato line on Syria.

He told MEPs there will be no Nato intervention because there is no UN mandate and because the conflict is too "complex." He also said the only way out is a "political solution."

He declined to comment on the Israeli strikes and he claimed he knows no more than what he reads in the papers about chemical weapons.

Nato has deployed US, German and Dutch "Patriot" anti-missile defence systems on Nato member Turkey's border with Syria.

But Rasmussen noted he has "no indications" of hostile "activity" in the Patriot-covered zone.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  2. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  3. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  4. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  5. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  6. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  7. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  8. Former EU official sentenced for office rape

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  2. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  3. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  4. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  5. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  6. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  7. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  8. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us