Friday

15th Nov 2019

Opinion

EU must find backbone to survive in Trump's world

In a recent Atlantic interview, Henry Kissinger argued that above all, states and politicians around the world need to take the time to understand the implications of a Trump administration. He predicted that a “frenzy of studying” will now take place in an effort to formulate a response to this year’s election. The European Union (EU), however, cannot afford the luxury of a period of reflection.

Trump’s election has serious implications for European states and far too much is at stake for Europe to simply wish him well and hope for the best.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

European states must pay attention to what Donald Trump has been saying about European affairs and be prepared to take the necessary precautions.

On the issue of European security, Trump is correct. Europe has developed a habit of relying on the US to make its tough foreign policy decisions.

Its external security has hitherto been guaranteed, but it has paid the price in internal friction, worsened by its inability to form a coherent foreign policy and effectively deal with the wave of refugees.

Now, European leaders must prepare for its worst-case scenario: a Russia-friendly, isolationist US willing to accept that Europe, to some extent, falls under the Kremlin’s sphere of influence.

European misers

Trump has said that European Nato members must begin pulling their weight if they are to expect US military assistance.

Currently, only four EU states spend at least the recommended two percent of their GDP on defence: Poland, Estonia, Greece, and the UK.

Overall, EU states have seen a trend of decreasing defence spending. Even with the rise of the Islamic State (IS) militant group and escalating Russian aggression, only the Baltic states, Poland, the Netherlands and Romania have increased their defence spending.

Five other states — the UK, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Germany — have decreased their defence budget.

Importantly, the so-called Big Three — the UK, Germany and France — are either lowering or, in the case of France, flatlining their defence budgets.

As Europeans, we should have long been ashamed for letting a valued and loyal partner, which the US has been for over half a century, pick up the cheque for our security. Now we simply have no other choice but to act.

Secondly, EU defence cooperation must step up. European military interoperability and cooperation should have been implemented a long time ago, yet it has been undermined by protectionist arguments for the preservation of respective domestic military industrial complexes and concerns about national sovereignty.

The logical thing to do at a time when European military forces find themselves collectively cash-strapped and individually too small to resist the real threat on their doorstep, is to pool our assets.

Such pooling will allow us to take advantage of the national military specialisation programmes long promoted by Nato, which recognised the senselessness in expecting small European countries to field its independent armoured brigades, when they can instead provide real added value in highly trained chemical or special forces units.

We have already seen successful examples of multinational cooperation in defence in Europe, such as the Benesam programme, a naval cooperation agreement between the Netherlands and Belgium. Multinational EU battlegroups have existed since 2006, even though they have never been tested in combat. The EU also possesses its own military headquarters, the Eurocorps, although it is in effect a command post with no soldiers.

In short, the infrastructure is, to a large extent, already in place. It is time to connect these disjointed dots.

While Nato has been perhaps the most successful military alliance in history because it mastered the principle of deterrence, the mere election of Donald Trump, an anti-internationalist who has questioned the US commitment to Nato, undermines this basis of NATO’s credibility and our security.

For this reason, we must come to terms with the fact that Nato, or at least Nato as an American-backed project, may not in the future form the cornerstone of European security.

Lingering doubts of American commitment to the alliance are even more crucial in today’s era of hybrid warfare, in which a Russian invasion of the Baltic states may very well be disguised as a humanitarian operation to protect the local Russian minority.

Europe must find what it has long been lacking: the moral fibre to take responsibility for its own defence, and willingness to firmly stand up for its values.

Filip Rambousek is a Russia analyst who has previously worked in the European Parliament

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

US military plans for Europe prompt Russian warning

The US has unveiled fresh details of its plan to create a Russia-deterrent force in eastern Europe, prompting Russia to warn of an “asymmetric response” and of a potential "crisis".

Trump team asked which EU state is next to exit

The outgoing US ambassador to the EU, Anthony L Gardner, says Trump's transitional team had placed a call to officials at the EU institutions asking which member state would be next to leave the European Union.

Schulz opposes '2 percent' Nato goal

The centre-left candidate for the most powerful position in Europe said, if elected, the German government would not pursue the goal of having a “highly armed army in the middle of Europe”.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  2. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  3. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  4. UK will not name new commissioner before election
  5. Trump expected to delay EU car tariff decision
  6. Tusk: Post-Brexit UK will be a 'second-rate player'
  7. Police end Catalan separatist blockade of France-Spain road
  8. Poland arrests extremists for 'planning attacks on Muslims'

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  2. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  3. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  4. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  5. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile
  6. Mustard gas and cod: Last chance to stop Nord Stream 2?
  7. Cultural Battlefield
  8. Nationalists as much a threat to EU arts as resources

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us