In an interview with Austrian Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper, the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Europe cannot rely on American defense support in the long run and repeated his previous calls for the EU to establish its own military force.
“It becomes clear that we cannot rely on American defense support in the long run”, said Juncker.
The EU Commission President was one of the more vocal supporters of the need to create a ‘European army’. He also stated that Europe needs to reduce its reliance on the U.S. for defense support.
Despite Juncker’s comments, creating an EU integrated military may be even more difficult than we can imagine. Aside from the obvious political problems and the growing resistance to Brussels’ policies, almost all EU member states spend less than 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
Donald Trump’s recent comments about NATO is another cause of concern for the Europeans. The U.S. President criticized several EU member states, most notably Germany, for not paying their share.
“NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” Trump said in May.
Juncker, on the other hand, noted that the U.S. is “shouldering too much of the burden for their wealthy European allies,” and added that this should make Europe more active in pursuing its own interests.
Similar opinions could be heard in Germany. Hans-Peter Bartels, the German parliament’s Commissioner for the Armed Forces said in June that “there will be a European army in the end,” destined to unite “disorganized, technically fragmented and duplicate structures.”
While NATO enthusiasm in Western Europe has cooled considerably, several Eastern European countries, most notably Poland and three Baltic republics, have remained staunch U.S. NATO allies.
Tensions between NATO and Russia in Eastern Europe remain high, with both sides accusing each other of aggressive expansion. But more pro-active NATO stance in Europe, including its military maneuvers in the Baltic, which antagonized Russia, caused concern in Germany and some other European countries that Europe may be caught in the conflict between U.S. and Russia.
Juncker’s comments about the EU army, could be seen as a good indicator of the long-term strategy of Brussels to reduce its dependence on U.S. defense.