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The Birth Of The Western European Union Began Some 28 Years

.. when in 1987 the WEU membership expanded to nine with the inclusion of Spain and Portugal due to their membership in the EC, this lead to Washington issuing a warning that “Atlantic co-operation must take priority over developments among West Europeans themselves. In 1991 a U.S. call for a stronger Western European role within the alliance was matched with a warning about the adverse impact of moves towards a European discussion on America’s role within Europe. Visits to Europe by U.S. officials cautioned European governments against any practical steps towards a separate European Defence Identity.

This did however embarrass some as an intervention in preempting any European debate on this matter. The Time magazine of March last year reported on a leaked Defence Department draft called “The Lone Superpower”, in which the Defence Establishment proposed to make the U.S. the sole global policeman. The 46 page document was leaked by a Defence Department dissident and according to the classified draft a Pentagon planning calculus said that “Europe and Japan should be pre-empted from challenging U.S. dominance”.

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The leaking of this document caused great embarrassment and was swiftly denied. In the same month the U.S. backed a proposal to turn NATO into a security umbrella for all of Europe. This move reflected continued U.S. opposition to the Franco-German special relationship to give Federal Europe real authority.

In 1991 Washington warned Brussels that NATO and not the WEU should remain as Western Europe’s principal security force, this was however largely ignored in the EC when the Maastricht Treaty requested the gradual increase and beefing up of the WEU. The Americans seem happy to enhance the WEU as long as it works within the frame work of the NATO Alliance and remains subordinate to it. It sees the WEU as the strengthening of the European pillar within the NATO Alliance, which the U.S. has been asking Europe to do for some time, but is very wary of the increasing strength of the European military forces and co-operation between EC countries. The U.S.

is worried of the growing political weight that the EC carries as well as it’s economic wealth and observes a change in attitude towards American influence in Europe at a time when American troops have been drawn down from a peak of 320,000 before the Gulf War to it’s present 220,000 within Europe. The British Stance The British role has been by far the most difficult and most versatile of all the countries involved in this situation. They have gone to great lengths to persuade WEU countries that the WEU should be the European pillar within the NATO Alliance and should remain subordinate to NATO. It realises that for the moment without the same intelligence gathering sources of the U.S. and it’s strength in logistical support the WEU could not hope to fight a conflict on the scale of the Gulf War without superior U.S.

influence. On the technological side the introduction of the European Fighter Aircraft in the year 2,000 in which Britain is playing the leading role will more than enhance the WEU capability for ground attack in a time of conflict. The importance of superior air power became all too evident during the Gulf War. It has gone to great lengths to try to enhance the Transatlantic co-operation by assuring America that the Anglo-American special relationship is still as strong as ever. A lot of this work has been done by the Defence Secretary, Malcom Rifkind, who has worked hard to win over other allies to the WEU as a strong but integral part of NATO, which could also in a time of crisis work in areas where NATO can not be or may not wished to be deployed.

The British position on the Franco-German brigade within the WEU is that each member country of the WEU should offer units for peacekeeping and peacemaking and that under a British proposal put forward by Malcom Rifkind the Franco-German force could be one of these designated units. Since this initiative the French minister Pierre Joxe has confirmed that the Franco-German brigade would be available for WEU operations. It also sees the double hatting of multilateral forces such as the British-Dutch amphibious force operating both under NATO and a WEU framework. The British have also been given the task of heading the NATO Rapid Reaction Corps to which it has committed substantial troops and aircraft. This force will be used as the “out of area” force designated by NATO to move anywhere in the world within a short period of time.

This appointment was seen by the French and Germans to be an Anglo-Saxon dominance of NATO, however Malcom Rifkind hinted that European forces within the NATO Rapid Reaction Corps might also operate under the WEU in a time of crises where U.S. troops could not be deployed. Britain has called for all new European forces to be put under control of the WEU and by doing this hopes to group them under a broader frame work. The European Fighter Over the last decade the cost of weapons research and production has gone spiralling through the roof. In a time when governments are under increasing pressure to increase the amount of money allocated to social rather than defence spending it has made sense to collaborate with various new weapon systems. One of these such ventures was to be a collaboration between Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In 1983 all five nation air forces agreed upon an outline “staff target” for a joint fighter aircraft. In 1984 all five nations endorsed a formal staff target, however by 1985 the French had withdrawn from the project on the grounds that the British would head the project over design leadership. In 1986 the Eurofighter and Eurojet consortium formed for the EJ200 engine development and in May 1988 the U.K., Italy and Germany gave the go ahead for development followed shortly after by Spain. In 1990 a row broke out over the radar system to be installed within the fighter between the U.K. and Germany the reasons for this were down to the cost and specifications required by both nations for their own interpretation of what the radar should cost and do.

