NATO, the EU and Turkey

According to Le Monde, at a seminar on EU-NATO relations, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner announced some “ambitious” goal for EU defense to reach over the next decade. They include the ability to conduct concurrently:

– Two stabilization and reconstruction missions of up to 10,000 men, for up to at least two years;
– Two rapid reaction operations of limited duration;
– One emergency evacuation operation invovling European citizens;
– One surveillance/interdiction operation using air or naval forces;
– One civil-military humanitarian assistance operation of up to 90 days;
– Up to ten civil security missions (light armed police/gendarmerie) of variable size, includingat least one large and lengthy operation.

To which NATO Sec. Gen. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Javier Solana apparently responded something to the effect of, “Thanks for sharing, Bernard. Now, as for the real world. . .” A real world that includes, among other things, the need for better communication between the EU and NATO, who are increasingly operating in the same theaters, but who, due to Turkey’s sticky relations with the EU and Cyprus, rarely coordinate their efforts.

I find the pragmatic arguments for EU defense pretty compelling, especially as concerns the areas of operation where NATO would have difficulty deploying. And one of the areas where Nicolas Sarkozy has demonstrated his savvy political instincts is in recognizing the impact French reintegration of NATO would have on softening opposition to his agenda for EU defense. (Actually navigating that delicate maneuver is another story, and while I’m not entirely convinced he’s managed it properly, only time will tell.)

On the other hand, one of the few areas where Sarkozy has let principle interfere with practicality is on the Turkey question. The pragmatic arguments, both strategic and political, for integrating Turkey into Europe are overwhelming, and the NATO-EU defense issue illustrates why. During the presidential campaign, Sarkozy famously declared that he would not be the one to explain to French schoolchildren that the border of Europe ends in Asia Minor.Frankly, I find it surprising for a politician whose highest imperative is to “close the deal.”