Defence policy is just a distraction

From Geoffrey Van Orden MEP.

Sir, Jolyon Howorth (Letters, June 14) quite rightly points out that European countries need to end their over-reliance on the US’s military capabilities. However, we must not confuse burden-sharing by European countries with European Union defence policy. Professor Howorth refers to the establishment of European security and defence policy (now known as CSDP) in 1998 as though Washington had somehow encouraged it. The reality is that Washington viewed it for what it is – a distraction for European countries from fulfilling their obligations under Nato.

Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, warned against the decoupling of CSDP from Nato and duplication of capabilities. Her words have proved prescient.

While Nato struggles to persuade its member states to contribute to strategically vital missions such as the current one in Libya, the EU continues to expend money and effort copying Nato’s structures and on 13 ineffective CSDP “missions” that are little more than vanity projects.

The key point Prof Howorth misses entirely is that CSDP has contributed to the very problem outlined by US secretary of defence Robert Gates by diverting scarce resources into fulfilling an EU defence ambition motivated by political rather than military factors. The EU brings no additional military capabilities to the table. Instead, it is yet another call on the same diminishing pool of national armed forces.

As I have long argued, there is no reason why European allies within Nato should not take the lead when it is appropriate, as we have seen in Libya. This has the enormous advantage of ensuring that all allies, including the US and Canada, are round the same table with European allies in order to discuss the most effective way of dealing with a crisis.

Geoffrey Van Orden,

Conservative Defence Spokesman,

European Parliament

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