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Should the European Union be able to do everything that NATO can?
      Fraser Cameron            VERSUS           Andrew Moravcsik

Fraser Cameron
is director of
studies at the
Policy Centre
in Brussels.

Andrew Moravcsik is professor of government and director of the European Union Program at Harvard University's Center for European Studies.



Dear Andy,

A number of analysts, including yourself, argue for a new transatlantic bargain in which, essentially, the United States does the cooking and the European Union does the dishes. This nouvelle cuisine may look tempting in the short term, but in the long term it is a recipe for worsened not improved transatlantic relations. Europe has to look after its own security and, together with the United States whenever possible, play a larger role in regional and global security.

You will recall that the European Union always had a security dimension. The founding fathers chose coal and steel as the basis for their unique experiment in integration. But the driving motive behind integration was peace and security, first for Europe, later for the world. With the failure of plans for a European defence community in 1954, defence was off the integration agenda until the end of the Cold War. The collapse of Communism in 1989 transformed the geopolitical scene in Europe and opened the door for a renewed debate on defence at Maastricht.

The Maastricht Treaty also saw the birth of the European Union's common foreign and security policy (CFSP). Even though the CFSP could not have been launched at a worse time, with the wars of Yugoslav dissolution exposing European weakness and divisions, gradually the European Union began to get its act together. It agreed the so-called "Petersberg Tasks", which covered peacekeeping and peace-enforcement missions. It set up new institutions, notably the office of a CFSP High Representative, currently Javier Solana, and a political and security committee (akin to NATO's North Atlantic Council) to provide direction. Prompted by France and the United Kingdom, the European Union also agreed to establish a rapid reaction force and tackle some of the capability gaps that became apparent in the Kosovo crisis.

Most recently, and despite the divisions over Iraq, the European Union has started three peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* and Congo. Others are in the pipeline. There are thousands of European peacekeepers deployed in the Balkans, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Furthermore, the European Union has agreed policy guidelines on weapons of mass destruction and proliferation and a new draft security policy doctrine has been formulated by Solana.

So, in little more than a decade, the European Union has come a long way in the security field. Where should it go from here? There are two main views. First, the "Blair" view is that the United States is so dominant in today's world that Europe's only hope of influencing its behaviour is to be the loyal ally, never uttering a word of public criticism. Second, the "Chirac" view is that the European Union and the United States do not share the same vision of the world and therefore that Europe needs to pursue its own aims and develop its own comprehensive capabilities.

Smart development assistance and smart policies are as important as smart bombs

There is no question in my mind that in the long term Europe has to adopt the Chirac approach. Why? First, because the European Union and the United States do, indeed, have divergent views of the world, over how to deal with terrorism, "rogue states" such as Iran, the Arab/Israeli dispute, support for multilateral regimes and the like. Second, US troops have been in Europe for more than 50 years. No one can predict when they will go home, but at some stage they will. It is only prudent to start planning now for that eventuality in such a way that Europe takes on more responsibility for its own security and that of its neighbourhood. Third, the European Union is already a global actor in many areas. It needs to develop better military capabilities to become a more effective player.

What does this mean for the future of NATO? The Alliance has been struggling to reinvent itself since the collapse of the Soviet Union. As NATO enlarges to 26 next year, I'm reminded of the Monty Python's "dead parrot" sketch. I feel a number of new members will be asking themselves whether they have bought into a dead organisation. It seems clear that NATO will never fight another war. The Pentagon's experience in Kosovo was such that the idea of waging another campaign by a committee of 26 is out of the question. Moreover, Washington is unlikely to change its new doctrine whereby "the mission decides the coalition". NATO will not disappear overnight, but it is likely to continue withering away as it lacks both the glue to hold it together and an appropriate toolbox to tackle today's security threats.

