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EU, French militaries prepare to go it alone after Brexit, US warnings

The dawning realization that the West’s two main military powers are becoming increasingly isolationist has left Europe facing some uncomfortable realities.

Britain’s exit from the EU will see the departure of the only EU member besides France that possesses nuclear weapons. And across the Atlantic, Donald Trump’s presidency “raises serious questions about the endurance and credibility of the security guarantees given by Washington”, writes Corentin Brustlein, coordinator of the Security Studies Centre at the French Institute of International Relations.

In an analysis entitled “Defense: The Moment of Truth”, Brustlein says this new US disinterest “shines a cold light on the military capability areas in which France and Europe are dependent on the United States”.

In response to these and other geostrategic shifts, European Union nations have already announced plans for a significant increase in defense spending. In his September 2016 State of the Union speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker highlighted the importance of investing in common defense capabilities, including cyber security.

“If Europe does not take care of its own security, nobody else will do it for us,” Juncker said. “A strong, competitive and innovative defense industrial base is what will give us strategic autonomy."

In late November the European Union announced significant increases in defense spending, including allocating €5.5 billion annually to help members purchase military hardware such as updating their arsenals with drones.

As part of a new European Defence Action Plan, the European Commission also proposed €25 million for defense research as part of the 2017 budget, forseeing that this could rise to as much as €90 million leading up to 2020.
EURO Stealth Fighter in Action

France’s chief of staff for defense, General Pierre de Villiers said that "today’s threats necessitate a “comprehensive” response, “because winning the war is not enough to secure the peace”.

The world has returned to being a system of competing great powers, Villers wrote. “At the gates of Europe, in Asia, in the Near and Middle East, more and more countries are pursuing strategies based on the balance of power. Look at the facts: all are re-arming.”

The possibility of a new Franco-German partnership to fill the vacuum left by Britain has also been raised as a possibility. Berlin and Paris have both said they want to strengthen the Eurocorps, a military group of EU and NATO states, and are considering ways to deploy EU forces more rapidly.

At a November meeting of EU defense and foreign ministers in Brussels, officials were authorized to to go ahead with a protocol known as “permanent structured cooperation” or Pesco, which could include the establishment of a military headquarters to run EU missions. An article under the EU treaty,

German Leopard Tank in action  (photo Alamy)
Pesco calls for the permanent integration of military forces but has never been implemented.
Participating member states may be called upon to increase the "interoperability, flexibility and deployability" of their troops and coordinate their procurement plans.

So far, the EU appears to be taking steps to meet the challenges posed by recent geostrategic shifts. But in an October speech, French President François Hollande warned Europe against falling back into a sense of complacency.

Hollande said : “There are countries – European countries – that think the United States will always be there to protect them,” he said. “[There] are some that think the conflicts in the Middle East don’t concern them, that Africa has no link to Europe apart from a few migrants…”

“Those countries must be warned,” he said. “Today we’re in a global world. Conflicts necessarily affect us. So those European countries must be told – and I won’t stop doing so – that if they don’t defend themselves they will no longer be defended.”

Read more: EU, French militaries prepare to go it alone after Brexit, US warnings - France 24

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