MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 05th June, 2019) The United States trying to coerce its European allies into buying US arms for a future common EU military appears to be a drive to preserve Washington’s dominance in NATO and hegemony in the world arms markets, experts told Sputnik.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has presented European allies with an „ultimatum” demanding that the countries make changes to their defense policy to ensure that Europe remains closely linked to US defense manufacturers in the creation of new arms, El Pais has reported, citing documents from a meeting in Washington, DC on 22 May between US officials and members of the EU’s Political & Security Committee.
At the meeting, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Michael Murphy reportedly warned European officials that the new EU rules may lead to the lack of interoperability between US and EU weapons systems may mean that at some point, their armies may not be able to fight together in defense of the continent from external threats.
The warning was the latest in a series of threats by Washington going back to late 2018 amid European efforts to develop independent military capabilities. Last month, the Financial Times reported that Washington had threatened the EU with „retaliation” if the bloc went ahead with its plans, with US undersecretaries of defense and state Ellen Lord and Andrea Thompson sending a letter to EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini expressing their „deep concern” over the proposed rules of the European Defense Fund (EDF) and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
BLACKMAILING ALLIES INTO VASSALSHIP
As the European Union proceeds towards creating a joint army, the idea of which has been floated by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, beginning with developing weapon systems independently from the United States, Washington appears to be worried about the prospects of losing its key role within NATO, defense analyst Lajos Szaszdi Leon-Borja told Sputnik.
„Such independence apparently worries Washington, in that it would be less capable of influencing both major strategic decisions and force deployments in the context of NATO, which is dominated by the U.S., if the European allies participating in the European Force are equipped with weapons and follow a doctrine on how to operate those weapons according to European defense requirements, and not according to U.S. military requirements,” Szaszdi Leon-Borja said.
The expert stressed that the ultimatums by Washington amounted to a blackmail aimed at scaremongering among its allies in Europe.
„It is a form of blackmail designed to engender fear among the U.S. allies and partners that are members of the European Union, based on the mistaken argument that if the Europeans develop truly European weapon systems, that they would not be able to interoperate with U.S. forces on a battlefield,” Szaszdi Leon-Borja said.
The defense analyst also dismissed the US concerns over interoperability, explaining that existing avionic data bus systems allowed European weapon platforms to use US weapon systems, while military tactical data links – including Link 16 used by NATO – help integrate in a military communications network various military platforms and weapon systems, both US and European.
Threats and ultimatums of this kind show that the United States treats its European allies as „true vassals,” while preventing them from cooperation with Russia and China, Tiberio Graziani, the chairman of Vision & Global Trends, International Institute for Global Analyses, told Sputnik.
„Trump uses the excuse of the difference of arms because he wants to deconstruct, as far as possible, the European military industrial system. Basically Trump does not trust his European allies. From his point of view, Europeans are both a burden and potential partners of China and Russia. For such reasons, its policy is to further weaken the European countries and to divide them by hindering every opportunity for intra-European collaboration also in geostrategic terms,” Graziani said.
PRESERVING HEGEMONY IN ARMS MARKET
Though Murphy’s concerns over interoperability appear to be in the line with the previous objections to Turkey’s purchase of S-400 defense systems, the US official reportedly accused European allies of developing „an industrial policy under the guise of a security policy.”
According to Alan Cafruny, Henry Platt Bristol Professor of International Affairs at the Hamilton College, the United States is concerned about losing its defense companies’ profits in Europe more than interoperability in case of a conflict.
„Washington’s threats to the EU over these initiatives are not driven by concerns for interoperability but rather the desire to enhance the commercial preeminence of U.S. firms,” Cafruny said.
Szaszdi Leon-Borja echoed his views, noting that the US also feared that Europe could become a serious competitor in arms exports.
„The U.S. probably fears losing the privileged position it enjoys as a major supplier of weapon systems to its European NATO allies, and to others such as Australia and Canada, and the Persian Gulf Arab states in case Europe becomes a serious challenger in world’s arms markets,” the defense analyst said.
The expert added that the EU’s possible restriction on the US defense manufacturers’ participation in the development of European weapon systems would not only also deprive Washington of the right to veto the export of European weapon systems and platforms to countries were the United States is not exporting its arms, but also cut access of the US firms to European intellectual property and technology to carry out industrial espionage in order to „outperform” European competitors in world markets.
According to Szaszdi Leon-Borja, the European Union, despite its historically close ties with the United States, was now more than before likely to firmly oppose Washington’s threats and ultimatums.
„Thanks to President Donald Trump’s trade war against the European Union and to anti-European Union attitudes, the recent ultimatum may actually harden the resolve of the European Union and countries such as Germany – the economic heart of Europe – to proceed with building a European Force and building up its arsenal of European weapon systems, the more so as the U.S. is now threatening not to defend Europe if it does not submit to the latest American ultimatum,” Szaszdi Leon-Borja said.
Graziani, however, noted that only two European countries could oppose the United States – France, which is a nuclear power, and Germany, which is one of Europe’s major industrial and economic powers.
„But these countries care only about their own small national interests,” the expert pessimistically concluded.
Experts, however, expressed doubts about the prospects of Europe’s endeavors in equipping its future common army with EU-made weapons systems. Cafruny, in particular, pointed out to „very modest” budget doe the EU proposals – 13 billion Euros over a six-year period against a US military budget exceeding $700 billion per year.
„Moreover, EU member states are divided over the initiatives. It is doubtful that the EU will be able to exclude U.S. firms from these modest the spending initiatives or promote significantly greater European strategic autonomy,” he said.
Szaszdi Leon-Borja, on the other hand, suggested that it might turn out that the goal to develop European weapon systems would be seen as too expensive.
„That in the end European governments may see as more cost-effective to buy a U.S. weapon systems ‘off-the-shelf’ than spending billions in Research and Development,” the expert said.
PESCO was established in 2018, and was eventually agreed by 25 EU members, except Denmark, Malta and the soon-to-leave United Kingdom. It aims to enhance EU military and defense cooperation. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called for the armament developed within PESCO to be made available for NATO members as well.
A special fund to coordinate national investment in defense, the European Defence Fund, was established in 2017.