The European Union has announced a new plan to increase defense spending across the continent, in what some are calling a precursor to a larger EU Defense Union.
The European Defense Action Plan calls for a dramatic increase in funding for joint military assets among member nations. The proposal includes increasing immediate expenditures from twenty-five million euros per year to ninety million by 2020, when it will be replaced by a new defense spending program that allocates five hundred million euros annually. An additional fund created in this plan could potentially be worth five billion euros per year, and could be used to help member states acquire expensive military assets like drones in joint purchases with other nations to reduce costs.
The plan is intended to help bolster defense spending throughout the European Union, while also creating a “single market for defense” within the organization. This financial strategy would be modeled after existing “single markets” in Europe designed to aid international trade within the Union like telecoms and energy.
Some believe this influx in military spending within the EU is due to concerns over President Elect Donald Trump’s stance on NATO, who made headlines during his presidential campaign when he suggested that the United States may not come to the aid of its NATO allies in their time of need. Trump’s stance is based on his concerns over many of the organization’s member nations failing to meet their required defense expenditures, opting to rely instead on the military might of the United States.
John Bolton, rumored to be a contender for Secretary of State under President Trump, said he believed any effort to establish a joint European military body must be considered a sign of withering confidence in NATO in the face of Trump’s hard line stance on the organization.
“If they actually got to the point of achieving [a true EU military capability] – that would be a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO,” Bolton said during an appearance on Breitbart News Daily radio on Wednesday. “If the EU says, ‘Actually, we can defend ourselves,’ I tell you, there are a lot of Americans who would say, ‘Fine, and by the way, the next time an authoritarian militaristic society threatens you, let us know how it turns out.’”
Trump’s message may have been received loud and clear by some foreign leaders. Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, seemed to agree with Trumps sentiments in his statement following the unveiling of the new plan.
“If Europe does not take care of its own security, nobody else will do it for us,” Juncker said in his statement, “A strong, competitive and innovative defense industrial base is what will give us strategic autonomy.” Juncker has gone on record in the past with his desire to expand the European Union’s military role and ultimately calls for a joint “European Army” to protect and defend the affiliated nations.
The head of foreign affairs for the European Union, Federica Mogherini, said that the new plan and increased emphasis on European security has nothing to do with concerns about Trump’s loyalty to NATO, nor is it a precursor to a European army.
“We are not talking about a European headquarters here … about a European army,” Mogherini told reporters. “It is about streamlining what we have to make EU defense work better … it is not about competition or duplication.” She then added that all member states were “fully on board” with the announced plans.
The European Union is comprised of twenty-eight member nations, twenty-two of which are also members of NATO. Among the nations claiming membership in both camps is Britain, who has outwardly demonstrated opposition to any EU measure that could undermine the NATO alliance, which includes its closest ally, the United States.
The proposal will be discussed by member nations at the EU’s leader’s summit this coming December, where defense is expected to a primary topic for conversation. Concerns about changes that may come the following month when Donald Trump takes office as the President of the United States are also expected to be discussed.
Image courtesy of the EU Public Affairs Office