To create a real European army – the French president recently proposed such an initiative. Tramp’s sharp reaction, Merkel’s support, and other discussions – all of this put forward the role of Ukraine in this, still theoretical, question. Opinion found out what could have pushed Macron to such an idea, how likely is its implementation, and what the possible creation of an EU army would mean for our country.
How did the idea of creating a European army appear?
The proposal to create a “Real European army” was expressed by French President Emmanuel Macron, stressing that Europe should take care of its defense on its own.
“We must protect ourselves from China, Russia, and even the United States. When I see President Trump announcing his intention to withdraw from the main nuclear disarmament treaty, which was made after the 1980s missile crisis, which shook Europe, who will be the main victim? Europe and its security. <…> We need Europe that can defend itself independently from the USA, in a more sovereign way,” the French president said.
Maryna Bahrova, a member of the board of the “Institute of National Policy” international union, is convinced, that the idea of creating an EU army appeared due to the military challenges from Russia. After all, on the example of Ukraine, Western leaders were able to realize how NATO, the United States, and the United Kingdom are “fulfilling” their international commitments.
“The leaders of the European Union countries realized, that international public law became elusive. In modern realities, this right remains only on paper, but it isn’t actually performed. In 2008, Russia attacked Georgia. Later in 2014, Russia attacked Ukraine and occupied part of the sovereign Ukrainian territories. International legal practice has shown, that the Budapest Memorandum, which is intended to guarantee the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Ukraine, is violated by all its signatories, by Russia – in the form of aggressive hostilities and aggressive foreign policy, by the United States and Great Britain in the form of inaction, connected with the inability to fulfil the above-mentioned commitments to Ukraine. It is for this reason, that the United States has to withdraw from the INF Treaty, because of the necessity of taking measures to deter Russian aggression. In this regard, the legal foundations of the guarantee of international security (including nuclear) are destroyed, in reality, they don’t exist. We will be back to the era of the arms race.
Western leaders realized, on the example of Ukraine, how NATO member states, the United States and the United Kingdom “fulfill” the international obligations, that they have undertaken,” the expert says.
Is there a real need to create an EU army, and how likely is it?
Vitalii Martyniuk, the head of International programs at the “Strategy XXI” center for global studies is convinced, that the issue of the European Army’s creation should be considered in several aspects. In particular, it is about the development of the defense component of the EU functioning, strengthening of the autonomy of the European component of NATO and the guarantee of common security for the member states of the European Union.
“The first aspect is the further development of the defense component of the European Union, following the approval of last year’s decision on the PESCO initiative, deepening integration and cooperation within the EU. European leaders were forced to move to the development of a security and defense dimension in the EU, taking into account current challenges and threats: illegal migration, cyber-attacks, information warfare, hybrid aggression of Russia, terrorism, Russia’s militarization of certain regions of Europe, in particular the Black Sea region and the Kaliningrad enclave.
The second one is the strengthening of the autonomy of the European component of NATO due to the constant signals from Washington about the responsibility of Europeans for their own security and the need to increase the defense budgets of European allies.
The third aspect is the guarantee of common security for EU member states, as foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty of the EU, primarily for those countries, that are not members of NATO – Sweden, Finland, Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta,” the expert stated in the comment for Opinion.
However, not all the experts have approved this initiative of the French president. Ihor Kharchenko, a civic activist, analyst, the head of the center for public development and coordinator of the Ukrainian Republican Club, believes that this task is unreal. In addition, Macron’s position is more anti-American than anti-Russian, and none of the EU countries is ready to finance a truly effective joint army.
“Creating European army is an unreal task, given the political fragmentation of Europe and taking into account quite possible rivalry. Macron’s position is more anti-American than anti-Russian. As it was once said about this idea: it is nice to have a vision of the European Army, but if there is no one who is ready to pay for it, then this is not a vision, but a hallucination. Today neither France, nor Germany, nor the EU as a whole are ready and able to finance an army that could resist Russia, let alone the United States or a war on two fronts,” explained the analyst to Opinion.
However, doctor of historical sciences and history professor at Bard College of New York (USA) Hennadii Shkliyarevskyi actually describes the idea as “another PR nonsense” of the French president. According to the historian, such a step may keep Europe away from the United States and lead to an increase in the influence of Russia, including the military one.
“The creation of a European army is another PR nonsense by the French president. It seems to me, that this step has a dual purpose. First one is to try to scare America in order to reduce contributions to NATO. The second one is to act as a leader of Europe now when Merkel and Germany are taking backseats. The cost and support of such an army will not be cheaper than making contributions to NATO. Infrastructure reconstruction will be necessary, and quite a big amount of money is needed for this. However, this is not even the main thing. The main thing is that such a step can keep Europe away from the USA, which is rather undesirable in the context of the real world situation. In addition, such a move may lead to an increase in Russia’s influence in Europe, including the military,” said Hennadii Shkliarevskyi.
