“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, November 11, 2017

An EU Army Will be a Disaster for Freedom - "When soldiers go and fight for a foreign power ..... aren't they called mercenaries?"

Germany Is Quietly Building a European Army Under Its Command

Berlin is using a bland name to obscure a dramatic shift in its approach to defense: integrating brigades from smaller countries into the Bundeswehr.


Every few years, the idea of an EU army finds its way back into the news, causing a kerfuffle. The concept is both fantasy and bogeyman: For every federalist in Brussels who thinks a common defense force is what Europe needs to boost its standing in the world, there are those in London and elsewhere who recoil at the notion of a potential NATO rival.

But this year, far from the headlines, Germany and two of its European allies, the Czech Republic and Romania, quietly took a radical step down a path toward something that looks like an EU army while avoiding the messy politics associated with it: They announced the integration of their armed forces.

Romania’s entire military won’t join the Bundeswehr, nor will the Czech armed forces become a mere German subdivision. But in the next several months each country will integrate one brigade into the German armed forces: Romania’s 81st Mechanized Brigade will join the Bundeswehr’s Rapid Response Forces Division, while the Czech 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, which has served in Afghanistan and Kosovo and is considered the Czech Army’s spearhead force, will become part of the Germans’ 10th Armored Division. In doing so, they’ll follow in the footsteps of two Dutch brigades, one of which has already joined the Bundeswehr’s Rapid Response Forces Division and another that has been integrated into the Bundeswehr’s 1st Armored Division. According to Carlo Masala, a professor of international politics at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich, “The German government is showing that it’s willing to proceed with European military integration” — even if others on the continent aren’t yet.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has repeatedly floated the idea of an EU army, only to be met with either ridicule or awkward silence. That remains the case even as the U.K., a perennial foe of the idea, is on its way out of the union. There’s little agreement among remaining member states over what exactly such a force would look like and which capabilities national armed forces would give up as a result. And so progress has been slow going. This March, the European Union created a joint military headquarters — but it’s only in charge of training missions in Somalia, Mali, and the Central African Republic and has a meager staff of 30. Other multinational concepts have been designed, such as the Nordic Battle Group, a small 2,400-troop rapid reaction force formed by the Baltic states and several Nordic countries and the Netherlands, and Britain’s Joint Expeditionary Force, a “mini-NATO” whose members include the Baltic states, Sweden, and Finland. But in the absence of suitable deployment opportunities, such operations-based teams may as well not exist.

But under the bland label of the Framework Nations Concept, Germany has been at work on something far more ambitious — the creation of what is essentially a Bundeswehr-led network of European miniarmies. “The initiative came out of the weakness of the Bundeswehr,” said Justyna Gotkowska, a Northern Europe security analyst at Poland’s Centre for Eastern Studies think tank. “The Germans realized that the Bundeswehr needed to fill gaps in its land forces … in order to gain political and military influence within NATO.” An assist from junior partners may be Germany’s best shot at bulking out its military quickly — and German-led miniarmies may be Europe’s most realistic option if it’s to get serious about joint security. “It’s an attempt to prevent joint European security from completely failing,” Masala said.

“Gaps” in the Bundeswehr is an understatement. In 1989, the West German government spent 2.7 percent of GDP on defense, but by 2000 spending had dropped to 1.4 percent, where it remained for years. Indeed, between 2013 and 2016 defense spending was stuck at 1.2 percent — far from NATO’s 2 percent benchmark. In a 2014 report to the Bundestag, the German parliament, the Bundeswehr’s inspectors-general presented a woeful picture: Most of the Navy’s helicopters were not working, and of the Army’s 64 helicopters, only 18 were usable. And while the Cold War Bundeswehr had consisted of 370,000 troops, by last summer it was only 176,015 men and women strong.

