European Union Defense Policy: An American Perspective

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For almost 50 years, proposals by the EuropeanUnion to develop a common foreign and securitypolicy for all member states failed. Since the late1990s, however, the situation has changed. Despite,or perhaps because of, member states’ disagreementsover Iraq, the EU probably will continue todevelop common foreign and security policies, andthe European Commission may begin to play a rolein developing new European military capabilities.

In the military sphere, the EU may well improveits own operational and long‐​term defense planningand perhaps develop new joint capabilities.On the one hand, that will provide further impetusfor EU military missions independent of NATO.On the other hand, the emergence of a commonEU foreign and security policy will likely lead to aninformal “EU caucus” in NATO, a dynamic thatmay grow with the dual enlargements of bothNATO and the EU. Within 5 to 10 years, the questionmay be whether the EU will undertake a roleas guarantor of European defense and how thatwill mesh, if at all, with NATO’s role.

If the United States is facing a fundamentalshift in how the Europeans approach security anddefense issues, how should U.S. policymakersreact? In the larger picture, are they likely to perceive the EU as a partner, a troublesome obstacle,a potential “counterweight,” or an opponent? Andwhat about our transatlantic security arrangements?For example, what impact would the proposedEU policies and capabilities have onNATO? What will be the impact of the enlargedmembership of NATO and the EU on NATO’sresponse to those changes? How might EU capabilitiesaffect the U.S. role in Europe, or our securityinterests elsewhere in the world?

NATO will have to change as the EU developsits common foreign and security policy; it willhave to adjust to a growing EU military capabilityfor conducting operations outside Europe.And, in 5 to 10 years, the EU may decide that itwants to assume responsibility for the defense ofEurope. In that case, the United States shouldnegotiate a new security relationship withEurope. Under the new treaty arrangements, theUnited States would be responsible for the territorialdefense of the United States, and Europefor the territorial defense of Europe. Both couldcooperate on out‐​of‐​area operations of commonvital interest, using current NATO politicalstructures and the NATO integrated commandas a foundation for future cooperation.

Leslie S. Lebl

Leslie S. Lebl is a former U.S. Foreign Service officer with particular expertise in European political and defense issues. Among her many assignments during a 24‐​year career, she served as minister‐​counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, and she had two tours as political adviser to the commander of stabilization forces (SFOR) in Bosnia‐​Herzegovina.