‘Common Shield’: Will Russia, EU Ever Create a Defense Alliance? – By Sputnik

German Bundeswehr soldiers of the 122th Infantry Battalion take part in a farewell ceremony in Oberviechtach, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017

© AP Photo / Matthias Schrader
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The EU armed force issue still prompts a heated debate. Speaking to Sputnik, European analysts have shared their views about the potential formation of a unified military structure in Europe and the possibility of the creation of a common EU-Russian defensive bloc.

The establishment of an EU-Russian defensive alliance is possible in case Moscow and European capitals create a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok — a concept proposed by President Vladimir Putin several years ago, German political scientist Alexander Rahr suggested, adding, however, that it’s not happening anytime soon.

“It is going to be decided in the next 25 years, if a perspective of a common Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok takes shape,” he told Sputnik. “Then there will be trust and understanding that we need to jointly resist the challenges of international terrorism and the collapse of the Middle East. In this case I see a great chance for Russia and Europe and Russia to combine their defense structures and form a pan-European security system. That would be perfect.”

However, today there is little, if any, possibility to push ahead with this process: “Now Europe is integrating closer into the Transatlantic bloc, it is being embedded in it,” Rahr noted. According to the political scientist under these circumstances it is unlikely that Russia will be interested in a common defensive platform. “Perhaps the next generation of politicians will understand that we need to act together,” he presumed.On the other hand, he raises a question about the probability of the creation of a pan-European military structure.

According to Rahr, the Americans are covertly blocking and torpedoing the process of forming a potential alternative to NATO. The US’s view of European security could be described by the following: “Let the Europeans unite economically, but in no case create an alternative to NATO,” the scientist explained. “Therefore, there is no basis to claim that Europeans are capable of creating something in the military sphere without NATO.”

Commenting on the future of the potential European army, Rahr suggested that it would be an army of cutting-edge military equipment in the first place. He presumed that future warfare would involve artificial intelligence, drones, rockets and robots.

In this context the military industrial complexes of Russia and Europe would need to create a common anti-missile shield and defensive weapons against Islamists instead of working against each other, he said.

Mountain infantry soldiers stand in front of a troops transporter Boxer after an exercise of the mountain infantry brigade 23 of the German Bundeswehr near the Bavarian village Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, on March 23, 2016
© AFP 2018 / CHRISTOF STACHE
Mountain infantry soldiers stand in front of a troops transporter “Boxer” after an exercise of the mountain infantry brigade 23 of the German Bundeswehr near the Bavarian village Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, on March 23, 2016

Why Analysts Cast Doubt on EU Armed Force

For his part, Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the French-Russian Analytical Center Observo, reminded Sputnik that the European army project is rather old. “However, there is NATO, this organization has existed for a long time and operates quite efficiently,” he added.

Delanoe expressed skepticism about the prospects for the full-fledged EU military structure. “The already existing European corps, the Franco-German brigade is the maximum of what can take shape,” the scholar believes.

At the same time, the scholar does not exclude that Russia and the EU are able to team up in the sphere of defense. “Not at the moment, of course, but it could be a positive step towards normalization of relations between the EU and Russia,” he said, suggesting that the creation of a joint cyber center would bolster trust between “the actors of international politics.” However, mutual distrust still remains within the bloc. Speaking to Sputnik, a German Left Party lawmaker, Alexander Neu, opined that European nations have no desire to forgo something for the sake of their allies. It raises the question “whether Greece or Bulgaria will sacrifice their soldiers for the sake of France or Germany,” he said. “The EU is engaged in a number of new projects, but I have big doubts that they will lead to a full-fledged military integration.”

According to Neu, the creation of an EU army is unrealistic, while the formation of a unified EU military structure raises even more doubts.

EU Army is Being Formed Little by Little

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has long been one of the proponents of the EU defense union.

“By 2025, we need a functioning European defense union. We need it, and NATO would like us to have it,” Juncker said in mid-September 2017 while delivering an annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament.

In the same month, in his two-hour speech at the Paris-Sorbonne University, French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted the necessity to create joint Rapid Reaction Forces, form a single defense budget and a common doctrine for action.The idea of a unified military structure was enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007. The prototype of the European armed force was called the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

In November 2017, 23 EU states including non-NATO members — Austria, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden — officially notified Brussels that they were going to kick PESCO off.

“It was important for us that we Europeans stand up independently, especially after the election of the US president. Nobody will solve our security problems for us. We have to do it ourselves,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said, commenting on EU defense ministers signing a joint notification on PESCO on November 13.

For his part, Juncker tweeted on December 11 that European security “cannot be outsourced,” welcoming the first operational steps taken by EU members “to lay the foundations of a European Defense Union.”

​In late March, the EU presented a plan to increase its military mobility within the PESCO framework. This indicates that the European army is being formed little by little.

The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.