Brothers in spirit: Intensification of EU-NATO co-operation
US president Barack Obama is seeking to close ranks with allies in the EU, not least because of the USA's grave economic and military problems. The deal is that, in exchange for increased political power, EU states should increase military support for the USA in maintaining the Western world order.
The first signs of this “burden sharing” and an expansion of NATO's role can already be spotted. Already the EU can use NATO capacities for military operations within the framework of the Berlin-Plus agreement, as practised in Bosnia now. Now there are also increasingly serious debates to establish the reverse procedure, that NATO can access the EU's civilian capacities for its wars (“Berlin-Plus-Reverse”). Until summer 2009, the EU presidency is held by the Czech Republic which has announced that improving the partnership with NATO is one of its main aims in EU military policy. A European Parliament report and resolution (drafted under the leadership of Ari Vatanen of EVP, French conservatives) was passed in mid-February with a very small majority: this demands an even closer cooperation of EU and NATO, among others through the establishment of permanent structures for cooperation. On top of that, the French government want to reintegrate France fully into the integrated military structures of NATO, after more than 40 years of absence. For this, France is to be rewarded with at least one important command post.
Another area of intensified cooperation is Iraq. Barack Obama by no means aims for a complete withdrawal of US troops. According to Secretary of State Robert Gates "for decades" up to 40,000 soldiers could be occupying the country. Less than a week after Obama's election the European Council therefore decided that the EU mission EUJUST LEX will from mid 2009 on for the first time train officials in Iraq itself, and thus support the USA in its occupation. NATO as a whole passed a similar decision in December 2008.
But the most important aspect is the US demand for significant larger support for the war in Afghanistan. Barack Obama wants to send up to 30,000 additional troops, in addition to the 55,000 troops already in the country. At the same time he vehemently demands that EU states massively increase the number of troops. EU states are in favour of this – for example, German Defence Minister Jung announced at the Munich “security” conference that Germany will provide more troops for the Rapid Reaction Force, which is in charge of counter-insurgency operations in the north of Afghanistan.
Thus grows together what belongs together: EU and NATO increasingly work jointly in the planning and execution of their wars.
Tobias Pflüger MEP