Since then the Bundeswehr has grown to more than 178,000 active-duty troops; last year the government increased funding by 4.2 percent, and this year defense spending will grow by 8 percent. But Germany still lags far behind France and the U.K. as a military power. And boosting defense spending is not uncontroversial in Germany, which is wary of its history as a military power. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel recently said it was “completely unrealistic” to think that Germany would reach NATO’s defense spending benchmark of 2 percent of GDP — even though nearly all of Germany’s allies, from smaller European countries to the United States, are urging it to play a larger military role in the world.
Germany may not yet have the political will to expand its military forces on the scale that many are hoping for — but what it has had since 2013 is the Framework Nations Concept. For Germany, the idea is to share its resources with smaller countries in exchange for the use of their troops. For these smaller countries, the initiative is a way of getting Germany more involved in European security while sidestepping the tricky politics of Germany military expansion.
For these smaller countries, the initiative is a way of getting Germany more involved in European security while sidestepping the tricky politics of Germany military expansion.
 “It’s a move towards more European military independence,” Masala said. “The U.K. and France are not available to take a lead in European security” — the U.K. is on a collision course with its EU allies, while France, a military heavyweight, has often been a reluctant participant in multinational efforts within NATO. “That leaves Germany,” he said. Operationally, the resulting binational units are more deployable because they’re permanent (most multinational units have so far been ad hoc). Crucially for the junior partners, it also amplifies their military muscle. And should Germany decide to deploy an integrated unit, it could only do so with the junior partner’s consent.
Of course, since 1945 Germany has been extraordinarily reluctant to deploy its military abroad, until 1990 even barring the Bundeswehr from foreign deployments. Indeed, junior partners — and potential junior partners — hope that the Framework Nations arrangement will make Germany take on more responsibility for European security. So far, Germany and its multinational miniarmies remain only that: small-scale initiatives, far removed from a full-fledged European army. But the initiative is likely to grow. Germany’s partners have been touting the practical benefits of integration: For Romania and the Czech Republic, it means bringing their troops to the same level of training as the German military; for the Netherlands, it has meant regaining tank capabilities. (The Dutch had sold the last of their tanks in 2011, but the 43rd Mechanized Brigade’s troops, who are partially based with the 1st Armored Division in the western German city of Oldenburg, now drive the Germans’ tanks and could use them if deployed with the rest of the Dutch army.) Col. Anthony Leuvering, the 43rd Mechanized’s Oldenburg-based commander, told me that the integration has had remarkably few hiccups. “The Bundeswehr has some 180,000 personnel, but they don’t treat us like an underdog,” he said. He expects more countries to jump on the bandwagon: “Many, many countries want to cooperate with the Bundeswehr.” The Bundeswehr, in turn, has a list of junior partners in mind, said Robin Allers, a German associate professor at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies who has seen the German military’s list. According to Masala, the Scandinavian countries — which already use a large amount of German-made equipment — would be the best candidates for the Bundeswehr’s next round of integration.

So far, the low-profile and ad hoc approach of the Framework Nations Concept has worked to its advantage; few people in Europe have objected to the integration of Dutch or Romanian units into German divisions, partly because they may not have noticed. Whether there will be political repercussions should more nations sign up to the initiative is less clear.

Outside of politics, the real test of the Framework Nations’ value will be the integrated units’ success in combat. But the trickiest part of integration, on the battlefield and off, may turn out to be finding a lingua franca. Should troops learn each other’s languages? Or should the junior partner speak German? The German-speaking Dutch Col. Leuvering reports that the binational Oldenburg division is moving toward using English.

Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Elisabeth Braw is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

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By Taboola


  1. No young man, patriotic to his own country, will sign up for military service to another except for money and benefits. In Europe that will mean newly arrived migrants from Africa and Muslim countries will become embedded into a military establishment run by who?

    Where will be their loyalties? obviously, to their own culture (Islam) or whoever pays them.

    Independent states such as Catalonia will be occupied by an army that has no cultural affiliation to Catalonia or for that matter, Spain.

    Personally, I hope this potential future catastrophe is smothered in the crib.

  2. Nigel Farage has issued a stinging “told you so” message to Britain’s former deputy prime minister days before a number of EU states look set to sign a new defence pact.

    In 2014 during an LBC head-to-head debate, Nick Clegg told Nigel the idea of an EU army was a “dangerous fantasy” which “simply was not true”.

    Then, in September the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said by 2025 the EU needed “a functioning European defence union”.

    And on Monday, at least 20 countries in the bloc will agree on a new defence collaboration pact covering troops and weapons - known as the Permanent Structured Cooperation.

