Laurentiu Rebega — European Security: A Partnership with the US and NATO
Guest: Laurentiu Rebega, EU MEP for Romania
Europe’s security architecture was designed after World War II in the closest connection with the United States.
This is how NATO emerged and developed.
As a result, Europe has been able to focus on economic, social and cultural development, along with security and defense.
But welfare cannot be thought of without security, because it needs a protective umbrella, and this umbrella remains NATO, in which the US contribution has been decisive.
This Europe-US axis now seems to shake as the world’s challenges have changed compared to the Cold War period.
The economic factor has become paramount.
But this should not lead to a separation of Europe’s interests from those of the US.
The Munich Security Conference recently highlighted both the common issues and differences between the US and Europe on a number of topics, such as the Iranian nuclear file, climate issues, trade, and most importantly, relations to NATO.
The construction of a European army seemed an alternative to NATO and a parallel path to the US-Europe partnership.
This interpretation is a mistake.
We either abandon investing in a parallel structure with NATO, or if the EU leaders necessarily want the Union to have its own army, it must be integrated and compatible with the existing NATO structures.
It is no secret that the countries in Central and Eastern Europe consider the US to be their security guarantee.
But let us not forget that Western Europe also did so during the entire Cold War!
A conjunctive split from the US, driven by economic momentum, would be a huge mistake.
The EU neither functions as a United States of Europe, nor does it seem to ever succeed in doing so in complicated fields as defense and security.
If we take the European countries separately, they are too small compared to the great military forces of the 21st century to be able to defend themselves.
In addition, I repeat, defense and security were not priorities in post-war Europe, because this essential part of guaranteeing the prosperity and security of citizens was achieved in close collaboration with the US.
This constant of the last 75 years since the end of the Second World War or the last 70 years, since the date NATO was established, cannot be rejected without major security risks for Europe.
The EU has not yet managed to secure its borders and solve the problem of non-EU migration, which creates major problems.
This has divided the European states to an unprecedented degree since the creation of the Union.
Immigrants are not the same as an army invasion!
So, before launching into their own armies, Europe should realistically calculate its chances of securing its own defense and security and be cautious in making radical changes.
The EU urgently needs a reform at all levels, with more and more European leaders and specialists.
Many have explained the need for this reform if we want Europe to have a future.
But in the field of defense and security, things are more complicated because we have to deal with global forces that are way ahead of us.
A mainly French-German European army may raise the question of whether it will also cover the needs of other states, smaller countries, or those joining the Union later,
This is a matter that will be raised by all countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
In addition, if the European Army is to function as taking other European decisions have they will require at least six months to reach consensus, if ever it is achieved.
When it comes to the issue of migration, which is also linked to European security, it is clear that we will never have a unitary position.
Is a European Army an unnecessary army?
No conflict waits for the kind of infinite debate we have been accustomed to lately at the level of the European institutions.
Often because the positions of the Member States cannot be aligned, compromise solutions that do nothing are found, or they simply postpone the discussions for a later date.
I am sorry to say so brutally, but the defense and security of a vast and complex space cannot be achieved with amendments and negotiations that last for years and years between member countries.
The war will end before we make a decision on how to react to or fight it!
A good practice in old age tells us that one should not ruin a thing, even if it is imperfect, before you have something better to put in its place.
The US-Europe partnership has been the best thing that has ever happened to Europe in the last hundred years.
NATO has been the institutional form to ensure Europe’s defense and security that proved effective for decades.
The fact that in Europe, under the umbrella of NATO, there are no more wars and armed conflicts is not proof of the lack of NATO’s utility but, on the contrary, it is proof the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s force to prevent and deter conflicts.
NATO should be just as “useless” as it has allegedly been.
We all should wish that in the next 70 years of its existence, we would not know the horrors of war.
I think this is NATO’s mission and thus proves it utility.
Europe and the US need to find a formula for smoothing out and continuing to support each other.
The defense and security of Europe has a cost, and that is where the dispute has mainly focused.
Of course we would like the money for defense to be used elsewhere, because the needs are many and are always behind in some aspect that we want to improve.
But our economic development is worthless if it is not protected and secured.
This is what every company and every bank knows.
This is why anyone who spreads values invests a lot in the security of the goods it owns or works with.
Europe must not make the mistake of considering itself as a realm full of values that is not threatened by anyone and therefore does not need defense.
Welfare and material values also attract unwanted enthusiasts.
Let’s not wake up in the situation of a jewelry shop that does not want to pay for security in order to get more profit.
Of course, no jewelry store would do that.
The real and lasting security of Europe cannot be conceived without the US.
Europe needs the US and I dare to hope that the US needs Europe too.
We have to be fair partners and listen to what our overseas partner has to say and to invest in this relationship.
I will be straightforward and say that I do not think that Germany can take the place of the US in ensuring Europe’s defense and security.
Indeed, no other country in Europe can do this for the entire Union!
As for a European army, it would have too many Generals and too few soldiers and would be more effective in debating than in real combat.
Europe needs effective and efficient defense and security, not roundtables and amendments to the views of some and others about the concept of safety.
No scholarship will defend us from threats.
NATO is much safer and more useful than any debate about a possible European Army.
The US and Europe must return to the table of negotiations and find an agreement that is valid for the long-term future.
We have to take into account the costs. If we complain that participation in NATO is too expensive, how do we ask EU member states, most of which are already members of NATO, to pay for yet another similar organization?
In addition to their (agreed 2 % of GDP) contribution to NATO, they would have to pay a consistent amount to the European Army.
Many countries are not paying their fair share 2 % of GDP, including Germany.
So we do not have 2 percent of GDP for NATO, but we have a similar or even greater sum to create a new European army!
For the time being, this contribution would be paid in addition to the contribution to the North- Atlantic Treaty Organization.
This is duplicative and uncalled for.
Europe cannot afford the luxury of giving up NATO or arguing with the US.
If we approach things the most pragmatic way possible the European Army idea has to go away.
We do not live in quiet times, so we can afford to remain defenseless while philosophizing about the best and cheapest solution that will ensure peace and security.
It is time to be realistic and focus on improving what we have, not on destroying it.
It is the same situation as with the European Union, itself, to which we can all complain about its failures.
The solution is not to dismantle it, but to fully reform and improve it so that it will come closer to our ideals and will respond to the expectations of all the European citizens.
In a similar way, we can constantly improve NATO’s performance and our relationship with the US.
We Europeans do not have to go anywhere else or build an unneeded Army – we have no place to go.
The US and Europe must stay together.
Laurentiu Rebega, EU MEP for Romania