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Did Joe Biden Just Give a Green Light To An EU Army?

Joe Biden EU Army
Image: Creative Commons.

President Joe Biden’s ill-conceived and terribly executed Afghanistan withdrawal has already cast a shadow on transatlantic security, reenergizing the dreams of some in Europe for an independent European Union (EU) defense capability. The renewed focus on strategic autonomy and increased efforts to foster European defense integration erodes the transatlantic link and undermines NATO.

Outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sounded the alarm. “We’ve been pushing for more European allies to do more on defense, but not as an alternative but as part of NATO,” he noted, adding “any attempt to establish parallel structures, to duplicate the command structure, will weaken our joint capability to work together because with scarce resources we need to prevent duplication,”

That, however, hasn’t stopped Josep Borrell, who has taken the role of chief proselytizer for an EU Army now that Jean-Claude Juncker is retired. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Borrell recently lamented, “Afghanistan has shown that the deficiency in our strategic autonomy comes with a price,” therefore “the only way forward is to combine our forces and to strengthen not only our capacity, but also our will to act.”

France which has long called for an independent EU defense force, has also renewed its push to attract new adherents and make this dangerous idea a reality. The recently announced security pact between Australia, the UK, and U.S. hasn’t gone down well in Paris, leading Elysée to double down on calls for EU Strategic Autonomy.

The Biden administration for its part is now in full “DO SOMETHING” mode. (It needs to find a quick distraction from Afghanistan is likely part of the reason the AUKUS was so diplomatically mishandled in the first place.) It now seems likely the Administration will throw the French a bone, at least rhetorically, by politely pretending Macron’s dreams on an EU defense force are anything but ludicrous.

The polite intonations have already begun. A joint statement on the call between President Biden and President Macron issued Wednesday noted, “The United States also recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO.”

Seeking to smooth the choppy waters of Franco-American relations, the Biden administration may wittingly or unwittingly stumble into another crisis, one with very dangerous implications.

Make no mistake, throwing U.S. support behind EU defense initiatives would undermine NATO collective defense, speed up a process of transatlantic decoupling, and alienate many of our allies in eastern and central Europe, most of whom are dubious of EU defense.

Countries facing an existential threat on their eastern border are naturally wary of any moves that would sever ties with the U.S. and weaken NATO, leaving them beholden to a phantom EU Army when Putin comes knocking.

Under both Democrat and Republican presidents, the U.S. has made the argument that Europe needs to do more in terms of defense capabilities. This, however, must be done via the NATO umbrella rather than under the supranational purview of the EU bureaucracy in Brussels.

An independent EU military is, by its nature, incapable of complementarity with NATO. The reality— which Western adversaries clearly know, and most European nations admit in private—is that EU defense is a paper tiger that will not be rectified through defense integration. Rather, a robust U.S.-led NATO alliance is the only true guarantor of transatlantic security.

Need further proof? Consider that in November 2018, Vladimir Putin called the potential of an EU Army “a positive process,” saying that it would “strengthen the multipolar world.” Putin knows EU defense is a sideshow, a pet initiative of a few committed EU integrationists and American leftists that will weaken NATO and eventually push the U.S. back across the Atlantic.

The Afghanistan debacle and Australian submarine row has indeed sparked a new round of calls in some corners of Europe for capabilities to act independent of the U.S.

The EU, however, will never be able to provide the peace and stability that NATO—with feet firmly planted in both North America and Europe for the past 70 years—has delivered and will continue to deliver. While EU-led defense initiatives may be able to provide some defense improvements at the margins, the outsized costs include decisions that enervate NATO, exacerbate existing fractures within Europe, and severely stress the transatlantic link.

By giving any hope of U.S. support for an EU Army, the Biden administration is playing with fire. Congress and the administration would do well to pour cold water on the idea before it spreads.

Daniel Kochis is the senior policy analyst for European affairs in The Heritage Foundation’s Thatcher Center for Freedom.

Written By

Daniel Kochis is a senior policy analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. He specializes in trans-Atlantic security issues regularly publishing on U.S. policy in Europe, NATO, U.S.-Russia relations, and Arctic issues. Kochis is also a regional author for the Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of U.S. Military Strength.



  1. Slack

    September 24, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Heh, heh, EU needs to stop holding onto America’s apron strings as the unending flow of migrants to europe caused by US wars in Libya, syria, iraq, afghan, etc… is BAD for europeans.

    But in US, border patrol whips Haitian migrants and sends them back to Mexico. Haiti is right inside America’s backyard but has done ZERO for haitians. The recent killing of haitian president was coordinated by a firm based in florida.

    Europe should not serve as ground zero if America decides to go after russia. Europeans need not become cannon fodder if US decides to go to war. France must fight for an independent Europe.

  2. Jimmy John Doe

    September 24, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Europe must have an independent army. Biden can’t be trusted. He’s like obama slippery and oily as an eel. And also like clinton untrustworthy.

    Biden threatens china and huawei but sees xi jinping as a brother. Huawei holds 5G patents which irks US politicians who want to kill it. Even though it has done nothing wrong to the world. Xi allowed covid outbreak to become global pandemic killing neatly 5 million people worldwide but biden is keen to have a summit with him who actually needs to go behind bars. Biden cannot be trusted. He’s manipulated or controlled by deep state a.k.a.the blob or glob or the center of galactic disorder on Earth.

  3. thelaine

    September 25, 2021 at 8:25 am

    The problem with NATO is that Germany will not pay its fair share and has been taking advantage and free riding for decades. In fact, Germany actually supports Russia economically and works both sides of the alliance in order to line its own pockets. NATO is weak because Germany is not committed and is untrustworthy and perfidious.

    Luckily for NATO and the West, Russia is an economic basket case and a nation where hope goes to die. There is no realistic prospect of improvement in Russia. For the average person, it is purgatory, where enslaved people obey and survive, and nothing more. It is so bad there that many people are forced to spend all day trolling websites on behalf Putin, the nation’s dictator, in order to afford food. I feel sorry for these pathetic souls, who are like dogs trailing their master in order to feed on his discarded bread crusts. What a life. And yet, wherever you go online, you will find them, slurping their cabbage soup and typing away.

    People in the West, for all their issues and problems, generally have the opportunity to improve their circumstances. That is why so many from Russia dream of leaving for the West and why almost anyone from the West would laugh at the idea of moving to Russia.

  4. Chris Cha

    September 25, 2021 at 10:29 am

    Most of the European NATO members won’t spend the required 2% of GDP on defense. They can blather on about an EU military all they want. It won’t happen until they decide to spend more money to meet their existing obligations. I’m not holding my breath.

  5. Brian Foley

    September 25, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    There are several issues rolled into this article that need to be addressed. First of all, it is preposterous to think the EU needs or wants the US’s approval. The NATO articles may preclude the EU from having it’s own “Army”, but the articles say a lot of things that get “over looked” depending on the circumstances. Second, the relationship between EU members and the US has changed. It could be possible to amend the NATO charter to define the EU as a single entity. The US will not oppose an EU Army, if one could be formed which is very doubtful. Third if the EU formed it’s own Army then the natural progression would be an EU Navy and EU Air Force…good luck with that integration process. All-in-all, it would be to America’s advantage if the EU organized it’s own Army. It would lower US costs associated with NATO, it would allow the US to “lighten” it’s force structure in Europe which would take some pressure off the Russians who are perpetually paranoid about an invasion from the “West”. It would be a confidence builder for the EU….but don’t worry to much about the EU building an Army…the EU couldn’t organize a one man parade much less a real “Army”.

  6. ZivBnd

    September 25, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    I saw Slack stated that the US has done “zero” for Haitians. LOL!
    After the earthquake in 2010 the US sent $9Bn in aid, plus we sent them $2Bn worth of oil. We found out later that most of it was squandered or skimmed off by corrupt Haitian politicians. Over the last 10 years the US has paid to feed 500,000 Haitian children every day. The US also sent millions to revitalize the coffee industry there to allow them some degree of self sufficiency. The US is the number one donor to Haiti, both from the government and non-governmental, with Canada a ways back in second place.
    Haiti is a hell of its own making. Funds are sent in and the majority are skimmed off by corrupt locals. But it isn’t just corrupt Haitian pols. Even the UN has to shoulder some of the blame. Their “Peace Keepers” managed to rape hundreds and spread disease and despair in nearly equal amounts.

  7. William Kelly

    September 26, 2021 at 8:10 am

    No longer will Europe be required to donate land so that American soldiers might be buried for defending their homeland.
    You are on your own.

  8. JackDash

    September 26, 2021 at 11:57 pm

    The the US out of the UN and out of NATO … cut the bloodsucking euros loose

    Let them suffer for for our help … we saved them twice …. prob won’t do it again!!!!

  9. Rob

    September 30, 2021 at 11:31 am

    I’m not sure how exactly the EU could make this happen. Europe has been underspending on their NATO required forces for years. By growing too dependent on the US, they have worked themselves to a point where they would be hard pressed to spend their way to an EU military force. I doubt that the citizenry of the EU would stand for the level of spending needed to make this happen AND be a viable military force to deal with the likes of the Russians. But, I think that the US’s recent demonstration of unreliability may lead to more calls for a European defense force that doesn’t include the US. Unless something changes in the next election, there may be more and more countries that see the merit of moving on from the US and possibly NATO.

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