Like most pronouncements from the European Union, thursday’s Action Plan on Military Mobility is likely to be met with popular indifference.
The arcane deliberations of EU institutions always seem remote from our day-to-day concerns, and those few who trouble to read the European Commission’s press release will soon drift off to the dulcet tones of commissioners vowing to “offer opportunities for more synergies between civilian and military needs” and “streamline and simplify customs formalities for military operations.”
This is unfortunate, because the action plan could represent a dangerous militarisation of Europe and increase the risk of war.
The EU makes no bones about the ultimate goal: its plan is “in line with President [Jean-Claude] Juncker’s commitment to a fully fledged Defence Union by 2025.”
Dropping restrictions on soldiers from one member state being deployed to another, and adapting road and rail infrastructure to facilitate rapid troop movements across the bloc will enable the EU “to react in a fast and effective way to internal and external crises,” the Commission contends.
The dream of a unified EU military goes back decades: it was in the 1990s that Jacques Delors called for a joint army to “fight the resource wars of the 21st century.” That vision saw the EU as a potential commercial and military rival to Washington.
But military integration is now being pushed equally enthusiastically by the United States: “We need it and Nato wants it,” as Juncker declared in last year’s State of the Union address.
Retiring US commander in Europe Ben Hodges said last year that Washington is planning to increase troop deployments to Europe, while the military mobility plan itself aims at enabling rapid transit for US troops as well as those of member states.
This militarisation is justified by the spectre of “Russian aggression,” hyped up by media reports of Russian troops being “stationed on the borders of Nato” — hardly surprising when, in repeated breaches of agreements concluded between the US and the Soviet Union when the latter withdrew troops from the Warsaw Pact countries in the 1980s, Nato has expanded up to the Russian border itself.
Nato declared itself alarmed at Russia and Belarus’s Zapad (“west”) war games last year, although it was invited to send observers and these took place simultaneously with major US-led exercises in Sweden and followed 2016’s huge military manoeuvres by the Washington-led alliance in Poland.
From deploying missile defence systems in eastern Europe to provoking the armed overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government in 2014, the EU and Nato have shown a reckless expansionism which, combined with increasingly hysterical reports of alleged Russian interference in everything from the US election to Brexit, increases the risk of a catastrophic war in which there would be no winners.
Turning Europe into a massive armed camp is likely to ramp up tensions even further — and that is not the only risk of allowing free troop movements across the EU.
The Commission does not define what it means by “internal and external crises,” but the union has undergone a marked authoritarian shift in recent years, with “technocratic” governments imposed when elected ones have been unable to do what’s required of them and the insurgent people of Greece warned by Juncker himself that “there is no democratic choice against the EU treaties.”
Will “military mobility” enable member state troops to “restore order” if resistance to austerity explodes on the streets, as it has periodically done in Athens? It would be unwise to discount the possibility.
Nor does Britain get off the hook by leaving the EU — since the Commission is clear that the plans are being rolled out under Nato supervision, and Britain remains a member of the alliance and could well be integrated into the scheme on that basis.
Building a peace movement opposed to military deployments abroad and fighting to leave Nato to pursue an independent foreign policy are essential steps to a more peaceful world.
This article appeared in The Morning Star, Thurday 29th March 2018