An Army of the Europeans

BERLIN (Own report) - The program of the Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, included discussions on new steps toward creating an "army of the Europeans," concerns over the possible erosion of the West’s "margin in defense capabilities" vis à vis Russia and China, as well as the role of artificial intelligence in future wars. Unlike the Munich Security Conference, this conference is not oriented on foreign policy but specifically on military policy and the arms industry, with more than a thousand military and business representatives, state officials, and politicians participating. Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen used the platform to launch a debate on steps toward limiting parliamentary reservations concerning an "army of the Europeans." In the future, "Europe may have to provide for its own security, perhaps even completely independently" from US support, according to experts. This calls for rapidly enhancement of the use of artificial intelligence in warfare and a "European narrative" to legitimize EU wars.


Military Union in the Making

At this year’s Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen promoted new steps toward creating an "army of the Europeans." According to von der Leyen, "the question is no longer if, but how to reach strategic autonomy" of the EU with its own armed forces. "The European defense union is in the making."[1] Delicate questions will be raised in the near future, such as that of establishing "independent command capabilities," alongside those of NATO, for future EU missions and streamlining decision-making structures. German parliamentary reservations should not be abolished, but rather reframed. Brussels could establish a "committee of legislators from national parliaments specializing in defense," which could rapidly prepare decisions - in questions of war and peace. In addition, compulsory EU consensus in foreign policy should be abandoned. "European foreign policy decisions on the basis of large majority support must be made possible." This would mean that individual member countries could be compelled to support a foreign policy against to their interests.

Strategic Autonomy

The German foreign policy establishment is already discussing the outline for the further development of the "army of the Europeans." To actually achieve "strategic autonomy, Europe, more than ever must provide for its own security - perhaps even completely," according to Jan Techau, Director of the European Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.[2] This would mean that, not only conventional, but "nuclear deterrence," as well, must be "independently organized in Europe."[3] This, in turn, must be accompanied "by a significantly enhanced independent intelligence competence and activity." Furthermore, with the "shift of acts of aggression to the sector of information technology (IT), and the hybrid warfare in the sectors of media and public opinion influence," the guarantee of European security will be extended to fields, where Europe ... is not among the world leaders," concluded Techau. In the future, "the Europeans, and above all, Germany, must accomplish in these fields things that, by far, surpass what the United States has been able to achieve until now." The "scope of the task" also demands that in the future "strategy be taught at German universities ... and strategic education be required as a career-obligation for all civil servants from the B-6 salary level upwards." And ultimately, "a federal security council" should "be the hub connecting the various strands of ministerial activities on all central questions" so that "the chancellor may have access to thorough strategic advice."

Booming Western Military Budgets

At the Berlin Security Conference, experts gave voice to their worries about whether the West's margin in defense capabilities vis à vis Russia and China is not "eroding."[4] Both countries are "growing stronger" in armaments, according to Jürgen Beyerer, Chair of the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies, and Image Exploitation (IOSB). The high government expenditures for the military have made this possible. In fact, China and Russia are spending much less on their armed forces than western powers. This can be seen in statistics published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). According to these statistics, the US military budget for 2017 was at US $602.8 billion, compared to US $150.5 billion for China and US $61.2 billion for Russia - one-tenth of the US military budget.[5] Russia is even investing less for its military needs than Saudi Arabia, with US $76.7 billion. In 2017, with US $163.9 billion, the four EU countries with the largest military budgets, earmarked for their armed forces more than China and nearly three times more than Russia. Moreover, Germany is drastically increasing its military budget, which went from €34 billion in 2015 to €38.9 billion this year and will spend €43.2 billion next year on the Bundeswehr. Berlin also has additional plans for billions in "authorized commitments" to expensive arms projects. The Bundeswehr's new "capability profile" shows that Germany's military budget is supposed to be increased to around €60 billion by 2023. ( reported.[6]) Germany would be spending more on its military than Russia does currently.

Mechanical War Intelligence

At the Berlin Security Conference not only the debate about cyber, drone, and robotic warfare is playing an increasingly prominent role, but also the question of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for military purposes. The fact that wars of the future will "above all be waged in cyber space," as well as with drones and robots is clear; "presence" on the battlefield "is no longer required" to wage war.[7] "Mechanical intelligence will also be seen on the battlefields of the future." AI will "develop so rapidly," that human decision making "will be lagging behind."[8] In the debate among German elites, AI plays a role in predicting future conflicts. For example, experts expect that the use of robots in industry will put masses, particularly "in countries of the southern hemisphere," out of work and this "proletariat, made 'useless' through digitalization will ... resist the state order." AI can predict this sort of conflict, it is claimed.[9] Should rebellions actually take place, "defense forces" can "isolate" the areas of conflict ("'no-go'-areas"), "fencing them in with automatic barriers and monitor them with drones." This is but one example of the variety of AI uses.

A "European Narrative"

The experts were also discussing the issue of how future European wars of this kind can be best conveyed to the population. For example Géza Andreas von Geyr, who heads the Political Department in Germany's Ministry of Defense, was quoted saying during a podium discussion at the security conference that "a common European narrative" is needed, to be able to infuse "the term 'European Defense Union' deep into the society of the European population." "Robust missions" of the "army of the Europeans" must be included in this calculation."[10] In such a case, this "narrative" could help to counteract potential opposition to the EU's future wars.


For more information on this theme see also Coalition of Those Willing to Go to War (II).


[1] Rede der Verteidigungsministerin zur Eröffnung der Berlin Security Conference. 27.11.2018.

[2] Jan Techau: Strategiefähigkeit und Weltschmerz. Die deutsche Außenpolitik bis 2030.

[3] See also Die deutsche Bombe and Die nukleare Frage.

[4] Adrian Bednarski: Erosion des westlichen Verteidigungsvorsprungs? 28.11.2018.

[5] Warum die Welt wieder mehr Geld für Militär ausgibt. 19.02.2018.

[6] See also Die Kosten der Weltpolitik (II).

[7] Katarina Heidrich: "Partner sein über den Ozean hinaus". 28.11.2018.

[8] Adrian Bednarski: Verteidigung zwischen 5G und KI. 27.11.2018.

[9] Ayad Al-Ani, Jörg Stenzel: Verteidigungsplattformen als Streitkräfte der Zukunft.

[10] Übergreifende politische Kultur notwendig. 27.11.2018.