By 1991 the Germans had set up a parliamentary review committee due to the cost of the aircraft increasing by three to four percent a year and with the reunification costing Germany vast amounts and the German budget decreasing by three to four percent a year due to the cost of propping up the East German economy it was viewed that the aircraft was doubling in cost by the Germans and that a cheaper and lighter aircraft should be designed and produced. By 1992 there was discontent not only within the German armed forces but also within public opinion that the aircraft was costing far too much. In a statement issued by the German Defence Minister, Volker Ruhe he said that he was not going to “destroy the German armed forces of some 370,000 soldiers for the sake of a single weapon system, we cannot afford this attitude of business as usual if we want to make the German unification process successful. Ruhe pointed out that Germany’s long standing commitment to the fighter extended only through the nearly completed development phase, and that all parties realised that a separate decision would be made by Germany on the production phase by 1994. Ruhe pointed out that two years from now Soviet fighters which are based only 30 kms from his home city will be more than a thousand miles to the east.

“And between us and them there is already a free and independent Poland and Ukraine”. To the astonishment of the other three nations in late June of 1992 Germany promptly withdrew from the Eurofighter project. Nearly a month before the Defence Minister had vowed to slash Germany’s defence spending by another DM20-billion ($13-billion) from procurement over the next twelve years. These cuts would come on top of the DM43.7-billion ($28.3-billion) in cuts announced by his predecessor. Ruhe’s purpose was to concentrate on modernising and integrating the East German resources into the military whilst keeping up the morale of the troops.

It was with some concern that the German government reviewed its decision, when it later realised the implications of the withdrawal to its own defence industry and the true scale of the part that it played within the project. By withdrawing from the project it had put the jobs at risk of some 20,000 defence workers involved in the EFA development which could then go to the other countries, not only increasing their employment statistics but also loosing German firms involved in the production of parts and research valuable exports and money. Even the aircraft’s direct rivals the French firm Dassault expressed concern as they believed France’s own long term survival in the military aircraft business depended on having strong European partners. On December 11th 1992 the German Chancellor Helmet Kohl had over turned the decision of his defence minister and reluctantly announced that Germany was to stay in the 22 billion project. The British were said to be delighted with the decision as they had put a great deal of pressure on the Germans and were at one time prepared to go it alone when Italy and Spain expressed doubts in the project after Germany’s withdrawal.

After consultation between the revamped collaboration representatives it was decided to rename the aircraft as the Eurofighter 2000. The German decision it seems was based upon the effect on its defence industry as well as its wanting to show that it was a leading force in the WEU. A number of studies showed that the cost could be reduced by as much as thirty percent with some alterations to the aircraft that would not significantly alter its role or its performance. The German government stated that it would stay in the development project until 1995, when it will make a decision on whether to stay with the production phase. The current cost of the aircraft is put at DM 30-million, just over half the cost of its cheapest rival. Great Britain has some 15,000 people engaged in the Eurofighter 2000 development programme within Britain.

The Way Forward The last number of years have seen an increase in the standing of the WEU as a creditable force at the expense of some concern shown by the Americans. The WEU can only remain to be a creditable force if it continues to work within the guidelines of international law, and works within the European pillar of the NATO Alliance until through technological advances in its weapon systems and intelligence gathering capabilities it will be big enough to go on its own without the U.S. and NATO. This must be done within the framework of the EC and the political and economical standing of the EC as a truly European assembly. On the horizon, Malta, Cypress, Turkey and Morocco have officially requested membership, although only the first two are likely to be seen as accepted within the near future. While other European countries such as Austria and Sweden that have traditionally been neutral, have made applications to join the EC fully conscious of the move towards political and security union, they have indicated that they see no problem with this.

Other neutral or non aligned states such as Switzerland and Finland are also debating whether to make official requests for membership of the EC. Norway and Iceland are already members of NATO and should have no problems of joining if they should so wish. Former Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland, Czech and Slovakia and Hungary have expressed concern over the vacuum caused by the demise of the Warsaw Pact and see the EC as an “economic role model and political haven”. When considered if all of these states were to join the EC which enhances both political and security union then the Western European Union could one day stretch from Iceland in the North to Morocco in the south and from Dublin in the West even up to the very gates of Moscow itself. That would be a more than creditable force to be reckoned with!.


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