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EU Agrees to Boost Military Cooperation but Doubts Remain (wsj.com)
62 points by folli 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments



I would love to see a European Union where other EU countries have a say in the main election of each country. Say, all EU countries can vote for the chancellor election in Germany and these votes weight 5% of the final results, while the German votes weight 95%. Same for the French presidential election, other EU countries could vote for a weight of 5%, and 95% of the weight is given the French votes.

This could happen slowly, countries joining one by one the system: when a country joins, it offers 5% of its main election(s) to other EU countries, and in exchange it can vote for other EU countries main elections.

This would oblige national politicians to address the concerns of European citizens outside of their country. This would be very welcome since the choices of national politicians do not just affect the lives of the nationals, but if affects the lives of other Europeans too. As the national economies are all strongly intertwined and the economic choices of one EU country very affects others, two solutions come to mind: (a) a strong federal government like in the US, where the decisions of state politicians barely affect other states; (b) to keep the current system where national politicians can make choices that affect all Europeans, but let all Europeans have a say in their election.


Forget it.

It would be an administrative nightmare. You would have to vote 28 / 4 times per year!!!

It would have little effect, but MASSIVE push back.

These years the EU needs to lay low, and focus on doing good without drawing more people to support the extreme right-wing/neo-nazis.

This is not the time for bold moves in western Europe; this could back-fire. There are some wiggle room for playing hard ball in eastern Europe, like getting Romanian prisons into ECHR compliance.


Technically, election cycles may be aligned or foreign vote may be indirect - there are ways to improve voter experience. But I would agree: public opinion will be strongly against it, because these 5% of votes would for example play definitive role in last German election.


Sounds like it solves exactly the opposite problem of what people have. People want more local control, not more supra-national control. (Although, if you want to see the EU fail, pushing for diluting peoples' self determination even more would be a great way to do it.)


> Say, all EU countries can vote for the chancellor election in Germany

Technically speaking, not even the Germans are allowed to vote a chancellor. ;)


The first time a putative national leader was picked by people outside a country's borders, that country would leave the union. And who could blame them?


Very interesting idea. Totally unrealistic in modern Europe, but I'd love to see some EU members testing it within some inner bloc (e.g. Baltic states?)


I'd love to see that, too. Great accelerationist tactics :-)


This comes mostly to fill up the void that UK will leave in the E.U. by exiting and ofc is not going to fly.

As the article states, the level of integration required for these kind of things is nowhere to be found.

The European Union is at crossroads: Either integrates and disintegrates. Half-measures like the ones proposed by the new French PM are not going to work. Not to mention that is nearly impossible for him to achieve anything substantial against Berlin.

It's like an ancient Greek tragedy. Everybody tries to make his best, while every action of every key-player leads inevitably to the worst possible outcome.


> This comes mostly to fill up the void that UK will leave in the E.U. by exiting and ofc is not going to fly.

Alternatively, this has been in the making for a long time, but always has been kept back by the UK to support their relevance inside of the EU. Why do you state that it "[of course] is not going to fly"? Can you refer to some similar situations that provide precedent for your prediction?

> The European Union is at crossroads

Why? And why at this particular point in time? Is it because the UK is leaving, or are there any other reasons the EU cannot maintain their current course?

> Not to mention that is nearly impossible for him to achieve anything substantial against Berlin.

How so? Is the EU colluding with Germany to the detriment of the other member states? Can you provide any evidence of this?

> Everybody tries to make his best, while every action of every key-player leads inevitably to the worst possible outcome.

Do you mean for this particular endeavour or their policies in general? Because in general the results of the EU up to this point seem far from the worst possible outcome. If you mean this particular policy, why do you believe it will lead to the worst possible outcome in this specific instance?


The notion that a parallel from of coordination between underfunded militarys either materially threatened British relevance in the EU in the past or acts in any substantial way to replace it's military might in the event the EU needed to act outside of NATO in the future is extremely dubious.

However minimal this effort is, it is certainly wise given Brexit, increasing influence of isolationists and nationalists in the US, and Russia's appetite for power projection.


