In 2015, an American military base
with terrestrial interceptors in Romania will commence operations, followed by
another one in Poland in 2018. These will be part of an anti-missile system
featuring satellite, ground and sea radar systems. The shield is meant to
protect Europe from a possible attack from Iran and other threats.
What does the anti-missile shield cost us?
But what will we have to compromise in order to receive America's protection? Why can't Europe form its own defence mechanism? The idea of a European common defence is strongly supported by France and Germany. Perhaps it is about time to seriously consider it.
There are those who claim that we do not have any enemies; nobody is going to invade Europe and thus we don't need an army. If such were the case, we definitely would not need the United States to protect us. But why else would European governments allow US missiles on European soil?
Perhaps this arrangement is an exchange for other commercial or financial preferences and investments by the United States- but such deals do not come without a price. Europe might no longer be able to form its own independent foreign policy in some areas. Our relations with our neighbours, like Russia, who strongly protest against missile installments, could never be enhanced as long as we have missiles between us, acting as the proverbial elephant in the room.
Why do we keep living in the Cold War era? Does the West still need a potential enemy, so that we can explain the vast amount of money we spend on weaponry and defence in Europe, and not on education or infrastructure?
Arms companies stand to profit hugely from this deal, but the European relationship with our neighbours the Russians could be permanently destabilised. We might have our differences, but in the end Europe shares its borders with Russia - and we rely on them for our gas and oil rather then on the USA.
Strength by closing ranks - An European army
We should seek to have better
relations with Russia and end this "Cold War mentality". Surely no
state or faction would attack Europe if we stick together, especially not
Russia, which makes vast amounts of money through trade of gas and oil with
Europe. As for Iran or anybody else for that matter, why would they attack a
united Europe? Can any state have hopes of winning a conflict while having to
face all European states together?
In my view a common EU defence would give us the autonomy to decide our own foreign policy. And that is something that we need. We are not talking about creating one single army to replace all the national ones, but rather about a small but highly equipped and trained one. National armies could continue to exist independently, while the European army would simply offer assistance to any state in need.
With the possibility of facing not just one army but a highly organised European one too, together with the possibility of a more European reaction, what is the actual likelihood of an attack on Europe? The very existence of a common European army and policy would be our best form of defence. More European solidarity and support for one another would be our answer to any potential threat.
Some others that oppose the creation of a common European defence also point out that we need the "Anglo-American" intelligence and that by using theirs, we do not have to pay and/or create a new army from the scratch. They propose that we should allow the US to protect us and invest the money in other causes.
Each NATO country contributes to its budget, so why not use this money to support our own army? Why do we need other nations' intelligence while we could create an intelligence network of our own? European armies got involved in wars that we should not have, in Iraq and Afghanistan, because most of the European states are NATO members.
Supporters of NATO claim that it has kept peace in Europe and provided us with protection over all these years. In my opinion the organisation is a remnant of the Cold War days, when Europe was divided in two and one half was under the protection but also the control of the USA and the other half under the Warsaw Pact controlled by the Soviet Union.
Can a military Europe replace NATO?
Today Europe is more united than ever before and it does not need the protection of any third powers. Protection from others is the equivalent of a dependent status. How can Europe become a bigger player in the world without a clear, united, firm and independent voice in all political, military and economic fields?
The NATO alliance has changed from its origin as defence mechanism to a tool, used to promote the interests of some Western powers' elites, notably the oil and arms industries' elites. Some countries, especially the newer EU members in central and eastern Europe, think that by joining they will receive lump sums of money, military training from the USA and protection from Russia. Why can't a united Europe provide them with all these?
These countries also want to send a message to Russia that its dominance over them is over; that they have gained their freedom and autonomy. Well by becoming dependent on another power, the freedom becomes relative again. They just have changed their protectors and remain part of the same theater scene with different actors. Why not combine and unite our resources and potentials to become equal partners for those who seek protection?
Another point for the creation of a common defence policy is that an army is not used only in cases of war, but also during natural disasters and for controlling the borders against illegal immigrants, drugs, weapons and human trafficking into Europe. In cooperation with FRONTEX, they could guard our outer borders since there are few inside the Union due to the Schengen agreement.
All countries should contribute either financially or by providing equipment and with volunteering staff, since it is not only up to the countries on the borders to safeguard them. If one country has weak borders, we all suffer the consequences.
I believe that the European states should get out of the NATO alliance and create their own defence system, so that we will be more independent from the USA both military and politically. It is not the case that that Europe and America should drift apart totally; what I envision is a more equal partnership between Europe, Russia and the United States.
Many EU member states keep up their neutral status but they already participate in all EU peacekeeping forces, like Ireland and Sweden. Contributing to Europe's defence is not different to protecting their own borders - borders that are increasingly coming down between the European states. A European army, solely introduced for defence purposes, could be comprised of volunteer officers from all member states, because all member states stand to gain from this army in the event of national emergencies.
The army I envision could be allowed to participate in peacekeeping operations but only after the European Parliament's agreement and at the request of the UN. In fact the European Parliament should be given the command of the European army and the control of the European common defence policy's budget, bringing a higher level of democracy to extremely important defence decisions. Nations that still want to opt out should be able to do so if the public opinion agrees on it.
This is a plan that has still a long way to go, because most Europeans still feel that Europe has other priorities to deal with, before investing in another common policy. Understandably, many Europeans are wary of any plans for the militarisation of Europe. What they do not realise is that as long as we rely on others for protection, we do not have any choice about which conflicts we get involved in.