The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has renewed momentum on the long-standing debate on EU defence, convincing many that the time for concrete steps to meet this ambition – the building of a united European defence grounded in its own strategic and technological autonomy – has finally come.
Talks have been ongoing for some 68 years – that is, since the French parliament sunk the European Defence Community project back in 1954. The manifest broadening of public consensus for the idea of European defence is not enough. Thorough technical assessments will be needed to identify priorities and strike an acceptable balance between reducing duplications, optimising expenses and the inevitable transfer of some elements of strategic and operational “sovereignty” in the military domain.
Before compiling to-do lists, we should first overcome a basic misunderstanding: a European army is not a necessity. It would not be a bad thing, at least theoretically, to be able to count on some rapid deployment forces, under a unified military command, should the need arise. Nevertheless, given the limited availability of armed forces which are both fully operational and ready to interact with others, a European army would, in fact, create more problems than it could resolve. The chain of command would need to be built from scratch; personnel and assets selected and properly trained; logistics coordinated and so on.
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