Resolve the EU – NATO Discrepancy: Make the EU Collective Member of NATO!

Resolve the EU – NATO Discrepancy: Make the EU Collective Member of NATO!

The EU as a collective member of NATO would enhance the capabilities of the Alliance, rather than “duplicate” them.

The European Union should finally become a collective member of NATO to resolve the decades-old “EU – NATO Discrepancy”, a partly technical and partly conceptual issue that has been hampering both entities from realizing their full potential in support of Western and global stability and prosperity.

This is certainly an old idea but it is high time that it got put into practice: it seems to be the only feasible solution to the well-known “EU – NATO Discrepancy”.

The Western leaders’ long-time failure to implement it is one of the many obvious things making the West seem clueless, and tossing disenchanted voters in the open arms of Trumpism, Brexiteerism, Five-Star-League-ism, Orbanism, you name it.

Even though NATO and the EU have often been perceived as a twin brother and sister, at least as far as their Eastern enlargement from the past two decades is concerned, the EU – NATO Discrepancy is well-known and powerfully significant.

It’s the fact that these two pillars of the West and much of the international order don’t overlap precisely in terms of membership, which creates both practical problems and theoretical doubts about both entities.

NATO and the EU are different, with the former being a permanent intergovernmental military alliance, and the latter being a supranational entity focused on in-depth integration, especially economic. But both are indispensable to the security and prosperity, and therefore survival and thriving of the democratic Western world.

That is why the infamous “EU – NATO Discrepancy” ought to be resolved as soon as possible.

As of March 2019, NATO has 29 members (soon to become 30 with the aptly renamed Republic of North Macedonia), and the EU has 28 (potentially to become 27 when, or if, Brexiting Britain does Brexit), and they share 22 members (to become 21 because of the UK).

NATO’s major muscle, the United States, is obviously not part of the EU, nor are five more exciting NATO countries: Canada, Iceland, Norway, Albania, Montenegro, and Turkey.

And six no less exciting members of the EU are not in NATO: Austria, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta.

Many may deem it an inconsequential matter but the EU – NATO Discrepancy matters, and the time is precisely right to worry about it.

Russia has been reasserting itself with all sorts of mischief, from bullying neighbors to meddling in the US elections, Trump is ludicrously casting doubts on America’s security commitments all over the place, Brexit has thrown everybody, not just its perpetrator, the UK, in irrational bewilderment, and unruly NATO member Turkey is neither here, nor there.

Map showing the European membership of NATO and the EU demonstrating the EU – NATO Discrepancy: member of both in purple, EU member only in blue, NATO member only in orange. Map: Joebloggsy, Wikipedia

Against this backdrop, the call of French President Emmanuel Macron for the creation of an EU army (military) issued at the end of 2018 makes tremendous sense even if it is long overdue.

While back then US President Trump got insulted by Macron’s mention of “even the USA” as a force the future EU military could potentially defend against, and Russian President Putin was quick to “like” the idea, probably hoping it would saw trans-Atlantic discord, the most intriguing reaction come from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. And NATO Secretary-Generals have hardly been the source of intriguing reactions since at least the 1999 NATO – Serbia War over Kosovo.

Without specifically mentioning Macron’s call for an EU army, Stoltenberg warned the EU against that common military push because it could “duplicate” NATO and alienate the United States of America.

Enter the solution to the EU – NATO Discrepancy: the EU becoming a collective member of NATO!

Stoltenberg’s misgivings are certainly not unjustified, and not because in the Trump nobody knows what might alienate the United States of America.

But the truth is that the potential emergence of a powerful EU military that fits within NATO would benefit everybody in the West.

(And, by extension, the world beyond the West, with the West being the world’s primary pillar of freedom, democracy, and responsibility – contrary to what evil dictators and misguided “cultural Marxists” would try to brainwash you into believing.)

The future EU military will certainly have to duplicate the capabilities of NATO and the United States. Otherwise, it won’t count for much.

Such “duplication” wouldn’t be a problem, or certainly not the problem Stoltenberg is worried about, when the EU finally becomes a collective member of NATO.

As an intergovernmental military and political alliance, NATO should be interested in the enhanced military strength of its members.

Thus, if the EU becomes a collective member of NATO, its common EU military, which would not replace the member states’ own militaries, stands the chance to be among the strongest NATO members.

Right now there are plenty of overlapping, duplicating capabilities within NATO: the United States has all capabilities possible, and the rest range from many capabilities in the case of the UK and France to some in Germany and Italy, barely any in Bulgaria and Slovenia, and none in Luxembourg and Iceland.

NATO has no army of its own and it doesn’t seek to eliminate overlapping capabilities in its member states. Every single one of its members is actually supposed to boost its own forces to make the Alliance stronger.

So, first and foremost, EU with a common military which is a member of NATO wouldn’t mean duplicated capabilities but much greater capabilities for the North Atlantic Alliance.

Second, that could help take care of the “alienating the US” problem mentioned by Stoltenberg: the EU as a collective member of NATO could be the answer, even the only possible answer to Trump’s constant complaints, largely justified, about European buckpassing and freeriding in NATO.

Third, another great advantage of resolving the EU – NATO Discrepancy by putting the “EU in NATO” would be to resolve the “unprotected” status of the militarily neutral members of the EU, a remnant from the Cold War: most notably, Finland, Sweden, and Austria.

That way Finland, Sweden, Austria and the three others would be automatically protected by NATO by virtue of their EU membership, without having to become directly members of the North Atlantic Alliance.

They would even be able to keep their “finlandization” status, still perplexingly beloved by many, and not only in Finland.

The EU becoming a collective member of NATO should not be a problem for another reason – its supranational nature, and the precedent in which it is already a collective member of the UN (with permanent observer status, and, since 2011, with “enhanced participation rights”).

Comparing NATO and the EU in international organization terms is like comparing apples and apple cider vinegar, in that the second is qualitatively different from old school IOs.

Unlike NATO, the EU is no intergovernmental organization, it is a supranational entity. A supranational union. Better yet, a supranational state.

Or, better yet, a supranation.

The idea to develop a full-fledged EU military championed by French President Emmanuel Macron is incredibly important.

However, in order to avoid intra-West rifts, and to make sure it yields the greatest benefits possible to Western and global stability, it should be coupled with a long overdue move to resolve the EU – NATO Discrepancy by making the EU a collective member of NATO.


Ivan Dikov

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