Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

Towards a sharing of tasks between the ESDP (EU) and NATO. What an idea!

(BRUSSELS2) A more precise sharing of tasks between the two organizations. Everybody talks about it. But few politicians are moving forward on the issue. Knowing that it’s a minefield. The debate often ends with a vague formula: “we cannot define skills in advance, it is case by case”. This position is a little easy, too easy and above all dangerous. Because it seems to me to contain things left unsaid which lead to confusion in the medium term, harmful to both organizations and to Europe in particular. Each organization brings certain advantages (and disadvantages). And therefore outline a sharing of strengths (not weaknesses).

The “trademark” of the EU, its main asset, is undoubtedly its ability to intervene in almost all regions of the world, even (especially?) the most complex political situations (Africa, Asia, Middle East, etc.). Its multiplicity of opinions even within the Member States gives it a certain “impartiality”. Its historical differences allow it – when we bring together the 27 – to have a knowledge and an approach to almost all regions of the world that no other power can bring together. Finally, its “friendly”, “less aggressive” character than NATO allows it to be appreciated by most parties in conflict. As a result, it finds its best expression in peace stabilization missions, especially when military and civilian elements overlap in time or space (Middle East, Great Lakes, etc.). It is today capable of carrying out autonomous operations of certain importance, military (Chad, pirates, etc.) or civil (Kosovo), and even naval (anti-pirates). On the other hand, it is not a military organization. And it cannot be for a certain time (as long as there are countries within it whose neutrality or non-interventionism is enshrined at the heart of their national tradition... and their Constitution).

The main force of NATO is its military impregnation and the integration of the different European forces and its main mission is the defense of European territory (we perhaps quickly forgot this). Its main advantage (and disadvantage) is having the American force (USA and Canada) within it. It's this "efficiency” which enabled a decisive intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s – where the Europeans for various reasons, including the most sordid, refused to intervene. It is within it that the armies of the various allied countries should continue to be formed, trained and modernized. It is on the European ground first of all that its action should continue to evolve, as a priority (Balkans, Caucasus, Mediterranean, etc.). It is a mixed NATO-Russia force, for example, which should have been deployed in Georgia after the events in Ossetia and Abkhazia… in 1992-1993! It is within it that an anti-missile shield should be studied and deployed (or not). And not through bilateral agreements as the Poles and Czechs negotiated (1). On the other hand, all-out interventions around the world should be used sparingly.

NB: If the mission fulfilled by NATO in Afghanistan (FIAS) could have been entrusted to the EU, we would undoubtedly not be witnessing this worrying drift towards an endless extension of military operations. And it’s been a long time since the question of its stopping or its reduction would have already been asked… and resolved (read on the urgency of studying a way out).

(1) Agreements which are, in my opinion, what could be described as an “attempt to circumvent” European solidarity.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).