European Union Unveils New Strategy To Become A Global Power

EU-flagged missions

The European Union has published a new strategy aimed at transforming the 27-member bloc into an independent geopolitical actor on the world stage.

The long-awaited “Strategic Compass” lays out an ambitious ten-year plan for the EU to develop an autonomous European security architecture. The goal is “strategic autonomy” — the ability for the EU to act independently of, and as a counterweight to, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — in matters of defense and security.

The greatest advocate of strategic autonomy, French President Emmanuel Macron, said the objective is to make Europe “powerful in the world, fully sovereign, free in its choices and master of its destiny.”

The 64-page policy blueprint — “A Strategic Compass for Security and Defense” — was originally commissioned in June 2020 by the government of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. An initial draft of the document, presented in November 2021, was significantly revised after EU member states were given the opportunity to submit requests for changes. The document was then hastily rewritten after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The 2022 Strategic Compass — which builds on the 2003 European Security Strategy, the 2016 Global Strategy, the 2020 EU Security Union Strategy and the 2022 Versailles Declaration — aims to “translate” the “common ambition” of European strategic autonomy “into actionable proposals.”

The document, which has been described as “a master military strategy document” and “the closest thing the EU could have to a military doctrine,” seeks to “build a common strategic culture” to “contribute to the EU’s credibility as a strategic actor.”

The Strategic Compass, also described as “an expression of Franco-German cooperation,” is loaded with lofty rhetoric: “Europe’s geopolitical awakening,” “permanent strategic posture,” “instruments of power,” “weaponization of interdependence,” “the return to power politics,” “full spectrum of threats,” “strategic convergence,” “common strategic culture,” “learning to speak the language of power,” “quantum leap forward on security and defense,” and “shape the global future,” among many others.

The key component of the Strategic Compass is the development of a so-called EU Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC), a military force able to intervene in “non-permissive environments” anywhere in the world. (The term “capacity” is a politically correct substitute for the word “force,” apparently to avoid giving the impression that the EU is seeking to build an army.)

The document calls for the EU to be able to quickly deploy up to 5,000 troops — including land, air, and maritime components — for “crisis management missions” outside the bloc. The RDC is to become fully operational by 2025 and commanded by an institution called the “EU Military Planning and Conduct Capability.” (The term “capability” is a politically correct substitute for “headquarters,” as in “military headquarters.”)

The RDC concept — widely viewed as the foundation of a future supranational EU Army — replaces the existing EU Battlegroup concept. Created in 2007, EU battlegroups, battalion-sized formations consisting of 1,500 troops each, are paper tigers. They have never been deployed due to disputes over when and where they should be used, and over funding. The Strategic Concept does not explain why the EU thinks the RDC will succeed where the EU Battlegroup concept has failed.

Another key element of the Strategic Compass involves implementation of Article 44 of the Lisbon Treaty (aka the European Constitution) which allows the EU to circumvent the unanimous consent principle during crises. The Strategic Compass states that the EU will “decide on practical modalities” for implementing Article 44, which has never been used.

In practical terms, Article 44 would allow the EU to launch EU-flagged missions and operations without the consent of all 27 EU member states. In effect, such “coalitions of the willing” would be a back-door way for EU member states, such as France and Germany, to move ahead with military integration regardless of opposition from other EU members, such as those from Eastern Europe. Implementation of Article 44 will probably move forward during the French EU Presidency in the first half of 2022.

The Strategic Compass also calls for:

Creating an “EU Hybrid Toolbox” to respond to “a broad range of hybrid threats.” A “Hybrid Fusion Cell” aims to provide “foresight and situational awareness” while a “dedicated toolbox” will “address foreign information manipulation and interference.”

Further developing the “EU Cyber Defense Policy” to be “better prepared for and respond to cyberattacks.” A new “Cyber Resilience Act” aims to “increase our common approach to cyber infrastructure.”

Expanding the “Coordinated Maritime Presences” to the Indo-Pacific.

Developing an “EU Space Strategy” for security and defense.

Implementing a “Climate Change and Defense Roadmap.”

Creating a “Defense Innovation Hub” within the European Defense Agency.

The document further seeks to: “fill strategic gaps,” “reduce technological and industrial dependencies,” “promote rapid and more flexible decision-making processes,” “strengthen command and control structures,” “increase readiness and cooperation,” “ensure greater financial solidarity,” “spend more and better in defense,” “develop cutting-edge military capabilities,” and “invest in technological innovation for defense.”

In all, the Strategic Compass includes more than 40 goals in four “work strands” — “Act,” “Secure,” “Invest,” and “Partner” — that are to be implemented by 2030.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, described the Strategic Compass as “a turning point for the European Union as a security provider and an important step for the European security and defense policy.” He added: “This is only the beginning.”

Picture credit:

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute

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