A refreshing look from Italy, at Trump’s demand that Nato and Japan carry more of the defensive burden than they do currently. Only France and the U.K. carry their weight. The rest of Europe expects us to protect them and be the World’s policeman but we get little thanks and much criticism.
By Stefano Magni
The European anxiety about the victory of Donald Trump in the US has a fundamental reason: Europe feels disarmed. The president-elect has sent a very clear message: the Allies will have to contribute towards the cost of their own defense.
An old saying goes that a united Europe is “an economic giant, a political dwarf and a military worm.” These stereotypes are increasingly confirmed by the facts. First it is useful to examine the propensity to military spending to understand it. The history of the defense budget last year of the Cold War (1988) to 2015 shows that almost all the European states belonging to NATO and the European Union have consistently cut spending in relation to GDP,according to World Bank data . The “almost” is due to the unique exception of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, which have increased their investments in the sector because of the perceived threat of neighboring Russia. Although they cut too, so constant, only two other countries have complied with the minimum fee established by NATO (2% of GDP to military spending): France and Greece.But the latter has a unique policy and his army faces Turkey: a NATO ally.
An old saying goes that a united Europe is “an economic giant, a political dwarf and a military worm.” These stereotypes are increasingly confirmed by reality
Even the distribution of resources devoted to the military budget makes clear the idea of a Europe in no particular order. The picture does not improve if we look at the efforts for the establishment of an integrated European defense , in the EU context. The idea took shape in the late ’90s: establish a European unified body of 60 thousand men. The design was frustrated by the refusal of the United Kingdom, who feared a centralized command and has always opposed the creation of “duplication” of NATO. In the 2000s, the project was scaled back, with the idea of creating 18 multinational battle groups, each of battalion strength. But even 2016 did not see a trace , even and especially for the failure of the United Kingdom’s accession. Even after the last summit in Bratislava, last September, we talk about a European army to be deployed in the field, but only the integrated controls.
If there is no common power, it also lacks a common use of force policy, even within the Atlantic Alliance. It’s already memorable division that was created during the war in Iraq in 2003 , where they were mainly France and Germany to oppose their refusal to the intervention, so that the US and the UK had to resort to the new formula of a ‘ ad hoc alliance (Axis of the Willings) to fight for, without activating NATO.
Eight years later, in 2011, for the intervention in Libya is revisited a similar division: on that occasion was especially Germany to be called off, although NATO was officially engaged. Europe has shown on several occasions not to have its consistent policy even in the European crisis.
The management of the Ukrainian crisis is a prime example. A powerful stance, that is the recognition of a government that emerged from the Maidan revolution, not legitimized by the polls and unpopular with Russia, it is not matched by any similar decisiveness military. Counter-Russian move , the occupation of Crimea in March of 2014, caught completely by surprise Europeans. There was no military mobilization, especially since there was no plausible deterrent. Comparing the situation to a poker game, to “see” asked Vladimir Putin, Europe showed to have no cards to play.
Since the end of the Cold War and its “simple” schematism East-West, reality dictates more and more the use of hard military power : the Balkans, the war on terrorism, the Arab revolutions and crises with Russia are all issues that can not be resolved with the only “soft power”, that is, with the use of a mix of information, persuasion, diplomacy and economic attractiveness.
Never more than a political scientist Francis Fukuyama was more belied by the facts. He had predicted the “end of history”, not the political fragmentation that would be followed at the end of bipolarity. Yet the European policies of disarmament, disengagement and disinvestment means European governments still believe (or want to believe) optimism Fukuyama , false idea that after the end of the Cold War no longer exists an external threat.
Europe has shown on several occasions not to have its consistent policy even in the European crisis. The management of the Ukrainian crisis is a prime example. A powerful stance, that is the recognition of a government that emerged from the Maidan revolution, not legitimized by the polls and unpopular with Russia, it is not matched by any similar decisiveness military
The cause of this disarmament can only be a deliberate choice. No traceable economic reasons: the crisis has leaned in Europe only in 2009, disarmament continues since 1989. So this is a misplaced optimism in the peaceful future of international relations.
But there’s more. The EU, which accounts for 7% of the world population, consumes 50% of the welfare spending worldwide. Data are two often cited by Angela Merkel to frame the position in the world. The contrast welfare vs.warfare ( “do hospitals, not bombs”) is particularly acute in countries where the population is dependent on public welfare spending. The cut of the military budget, which accomplishes the conservative David Cameron or the Social Matteo Renzi, is always the first item on the agenda when it comes to making savings: it is a way to buy popularity at low political cost . The two countries defeated by World War II, Germany and Italy, have also introjected a pacifist culture imposed by the victors.
In the beautiful country, this culture is embodied in Article 11 of the Constitution ( “Italy repudiates war …”) and especially in the interpretation given to them by parliamentary forces from time to time in opposition not only a rejection of ‘ aggression, but a repudiation of outright war. If you need to use force? So far it’s always worth the retro-thinking: we think of the United States. At most assisted by the former colonial powers France and the UK. But now, with Trump, what do we do?
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