Note that I talked of the European Union developing better capabilities. There is unlikely to be the political will to spend vastly increased resources on defence. What is required, therefore, is more effective spending on procurement and much more sharing of facilities. Some tough decisions will be needed. Why, for example, does the Czech Republic or Denmark need an airforce? I believe finance ministers will probably be as influential if not more influential than foreign or defence ministers in propelling Europe down this path. One final point on capabilities. It is not clear that spending on high-tech equipment is the most effective use of tax dollars or Euros. Smart development assistance and smart policies are as important as smart bombs.

The European Union, therefore, cannot avoid developing the full range of capabilities. It will never develop the same power-projection capabilities as the United States because it does not need to. But the European Union, not NATO, is the future.


Dear Fraser,

Like nearly everyone these days, we agree that Europe should move to rationalise military procurement and develop more robust peacekeeping capabilities. The real question is whether the European Union should develop - in addition to peacemaking, peacekeeping and policing powers - war-fighting capabilities akin to those deployed by NATO in Kosovo and the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. You say yes. "There is no question in my mind that in the long term Europe. needs to pursue its own aims and develop its own comprehensive capabilities" - the so-called "Chirac view". Why? To distance Europe from the United States. NATO, you say, is dead. America is going its own way on terrorism and rogue states, and will eventually leave Europe. If the European Union does not develop the "full range of capabilities", it will be forced to adopt what you term the "Blair view", namely that the "only hope of influencing [US] behaviour is to be the loyal ally, never uttering a word of public criticism."

I disagree for five reasons.

1    Transatlantic conflict is the exception, not the rule. Sure, Iraq is a problem. But NATO governments were unanimous in supporting actions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and a dozen other post-Cold War crisis spots since the first Gulf War. NATO has been helpful in many of these out-of-area crises - and in the reintegration of Eastern Europe. European and US goals in the Middle East are similar. To declare NATO dead is to throw the baby out with the bath water.

2    European remilitarization won't happen. Europeans, you concede, will not pay more for defence - let alone double their spending, as would be required to project power US-style (even regionally). More efficient use of current European spending can achieve only modest gains: a modest but well-equipped rapid reaction force perhaps, but not the sort of integrated force the United States deployed in Kosovo or Afghanistan, let alone Iraq.

3    The European army serves no purpose. An EU army would be an instrument in search of a mission. You say allying with the United States - the Blair tactic - cannot change US policy, so Europe needs an army. (I disagree, as you shall see.) Well, the Euro army won't change US policy either. Would a Euro army have deterred US action in Iraq? Hardly. European "pre-preventive" intervention to forestall US action or allying with enemies of the United States are utterly unrealistic options. Perhaps the goal is simply to reduce reliance on the US security guarantee? If so, reduced dependence might indeed swing a few nervous Eastern European UN votes into the Franco-German camp, but it would also give neo-conservatives carte blanche unilaterally to redeploy US forces elsewhere. Or perhaps the proposed Euro army is intended to handle the "next Kosovo"? If so, Europeans are stuck fighting the last war. The Balkans have been pacified. The next Kosovos will be - and already are - in far-flung quagmires like Chechnya, Iran, Kashmir, Algeria and Congo. Do Europeans really believe that military involvement in such places - not as peacekeepers but in a war-fighting mode, and without US technology or backup - is a cost-effective strategy?

An EU army would be an instrument in search of a mission

4    Remilitarization would run counter to deeply-held European political values. EU governments compiled a compelling case that the essentially military US policy response to terrorism in Iraq was inappropriate and short-sighted. European intellectuals penned trenchant criticisms of Robert Kagan's anachronistically unidimensional concept of international power (i.e. military super-powers are strong Martians and all others are weak Venusians). European objections to Iraq are not just reasonable - which is why sober American conservatives like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, as well as many Democrats, share them - but they appeal to an admirable European idealism about the need for more effective use by Western governments of non-military foreign policy instruments. But now, after Washington has ignored European appeals and sent in the Marines, Europeans say: "We want an army, too." Kagan must be pleased. He seems to have converted a continent!

