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Andrey Kortunov

Ph.D. in History, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

A large-scale conventional war between the EU and Russia is highly unlikely, and a common European nuclear force looks unrealistic. In order to deal with most of the real security challenges to Europe (terrorism, cyber, illegal immigration, climate change, and so on), the EU needs instruments and tools very different from a traditional 20th-century-type army. In sum, Europe will build its own army only if it is absolutely forced to do it — e.g., if NATO collapses, the US goes isolationist, Europe is dragged into sizeable military operations in the Middle East or in Africa, etc. Right now, such scenarios look very unlikely.

There is no doubt that the EU can put together a modern and powerful army. Europe has more than enough human, financial, industrial, and technological resources to do that. However, if the EU has not yet done this despite continuous discussions, political statements, and even approved programs, it means the incentives to proceed are not strong enough. First, nobody is eager to have a military machine in Europe duplicating NATO or even some of its functions. Such a machine would be expensive, hard to manage, and politically risky for the transatlantic partnership — it might even provoke a US strategic disengagement from Europe. Second, it is not clear how a European army can respond to major EU security concerns.

A large-scale conventional war between the EU and Russia is highly unlikely, and a common European nuclear force looks unrealistic. In order to deal with most of the real security challenges to Europe (terrorism, cyber, illegal immigration, climate change, and so on), the EU needs instruments and tools very different from a traditional 20th-century-type army. In sum, Europe will build its own army only if it is absolutely forced to do it — e.g., if NATO collapses, the US goes isolationist, Europe is dragged into sizeable military operations in the Middle East or in Africa, etc. Right now, such scenarios look very unlikely.

Source: Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies

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