European Army and Ukraine: damage or benefit?
Vitalii Martyniuk believes, that the initiative is not damaging for our country and will not provoke Russia to intensify hostilities. Moreover, the expert is convinced, that Ukraine is capable of making its own contribution to the development of a possible EU army since it is an actual outpost of European security for the fifth year in a row.
“Although the security dimension of the Association Agreement is rather weak, unsaturated place, Ukraine should take such initiatives within the EU seriously and already now pay more attention to security integration with the European Union. The main issue in the context of the creation of an EU military is its integration or interaction with NATO Allied Forces. An additional burden on EU countries that are members of NATO is considered inadmissible. If the European Army is created as a European backbone of Euro-Atlantic security, then Ukraine must continue the course of Euro-Atlantic integration, while integrating with the EU in the defense-security dimension. However, the outlook of creating a real European army is quite remote.
This initiative is not damaging to Ukraine. It will in no way provoke Russia and will not worsen the security situation in Europe, but will, on the contrary, strengthen it. There were no statements from EU leaders that Russians regard the EU as a threat, which cannot be said with respect to the Alliance – in Moscow, NATO’s enlargement is assessed as a threat.
Ukraine can make its contribution to the development of the European Army because it is the actual outpost of European security in the East for the fifth year in a row. Taking into account Ukraine’s participation in EU operations and missions, involvement in EU combat tactical groups, Ukrainian military units could join the European Army and become a part of it,” said the head of International programs at the “Strategy XXI” center for global studies.
Liubov Ivanova, the chief operating officer of the “Life rights of a disabled person, a veteran, a participant in hostilities” public organization is convinced that the EU army is necessary, including Ukraine because it is extremely difficult to confront Russia alone. Moreover, among the benefits of such an initiative, Ivanova considers a return of the economic potential of the state.
“The European Army is needed. Ukraine must become a part of it in the process of its creation. The accession to NATO is bureaucratized. In its actions, NATO is very limited. Ukraine, however, is in the center of the European continent, so it has the right to enter into a new formation, whatever form it will be. Ukraine cannot protect itself from aggressive Russia on its own, it is obvious. If it could, it would have already returned its territories.
Participation of Ukraine in the procedure for the creation of the European Army will give the opportunity of taking into account its interests. In addition, this is one of the ways to restore the economic potential of the state. The main forces should be located in Ukraine,” explains Ivanova.
The offer of Macron was appreciated by Maryna Bahrova. According to her, the creation of an EU army can become a factor in deterring Russian aggression, and Ukrainian servicemen are very strong.
“Creation of such an army will be useful for Ukraine. Ukraine will have the opportunity to become a member of the military alliance of the united European army. The modern Ukrainian army, with all its problems, is a force capable of deterring Russian aggression in the east of Ukraine. And Baltic countries, they don’t have such a military force. There are NATO troops, but their presence is mostly symbolic, rather than defensive.
Hypothetically, in the event of the creation of a joint European army and the strengthening of the military flank in Poland and in the Baltic countries, the Russian military aggression in eastern Ukraine may be escalated. In general, the creation of a united European army is a necessary factor in deterring Russian aggression not only for the countries of the European Union but also Ukraine,” Bahrov commented for Opinion.
But it is not that simple. Kostiantyn Denysov, a candidate of economic sciences, a member of the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” and an ATO volunteer, believes that in the event of the creation of EU army, it will in no way help our country, arguing this opinion, the expert suggests recalling the Budapest Memorandum. Instead, Denysov proposes to focus on building up our own army and developing a new security program.
“Creation of “real European army” will not help Ukraine in any way, because the EU countries are unlikely to fight Russia. You can recall the Budapest Memorandum, which guaranteed prohibition of any pressure on Ukraine after renunciation of nuclear weapons. 20 years later, one of the Memorandum’s signatories began the war, others impose sanctions and “expressed their concern”. Nobody is going to fight for us.
What should Ukraine do under these conditions? Firstly, to build up our own army and military-industrial complex, we have everything needed for this. Secondly, to develop and implement a new program for building the security and defense sector based on the principle that “the entire state is fighting, not a part of its citizens and the economy,” Denysov emphasized in the commentary for our media.
Ihor Kharchenko is convinced that one should rely only on the forces of its own army. In his opinion, Ukraine should initiate the creation of a European military-political bloc.
“Unreal things cannot be hurtful or useful for Ukraine. An imaginary European army will not create additional security guarantees for Ukraine. Such a guarantee can only be created by a powerful Ukrainian army. It is impossible to become a part of a thing that does not and cannot exist. Ukraine should become the initiator of the creation of a new European military-political bloc – the Baltic-Black Sea Union,” said the analyst.
By Dmytro Zhuravel