Transatlantic Rivals

BERLIN/WASHINGTON | | usa

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - In Washington serious warnings are being raised against an independent German-European military policy aimed at weakening NATO. The militarization of the EU is being supported as long as "it is complimentary to NATO," a senior Pentagon official was quoted. However, Washington would intervene, if Berlin and the EU were to pull military resources away from NATO and use them for their own wars. This statement was made in light of the NATO defense ministers' meeting that begins today, which will include a decision on the establishment of two new NATO headquarters. One will be established in the United States, to secure the military supply routes from North America over the Atlantic to Europe. A second will be established in Germany, to optimize rapid redeployments of West European troops eastwards across the continent. At the current stage of planning, this will be under German sovereignty and available also for use outside of the NATO framework.

 

Rapid Eastward Deployments

At their meeting, beginning today in Brussels, NATO's Defense Ministers will officially decide on a new headquarters that will serve to plan and execute the redeployment of combat material and troops in Europe. It will facilitate the rapid deployment of West European and North American NATO forces across the European continent right up to the neighboring Russian border, to theaters in East and Southeast Europe. Already last year, the German government had proposed a location for the new headquarters; the United States has endorsed this proposal since some time. "I cannot think of any place better suited than Germany," announced USAREUR Supreme Commander, at the time, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, in late November. Germany is already the US "launching pad" on the European continent. "Most of the soldiers that we have stationed in Europe live in Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden Wuerttemberg and Bavaria. We are at home."[1] Ulm as well as the Cologne/Bonn region are in consideration for the new headquarters. Cologne/Bonn is seen as the probable site.

Supplies over the Atlantic

The new facility on the European continent will compliment the planned second headquarters, which will concentrate on securing routes from North America over the Atlantic and through the Arctic to Europe for the transport of US-American and Canadian military supplies. Such transports are already carried out every six months for the Canadian and US shares of supplies to NATO's presence in the Baltic region and in Poland.[2] If one believes western military experts, Russian submarines are increasingly able to operate undetected in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, whereas the western war alliance's countermeasures are perceived as insufficient.[3] Russian submarines can hardly be detected once they have passed Iceland. Searching for them is like looking for a needle in a haystack, according to an expert at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). It is therefore necessary to modernize and regularly patrol the waters Russian submarines have to cross on their way to the Atlantic.[4] CNAS is currently headed by Victoria Nuland, the state department diplomat, who was also in charge of Ukraine under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Priority for the Military

The future headquarters for transporting material and troops through Europe will depend on EU efforts to eliminate the existing administrative and infrastructural barriers, to optimize military transports. NATO maneuvers in East and Southeast Europe since 2014 and the frequent deployment of whole battalions to Poland and the Baltic countries have repeatedly run up against these barriers. For example, official permission is required for battle tanks to cross borders. At the same time not all bridges in the EU can withstand the weight of battle tanks. For quite a while, the EU Commission has been seeking a remedy for the problem. In a first paper on this subject, presented on November 10, the Commission noted that it is necessary to secure "a rapid and swift movement of military personnel and equipment" across the European continent. On the one hand, the regulatory framework for military mobility must be significantly simplified - some refer to it as a "military Schengen" agreement. On the other hand - as already demanded by EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc - the planning of new traffic routes - roads, railroad tracks, ports, airports - must give clear "priority" to future military requirements. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Based on this paper, the Commission will soon present an "action plan" to enhance military mobility. This is supplemented by a PESCO project,[6] directed by the Netherlands.

Versatile Utility

According to recent reports, the new headquarters will not be firmly integrated into the NATO Command Structure (NCS), but rather be established and operated under German sovereignty. It would, therefore, be a component of the NATO Force Structure (NFS), which the Bundeswehr describes as being "comprised of member states' national (and multinational) armed forces." Their facilities may be "incorporated into NATO's command and decision-making structure under contractually agreed conditions."[7] However, in the case of the new headquarters, there is also the option of being used for military purposes outside of the NATO framework - for example for the "Army of the Europeans" that the German government, according to its recently published coalition contract between the coalition partners, CDU/CSU and SPD, seeks to establish.[8] Berlin, therefore, has a maximum of political flexibility in its options for the new facility.

Logical Consequence

Warnings are being raised against an independent German-EU military, in the run-up to the NATO Defense Ministers' meeting. Washington is adamantly opposed to the EU pulling military requirements away from NATO, declared a senior Pentagon official at the beginning of the week. As long as EU initiatives, such as PESCO, are "complementary to" and not distracting from NATO's activities and requirements, they will be supported. For example, military mobility would work both for Europe and NATO. But if we make sure that the infrastructure or legal changes within and between countries, aren't based on NATO requirements, then we're working at cross purposes.[9] The US would not tolerate this. Yesterday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also joined the discussion saying that it will be absolutely without any meaning "if NATO and the EU start to compete."[10] It is precisely this competition that is the logical consequence of the German-EU efforts to reach military independence.[11]

 

[1] US-General schlägt Deutschland als Sitz von neuem Logistikkommando vor. handelsblatt.com 28.11.2017.

[2] See also Vom Frontstaat zur Transitzone and Vom Frontstaat zur Transitzone (II).

[3], [4] Julian E. Barnes: NATO Mulls Arctic and Atlantic Command to Counter Russia. wsj.com 18.05.2017.

[5] See also Freizügigkeit für Panzer.

[6] See also Launching the Military Union.

[7] Unterschied zwischen NCS und NFS. bmvg.de 12.02.2018.

[8] See also "Frieden, Freiheit und Wohlstand".

[9] US fears closer EU defence ties could undermine Nato. ft.com 12.02.2018.

[10] NATO chief warns EU over defence pact. gulf-times.com 13.02.2018.

[11] See also Strategische Autonomie and Superpower Europe.