Brexit casts doubt over new EU and NATO defense strategy
Robin Emmott, Reuters, Jun 2016
BRUSSELS – Britain’s departure from the EU risks undermining Europe’s new defense strategy, days before NATO and EU governments sign a landmark pact to confront a range of threats from Russia to the Mediterranean, officials say. The EU and Pindostan plan to use two separate EU and NATO summits in the coming days to push reforms of the West’s two main security pillars, aimed at reducing Europe’s reliance on Washington in its own neighbourhood. A senior Western boxtop said:
Things are going to be a lot harder. NATO planned on linking itself up to a stronger EU, not being the default option for a weakened, divided bloc.
The EU needs to “act autonomously if and when necessary,” EU’s Mogherini will tell EU leaders on Tuesday as she unveils a five-year global strategy plan seen by Reuters. That symbolic step, which urges governments to coordinate defense spending, has strong support from Germany and France. But it could look hollow without Britain, which has the largest military budget in the EU, diplomats say. One of five EU countries with the resources to command an overseas military mission for the bloc, Britain has been a big contributor to EU-led operations, paying about 15% of the costs and providing assets. Britain also leads the EU’s counter-piracy “Operation Atalanta” mission off the Horn of Africa, has ships patrolling the Mediterranean and is committed to providing troops for EU battle groups, although they have never been deployed. Mogherini’s proposals to EU leaders will include a call for EU-led missions to work with a new EU border guard to control migrant flows. That could be harder without British ships. NATO Sec-Gen Stoltenberg said:
What Britain does matters. Britain is the biggest security provider in Europe.
Britain has resisted closer European defense cooperation. British Def Sec Fallon told Reuters this month:
Nobody wants to see their troops controlled from Brussels.
Some hope that, without London blocking EU plans, France and Germany could lead what Berlin calls a “common defense union” to develop and share assets. France has pushed the idea of an EU military headquarters, independent of NATO, to run missions. (But) NATO and the EU will cement their growing cooperation from the Baltics to the Aegean at a NATO summit in Warsaw in July. At the EU level, governments are discussing a common defense fund to pool resources to develop helicopters, drones, ships and satellites. Until Britain’s referendum vote to leave the EU, Pindostan had been looking to Britain to act as a bridge between NATO and the EU in the process. That was designed to allow Washington to focus on other worries, including a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea. Such concerns were underscored on Monday by Jackass Kerry, who flew to Brussels to meet Mogherini and Stoltenberg. Jackass said:
Pindostan cares about a strong EU.
Immediately after Britain’s referendum last week, Stoltenberg said Britain’s Fallon had assured him it remained committed to upholding Western stability. Stoltenberg said he had told him London would not jeopardize joint EU-NATO efforts. Britain could also join EU missions outside the bloc, as Canada and non-EU member Norway have done, although it would not be able to shape long-term strategy. Pindostan’s focus appears to be urging Britain to take an even bigger role in NATO. The alliance’s summit in Warsaw will be London’s first chance to reaffirm its Atlanticist credentials. The senior Western official said:
NATO becomes even more important to keep Britain engaged internationally. We don’t want Britain to become a Little England.