The Militarisation of the European Union: A civilisational mistake

PressInfo # 107

 December 7, 2000



By Jan Oberg, TFF director


It was quite predictable that the EU would militarise itself. In fact, one of the world's leading peace researchers, TFF adviser Johan Galtung, predicted that in his book about the EU from 1972, "A Superpower in the Making." It is not in the nature of big powers to see greatness in nonviolence, dialogue, tolerance or in playing the role of one among many. The EU - - whose main players are former colonial powers and present nuclear powers and/or culturally violent - - began their militarisation some ten years ago with the French-German military co-operation, and it got another boost with the French-British agreement in 1998 in Saint Malo.

And today's EU Nice Summit is likely to put the militarisation of EU on an irreversible path, most likely to a new Cold War.

Today it is the so-called Eurocorps which is formally in charge of NATO/KFOR in Kosovo. Internally, the EU struggles with ever deeper vertical integration, i.e. more and more standardisation and harmonisation of ever more areas, and with horizontal integration of more and more countries. Externally, it decided a year ago at its summit in Finland to become a world player by setting up a sizeable military Rapid Reaction Force by the year 2003.

There are various proposals in the direction of a "United States of Europé" (USE), there is a common currency, a common foreign and security policy, common or harmonised laws, a structure with functions that look increasingly like a super-state with a President. There is a stepped up civilian and military industrial integration and rationalisation. And at its summit in Nice in southern France, beginning December 6, a European Charter is on the table.


Rhetoric and reality

We are told that a European "Army" is not in the offing. But can the EU really move on with integration in virtually all other regards and not end up having something that looks surprisingly much like an integrated military? If so, it will be unique in history. Isn't it in the nature of defence and military matters that they require more centralisation, central control, harmonisation, interoperability, standardisation and integration than most civilian spheres?

The Headline Goals for the force in the year 2003 was planned a year ago at 60.000 troops. Already committed, however, are almost 70.000. With reservists this will add up to 225.000 under arms. And not exactly traditional peace-keeping arms. Among other resources, Sweden for instance has assigned AJS 37 Viggen fighters, a submarine, corvettes and a mechanised battalion. Britain has pledged 18 warships and up to 72 combat aircraft.

Ministers tell the citizens that it is for disaster relief, humanitarian aid, natural catastrophes, mine clearing and peacekeeping. It will serve as a back-up for diplomacy and it will only be used as a last resort when everything else has been tried to avert conflicts from erupting into violent struggle. But if it is modelled upon the case of Kosovo, that is the example par excellence of the failure of preventive diplomacy, of diplomacy backing up force.


The civilian aspects of crisis management

We are also told that the EU's most important part is civilian and that civilian crisis management, coupled with early analysis, early warning and violence-preventive diplomacy is the main thing; however, the present structure and balance of resources does not bear out that point.

Earlier, the Commission has developed an inventory of 25 categories (encompassing 300 specific actions) for civilian crisis management. Among them we find virtually anything such as counter-terrorism operations, support to free media, training of intelligence and judicial staff as well as conflict resolution training centres. So, some priorities had to be set up.

According to the documents from the EU Feira European Council summit in June this year, an Interim Committee for civilian aspects of crisis management had its first meeting only three days before the Summit (June 16) and could hardly have developed much of an identity.

Appendix 3 of the Feira document approaches the civilian aspect in this manner: "The reinforcement of the Union's capabilities in civilian aspects of crisis management should above all, provide it with adequate means to face complex political crises by:

- acting to prevent the eruption or escalation of conflicts;

- consolidating peace and internal stability in periods of transition

- ensuring complementarity between the military and civilian aspects of crisis management covering the full range of Petersberg tasks."

How is that operationalised? The priority areas outlined next to this goal formulation is:

(I) Police - co-operation during crisis and in relation to:

(II) Strengthening the rule of law -- e.g. assist in the re-establishment of a judicial and penal system in societies in transition and/or conflict/post-war reconstruction.

(III) Strengthening civilian administration -- training experts for duties in the re-establishment of collapsed administrative systems;

(IV) Civil protection -- such as search and rescue in disaster relief.

It should be clear for everyone to see: every reference to civilian conflict management - - conflict analysis, early warning, attention to the human dimensions of conflict, training of mediators, peace workers, social workers, psychologists, conflict-resolution experts, negotiators and activities to empower civil society, reconciliation and forgiveness -- is conspicuously lacking.


The EU versus the UN and OSCE

The Feira summit decided that the EU force should be deployed "both in response to request of a lead agency like the UN and the OSCE, or, where appropriate, in autonomous EU action." It also decided to "propose to NATO the creation of four 'ad hoc working groups' between the EU and NATO on the issues which have been identified in that context: security issues, capabilities goal, modalities enabling EU access to NATO assets and capabilities and the definition of permanent arrangements for EU-NATO consultation."

At the peak point of its history as a peacekeeping organisation, the UN deployed some 70.000 Blue Helmets. By the end of October 2000, it was down to 37.000, a figure which include observers, civilian police and troops. Britain which will deploy 12.500 troops to the EU force has 312 UN peacekeepers. Sweden will contribute 1500 to the EU force and has 192 UN peacekeepers of whom 46 are soldiers.

If Europe's strongest nations wanted the UN to be the leading peacekeeper it is strange that that organisation has been systematically drained in terms of funds, manpower and legitimacy -- while the EU seeks to build an operative force twice as big in just three years. It's the same countries that could never deliver enough well-trained UN Blue Helmets (e.g. to Srebrenica in time) with lighter and less sophisticated military equipment to the world's most important peace-making organisation. They are also the ones which, during last year's bombing, violated the Charter of the UN's basic value of creating 'peace by peaceful means' and ignored the provision of having a UN mandate.

The Swedish prime minister maintains that the EU force will be a contribution to the UN too. But that immediately raises the question: why did the US and the EU not decide to finally make the UN what it ought to be and had a chance to become after the end of the old Cold War?


From Kosovo to EU turbo-militarisation

The single most important event in creating the political atmosphere with which the turbo-militarisation of the EU now takes place is the experience in Kosovo last year. European leaders assess that the Americans took over the show, took the diplomatic lead and backed it up with overwhelming military power which almost cast the European NATO partners in the role of onlookers. Leading EU/NATO partners recognised the structural weakness and the inability to shoulder the burden and back up their diplomatic efforts by force.

In passing one may notice that Kosovo is the best singular illustration of the inability to a) diagnose the conflict, b) conduct early warning, c) apply early listening and d) come up with a set of reasonably creative and acceptable series of conflict-mitigation and mediation initiatives. It is also the case of clandestine arms trade and military training, intelligence infiltration of peace missions, double games and Western alliance-making with hardline secessionist nationalists and ignoring moderate, nonviolent political factors.

The simple facts remain, whether or not covered in the mainstream Western press: we are further from a solution to the real issues than ever before. It has been recognised that some Western leaders told their citizens quite a few things last year to justify the 78-days bombing which turned out to be either not the whole truth or blatant lies. None of the deep and complex conflicts have been settled in the region -- five years after Dayton and 18 months after the bombing.

The present international missions are strapped for funds and have not been able to prevent ethnic cleansing, lawlessness and authoritarianism in Kosovo, in spite of having more troops and civilians than Belgrade ever had to maintain law and order. Kosovo has become a strongly divisive issue, if not a turning point, in Euro-Atlantic relations; it left the EU grumbling aloud in response to what the Americans are de facto saying: we fixed the bombing and got our base there, we paid by far the most - now it is your turn to fix the peace. Circles close to George W. Bush more than hint that the United States is not going to stay for much longer. So the European may be stuck with an extremely expensive cul-de-sac protectorate-like situation for the next few decades.

So, first there was Kosovo, then Kosova and for the foreseeable future there will be "Kaosovo." A diplomatic, moral and peace-making fiasco is now being turned into a recipe. By the EU.

Finally, history's non-violent irony deserves mention. The Kosovo-Albanians started out on a non-violent path and got nothing but lip service by the West. They ended up with an extremely violent political force with Western backing. In contrast, the nationalities that make up Serbia were imprisoned for a decade or more in Milosevic' internal cage and the outer cage of the West -- in short major violence. However, they avoided what we all feared, namely civil war and other terrible internal violence and broke out of that cage by means of non-violence. Officially, they are supported by the West. But for how long if they do not comply with Western demands? (If Mr. Kostunica remains the Vojeslav Kostunica I know - - and I think he will - - he is not the man the West will see as a long-term partner).


And Kosovo was about 10 other things

It is not difficult to see that Kosovo was not only, perhaps not even predominantly, about Kosovo. It was

1) one element in the build-up of a common foreign and security policy within the EU on its way "up" ;

2) a stepping stone to and in NATO expansion,

3) a chance to contain the very much weakened Russia, and

4) a chance to improve the access to the oil in the Caucasus. Further,

5) it could be used as a focal point for changing the three inter-related conflict formations and strategic theatres: the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus. It antagonised Russia, quite a few neighbours in the region, India and China and could well be described by future historians as the beginning of a new Cold War formation between the West and these formidable powers.

The Serbia-Kosovo conflict could also be used

6) to promote market economy; it was written into the Rambouillet text that Kosovo should operate a market economy -- like it had been in the Dayton Accords. The West could get a foothold once and for all, spreading Western values and institutions -- and boots -- all over Kosovo; in short

7) non-violence had lost, the military won. In addition,

8) the whole affair could be used as evidence that the US and NATO, not the EU and certainly not the UN (which was never considered for a Kosovo mission before the war) or the OSCE was the peacekeeper, the peace enforcer and the peacemaker. The UN was forced to leave Macedonia where it had had one of its most successful missions only a few weeks before the bombing started. So, the UN (the only organisation which could be synonymous with the much-used term 'international community') was defeated as the world's new peacekeeper. Next,

9) with the CIA's infiltration of OSCE's KVM mission that was also the end of that organisation as an important and strong regional organisation. And, finally,

10) the US could use the opportunity, like it had in Bosnia and Croatia, to show that the Europeans could not get their act together and that it had to fix a few problems in Europe's backyard; in short, the EU as EU was humiliated. The rapid militarisation of it now signals a "never again."

So, if the West's operation in the Balkans was about peace, it was a very special peace brought about in a special way. One must hope that this is not what the EU plans to repeat in various conflict spots up to 2.500 miles or 4.000 kilometers -- or in any hotspot around the globe. The Swedish defence minister Bjorn von Sydow recently confirmed that no geographical limits have been defined beyond which the EU force should not intervene.


The U.S. attempt at world domination

In short, the Balkans and Kosovo in particular was a gift to those who wanted to promote NATO and undermine the UN and other more civilian organisations. It was a springboard for those who want the United States to move forward, not as a force for civilisation and creative new conflict-management, but in the role of world police, world judge and world dominator.

Is it far fetched to hypothesise that the United States aims at world dominance in this period of history between a very weakened Russia and an ascending Asia?

Consider the simultaneous attempts by the U.S. to control modern computer-related technologies and bio-technology, the world market and world trade, the world's peace keeping, world space, world oceans, the world's resources and world environment. (The latter is being done not by agreeing with global norms in Kyoto and the Hague but by environmental modification techniques for war purposes such as HAARP). The U.S. is also the only state that plans to be able to fight a nuclear war even for political purposes and not only in response to an attack; while such a war means potential world destruction, the U.S. intends to survive it by means of the planned self-protective BMD, Ballistic Missile Defence.

Furthermore, no other country in human history has fought as many wars, intervened in so many places, used its intelligence agency so widely and sold so many weapons. Finally, add to all this the strength with which American culture, media and news bureaus are the strongest world-wide in shaping people's perception of the world and listening in on their views clandestinely (through e.g. Echelon and other listening devices around the world) -- and you have some, not exactly negligible, indicators for that hypothesis.


The EU should make another contribution to peace

So, the EU sees its chance now. It also wants to guard itself against excessive US dominance in the future. The most recent example of the rapidly widening disagreement, if not worse, between the EU and the US came with Secretary of Defence, William Cohen's warning to European defence ministers in Brussels on December 5 in effect saying "don't even try to compete with NATO, co-ordinate with it and let us -- US -- control force planning and interventions."

The EU's chosen means to play a world role is economic first and from now on, military. While the former may succeed, the latter won't in the foreseeable future. If a small power wants to fight a bigger one, the first rule of thumb is: don't choose the field in which the opponent is much stronger. So, if the EU chooses to militarise itself it will remain a European sub-division of NATO.

If on the contrary it does things differently, draws some other lessons from Kosovo and decides to deal with conflicts around the world in a new way, it may become much stronger and even a moral force - - and stronger than the US on most power scales. It may become a power of the future rather than a replica of its colonial past and of the present NATO. It would probably also create less suspicion among people and governments within a radius of 4000 kilometres, and beyond, who would have less reason to ask: what on earth is the EU up to for the future?

We may indeed ask whether the EU leaders have the required creativity and a vision of Europe in the future world to see some new 'mission civilisatrice" like that?



PressInfo 108 will deal with further aspects of EU's militarisation. A later PressInfo will outline what the alternatives to it could be.


 © TFF 2000



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