Hi craigsmansion. A lot of the answers to your questions start by looking at the Target2 imbalances, I think. Also the widening gaps between yields on sovereign bonds from EU countries. Germany is refusing Euro-Bonds, profitting from the end of the competitive-devaluationS era of european economics, so far the EU seems to have been just a mercantile bait-and-switch.


I don't think this is quite right. France has pushed for EU military integration for a long time, mostly because France would like the German economy powering French foreign policy goals. (France is quite active on the world stage, including recent interventions in Mali and Libya and a large role in the CJTF-OIR against ISIS.) The British would instead prefer Europe act through NATO, where European goals will be married to American ones, and has blocked an EU Army for a long time. Now that the UK is leading, France is pushing the EU Army idea once again.


To the contrary, this was planned since decades, but the UK was always blocking it.

I don't know which void this is supposed to fill, as military was not really part of the EU up until now.


I don't know which void this is supposed to fill

The void is the hole in France's pocket. See: France's historical relationship with Nato.


I see it as a compliment to NATO, especially if Trump keeps weakening the alliance.


This comes mostly to fill up the void that UK will leave in the E.U. by exiting and ofc is not going to fly

There has been a Franco-German formation for 30 years now, it's never actually deployed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-German_Brigade

But the EU for all its pretensions never "kept the peace in Europe" - that was NATO, and unless Corbyn is elected[1], there's no chance of the UK leaving.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/19/jeremy...


I think we have a strong selection bias for problems.

We are here and where we are now was also deemed impossible. Slow and steady wins the race. People with excessive opinion and limited knowledge don't last decades. It's how change sneaks in.


it's a very recurrent case under pressure



Youre a legend


With reason. The military isn't something us Euros like to spend money on, the US has been whining about European NATO commitments since day 1.

Healthcare, housing, education, infrastructure. Those are the things I take pride in. Not a new airforce jet.


Nobody takes pride in a new jet save the manufacturers and the people who fly it.

People do take pride in the security and strength a jet provides in times of crisis.

You can't achieve any of the things you take pride in without the ability to defend yourself. In your case, you have America do it for you. What would happen if America didn't spend more than Switzerland's entire GDP on defense?


How exactly American military spending in Iraq or Pacific makes Europe more safe? Wasn't it that trillion USD spent to replace Saddam with a puppet state that pave the way for ISIS, which now attacks European cities?


I agree with your sentiment completely. In this case corrupt politicians created a crisis, and it is a shame that hangs over American international politics. As someone who believes in a smaller role for the American federal government, the idea that the American taxpayer actually paid money to destabilize a region and create an enemy that has routinely harassed us and our allies is sickening.

But not that long ago in the Pacific Theater the US intervened to stop a very determined Imperial Japan. Without that intervention China and other Asian nations may not have been able to survive.

Nowadays, Japan has no need for much of a military as the US is more than happy to help out one of our now good allies and trade partners. The idea of Japan being threatened by a possible North Korean attack provokes a protective response from most Americans I know.

I'm sure our Japanese allies are very grateful that they can focus their government spending on other things that matter to them like the incredible standard of living they enjoy.


The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were a disaster. But without American military protection during the Cold War, there are a lot of Europeans that'd be speaking Russian now.


Questionable. USSR had much more conventional military power and strategic balance was defined by presence of nuclear weapons at both sides. But it's not that expensive and it's not only US who had them in NATO or in Europe. US saved Europe from Soviet invasion in 1940-1950s, but later it's not so clear, whether role of USA was decisive.


That would never happen because the military industrial complex IS America. And that's exactly what nobody in Europe wants.

The military is a drain on the budget and every cent that goes to it is a tragic waste. Nobody in the US would ever describe the military as a "necessary evil".


>Nobody in the US would ever describe the military as a "necessary evil"

I would estimate that the number of Americans who would say this is about 40%. Of the people who disagree with that, 30% would take issue with the "necessary" part, and the final 30% would take issue with the "evil" part.

>The military is a drain on the budget and every cent that goes to it is a tragic waste

Just look at all the harm it did to the US during WWI & WWII.


I would, and I think most other Americans would too.


