NATO-EU Defense Fusion

There’s a lot going on in terms of European defense vis à vis NATO these days. France is considering integrating the alliance’s command structure while at the same time pushing hard for EU defense, an effort for which America NATO ambassador Victoria Nuland recently expressed support. Russia is offering historic contributions on both fronts. Now via DefenseNews comes this, from NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, regarding EU defense:

“I would like to see much more pooling of our capabilities, especially in areas such as vital enablers – transport, helicopters, or in research and development, or in harmonizing force structures and training methods,” he said.

“It is absolutely critical that all of the capabilities that we are able to generate from this pool of forces are equally available to both NATO and the European Union,” Scheffer said at the Brussels Forum conference.

De Hoop Scheffer emphasized the need for more efficient cooperation on strategic airlift, as well as attack and transport helicopters, two capabilities in high demand and small supply for both NATO’s Afghanistan mission and the EUFOR Chad mission currently deploying.

This idea of pooling capabilities goes quite a bit further than the Berlin Plus Agreement, which essentially puts NATO assets at the EU’s disposal under special circumstances for Crisis Management Operations. Significantly, it demonstrates the dramatic shift that has taken place since then in terms of the newfound acceptance of a European defense capacity that is complementary to NATO.

It seems like a proposal, though, that benefits NATO more than the EU. On the material level, because it essentially amounts to a sugar-coated call for increased European defense expenditures at a time when it’s unlikely that the EU will be benefitting from NATO’s overstretched capacity. And on the political level, since part of the effectiveness of an independent EU defense capacity is its ability to be deployed to sensitive areas (e.g. South Lebanon) for which NATO would be politically unacceptable.

Still, it’s one more thing to keep your eye on next month at the NATO summit in Budapest.

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