Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)NATO

EU-NATO cooperation: a real chewing gum!

Aerial view of the new NATO HQ (Credit: NATO)

(B2) This has become the leitmotif of European leaders and the Atlantic Alliance: European Union – NATO cooperation has become the “must”. “ It has become the norm and not the exception swear the officials. A kind of chewing gum chewed all day long which has the same effect of chewing gum. Your jaws are moving, you give the impression of acting, you believe you are releasing a certain energy, a certain strength, you have the impression of having a certain freshness in your mouth. But when the chewing gum is finished, it is as odorless as a drop of water and when it dries, it is undetachable but unusable. And energy intake is more than limited.

Promises yet to be fulfilled

The promises of EU-NATO cooperation, triggered at the Warsaw summit, have in fact not been fully realized (diplomatic approach), or even close to zero (realistic approach). Everyone is trying to fill the empty glass. But, for the moment, apart from a few droplets, the glass is not filling quickly. The results seem so poor that the EU Defense Ministers, during their last meeting, were obliged to ask “once again” to continue the work (read: NATO-EU cooperation, a better atmosphere but little concrete progress?).

Fluid relationships but difficulty in doing concrete work

Relationships are more fluid. And the numerous meetings, from the highest level of experts to the political level. But it stops there. On cooperation in the Mediterranean, we are awaiting the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, so as not to offend the Russians. On the Middle East, the two organizations are out of the loop, the Americans having the upper hand (in a dialogue with the Russians on Syria). In Iraq, NATO is seeking to introduce itself so as to have a jumping seat in the military coalition. While the EU works more on the humanitarian side, without really having a place in the coalition. The paths are therefore winding for cooperation.

Turkey, blocking point?

Between the bd Leopold (NATO) and the Schuman roundabout (EU), there remains a (serious) problem: Ankara. The Turkish question is now poisoning not only relations between the EU and Turkey but could ultimately disrupt the functioning of the Alliance. Having an ally who is close to the dictatorship could be tolerable in the 1960s (with Greece) when the Cold War was raging. Today, it looks bad. Having an ally who regularly thwarts Western democracies and even the military strategy in Syria carried out by the main Alliance countries is a real challenge.

An organizational dichotomy

Behind the Turkish question lie differences of nature and composition. If most of the member countries of the European Union are members of NATO (with a few small exceptions), this is not the case for the Atlantic Alliance, including “heavyweights” starting with the United States. , but also Turkey, Canada, and the United Kingdom tomorrow are not members (without forgetting Iceland, Norway, Albania and Montenegro). The difficulty of having perfect EU-NATO cooperation therefore presupposes having peaceful or ulterior relations between the EU and the United States, on the one hand, the EU and Turkey as well as the United Kingdom on the other hand, and to share (more or less) the same interests. We can clearly see that this is far from being the case... Added to this is a divergent system of political organization: the European Union has a multipolar leadership where no member country can be dominant, with parliamentary and judicial control. , while NATO has a governmental regime and a very clear domination of the USA. This is not only the rule, but a rule desired by most other members. Even if certain countries do not agree, when Washington wants something, it gets it, the other allies being reduced to negotiating their support.

Discreet but very real competition

In terms of capabilities, under the pretext of cooperation, it is rather competition that we are witnessing, with everyone trying to derive their preferences within a logic of industrial competition, which is quite logical. Under the argument of burden sharing (legitimate argument) within NATO, the United States (main “shareholder” of the Alliance) has another argument: show solidarity, buy American. Which undermines relationships. Washington does not really (and even less under Donald Trump) intend to see European autonomy emerge, contrary to the rhetoric. And some countries (like Poland or Lithuania) are very tempted by this reassuring umbrella. It is rather a European dependence that they are aiming for, with just one caveat: the amount of the check that Europeans must pay must be increased.

On Russia, a real understanding

In fact, it is on the Russian issue where a certain complicity reigns: in the EU, economic sanctions, in NATO the muscles of strengthening in the East. To go further, there remains a hiatus, always the same, Turkey and especially the Cypriot conflict. Until it is resolved, conversations will be courteous, the atmosphere friendly between the two organizations, as the Stoltenberg-Mogherini relationship shows. But that's all…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: Between Europeans and Americans, there is no misunderstanding but differences


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).