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Russian experts: common EU army idea unviable

March 10, 2015, 17:33 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, March 10. /TASS/. The idea of creating a common European army cannot be implemented in the foreseeable future as the United States is not interested in this proposal while the EU budgets have their limits, experts polled by TASS said on Tuesday.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt on Sunday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for creating a common European army. "An EU army is needed not just for its immediate involvement but to convey to Russia that we’re serious about defending the values of the European Union," Juncker stressed.

Juncker’s proposal was backed by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The German opposition criticized Juncker’s proposal while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the prospect of creating a common European army a project of the future. The idea of a joint EU army was supported by President of Finland Sauli Niinisto.

The creation of a common EU army would play "a provoking role," said Frants Klintsevich, a member of the Defense Committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. "A European army is thought to be an addition to NATO. Simultaneously, western politicians have enough conscience to accuse Russia of some aggressiveness," the lawmaker told journalists. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov said on Tuesday Moscow wanted to get explanations from Brussels on the idea of EU troops.

"The idea of creating a common European army doesn’t look realistic at the current stage over the unwillingness of EU countries to finance new projects. The United States has repeatedly turned to its allies with a demand to increase security expenditures as NATO members. It would be unaffordable even for the UK, which has an army of just 140,000 servicemen, to finance another military structure, military expert Alexander Golts told TASS.

"All previous ideas about the creation of a European army appeared from time to time due to disagreements of the US NATO’s European allies with Washington whereas now Europeans explain their initiative by a threat from the East and directly interpret it as anti-Russian. The EU countries that are not NATO members, in particular, Finland, believe they need additional security measures," the expert said.

A different viewpoint was expressed by Global Analysis Center President, Col.-Gen Leonid Ivashov. "A single European army, if it is created, will not pose a potential threat to Russia," he said. This is just an attempt and not the first attempt by Europeans to give up the US military diktat" the defense analyst told TASS.

"In 1999, the whole of Europe, except for the UK, was against the bombings of Serbia. It was the US that planted this "thorn" on Europeans. European politicians asked Russia at that time to stand more actively against the military operation in Serbia. The command to start the bombings was given by the then-Commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Forces in Europe, US General Wesley Clark. Since NATO’s creation, precisely US generals have been commanders of the allied armed forces in Europe while Europeans have got tired of this dependence. That is why, the idea of creating a common European army emerged immediately after the bombings of Serbia," Ivashov said.

"In 2003, Germany, France and Belgium were against the US operation in Iraq but could not safeguard their position because European states, which do not have their reconnaissance in third countries and military transport aviation, cannot act independently. The EU countries did not support the US operations in Libya, Syria and Afghanistan because they did not want to act contrary to their own interests," Ivashov said.

"Now Europeans have again started to talk about the creation of a common EU army because they understand that the US is drawing them into military confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, in which Europe is completely uninterested. One should not treat seriously Juncker’s words that the idea of a common European army is a kind of a warning for Russia. The European Commission chairman simply could not say publicly that his proposal meant the desire to get rid of the US patronage," the military expert said.

"Juncker’s proposal on creating a common European army is surely not an attempt to drive a wedge between the US and the EU. The US is the European Union’s chief economic and military partner, which bears the main burden of NATO expenditures while many European countries have cut their military spending considerably and spend less than 2% of GDP on defense," Chief Researcher of the International Security Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Maj-Gen Vladimir Dvorkin told TASS.

"Europeans have no desire to give up such status quo. The initiative to create a European army is rather a desire to prompt European countries to spend more on joint security," the military expert said.

"The idea of creating a common European army has few real prospects because it directly conflicts with NATO’s designation. Amid the existence of a large number of problems, it is unrealistic for the European Union in the current situation to separate from the US," Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy Fyodor Lukyanov said.

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