5     There is a better option. Europe has more and better alternatives to the two you mention: remilitarization and submissive silence. The best of these is to invest in civilian and low-intensity power. Today, Europe is a "quiet super-power", wielding influence over peace and war as great, perhaps greater, than that of the United States. Europe rather than the United States provides trade opportunities, foreign aid, peacekeepers, international monitoring, and multilateral legitimation. (For seemingly intractable domestic reasons, the United States has never been able to wield such instruments effectively.) Over the past decade, Europe has deployed these instruments to help democratise and pacify up to 25 countries on its Eastern periphery - a record US military power cannot match. Properly deployed, civilian and low-intensity military instruments could have a greater global impact as well. European political and fiscal capital would be much better spent on building such capabilities. Europe, the United States, the West, and the world as a whole would be better off if each side of the Atlantic did what it does best. Complementarity and comparative advantage, not conflict and competition, should be the watchwords.

The Iraq war shows how vital this is. For Americans, the lesson of the past three months is that it is harder to make peace than to wage war. And in peacemaking, the United States is critically dependent on Europe for civilian and low-intensity military power. War and reconstruction tie up one third of the US military, and will cost hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of casualties. Even so, it may fail. Europeans, ignored and humiliated in the run-up to the war, have been understandably reluctant to deploy their resources - in striking contrast to the first Gulf War and Kosovo.

The result has been a policy reversal. If the United States expects help after the fact, it must engage multilateral institutions, exhaust alternatives to war, and work out post-war arrangements before intervening. Accordingly, the United States is acting with prudence in Iran and Syria. And it is seeking to bring the United Nations into the Iraq and North Korean crises. In this context, NATO is emerging as one of several promising multilateral forums in which to organise peacekeeping and to develop common principles governing future intervention. The question today is whether Europeans are willing and able to engage constructively in this process. To cut off this process of reconciliation by renouncing NATO and constructing an EU army, as you are suggesting, would be a tragic victory of symbolic politics over pragmatism.


Dear Andy,

Let us remember what the debate is about, namely the European Union and NATO and not the European Union and the United States. I am not proposing that the European Union develop an army. NATO has no army. I am not proposing the European Union as a counterweight to the United States, rather that it should have the capabilities for "robust intervention" as outlined in the recent Solana strategy paper. I am not arguing that the United States should leave Europe, but that the European Union needs to develop a greater defence capability, partly to prepare for the day when the United States goes home. I am not arguing that NATO is dead but that the Pentagon, post-Kosovo and post-9/11, has pronounced it dead as a result of the new US doctrine "the mission decides the coalition".

You seem quite content with the status quo despite the major geopolitical changes of recent years. OK, Europe might be allowed to be a new dishwasher to clean up after the United States, but I think this is a recipe for disaster. The European Union and the United States must be involved in common assessments of security threats and, when intervention is agreed - preferably with a UN mandate - then both should be involved at all stages of the operation. This means the United States has to do more on the peacekeeping and nation-building side and the European Union has to develop more high-end capabilities. What we need to work towards is a new transatlantic partnership based not on NATO but a revised EU-US relationship that covers security in all its dimensions. This is not for tomorrow, but it should be a serious medium-term aim.

What does NATO have that the European Union still needs to develop? First a mutual defence guarantee. I believe that this should be a fundamental part of the EU treaty. Sure, such an article is on the table in the new EU draft treaty but as open to all, not an obligation. Second, the European Union needs to develop its own command facilities. This became abundantly clear in the lead up to the Congo intervention when it was discovered that NATO had no plans for any such intervention in Africa.

The European Union and the United States must be involved in common assessments of security threats

Why should a greater EU defence capability lead to conflict and competition with the United States? Washington has been preaching to the European Union to do more for years. If the European Union were to take over from NATO in Bosnia and Herzegovina next year there should be satisfaction all round.

Finally, I cannot see any political support, on either side of the Atlantic, for military intervention in any of the places you mention - Iran, Chechnya, Kashmir, etc.


