Macron talks big
In a radio interview with Europe 1 last Monday (5 Nov), French President Emmanuel Macron called for the development of a “true European army” to protect Europe from “China, Russia and even the United States”. Macron justified this by raising concerns of nearby emerging “authoritarian powers”, numerous cyberattacks against their “democracy”, and most significantly, the US’ pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty*.
Speaking to reporters, he later changed his story, claiming that it would be “unfair to depend on the US for European Security”. Whether this change in narrative was a response to US President Donald Trump’s criticisms on Twitter remains to be seen.
Can he walk the talk?
While what exactly Macron meant by a “European army” is unclear, military cooperation in the region has ramped up. Last Wednesday (7 Nov) marked the first official meeting of the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) involving defence ministers from the 10 participating European countries. The project, spearheaded by Macron, aims to enhance military interaction between the countries and “encourage the efficient deployment of existing and future military capabilities and units”. However, it is neither a new force nor an army.
Critics of the creation of a European army are quick to point to Europe’s last attempt at an integrated military, the EU Battlegroups, and its continued inactivity due to strategic differences between the contributing countries. There are also concerns that a European army would overlap with NATO, drawing resources from the well-established military alliance with the US. Only time will tell if Macron can or wants to commit to navigate these challenges and realise his vision of a “true European army”.
*The INF Treaty was a Cold War-era treaty where Russia and the US agreed to destroy and cease development of most of their nuclear and conventional missiles