  3. I favor the rapid expansion of The Nordic Battle Group.

    1. First Mission: Regain traditional historic Nordic hegemony over Poland.

      Someone has to help the Poles.

    2. The Swedes have nothing to teach the Poles.

    3. Heh

      These days, I agree with you.

      Just trying to tweek Quirk's ear a little.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. .

      As usual, Bob, your attempts to tweek have come up short. The Poles, the Catholics, you name it. I'm American (no hyphen). My fraternal grandfather was adopted by a Polish family. I've got more English in me than Polish and no I don't identify as English-American either. The most Polish thing about me was my name and my dad changed that over half a century ago, right about the time me and the Catholic Church mutually agreed to part ways. The only time I'm in a Catholic church these days is when I'm at funerals. You've been told all this on different occasions before.

      With regard to Poland, I judge the country by its actions just like any other. I appreciate the people and in general agree with the views of the majority of the Poles. I disagree with the hypocrisy and nativist leanings of the current right wing government there. I judge the country just like any other country, on its effect on America and the degree it represents a potential vacation site.

      As to the Catholic Church like any large religious bureaucracy it does some very good things and it also does some very bad. I don't generalize about it but simply address specific issues that come up and involve it. Pope Francis didn't drive me away, John XXIII and Vatican II did. But even that was when I was young an stupid and it still had some relevance to me. Now, I just don't give a shit.

      Had it not been for your last comment, I would have simply ignored your comments on these matters. It's hard to tweek someone who doesn't really care about what you are 'tweeking' about. You better stick to twirking.

      The only reason I talk about you being Swedish is you seem to constantly bring up your connection with that country and seem to enjoy some chauvinistic pride in the connection. Silly, especially since you are ready to selectively criticize those who hyphenate their names.


    6. I agree you talk about yourself incessantly but you never told me this:

      The most Polish thing about me was my name and my dad changed that over half a century ago

      From now on I will stick to twirking you, not tweeking you, Quirkski.

      I'm 1/4 English.

      We be bros.

      I'm chauvinistically Solutrean myseklf, down deep.

  4. The US simply could not enter into a joint alliance with an entity that is not a sovereign country. It would be much too dangerous politically and militarily. We took a dangerous decision when Bill Clinton, through Nato, got us involved in internal matters in former Yugoslavia. That further worsened in Libya and now in Africa.

    With an arrangement between the US and an EU army, the potential for unforeseen conflicts in Eastern Europe will worsen:

    General Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, was "convinced" that planning and preparations for ground intervention "in particular, pushed Milošević to concede".

    The Yugoslav capitulation occurred on the same day that U.S. President Bill Clinton held a widely publicised meeting with his four service chiefs to discuss options for a ground-force deployment in case the air war failed. However, France and Germany vigorously opposed a ground offensive, and had done so for some weeks, since April 1999.

    French estimates suggested that an invasion would need an army of 500,000 to achieve success. This left NATO, particularly the United States, with a clear view that a land operation had no support. With this in mind, the Americans reaffirmed their faith in the air campaign. The reluctance of NATO to use ground forces casts serious doubt on the idea that Milošević capitulated out of fear of a land invasion.

  5. Fox is down for me but my God MSNBC has been rambling along about Judge Roy Moore endlessly for hours.


    WASHINGTON — Jake Williams awoke last April in an Orlando, Fla., hotel where he was leading a training session. Checking Twitter, Mr. Williams, a cybersecurity expert, was dismayed to discover that he had been thrust into the middle of one of the worst security debacles ever to befall American intelligence.

    Mr. Williams had written on his company blog about the Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group that had somehow obtained many of the hacking tools the United States used to spy on other countries. Now the group had replied in an angry screed on Twitter. It identified him — correctly — as a former member of the National Security Agency’s hacking group, Tailored Access Operations, or T.A.O., a job he had not publicly disclosed. Then the Shadow Brokers astonished him by dropping technical details that made clear they knew about highly classified hacking operations that he had conducted.

    America’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency had been deeply infiltrated.

    In my day, the NSA strictly was forbidden to work in the US. The agency was to develop intelligence from abroad. When the biggest fool in the swamp made the decision to have it perform domestic surveillance, the membership grew exponentially and people out of the mainstream were brought into the agency. What could possibly go wrong?

    Goodbye secrets!