Leading Nation of a Belligerent Europe

BERLIN/PARIS | | frankreich

BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - German government advisors are pleading for the creation of a joint German-French air force. In light of an alleged "deterioration of EU military efficiency," the "two major nations" in Europe are "required to take the leadership," according to a position paper published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). "Clear signals" must finally be given and "concrete proposals for security policy cooperation" presented, rather than non-binding declarations of intent. For example, a fusion of the air forces of Germany and France would provide a good opportunity for promoting military as well as arms industry cooperation. Experts in Berlin have been complaining since some time that the desperately needed cooperation of the arms industries throughout the EU still has not really materialized, despite persistent political appeals. Aside from the advantages for the arms industry, this plea for the creation of a German-French air force is aimed at the recent French-British military cooperation, considered in Berlin as a means for preventing a German predominance of the EU's war policy. Practical measures have now been taken to split the British-French alliance.

As in the War on Libya

In their recently published paper, experts of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) envisage that a joint German-French air force could be a "mixed unit." "German and French fighters - Eurofighters and Rafales - could form the two squadrons of the fighter wing." This sort of wing would correspond to the reality of missions in the war on Libya, in which various models of fighter planes from the participating air forces "had to be coordinated logistically and militarily." Composite German-French fighter units could learn to "master this on a daily basis and thereby have on hand important lessons for others in Europe." A composite wing of units from both countries could, already from the beginning, become acquainted with concrete operations, putting their operative effectiveness to the test. "While one of the German-French units is on maneuvers, the other is securing European airspace." "In the intermediate term," according to the paper, "the units' tasks could be expanded."[1]

Leaders and Subordinates

The SWP's proposal has two objectives. On the one hand, it seeks to comprehensively reinforce German-French military cooperation - thereby also drive a wedge in between the French-British cooperation, which is viewed in Berlin as a serious obstacle to German aspirations for predominance in the EU's warfare policy. Most recently, experts were referring to the Franco-British cooperation as a "new Entente Cordiale." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) As the SWP now writes, a German-French air force would demonstrate the "sense of responsibility" of these two participating countries "as the leading nations in a Europe of defense." The others would have to submit to the leadership of Berlin and Paris, which must be "communicated" to them and "spiced with offers to participate." "Participation," for example, could be offered to Great Britain. The comparison to the war on Libya, in which Paris and London took over operative leadership, while the others fell in line and Berlin sat on the sidelines, is an indication of the main political thrust of the SWP's paper. As the authors write, even "the smaller nations, which today cannot even afford new aircraft," could be considered for the joint wing. "That could be handled through leasing or ceding existing machines."[3]

If Necessary, without Great Britain

On November 15, several foreign and defense ministers from five European countries, met in Poland, and decided to promote the EU's "Common Security and Defense Policy" (CSDP). The meeting of ministers from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland was geared toward establishing a German-French leadership over the EU's war policy, while splitting Franco-British military cooperation. Modeled after the so-called "Weimar Triangle" summit between Germany, France and Poland, the new format is labeled "Weimar plus." Berlin and Paris clearly have the strongest influence among the five participating parties, whereas London is excluded. This had already been the case in September 2011, when, in their statement, the five "Weimar plus" countries demanded the rapid enhancement of the EU's military policy in response to the British government's refusal of support for the establishment of a permanent headquarters for future European military operations. “We need to be able to develop such projects, if need be without the United Kingdom,” according to a diplomat involved at the time.[4]

Declarations of Intent Only

The SWP's proposal to establish a German-French air force aims also at the EU's armaments policy. For some time now, experts in Berlin have been complaining that the armaments cooperation between EU member countries was not really advancing. Alexander Weis, for example, who headed the European Defense Agency and works today in the German defense ministry, is quoted with his sober assessment: "despite all the consultations and agreements" armaments cooperation did not really progress.[5] The same can be said for company mergers, which do not take place - as recently happened with EADS and BAE. This is also the case with EU declarations of intent for "pooling and sharing" or the NATO avowal of a "smart defense." The plans for sharing/apportionment of military equipment among NATO or EU member countries respectively, are in fact simply "political titles, whose contents are still largely ambiguous," says Weis. The EU, for example, classified "summarily, all projects" as components of "pooling and sharing" projects, in which "it has already been engaged in cross-border" cooperation for years. Beyond this, nothing significant has happened. No progress has been made, where it is most important, particularly in the domain of joint "development of weaponry and equipment" and the "distribution of military capabilities" among the armed forces of the respective member countries. Not even the Eurofighter is a success in genuine arms cooperation. After all, France withdrew already early, and the Eurofighter-Rafale competition continues.

Common Experience

It is exactly here that the SWP hopes for progress through the creation of a German-French air force. Should the military cooperation between Berlin and Paris be aimed "at durability and results," then it must "above all, include the armaments sector."[6] Following the breakdown of cooperation between EADS and Britain's BAE, joint flight activities could help. The German-French fighter units could "set new military and arms industrial standards," the "joint experience through training and missions" would, in the future, flow "into commonly defined military demands" - for example "for the next generation of fighter planes." This could force the generally desired fusion of the armaments industry, supposes the SWP. "This could (...) simplify the multiplicity of European models." If this think tank, on the German Chancellery payroll, could have its way, this would certainly not be done under French leadership.

[1] Christian Mölling, Claudia Major: Eine deutsch-französische Luftwaffe als Impuls für die europäische Verteidigungskooperation; www.swp-berlin.org 15.11.2012
[2] see also The New Entente Cordiale
[3] Christian Mölling, Claudia Major: Eine deutsch-französische Luftwaffe als Impuls für die europäische Verteidigungskooperation; www.swp-berlin.org 15.11.2012
[4] Italy and Spain join "Weimar initiative"; www.europolitics.info 05.09.2011
[5] Erst die eigenen Interessen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.10.2012
[6] Christian Mölling, Claudia Major: Eine deutsch-französische Luftwaffe als Impuls für die europäische Verteidigungskooperation; www.swp-berlin.org 15.11.2012