Going It Alone

by Andrew Stuttaford

If we ignore its disreputable role in Kosovo (partition it already), the EU has played an impressive role in the anchoring of formerly communist Europe in the West, and, going back a few decades, it did much to assist in the reinforcement of nascent democracies in Spain, Portugal and (ahem) Greece, but these were all exercises in soft power, and, of course, handy reminders of the power of money.

When it comes to the rougher stuff, the EU (which is something rather less than an alliance) does not have what it takes to be some sort of policeman. Cash and logistical support is one thing, boots on the ground quite another.

EUObserver reports:

BRUSSELS – A senior French military officer has said France is better off without Nato or EU help to reconquer north Mali. Colonel Michel Goya, a serving officer and an expert at the l’Institut de Recherche Strategique de l’Ecole Militaire in Paris, told EUobserver in an interview on Thursday (24 January): “We have more freedom of action if we do it alone than if we go through Nato procedures. It would be even worse at the EU level. If we do it alone, it’s more efficient in military terms.”

He said Nato operations run into problems because some countries take a back seat.

“In Afghanistan, you have some countries who really fight and others who do very little. For example, the German contingent and the Italian contingent don’t have a combat role [to be more fair, the colonel ought to have pointed out that both countries have taken their losses in Afghanistan]. There are many countries who do not want to fight, so working in the coalition is very tough,” he noted.

“In Libya, we were less efficient because we used Nato command structures … If you have to react quickly to events, it’s better to do it at a national or bi-national level,” he said.

He was even more critical of EU “battlegroups.”

France, Germany and Poland on 1 January activated the Weimar Battlegroup – a joint force of 1,700 men which can, on paper, be sent to a hotspot within five to 10 days of the decision being made. “The EU doesn’t know how to wage war. It’s not prepared to launch military operations of this type [Mali],” Goya said.

“Battlegroups are fine if there is no combat…

That’s not so strange. The thought of fighting (real fighting, that is, as opposed to bureaucratic power plays) beneath the EU flag, let alone risking death for it, would inspire very few. 

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