The trend was most clearly demonstrated by European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who called for the EU to create an army. He told Die Welt on March 8 that “a common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values.”
His statements received broad support, especially in Germany. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that “a European army is the future,” and Chancellor Angela Merkel called for “deeper military cooperation in Europe.”
But talk is cheap. Juncker has made comments like these before, as have von der Leyen and other German officials. Juncker has almost no power to make these wishes a reality and Germany has, for now, left the European-army project in the “too hard” tray. Instead, Germany is trying to build it gradually by integrating its military with its neighbors’ militaries one nation at a time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has given this more gradual, but more concrete, cooperation a boost.
At the start of March, Denmark and Sweden pledged to increase their military cooperation. Their deal focused on peacetime operations, such as exchange of information and shared use of territorial waters and airspace.
Meanwhile, Central and Eastern Europe are full of signs that nations are fearful of Russia. Lithuania announced on February 24 that it would reintroduce conscription—compulsory military service for all men ages 19 to 26.
“Poland wants to play a bigger role than just being a security consumer,” said Gustav Gressel, defense analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It wants to be a bigger part of a strong European alliance” (Newsweek, February 16). Poland and Germany are also working on plans to form a Polish brigade under German command, and vice versa.
Most important is Europe’s de facto leader—Germany. Germany had been planning military cuts. Its tank force, numbering 3,500 during the Cold War, is down to 350, and it had been planning to cut that number to 225. However, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported February 26 that these reductions may be scrapped, with Germany instead bringing weapons, including tanks, out of storage. Germany’s reserves of stored tanks mean it can increase the power of its forces quickly.
Creating the European army that Jean-Claude Juncker has called for is a huge undertaking. The proudest moments in any European nations’ military history are usually the defeat of some other European nation. Asking Europe to come together in a common force is a tall order and will require a powerful incentive.
Russia is providing that incentive. We are seeing the beginnings of Europe’s reaction to the threat from the east. ▪
Full article: Is Europe Getting Ready to Fight Back? (The Trumpet)