French President Emmanuel Macron renewed his calls for a unified European military force independent of U.S. support in a radio appearance on Tuesday. Macron went on to name potential threats to European security; the short list included the likes of Russia, China, and surprisingly, the United States.
“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.” Macron said of the recent White House decision to back out of the INF treaty banning the development of medium-range nuclear capable cruise missiles. The United States has repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty, ultimately leading to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement entirely.
“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army. We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.”
To many within the United States, the French president’s remarks are in keeping with the Trump administration’s stated goals of reducing the continent’s reliance on the United States military for defense via the NATO alliance. President Trump has repeatedly called on NATO members to increase their defense spending to match their agreed-upon commitment to the alliance — an initiative commonly referred to as “burden sharing.” Conservatives in the United States that wish to see a reduced reliance on American might for European defense could consider Macron’s statements something to celebrate — but some of the French president’s remarks seemed to suggest a shifting perception of American values as perceived by its European allies.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Macron stated plainly.
That quote will undoubtedly fuel the fires of those within the United States that have worried America’s foreign policy under the Trump administration has been diplomatically isolating. As President Trump regularly praises world leaders the United States is at odds with — like Russian President Vladimir Putin or North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un — but distances himself from longstanding allies, some worry that Trump’s “America first” approach may lead to a less unified Western world. Macron’s inclusion of the United States alongside the likes of two of the world’s most aggressive regimes would seem to support those pessimistic assertions.
However, despite the French president’s fervor for reducing European reliance on American might, it doesn’t seem particularly likely that his European army will come to fruition any time soon. European nations, reluctant to meet the defense spending requirement of 2% of their national GDP that would ingratiate them to the United States, would certainly have to pay significantly more to establish a joint military force capable of standing up on its own in defense of the continent. The new force would also likely lack the support of one of Europe’s most powerful militaries, as the U.K. has repeatedly come out against a joint European force that could create a parallel command structure to the already existing NATO.
Even if funding and support could be amassed, a joint army is a far cry from a mutual defense alliance. NATO, for instance, does not maintain an army — it is comprised of the military forces of sovereign nations that train together in the interest of interoperability, but ultimately it’s each nation’s decision to get involved in a conflict. A unified European army would operate completely differently — and require a significant leadership infrastructure within the European Union.