An Army of the Europeans

BERLIN ( – The program of the Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, included discussions on new steps toward creating an “army of the Europeans,” concerns over the possible erosion of the West’s “margin in defence capabilities” vis à vis Russia and China, as well as the role of artificial intelligence in future wars. Unlike the Munich Security Conference, this conference is not oriented on foreign policy but specifically on military policy and the arms industry, with more than a thousand military and business representatives, state officials, and politicians participating. Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen used the platform to launch a debate on steps toward limiting parliamentary reservations concerning an “army of the Europeans.” In the future, “Europe may have to provide for its own security, perhaps even completely independently” from US support, according to experts. This calls for rapidly enhancement of the use of artificial intelligence in warfare and a “European narrative” to legitimize EU wars.

Military union in the making

At this year’s Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen promoted new steps toward creating an “army of the Europeans.” According to von der Leyen, “the question is no longer if, but how to reach strategic autonomy” of the EU with its own armed forces. “The European defence union is in the making.”[1] Delicate questions will be raised in the near future, such as that of establishing “independent command capabilities,” alongside those of NATO, for future EU missions and streamlining decision-making structures. German parliamentary reservations should not be abolished, but rather reframed. Brussels could establish a “committee of legislators from national parliaments specializing in defence,” which could rapidly prepare decisions – in questions of war and peace.

In addition, compulsory EU consensus in foreign policy should be abandoned. “European foreign policy decisions on the basis of large majority support must be made possible.” This would mean that individual member countries could be compelled to support a foreign policy against to their interests.

Strategic autonomy

The German foreign policy establishment is already discussing the outline for the further development of the “army of the Europeans.” To actually achieve “strategic autonomy, Europe, more than ever must provide for its own security – perhaps even completely,” according to Jan Techau, Director of the European Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.[2] This would mean that, not only conventional, but “nuclear deterrence,” as well, must be “independently organized in Europe.”[3] This, in turn, must be accompanied “by a significantly enhanced independent intelligence competence and activity.”

Furthermore, with the “shift of acts of aggression to the sector of information technology (IT), and the hybrid warfare in the sectors of media and public opinion influence,” the guarantee of European security will be extended to fields, where Europe … is not among the world leaders,” concluded Techau.

In the future, “the Europeans, and above all, Germany, must accomplish in these fields things that, by far, surpass what the United States has been able to achieve until now.” The “scope of the task” also demands that in the future “strategy be taught at German universities … and strategic education be required as a career-obligation for all civil servants from the B-6 salary level upwards.” And ultimately, “a federal security council” should “be the hub connecting the various strands of ministerial activities on all central questions” so that “the chancellor may have access to thorough strategic advice.”

Booming Western military budgets

At the Berlin Security Conference, experts gave voice to their worries about whether the West’s margin in defence capabilities vis à vis Russia and China is not “eroding.”[4] Both countries are “growing stronger” in armaments, according to Jürgen Beyerer, Chair of the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies, and Image Exploitation (IOSB). The high government expenditures for the military have made this possible. In fact, China and Russia are spending much less on their armed forces than western powers.

This can be seen in statistics published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). According to these statistics, the US military budget for 2017 was at US $602.8 billion, compared to US $150.5 billion for China and US $61.2 billion for Russia – one-tenth of the US military budget.[5] Russia is even investing less for its military needs than Saudi Arabia, with US $76.7 billion. In 2017, with US $163.9 billion, the four EU countries with the largest military budgets, earmarked for their armed forces more than China and nearly three times more than Russia. Moreover, Germany is drastically increasing its military budget, which went from €34 billion in 2015 to €38.9 billion this year and will spend €43.2 billion next year on the Bundeswehr. Berlin also has additional plans for billions in “authorized commitments” to expensive arms projects. The Bundeswehr’s new “capability profile” shows that Germany’s military budget is supposed to be increased to around €60 billion by 2023. ( reported.[6]) Germany would be spending more on its military than Russia does currently.

Mechanical war intelligence

At the Berlin Security Conference not only the debate about cyber, drone, and robotic warfare is playing an increasingly prominent role, but also the question of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for military purposes. The fact that wars of the future will “above all be waged in cyber space,” as well as with drones and robots is clear; “presence” on the battlefield “is no longer required” to wage war.[7] “Mechanical intelligence will also be seen on the battlefields of the future.” AI will “develop so rapidly,” that human decision making “will be lagging behind.”[8]

In the debate among German elites, AI plays a role in predicting future conflicts. For example, experts expect that the use of robots in industry will put masses, particularly “in countries of the southern hemisphere,” out of work and this “proletariat, made ‘useless’ through digitalization will … resist the state order.” AI can predict this sort of conflict, it is claimed.[9] Should rebellions actually take place, “defence forces” can “isolate” the areas of conflict (“‘no-go’-areas”), “fencing them in with automatic barriers and monitor them with drones.” This is but one example of the variety of AI uses.