Perhaps the world would still be okay if the US spent a little bit less on defense. Once you can defend yourself, having 10x more jets won't do you any good.

But yes, European NATO members should spend a bit more. In fact, this was resolved under Bush with non-binding spending targets for 2020 (2% of GDP).

Credit where credit is due: many of the Eastern Europeans NATO members have already hit spending targets ahead of time. And if you google a bit, you see countless articles about European countries committing to increasing defense spending.


> What would happen if America didn't spend more than Switzerland's entire GDP on defense?

Then they could afford universal healthcare and quality public education?


<sarcasm> Right there with you! All we need is to be the strongest. After that, America first! Fuck our allies, we're the only ones who are worth protecting! </sarcasm>


Who, exactly, are our allies right now? As I sit here, I can count them on one hand: UK, France, Germany, Japan and ... ? I’m hard pressed to think of anyone else who would leap to our defense if push came to shove (and Japan might be willing, but not all that able).


Ofcourse the US is whining, they are selling most of the arms too... Increasing defense budgets is good business for the US.

Yes, some of it is justified, and NATO countries have agreed on non-binding spending targets for 2020: To be fair, many of the Eastern European countries have hit said spending targets ahead of time too.


Quite the spoiled and childish attitude. Most NATO members aren't contributing the minimum and instead effectively externalize defense to the US. Then they make comments like yours that trivialize the importance of defense. At least the military leaders of the Eastern flank of NATO, located as it is on a geopolitical seismic fault and with Russia at arm's length, better appreciate the importance of defense. Of course, relying on the Eastern flank to function as a buffer without is, again, foolish and yet another blow to the beyond dubious solidarity of EU member states. (I am reminded of the Polish-Soviet war of 1920 and the Western attitudes then.)

This has nothing to do with any pride. It has everything to do with security and survival. Without it, all those other things you mentioned you can kiss goodbye.


> Quite the spoiled and childish attitude. Most NATO members aren't contributing the minimum and instead effectively externalize defense to the US.

There is no minimum. There is a non-binding spending target at 2% of GDP for 2020. Much of Eastern Europe is understandably already hitting that. Some of western Europe won't hit the targets.

I for one understand why increased military spending (and international deployments) is a sensitive subject in Germany.

But, nobody says the US have to be a 3.6% of GDP. Maybe you should target for 3% of GDP and spend some money on free education and healthcare. Maybe you could even go to 2% of GDP.

See: http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/25/news/nato-trump-defense-spen...


The best way to get European allies up to 2% is for the US to make clear moved down toward 2%. As long as the US is going to sacrifice it's citizens welfare to find Europe's defense, why shouldn't Europe let them and focus on domestic welfare?


In fact, the US could probably improve it's security situation by making an agreement with China and Russia to reduce military spending.

And then have it's European allies reach their 2% goal. Allowing the US to have it's cake and eat it too :)

But Americans aren't smart enough to vote for less military, or disarmerment... And with so much money on politics there is no chance anyone dares to reduce the size of the US defense budget.


We've been "whining" about it because it allows you to spend on social programs without worrying about your security. The money we spend on your security would be better spent at home on our social programs.


More likely it would be used to justify yet another tax cut for the rich.


> Those are the things I take pride in. Not a new airforce jet.

Unfortunately, all those nice things go away if your adversary decides to take pride in their new airforce jets.


Those are the things I take pride in. Not a new airforce jet.

But those things would never have happened without US defence spending, because the Europeans would have had to spend that money defending the Fulda Gap from the Third Shock Army.

Doing that and funding a welfare state would indeed be something to be proud of, but don't kid yourself that Europe achieved this by its own effort.


Note that this is some pretty lukewarm collaboration, and not the "EU army" that the usual suspects will try to paint it as.

The real question is how this relates to NATO; I suspect that sensible people have realised that perhaps they can no longer rely on the US, UK, or for that matter Turkey.

Undoubtedly there's some sort of arms industry boondoggling going on too. There always is.


How is the UK no longer reliable? Even the US is probably reliable for Nato defence outside of Cyber where war looks more like espionage.

The world does need the EU to step up it's leadership, but we're not at a breaking point yet.

