Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New superpower policing the world? Not so fast Europe.

The latest article by Anne Applebaum from January 28th, 2013 in National Post, titled "Anne Applebaum on Europe: The world's new superpower", inaccurate at its core, raised some interesting points about the EU's military capabilities. In short, Mrs. Applebaum claims that EU, with it's 27 member states, out of which 21 are NATO members, has the potential to match the military power of the United States. Perhaps being married to the Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, distracted Mrs. Applebaum from the rest of the political reality of the European Union.

Although the EU members came a long way modernizing their arsenals and coordinating EU defenses, the patchwork of member-states is no match for the global reach of the United States. This simple conclusion has nothing to do with being an American chauvinist or European Union critic. The crude facts and pure numbers may not expose the "new superpower" entirely, but the base of the EU weakness lays with the member states.

According to SIPRI Yearbook 2012, quoted in the euobserver.com, United States military spending was $711billion comparing to $496 billion of all 27 European Union members. EU spending sounds impressive until it's broken down to individual countries. United Kingdom ($62.7 billion), France ($62.5 billion), Germany ($46.7 billion), and Italy ($34.5 billion), top the list of the highest EU spenders. Proportionally to their size, rest of the EU members spend much less individually.

Right there, the numbers tell the half of the story. Only UK and France have the real muscle to conduct any real war effort. Short-lived that is, of course. Wiki provides even more info about the number of troops, planes, aircraft careers, submarines, tanks, and so on. Some counties look better than other. Poland for example, with it's recently purchased F-16s, and $9.7 billion military budget, looks like a bigger player among the former Eastern Block.

But what's more important than equipment and military budgets? In short, different agendas of the former colonial powers versus rest of the Europe.

Fighting terrorist in Mali by French using, most likely, the Foreign Legion, has too much of the cleanup undertone. Perhaps a deeper feeling of a colonial remorse? The world admires France for standing up to the al-Qaeda with the solders hitching a ride on whatever transport planes they could scramble from the US and private companies. However, hitchhiking is not a superpower. Besides, with 10% of the French population being Muslim, it's obvious that France just taking care of the business before the flames spread too close to home.

For counties like Slovenia, Hungary, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, this war is a distant conflict not worth loosing human lives and money. Yes, some counties will express support, lend some planes, but involving their soldiers in this war is just not worth the trouble. And why not you may ask? First of all, the myopic view of the Muslim extremists danger and secondly, because the United States kept out of this futile escapade. Let's be honest, without a full US support, chances of a prompt victory are limited. In reality, Mali could become another Afghanistan where today's allies become tomorrow's enemies.

Sooner or later, US will loose interest in Europe or NATO, and by then, one would hope EU is prepared to take over the real job of protecting the Old Continent. But that just it - the Old Continent.

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