A “European narrative”

The experts were also discussing the issue of how future European wars of this kind can be best conveyed to the population. For example Géza Andreas von Geyr, who heads the Political Department in Germany’s Ministry of Defence, was quoted saying during a podium discussion at the security conference that “a common European narrative” is needed, to be able to infuse “the term ‘European Defence Union’ deep into the society of the European population.” “Robust missions” of the “army of the Europeans” must be included in this calculation.”[10] In such a case, this “narrative” could help to counteract potential opposition to the EU’s future wars.

For more information on this theme see also Coalition of Those Willing to Go to War (II).


[1] Rede der Verteidigungsministerin zur Eröffnung der Berlin Security Conference. 27.11.2018.

[2] Jan Techau: Strategiefähigkeit und Weltschmerz. Die deutsche Außenpolitik bis 2030.

[3] See also Die deutsche Bombe and Die nukleare Frage.

[4] Adrian Bednarski: Erosion des westlichen Verteidigungsvorsprungs? 28.11.2018.

[5] Warum die Welt wieder mehr Geld für Militär ausgibt. 19.02.2018.

[6] See also Die Kosten der Weltpolitik (II).

[7] Katarina Heidrich: “Partner sein über den Ozean hinaus”. 28.11.2018.

[8] Adrian Bednarski: Verteidigung zwischen 5G und KI. 27.11.2018.

[9] Ayad Al-Ani, Jörg Stenzel: Verteidigungsplattformen als Streitkräfte der Zukunft.

[10] Übergreifende politische Kultur notwendig. 27.11.2018.


Coalition of those willing to go to war

26 June 2018 PARIS/BERLIN ( – Germany is participating in a new European military formation that was launched yesterday. Originally a French proposal, the European Intervention Initiative (EII) will be open to EU and Non-EU member countries to join. Expanding the existing EU military cooperation (“PESCO”) with a new operational component, the EII should facilitate rapid decisions on joint military interventions. A first meeting of military commanders from the hitherto nine participant states is set for September. The EII includes Great Britain, which plans to continue its military cooperation with the continent, even after Brexit, as well as Denmark. Since the coordination of military interventions is now officially set outside of the EU framework, Denmark can sidestep the opt-out from EU military policy, it had once granted its population. Referred to by experts as a European “coalition of the willing,” it goes hand in hand with the EU Commission’s militarization plans worth billions and the high-cost German-French arms projects.

Germany’s PESCO

The European Intervention Initiative (EII) derives from the EU policy speech by French President Emanuel Macron at the Sorbonne University on September 26, 2017. His proposals on EU military policy was made at a time, when Berlin had succeeded in largely implementing its positions, while key French demands had been ignored during the negotiations on EU military cooperation – which would soon lead to the launching of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).[1]

PESCO is aimed at aligning the EU member states’ military capabilities and elaborating joint military capacities. The initiative thus complements the EU Defense Fund aimed at enhancing arms research and developing new weapons by European companies.[2] The broad, fairly general approach facilitated the inclusion of 25 of the 28 EU member countries.

The UK, Denmark and Malta do not participate: The UK because it will leave the EU; Denmark, because it had promised its population to opt out of EU military policy, after the “NO” in the Maastricht Treaty referendum; Malta because it still officially maintains its neutrality – unlike Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria. However, the Maltese government is explicitly reserving the right to join PESCO at a later stage.[3]

France’s intervention initiative

Already during the PESCO negotiations, France had advocated a different approach, aimed less at broad participation and more toward a reliable disposition and capacity for rapid military interventions – due to the French armed forces’ heavy “overstress,” as the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) has noted in its recent analysis.

From the French perspective, “EU structures are of little help for rapid interventions.”[4] French Defense Minister Florence Parly complained last weekend, “decision-making within the EU framework is still very slow.”[5] When it became evident that Berlin would prevail in the PESCO negotiations, Paris began planning an alternative format – the “Initiative européenne d’intervention.” In his speech at the Sorbonne, Macron called on the EU not only to launch a joint intervention force at the beginning of the coming decade, but also to establish a joint military budget and military doctrine.[6] Parly reiterated that, in the future, France no longer wants to wage wars alone – such as (“Opération Serval”) in Mali 2013 – but “together with others.”

