Macron’s defence visions are suicidal for Poland

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech on the European Union at the amphitheater of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, 26 September 2017. [EPA/EFE]

Poland can have only one answer to the French visions for a common approach in European defence, writes Andrzej Talaga. And that answer is no.

Andrzej Talaga is a defence expert from Polish think tank Warsaw Enterprise Institute. He contributed this op-ed to Biznes Alert, a EURACTIV media partner.

In his recent Sorbonne speech, French President Emmanuel Macron promised nothing less than a communitarisation of defence: a common defence budget, military doctrine and an interventional potential for the EU. Until now, no previous initiative of common defence approach has gone that far.

In fact, Macron’s ideas are consequent, as he also campaigned for a dedicated budget, finance minister and parliament for the eurozone as well as connecting the position of the president of the European Council and the head of the European Commission.

His goal is therefore a federation – a European state, and as such, you can argue, it should also have its own army.

Indeed, nothing shows that this might actually be realised any time soon, but the direction of Macron’s thinking is raising concerns, as his proposed reforms evidently will weaken NATO, the most successful military alliance in the history of human kind, in which Poland has trusted its survival.

It is not about fooling around with the allocation of immigrants or trade protectionism under the premise of fighting against social dumping anymore. This is tinkering around with core elementary matters.

From France’s perspective, the vision – if realised – is excellent as it would be a powerful lever for the Republic’s military capabilities. With this the most powerful army in the EU would naturally impose its thinking and strategy on other participants in the project, and finally set its own goals as community goals.

For other European countries, especially those in the eastern part, France does not share their strategic threats, so a common defence community would mean a step into the abyss. On this, there is no common ground between Paris and us.

The idea of a common defence budget is particularly disturbing. How would the money be distributed, who would decide about spending priorities? On which conditions would an army financed by that budget be deployed? What would finally be the role of national governments in the whole operation?

Would a common budget then also mean that the acquisitions would be communitarised to optimise them? That in the end might greatly boost French and German armaments companies.

The way of spending money on defence, and in consequence, the structure of the army and its combat capabilities itself, should be based on defence doctrine.

Macron proposes this too should be communitarised. But how do we combine the stances of Portugal, Estonia and Poland, since they operate in completely different strategic environments?

Most certainly the consequence could be that the doctrine would simply be the doctrine of France, taking into account the local colours of some of the other leading participants in the project. One thing is set: the doctrine would take the security threats from North Africa much more into account than those coming from Russia.

The proposed EU intervention power then would simply be the longer arm of the French army itself. In the Western hemisphere only three armies have the ability to deploy troops for a stand-alone intervention outside their borders – the United States, Britain and France.

The US is outside the EU, Britain soon will be, that just leaves France and the country’s know-how developed during numerous conflicts in Africa, most recently in Mali.

The contingents of the remaining EU members would simply just strengthen France’s status quo. Thanks to their participation, the French forces would have a larger scale air transport at their disposal; the same would apply to precision ammunition.

Finally, equally important, Paris’s interventions would be financed from a common, not just a French budget.

NATO, in case of war, has contingency plans at hand; it created and continues to improve the command systems for multinational forces, and recently sharpened its ability to immediately enter combat against technically advanced opponents. The European Union would have to learn all of this from scratch.

Currently, only 3% of national defence forces are ready to enter war without long-term preparation. Any possible defence initiative outside the framework of NATO would have to contest for these limited capabilities, what would fundamentally weaken the alliance’s ability to immediately intervene.

Experiments like these could be suicidal for Poland, which is why we can have only one, simple answer to Macron’s visions: no.