Executive Summary: Shaping the NATO-EU Relationship: What the U.S.Must Do: European Union, EU, NATO, Membership Acceleration Plan,MAP, Bucharest Summit 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, TonyBlair, Georgia, Georgia-Russia war,

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Executive Summary: Shaping the NATO-EU Relationship: What the U.S.Must Do: European Union, EU, NATO, Membership Acceleration Plan,MAP, Bucharest Summit 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, TonyBlair, Georgia, Georgia-Russia war,

October 8, 2008 4 min read Download Report
Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara

Sally McNamara is a Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the West has rightly invested its time, energy, and resources into fighting asymmetric warfare and combating Islamist radicals. Russia's immoral and illegitimate invasion of Georgia on August 7, 2008, however, demonstrated that the threat of traditional military confrontation has not disappeared. Europe must, therefore, rebuild its militaries to undertake operations in both security contexts, determining what threats they are likely to face and how best to approach them.

Traditionally, NATO has been the primary alli­ance architecture in which to discuss Europe's secu­rity. But when France assumed the six-month EU presidency on July 1, 2008, the advancement of a military identity anchored within enhanced EU power structures, independent of NATO, was made a top priority. TheBritish Conservative Party has described these plans as "a manifesto for an EU takeover of our armed forces." With the recent Franco-American détente, however, the Bush Administration has been sufficiently convinced that the European initiative does not threaten NATO and has given it a warm welcome.

With the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) in existence for nearly a decade, average European defense spending has decreased and NATO has seen little or no valuable complementarity, while serious questions remain about the EU's motivation in pursuing a military identity. The EU's cautious and ambiguous response to the Georgian-Russian war highlights just how far Brus­sels is from assuming a strong and united foreign policy. The structural and organizational relation­ship between the EU and NATO must, therefore, be reassessed-as must the purpose and value of pursuing further integration.

Ten Years After St. Malo: ESDP of Little or No Help to NATO

Afterthe fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the newly liberated countries of Central and Eastern Europe rushed for membership in NATO first, and the European Union second. Having expe­rienced more than half a century of Soviet domi­nance, the need for a strategic security relationship with America was paramount, followed by the eco­nomic benefits of EU membership. These countries' relatively peaceful and successful transition to democracy, achieved in part through NATO mem­bership, pavedthe way for the vast majority of Cen­tral and Eastern Europe to join the EU in 2004. Today, NATO and the EU share 21 members. EU integration in the field of defense was already well underway when Central and Eastern Europe acceded, and the newer members have largely seen fit to defer to founding older members.

NATO-EU relations are underpinned by the Ber­lin Plus Agreement signed in December 2002 and implemented in March 2003. It is easy to see why Washington thought it was receiving a good deal out of Berlin Plus: While the agreement assured the EU access to NATO's planning capabilities and assets for EU-led crisis management operations (CMO), the United States also anticipated a bigger commitment by the EU to upgrading its military capabilities. The premise of Berlin Plus was essentially that the ESDP would reinforce NATO, not undermine it, and that the long-held American policy doctrine of the "three Ds" would be upheld: no decoupling from NATO, no duplication of NATO resources, and no discrim­ination against NATO members that are not part of the EU. The U.S. Congress and Administration must also have been encouraged to see its closest friend, the U.K., in agreement with this project. (Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair initiated a significant reversal of British policy to back an EU defense iden­tity at St. Malo in 1998).

But there has been no increased defense com­mitment by the Europeans in terms of spending or manpower, and Tony Blair has now departed the European stage to be replaced by a weak and inef­fective government in London. There is also signif­icant evidence that the three Ds doctrine has long been abandoned by the EU. It has become clear that the European Union signed Berlin Plus for the purposes of elevating its own status and gaining access to NATO assets (largely American), with no genuine commitment to increase defense spending. Blair's original intention-that NATO would obtain added value and significant complementarity from the ESDP-has not occurred, and he was outwit­ted by Paris. As a Congressional Research Service report noted in January 2005: "French officials have long argued that the EU should seek to coun­terbalance the United States on the international stage and view ESDP as a vehicle for enhancing the EU's political credibility." Therefore, there is a sig­nificant case for the U.S. to review the terms of the Berlin Plus Agreement.


NATO's purpose continues to remain essentially the same: "to safeguard the freedom and security of its member countries by political and military means." The ESDP has played little or no role in ful­filling this goal and nothing has occurred since the signing of the St. Malo Declaration that has signifi­cantly improved Europe's military posture. Advo­cates of ESDP continue to assume the benefits of further European integration, while ignoring its inherent weaknesses and poor track record. The accrual of power is the main motivating force driving the European Security and Defense Policy, accompa­nied by the assumption that NATO is no longer the cornerstone of the transatlantic security alliance.

As a military alliance, NATO has the right to ex­pect its members to undertake the responsibilities of membership as well as enjoy the benefits. But Amer­ica's desire to see Europe play a larger role in world affairs has led to a misplacement of trust that this can take place under the leadership of the European Union. European members of the NATO alliance, operating as sovereign and independent nations, will be better placed to serve transatlantic security inter­ests within the alliance than as members of a supra-nationalized and anti-democratic institution.

Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in Euro­pean Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Free­dom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author is grateful to Erica Munkwitz for her assistance in preparing this paper.


Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara