The most naked ambition of the EU and its supporters is to develop itself as a credible rival on the world stage to the US. Their constant yardstick of comparison, like a teenage boy's penis ruler, is with the US; population, GDP, outputs and so on. Such ambitions are little more than naive and jejune aspiration. To reach parity, the EU must develop all three facets
that would make the federation a world power; civilian, military and normative
. We'll look first at military capacity.
|Active military personnel ('000s)
|Total expenditure (bn$)
|Expenditure as % of GDP
|Destroyers, frigates, corvettes
|Armour – MBTs & AFVs
|Fighter and ground attack aircraft
|Transport & refuelling aircraft
The figures above are as good and accurate I can get without spending hours in research, and I believe are good enough to paint the picture. Happy to take corrections and addenda from our many more expert readers in the comments.
The picture this paints for me is an EU with a last-generation military, heavy on unskilled conscripts, with little state of the art kit and virtually no force projection capacity. Towed artillery, for example, is essentially Great War technology - and without GPS (Russia / US / China would restrict use of their own systems and quickly disable Gallilleo in the event of conflict) simply does not have the vast reserves of shells needed for random and inaccurate wide-area bombardment in Great War style. The conflict in Ukraine has shown how easily GPS can be blocked locally, and new, ad-hoc low tech such as the use of cheap civilian drones to spot targets and correct fall-of-shot can be used, how home-made EW can easily block digital and satellite radio comms and how forces have gone back to last gen HF radio comms.
Even where the figures look to have some equivalence it is illusory. Only France has a military worth anything at all. Low skills and low expenditure mean much EU kit is unserviceable and only a small fraction can take to the field in short order.
The EU is low on both military transport aircraft and on naval vessels other than littoral patrol vessels. This lack of force projection capability in turn undermines the EU's aspirations to be a normative power.
Without NATO, without the USA and the United Kingdom, the EU does not have even the most basic capacity to resist an attack from Russia, a nation with the GDP of France. For a considerable time to come, the EU must rely on the goodwill of other, 'third party' nations for the Federation's fundamental security. This at a time when the EU has been at least encouraging, if not fomenting anti-American sentiment that campaigns for US bases in the EU to go
. It is an incredibly risky strategy.
If we are to ask British servicemen and women to put their lives on the line in eastern Europe for the EU, if we are to share the most sensitive products of our well-developed intelligence capabilities and alliances such as 'five eyes' with the EU, if we are to look out for the EU's security whilst the EU avoids this most fundamental responsibility of defending itself whilst at the same time refusing to buy UK or US made aircraft, military kit or technology and after explicitly naming us both as 'potential enemies', one really has to wonder how much longer the people of Britain are prepared to cover their backs.