The Czech Republic and Hungary are two of the recent nations speaking out on the need for greater defense ties. This comes at a time when the Russian Federation eyes at the possibility of resurging its military presence in Eastern Europe, and terrorist attacks from the Middle East have become recurrent on the European continent.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has repeatedly spoke on moving towards a joint defense force across the European Union (EU).
“We should list the issue of security as a priority, and we should start setting up a common European army,” he said to Reuters while meeting with European leaders.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka shares similar reservations with his Hungarian counterpart.
“Certainly the Czech Republic can imagine stronger cooperation in the military area, integration of units, common exercises, and above all securing the capacity to organize operations to support common European foreign policy,” said Sobotka.
Both states do believe that multinational effort is necessary to secure Europe’s borders. The two states agree with their other European nations, but their motives are diverse. These two states have been critical of Germany’s migration policies, and support the use of the collective force to secure their borders and deter threats from the Middle East. Germany and Poland are more focused on having a stronger collective strength against Russia.
The EU currently has its own military, but it is not fully integrated as a unilateral force. 22 of the EU members are already member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, NATO’s purpose served well as mutual defense force during the Cold War as the Western European nations heavily understood the need of a collective force to defend against the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc. The Cold War has been old history for some time and communism fell more than two decades ago, but Europe has been beyond the threats that are usually advocated by the United States.
Speaking of the United States, the US military has been increasing its presence in Eastern Europe. Once Soviet satellite states, joint military drills in Latvia and Estonia have been continually conducted to assure the US’ commitment to their European allies. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military activities in Eastern Ukraine have Eastern Europeans concerned of a possible return of Russian aggression.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, is making strides to push ahead with their plans of an EU army. However, one of their key goals is “to act autonomously” from NATO. Much of the motivation behind this plan comes after Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. The UK has also been a strong military ally for Europe for more than a century, but the UK has also been troublesome for EU prospects. With the UK no longer concerned with the union, momentum towards the EU army has further developed.
“We have the political space today to do things that were not really doable in previous years,” Mogherini told EU ambassadors.
Much of NATO’s members are located in the European continents, but the US’ defense budget and capabilities surpassed all of them combined. Some European politicians are skeptical of the EU army believing that it could lead to tensions with the United States and NATO members outside the union. Also with the US having supported Europe for decades, European leaders wouldn’t want to lose their greatest ally over their military ambitions.
“The US and indeed the UK are being misled if they imagine that such moves will enhance NATO– the key guarantor of our collective defense. On the contrary, creation of EU defense structures, separate from NATO, will only lead to division between transatlantic partners at a time when solidarity is needed in the face of many difficult and dangerous threats to the democracies.” Said Minister of European Parliament Geoffrey Van Orden.
2015’s attacks in France and the following attacks this year are evident to the changing dynamic in European defense. Europe has a history of enemy militants navigating across border nations before attacks. Germany used Belgium twice in both of the World Wars to invade France. Islamic State militants used similar strategies to plan and perform their attack in both states. Europe, obviously, has a colorful history of warfare. The trade organizations and collective security treaties were done to ensure peace in the region which, for the most part, has been successful. As a collective force, Europe could create a military power that rivals the United States, Russia, and China. Alongside Europe’s economy, the EU could become the next competing superpower. However, Europe’s successful history runs deep, and threat from Russia may keep both organizations cooperating and possibly progressing into something greater.