Independent of alliances

Following final negotiations between President Macron and Chancellor Merkel last week, the European Intervention Initiative (EII) was officially launched on Monday. Formally independent of the EU, it is not dependent on lengthy concertations within the Union. It also facilitates the UK’s post-Brexit inclusion. London, which, since 2010, had already concluded special military agreements with Paris – which had also served as the basis for the joint aggression against Libya,[7] – is part of the Initiative’s inner circle. Denmark is also involved. Because the Initiative is not a formal EU project, its inclusion does not formally contradict the Danish opt-out from EU military policy clause. The EII includes the initiator France, along with Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as Estonia, quasi as a representative of the anti-Russian oriented East European countries. Finland explicitly reserves the right to join later. The EII’s future expansion to include NATO-member Norway, for example, is considered feasible.

The military as normative force

Under German pressure, the EII has been somewhat downgraded and coupled with PESCO. Berlin considers that French-inspired interventions that run counter to German interests can be more easily obstructed within an EU framework. The initiative, at least for the time being, is not aimed at creating its own troop formations, but merely a regular coordination at the military command level. The participating countries will dispatch a liaison officer to the French operation headquarters.[8] Top commanders of their militaries will hold a meeting in Paris in mid September to elaborate their first work plan.[9] A situation analysis and a joint development of intervention plans are among the items on the agenda. The French government is expressly focusing on the creation of a single “strategic culture,” wherein military practice will develop to have a normative effect. In fact, until now, as the DGAP explains, “the perception had predominated that jointly elaborated strategy documents, such as a European white paper, must be the first step for a European approach.”[10]

Such an approach would have given the EU’s leading power, Germany, an advantage, however with stronger accent on military practice, particularly in Africa, an experienced France can hope for prevalence. This explains Berlin’s somewhat remaining hesitation.

Russia in the sights

The creation of the new EII goes hand in hand with the expansion of PESCO and the EU Commission’s new plans to upgrade the infrastructure of the EU countries – particularly their roads, rails and bridges – to meet military standards. 6.5 billion euros over the next decade have been earmarked for this project alone. Berlin and Paris are also energetically promoting billions in arms projects.[11]

On the sidelines of last week’s Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting, Defense Minister von der Leyen and her French counterpart, Parly agreed on the next steps toward the development of a modern German-French jet fighter, destined to succeed the Eurofighter in 2040, and the development of a German-French successor to the Leopard-2 battle tank. Paris will direct the project of the jet fighter production, developed jointly by Airbus and France’s Dassault group (“Rafale”), while Berlin will be in charge of the battle tank, produced by KNDS – the merger of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann with the French company Nexter. The tank is explicitly supposed to be equipped to meet the challenge of the highly modernized Russian T-14 Armata. The jet fighter is said to be conceived to operate in coordination with drones and swarms of drones and must be able to overcome Russia’s most modern S400 air defence systems. A possible adversary of the EU’s future wars is thereby already clearly in the sights of the German-French arms production.


[1]            See also Launching the Military Union.

[2]           See also Billions for European Wars (II) and Europas strategische Rüstungsautonomie.

[3]           Malta among three countries opting out of EU’s new defence agreement. 11.12.2017.

[4]           Claudia Major, Christian Mölling: Die Europäische Interventionsinitiative EI2. Warum mitmachen für Deutschland die richtige Entscheidung ist. DGAPkompakt Nr. 10, Juni 2018.

[5]           Florence Parly: «L’Europe de la défense nécessite une culture stratégique commune». 24.06.2018.

[6]           Initiative pour l’Europe – Discours d’Emmanuel Macron pour une Europe souveraine, unie, démocratique. Paris, 26 septembre 2017.

[7]           See also Die neue Entente Cordiale and Der neue Frontstaat des Westens.

[8]           Claudia Major, Christian Mölling: Die Europäische Interventionsinitiative EI2. Warum mitmachen für Deutschland die richtige Entscheidung ist. DGAPkompakt Nr. 10, Juni 2018.

[9]           Florence Parly: «L’Europe de la défense nécessite une culture stratégique commune». 24.06.2018.

[10]         Claudia Major, Christian Mölling: Die Europäische Interventionsinitiative EI2. Warum mitmachen für Deutschland die richtige Entscheidung ist. DGAPkompakt Nr. 10, Juni 2018.

[11]          See also Die Rüstungsachse Berlin-Paris.

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