Dear Fraser,

I welcome the softening in your position. Now you say NATO is important rather than, as you said initially, "dead" (or "pronounced" dead). The United States will remain active militarily in and with Europe rather than abandoning it. US (hence NATO) and EU threat assessments must be done cooperatively rather than diverging fundamentally. The European Union requires only a mutual defence pact and some command capacity rather than the "full range" of "comprehensive" capabilities. Operations should involve both the United States and Europe. And none of this will be achieved in the short term ("not for tomorrow").

Yet even this second, more conciliatory, position - on which we largely agree - raises some important concerns.

Europe, the United States, the West, and the world as a whole would be better off if each side of the Atlantic did what it does best

First, we need to be realistic. Sure, it would be great if, as you say, both the European Union and the United States "should be involved at all stages of all operations". We could all cook and clean together - and plan the menu, too - in a happy transatlantic household. But alliances, like marriages, rarely actually work in this way. Why? Because in the real world fiscal capacity, legacies of past spending, domestic institutional processes and political values impose political constraints. Kagan is right that each side has specialised, and each side feels comfortable with its choice. Partners should specialise - particularly when it costs $100 billion to cook or to clean.

Second, I fear that Europeans will waste scarce political and fiscal capital building up a modest high-intensity military force that (you admit) Americans neither need nor want and which (I infer from your silence) has few if any plausible scenarios for autonomous use. An EU military role would make for great "feel-good" politics - everyone can compete for the job of EU "foreign minister" while mustering a multinational militia. Yet this threatens to neglect the real European comparative advantage, namely civilian power. Even modest progress on more difficult civilian tasks - like tightening ties with Turkey, developing EU flexibility on the Israel-Palestine question, establishing a multinational coercive inspection force for weapons of mass destruction, or cutting agricultural subsidies - would contribute far more to world peace and security.

Third, NATO provides a valuable instrument for structuring transatlantic cooperation - one more flexible and attractive to the United States than that of the European Union. Just four years ago, NATO played a critical role in drawing US attention to Kosovo. To the extent that the European Union took over such functions, or claimed to - even if it did not possess (and will not possess under your plan) the sort of capabilities deployed in Kosovo - it might give US policy-makers an excuse to look the other way. If we displace NATO, we will just have to reinvent it.

Fourth and finally, please drop the inflammatory and misleading metaphor of "cooking" and "cleaning". The relationship I propose would give Europeans equal initiative and input. At the very least, Europeans could use their superior civilian power resources to take greater initiative in pre-war crisis-prevention measures - so military intervention never takes place. Deployment of a more robust UN-European coercive inspection force six months before the Iraq War, for example, would have done far more to restrain the United States than would ten battalions of high-intensity Euro troops.

More importantly, the United States is coming to realise that it is harder to wage peace than war, and that it is deeply dependent on superior European civilian power - trade, aid, monitoring, multilateral legitimation and peacekeeping capabilities - for both pre-war crisis prevention and post-war reconstruction. And this will henceforth influence decisions about peace and war. Most Americans (perhaps even in the Bush administration) have concluded that cookers and cleaners have to plan the menu together before the fact - otherwise the dishes won't get washed. This sort of pre-conflict consultation, which both of us support, is most likely to occur if Europe focuses on its strong suit - civilian power - where the United States is truly dependent; and it is most likely to occur if military deliberation can happen through NATO - an organisation with which even US conservatives are comfortable.

Finally, from the narrow perspective of European integration, strengthening civilian power (where the European Union has an unquestioned authority) would do more to thrust the European Union into a leading role in transatlantic deliberations - something to which you have devoted your career and which I, too, would like to see.


Dear Andy,

I think we are arguing about different time perspectives here. I am not suggesting that the European Union should develop a full range of capabilities tomorrow but rather that it should do so in the medium term. What many, particularly American, observers fail to grasp is the fundamental political ambitions of the integration process. Most Americans wrote off the single market, dismissed the Euro and now scorn the European Union's nascent military ambitions. The European Union needs to develop these capabilities for various reasons: to play a role on the world stage commensurate with its economic power; to take care of its own interests when the United States (or NATO) does not wish to be involved; and to achieve savings in the long run. It is not true that the United States opposes these moves - on the contrary it has positively welcomed them at all recent summits.

