EU Defense’s Odd Man Out

One of the less-noticed, second-order effects of the Obama administration’s decision to scrap Eastern European-based missile defense is the way in which it has increasingly isolated Great Britain in terms of the European defense discussion. The “Russia wedge” equation traditionally pitted New Europe and Britain’s Atlanticism against Old Europe’s EU defense. But Poland had already started hedging its bets with greater support of EU defense before the missile defense decision. In its aftermath, that shift has become even more pronounced. That leaves Great Britain on the outside looking in, with the major winner for now being France. It also makes the NATO strategic vision document currently under development that much more significant, especially with regard to NATO-EU cooperation.

Meanwhile, one of the less-noticed aspect of the Lisbon Treaty is the impact it will have on the way in which the military instrument is incorporated into EU power. Once the treaty is in effect, the EU “joint chiefs” will report to the EU foreign minister, as opposed to the EU president. The EU foreign minister will also have the power to propose missions, and to coordinate the civilian and military components of missions deployed. In other words, EU defense will become a subordinate component of EU diplomacy. That’s something I hadn’t been aware of, and it changes the outlook for the balance of power between the EU president and foreign minister. Increasingly, it looks like the latter is going to be a substantial pole of institutional power. Ironically, the current frontrunner is none other than British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

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