- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

The adage that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it also applies to European security. American policy-makers should be aware that 50 years ago European leaders, with American support, devised a European Defense Community (EDC), which would have created a level of defense integration far greater than anything imagined today. Had this treaty been adopted, NATO might have developed as a partnership between the United States and Europe. Its rejection by the French National Assembly on Aug. 30, 1954, resulted in NATO's becoming an American dominated alliance. Now that the end of the Cold War has revived interest in a European security identity, understanding why the EDC failed may prevent failure the second time around.

When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, NATO was still only a treaty organization. There were almost no American combat forces in Europe. A Soviet attack raised the specter of Dunkirk revisited. Only German rearmament would make Europe defensible, yet few Europeans could even imagine it.

Germany could be rearmed under the aegis of NATO, with accompanying safeguards. France was opposed. Was it possible to rearm Germans without rearming Germany? French Prime Minister Pleven attempted to reframe the question. The danger of German military power would be conjured away by integrating German forces into a European army, just as German economic power was being mitigated by creation of the European Coal and Steel Community.

The EDC was truly supranational, providing for common institutions, armed forces and budget. The executive of the EDC would be a board of commissioners; a council would harmonize the actions of the commissioners with the nation states. The Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community would be the EDC's assembly and was tasked with preparing the constitution of a popularly elected assembly. The European army would have common uniforms, receive common training and be commanded on the senior level by European, rather than national, officers. The EDC was to be funded by a common budget and have a common armaments program. Clearly, the development of the security and defense of Europe would have to lead to rapid development of a political Europe as well. It was heady wine served in a poisoned chalice.

There were two key problems. Britain was unwilling to participate. EDC meant there would be no French army. As time went on, the French began to realize that German rearmament under NATO was the lesser of two evils.

What are the lessons of EDC for the European Security and Defense Initiative (ESDI)? EDC was driven by the need for Europe to make a hard choice between a real Soviet threat and historic fears of Germany. The process took place in a frenetic atmosphere. ESDI, however, is a serious option because the European security situation is not threatening.

The degree of integration is still relevant today. The more Europe can integrate its forces, develop a common budget, procurement, etc. the more it can get for less. With 60 percent of U.S. investment in defense, it could obtain a substantial defense capacity. With a truly common foreign and security policy, Europe could project substantial weight in the world

Much of the ambivalence that characterized the debate over EDC still remains over ESDI. France would like Europe to behave like a global superpower, but fears loss of national sovereignty. Its intergovernmental approach will make it difficult for Europe to define policy and project force. Germany is more supportive of a federal Europe, but its visions of Europe are centered more on soft power. Ambivalent in the early 1950s about rearmament, it has become willing to play a role in peacekeeping in situations like Bosnia and even took part in NATO's military interventions like Kosovo, but remains uneasy about use of force and a militarily activist Europe. Germany's low defense budget and its continued reliance on a conscript army limit the chances for a robust ESDI.

The most significant change is that of the United Kingdom, which was unwilling to take part in the EDC but which is now playing a key role within a European security and defense structure. Uncertain about America's reliability, it wants to hedge its bets. For the time being, it wants to subordinate ESDI to NATO, but if necessary ESDI could serve as the core of a purely European defense. The United States, the key driver behind the EDC, is uncomfortable about ESDI in part because ESDI reflects European ambivalence about the United States' role in European security.

The EDC failed because of its overweening ambition. ESDI might fail because of its excessive modesty. As currently conceived, ESDI will not create an equal partnership between the United States and Europe. The Nice Summit of the EU in December 2000 raises the question of whether the incremental approach to European construction and by extension, European security has reached its limit. The EDC's failure proves the need to find the right mix of ambition and modesty to produce a viable approach to European security.

Steven Kramer is the professor of grand strategy and director of regional studies in the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University.

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