Developing greater military capabilities would not be at the expense of civilian expertise where I agree that the European Union has a clear lead. Indeed, I argue that the United States should also do more on the civilian front because therein lies the key to resolving many disputes in the longer term. But the European Union should be able to prevent atrocities such as the shelling of Dubrovnik, be prepared to head off incipient genocide in African states and be equipped to back up its diplomacy vis--vis the likes of Slobodan Milosevic with a more credible military capability. A robust EU military force could also play a vital role in overseeing a Middle East peace settlement.

It is a fallacy to believe that under your reformed status quo there would be "equal initiative and input". Equality, in the eyes of most Americans and certainly those in power now, only comes from having a greater military input. The status quo you seem to support would mean that the European Union would be permanently beholden to the United States. Given the rapidly growing and unprecedented public disapproval of US foreign policy, such a policy would be unacceptable to the vast majority of Europeans.

We need a transformed Atlantic Alliance in which the European Union and the United States both bring greater equality to the table

Sure NATO is a more attractive proposition for the United States as it has always called the shots. But times change and we do need a transformed Atlantic Alliance; one in which the European Union and the United States both bring a greater equality of military and civilian resources to the table. That is the best possible foundation for a genuine partnership.


Dear Fraser,

Throughout this exchange I have sought to inject a dose of realism - a pragmatic awareness of fiscal and political limits. Will the European Union really commit the manpower, money, and technology for Kosovo-style capabilities? Are there realistic scenarios for deploying them or, with the Balkans pacified, is the European Union fighting the last war? Might NATO be a more efficient institutional conduit for joint action than EU-US relations? Will the United States really (as you imply again in your last response) respect Europeans just because they posture with an army. Or would European remilitarization instead breed US apathy (if Europeans succeed) or contempt (if Europeans fail) - or even the self-fulfilling prophecy of a US troop withdrawal? Wouldn't further developing the European Union's comparative advantage in "civilian power" (something that the US actually needs) lead to greater European influence? And so on.

You have not addressed a single one of these pragmatic concerns. It troubles me that you seem so quick to privilege symbolism over substance. At best, policy analysis without fiscal or political constraints is idealistic. At worst, it encourages parochial efforts to promote rhetorical goals for short-term political gain.

Europeans could use their superior civilian power resources to take greater initiative in pre-war crisis-prevention measures

And what might be these symbolic goals? Your last letter suggests that the primary motivation of Europeans - and the real source of their differences with Americans - is to realise what you term "fundamental political ambitions of the integration process". In other words, the construction of a European force - regardless of whether it is practical and cost-effective - is a worthy end in itself because it promotes European integration. This aspiration is not uncommon among current and former EU officials, such as yourself.

I do not doubt that the European Union can achieve something that it can call an army, just as I never doubted - despite your effort to label Americans as Euro-sceptics - that it could achieve the single market or monetary union. However, I do doubt whether militarising the European Union would be sound policy - good for Europe, good for the West and, above all, good for citizens of countries like Iraq. I question this just as most objective observers today now question whether the European Union's "successful" but rigidly centralised monetary system is making good macro-economic policy for Europe.

This is the central issue between us. I believe that the transatlantic relationship will thrive only if pragmatic efforts to realise concrete ends triumph over ideological prejudices about procedural means - knee-jerk unilateralism on the part of some Americans, knee-jerk multilateralism on the part of some Europeans. I am confident that the United States is becoming more pragmatic. Policy-makers with big investments at stake are fast learners. The open-ended expenditure of hundreds of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars are teaching even the most rabid neo-conservatives some humility. The resulting shift in rhetorical tone and public opinion in the United States over the past three months is astounding.

The critical question is not, therefore, whether the United States will learn anything from Iraq. It is whether Europeans - with little invested in terms of money and lives, no sense of an imminent security threat, and public opinion more concerned with process than outcomes in world affairs - will learn anything. One lesson they should learn is that symbolic politics - like a "feel-good" force for Europe - is not the best way to address the serious global challenges of the 21st century.