Barcelona's maritime specialization would be welcome in the Mediterranean.Well back in August 2014, I wrote here about “The Military Implications of Scottish and Catalonian Secession.” After this past weekend’s events in Catalonia, I thought that I should republish a slightly updated version of that essay, this time focusing on the Catalan question. It is important to remember, after all, that the secessionist government in Barcelona has indeed endorsed joining both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Fairly, both organizations have warned that accession is not remotely automatic, depending rather on the agreement of every existing member state. Those are slightly different lists of 28 countries, and one must only remember the juvenile and endless exclusion of Macedonia by the Greeks—over a branding dispute—to understand how long a blackballing can last. As two of my Atlantic Council colleagues once questioned, the EU may not soon admit Catalonia, as some member states (particularly Belgium) have cause to fear further secessionist activity.
To rebuild robust air forces, Europeans should just get back to basics.Early last month, as David Cenciotti of The Aviationist reported, A-10Cs of the Maryland Air National Guard were again practicing landings and take-offs from stretches of highway in Estonia, though with occasional casualties amongst the roadsigns. About a year prior, it was A-10Cs of the Regulars, out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, doing the same thing on a different stretch of Estonian road. Notably absent from either exercise was the Luftwaffe, the Armée de l’Air, the Aeronautica Militare, and every other European air arm. Yes, they are rotating squadrons through the local air policing mission, but why are they sending no more? Again, those-in-the-know in Europe have been asserting that greater military capabilities without pan-European unification is all-too-difficult, but they won’t step up with a wing or two to actually protect Europeans along the Baltic. Fortunately, as I have been writing here at the end of the summer, I find that European countries can do better, and without the impossible political process of ever-closer union.
To rebuild robust naval forces, Europeans should think less like Americans, and more like Russians.As I noted yesterday, Brexit has opened all sorts of talk about the future of British and European military activities. To continue the argument today, let’s tack towards naval matters. In “All the Queen's Ships” (Proceedings of the US Naval Institute, January 2017), James C. Bennett of the Economic Policy Centre in London recommended formation of a Union Navy, loosely composed of the Royal, Royal Canadian, Royal Australian, and Royal New Zealand Navies, under their single sovereign. As one might expect in his argument, “the four main Westminster democracies” could afford greater military capabilities together than separately. To an American, this might seem another brilliant idea that our allies will never get on with. But if practically speaking, discussing this is a waste of oxygen, then just how silly is talking about forming a single European Navy from the polyglot members of the European Union? To the contrary, Europeans can get on with rebuilding robust naval forces as a continent of equals—just by thinking less like Americans, and more like Russians.
To rebuild robust land forces, Europeans should think a little like Americans, a little like Russians, and otherwise for themselves.Shortly after the Brexit vote last June, those-in-the-know in Europe started calling for a renewed effort at a common European military force. A year ago this month, General Vincenzo Camporini, former head of the Italian general staff, told Defense News that all was now possible, as the obstructionist British were finally leaving. The imperative, as Defense News reported last September, has been variously described as ranging “from budgets and migration to a resurgent Russia or independence from NATO.” As Bloomberg reported that month, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was asserting that the European Union really “can’t do without a common army in the long term,” though solely on the matter of money. Also that month, but from front-line Lithuania, Reuters reported that German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was calling for a “Schengen of defense,” citing one reason in particular: “that is what the Americans expect us to do.”
As an American, I will now belatedly set the record straight. Americans, or at least those in the administration in Washington, would for once like Europeans to manage their own defense. Function, however, will be far more important than form. For decades we have been hearing about the profound importance of a common European Army, and almost nothing has happened. The countries of the European Union can collectively defend their eastern frontier, if they’d just care to do so. What they can’t do is do it as the European Union, so they should just stop trying. Instead, it’s time to move on from that idea, and pick up a few others that might actually work. Getting landward defense of Europe right has at least three organizational axes—national, industrial, and operational—and all can be achieved without exquisite coordination from Brussels.
Whatever opprobrium the president is owed, his administration's more important initiatives deserve attention.
Donald Trump’s twin business advisory panels have collapsed. Members of both the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum had been resigning quickly, and according to today's Wall Street Journal—“CEOs Scrap Trump Panels”—they voted yesterday just to disband. At first, the president asserted that he could replace all the “grandstanders” with compliant substitutes; he later claimed on Twitter that the disbanding was his idea, to save them all from public pressure. In “Why A&D CEOs May Be Happy To No Longer Counsel Trump” (Aviation Week, 16 August), Michael Bruno did opine that “few in the business world are likely” to consider the actions anything but “an astute public relations move.” Then again, Bruno also expressed worry about attracting talent to any organization too closely identified with Trump. In “Trump Loses Corporate America” (Wall Street Journal, 15 August), Holman Jenkins took the hard-nosed view that the administration is proving itself incapable of delivering useful change, so no one in business owes Trump the time of day. Or, we could permit business leaders some righteous outrage after those not-so-presidential prevarications following last weekend’s would-be fascist uprising in Virginia. Either way, after seven months of not-so-businesslike business in the White House, interest amongst business people in taking the man seriously seems to have evaporated.