- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

The European Union took its first steps last week toward putting on a military uniform last week by pledging 100,000 troops, 400 combat aircraft and 100 ships to a new European peacekeeping force. By allowing the 15-member body to act as peacekeepers in their own backyard, the union could relieve some of the financial and military burden from the United States, which carries the bulk of those responsibilities.
Good intentions, however, are not enough. In 1999, the United States outspent all of the top EU member nations in defense expenditures. All the EU countries put together only spend 60 percent of what the United States provides for defense. And this, at a time when the Pentagon needs an additional $100 billion a year to carry out its assigned missions, according to retiring Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters. Projected defense spending in NATO for the United States for the next three years will remain at around 3.2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), while expenditures from all of Western Europe are projected to dip below 2 percent of GDP by 2003.
This decrease in their defense spending will make it difficult for the EU member states to fund a new peacekeeping initiative on the scale they are envisioning. Though the EU force would use NATO troops, it will need to come up with communication systems, intelligence and transportation. A 60,000-member contingent will need to have the capability by 2003 to deploy within a 60-day period and be sustained for up to one year a task now militarily impossible for any of the member states.
The union's military initiative poses other challenges as well. Yet to be answered are questions concerning the division of labor between NATO and the EU. Two separate headquarters for the European and NATO forces would be ill-advised if they are sharing the same troops, as would double-tasking that manpower with separate missions. The European nations must also determine whether their troops would train together, and which chain of command they will follow.
Still, this is an opportunity that the United States ought to seize to define its relationship with Europe as well as its role as the leading nation in NATO. It must remain actively engaged in providing logistical assistance, including the transport and communication systems the Europeans lack. The United States should also actively engage the Europeans in the discussions as NATO and the EU define their interdependent identities. By accepting that the Europeans could provide their own manpower for humanitarian missions and regional conflicts, the United States would empower, rather than disengage from an ally.

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