The Aimlessness of European Security

After French President Emmanuel Macron called NATO ‘brain dead’, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is advocating for a European Security Council. 


In the dispute over international security policy, Germany’s Foreign Minister Maas has reiterated his proposal for the introduction of a European Security Council. Maas also emphasized that he would like to see Britain also participating while rejecting Macron’s assessment of a ‘brain dead’ NATO. 


According to Maas, a European Security Council would be a place ‘where Europeans conduct their foreign and security policy work, within the institutional framework of the European Union and beyond’. 


Macron’s criticism of NATO did not divulge Maas. ‘It would be a mistake if we undermined NATO,’ Maas said. Neither Germany nor Europe was able to ‘protect themselves effectively’ without the United States.


‘We will need NATO for many more years. It stands for burden-sharing, for international cooperation, for multilateralism’. It would be crucial to keep NATO intact if Europe sought to emancipate itself.


A strong and sovereign Europe was needed as part of a strong NATO and not as its replacement. A foreign and security policy without Washington was, according to Maas, ‘irresponsible.’ A prime example of the latter was recently made very clear by the Russian violation of the INF Treaty on the Prohibition of Land Use-Priced Medium-Range Weapons. 


Maas opposed a German unilateral foreign policy, for example towards Moscow. ‘Our neighbours in Poland and the Baltics can trust that we take their security needs as seriously as our own,’ he emphasized. 


Before Maas, Chancellor Merkel had already contradicted Macron’s choice of words. She had a different ‘views of cooperation in NATO,’ Merkel commented on Thursday, adding that the transatlantic partnership was ‘indispensable for us’. 


In an interview with The Economist, Macron had criticized that there was ‘no coordination in strategic decisions between the United States and its NATO allies’. Already in March, CDU chair and Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer advocated a Europe concept to decide on common foreign policy positions in a ‘European Security Council involving the United Kingdom’ and to organize joint action in security policy. In the past week, Kramp-Karrenbauer then proposed, inter alia, a National Security Council to prepare Germany for major military tasks. It would allow them to react faster and more effectively to crises.


While the idea of a European Security Council is coherent in spirit, it sounds more than political symbolism in reality. Maas’ comments on NATO and the ‘burden-sharing’ it includes is particularly interesting, as the burden has never been shared, but was carried in a one nation show by the United States. 


For the burden to be shared, Germany must first and foremost adhere to the required two per cent military expenditure on its GDP (currently at 1.2 per cent). The latter is the reason why the Maas’ and Kramp-Karrenbauer’s proposal is unrealistic, as Germany’s military and security capabilities remain inapt. 


This inaptness not only validates Macron’s remark but also why the United States continues to run NATO almost unilaterally. For the Europeans to change this, it would require to increase their respective defence budgets finally. As long as Europe remains dependable on the United States’ military capabilities, a European Security Council would conduct security in name only.