More independence from the USA: EU plans new military reaction force

More independence from the USA
EU plans new military reaction force

The Afghanistan mission will go down in history as a defeat. In order to save people from the airport in Kabul, the EU member states are dependent on the US military. Now some of them are presenting a plan with which they want to make EU troops more crisis-proof – including Germany.

Together with four other countries, Germany has launched a new initiative to set up a rapid military reaction force for the EU. The concept provides for the already existing EU battle groups to be further developed into powerful crisis reaction forces that can be deployed at short notice. To this end, space and cyber capabilities as well as special forces and strategic air transport capacities are to be provided.

“The recent events in Afghanistan have shown again that the EU must be able to (…) act robustly and swiftly,” says the paper written by Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland and Slovenia. For this it is necessary to improve the availability, readiness, operational capability and competence of the armed forces and to make better use of military cooperation formats among the EU member states. Specifically, the five countries also propose to enable the deployment of “coalitions of willing” through the previously unused Article 44 of the EU Treaty.

Overall, this would allow more flexibility and a modular approach to crisis management in the EU and could increase the EU’s ability to act, according to the concept paper. In addition, existing regional collaborations should be better used. The concept paper does not provide any specific information on the overall strength of the reaction force. Only the land force unit intended for this purpose is said to be able to reach the size of a brigade – that could be around 5,000 soldiers.

EU forces have never been deployed

The previous EU battlegroup concept provides that two units with around 1500 soldiers each are kept ready, which are made available every six months alternately by different EU countries. Recently, however, there had been repeated problems in gathering enough troops. For example, there is currently only one battlegroup. The EU forces have never been deployed. Discussions about setting up a new reaction force have been going on in the EU for a long time. They were last fueled again by the military dependence on the USA during the evacuation mission in Afghanistan.

In any case, the new force should be so strong that it could theoretically take on a military operation like that of the Americans to secure the airport in Kabul. After the Taliban came to power in mid-August, the United States made evacuation flights possible with around 6,000 US soldiers. Because of their departure, however, the Europeans then had to stop their rescue flights for people in need of protection earlier than actually desired. Ideally, the concept paper should now find its way into the so-called strategic compass. It is to be used by the spring of next year to determine what the EU should be able to do in a crisis – but also what not. The title of the paper is clear in this regard. It reads: “More readiness, more flexibility, more cooperation – together on a new level of crisis management in the EU”.

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