I also think that a coalition of France, Canada, and the UK could act as a decision making block in light of the political situation in America right now. The UK is still one of the most powerful atomic weapons armed countries and has good relations with many countries around the world, France is the most powerful / stable EU country with good relations with many countries around the world, and Canada could act as a good representative for North America and has enough soft power and reputation to pull together non-aligned countries and other members of the global liberal order.


> coalition of France, Canada, and the UK could act as a decision making bloc

The UK can't decide its way out of a paper bag at the moment. See other comment; while the permanent state yet functions, the political leadership is a mess and we're still discussing whether it's a good idea to collapse our major export industries or not.


> sensible people have realised that perhaps they can no longer rely on the ... UK

What's the UK done to your or anyone else in Europe to make them think that their military is not reliable any more?

UK military commitment to Europe was always via NATO so will not change under Brexit, and the UK still provides the headquarters and much of the troops for the cooperative formations in Europe such as ARC.

UK troops are on the ground in eastern Europe right now in the NATO EFP against Russia, providing I think (couldn't find a source right now) more troops than anyone else is.


I am a Brit. The military is probably reliable. The MOD is not, especially in regards to equipment. The politics is not reliable. Especially in regard to the Saudi-Israeli-Iranian conflict; what the hell was Priti Patel doing running her own unlicensed foreign policy? Why do we have a foreign minister who has to be followed around by people apologising for him? Why have they fucked over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe so badly? The defence secretary was sacked last week, is the new guy any good?

In the event of an actual crisis, what happens? Are we going to fight a war in the middle of Brexit and/or a general election?


What type of actual crisis are you talking about? The UK has one of the finest professional militaries in the world, amongst the finest special forces, some of the best cyber capabilities, and nuclear tipped ICBMs lurking beneath the waves at all times. Other countries send their soldiers to us to be trained for gods sake! I'd imagine we could take care of any serious threat to the realm pretty easily.


I think the original comment came across as saying that western Europe is thinking that the UK's military would no longer come to its defence against an invasion of its territory, which is a bit insulting the day after Remembrance.


Invasion of the actual UK is something that even Hitler never managed; in that case we launch the nukes and pray.

Far more relevant is what happens if a UK ally, vital or dispensible, gets invaded. Or yet another impending massacre of civilians, such as got us involved in Libya. As with the first and second world wars, are a huge number of people going to get killed or displaced in an unnecessary conflict?

Or if the UK manages to accidentally restart armed conflict in Northern Ireland; a Brexit that puts up customs posts there will get them blown up.

Would the segment of the UK that voted for Brexit in order to deport Poles cheerfully come to the defence of Poland?


I think you are simplifying UK involvement in Libya, failing to mention that the EU is doing a reasonable job all on its own of restarting conflict in NI, and also smearing your fellow countrymen as racist.


> Would the segment of the UK that voted for Brexit in order to deport Poles cheerfully come to the defence of Poland?

Are you aware that the UK has a large presence in Poland literally right now? And has been exercising their for years to prepare for needing to be able to defend Poland? And that new troops have gone out there since the Brexit vote?

I think most people in the UK remember Poland coming to our defence in WW2 and would do the same for them today, regardless of their opinion of immigration policy.


With Trump and Brexit, it's not unfair for the rest of the EU to build contingencies in case NATO breaks down.

Note: Not all EU countries are part of this, and NATO is still the primary alliance.


Margaret Thatcher's decision to go to war in 1982, with the government on the brink of collapse, and the economy a complete basket case, changed everything, and undoubtedly for the better.

An actual crisis tends to focus the mind.


The problem with the UK military is it's been starved for funds for so many years one wonders how long it would take to gear up for an actual "near peer" conflict.



Cooperative military operations will be great for shoring up European unity and validating more integration in due course. The UK being out of the picture should help (as does the existential threat that Brexit has painted) but the system of half-measures too well suits Germany to make it easy. This has all been true with a fiscal union too.


The title is misleading. It's a renewed attempt to begin achieving more cooperation, small steps, not integration.


Paywall


WSJ seems to be privileged in that regard. Others get flagged down fast, WSJ stays up.




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