Observatory on European defence, September 2002

September 2002
Europe - Iraq

Following US pressure on Baghdad concerning the alleged development of weapons of mass destruction by the Iraqi dictatorial regime, the EU members’ diplomacies have been very active on this front. The Iraq problem has been on the agenda of many formal and informal meetings at European and intergovernmental level, bilaterally and multilaterally, but a real “European position” has not yet emerged. The European Union does not seem to be in a position to play a relevant role in the crisis, despite the activism of its institutions (in particular, the European Parliament), because of its lack of political and military resources. The outcome of the Iraqi crisis is unknown, but the risk of a negative impact on the development of the CFSP and ESDP is high. The possible military operation in Iraq could prove disruptive for the development of the foreign, security and defence policy of the European Union, given the different positions of the European countries. The presence of two European countries on the UN Security Council underlines the role of the national diplomacies and the differences among European countries. There is a general consensus to solve the crisis in the UN framework, but the United Kingdom seems more inclined to support a unilateral US intervention, while on the other hand Germany is not willing to participate in any case and France proposes the adoption of two resolutions (inspections followed by an authorization to intervene militarily in case of failure) by the UN Security Council. The defence of particular national interests and attitudes which continues to emerge often makes it impossible to reach a common position. Moreover, it is increasingly difficult, even for the major European countries, to assume a national position strong enough to be effective in the international arena.

24 September 2002 
EU-NATO - NATO Response Force

During the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers held in Prague, the United States presented a proposal to develop a new NATO reaction force. This “Response Force” should be a light and agile structure made up of about 20,000 troops, fully and quickly deployable out of area for a short period (7 to 30 days) and should be able to operate in high-intensity scenarios, supported by the necessary land, air and maritime assets. According to initial political evaluations, this force should be partially based on already existent assets and should be complementary to the EU Rapid Reaction Force. The US proposal will be discussed by the Prague NATO Summit on 22 November.

The real impact of the American proposal is connected to the planning details that will probably be discussed at the NATO Summit on 22 November. There is some concern about the impact on the development of the ESDP and the European Rapid Reaction Force that should become fully operational in 2003, despite the inertia of the last months. The different missions assigned to the two forces should favour mutual complementarity, but the low level of political and economic resources devoted to defence in Europe suggests that the two initiatives will compete in this field.

Roma, Istituto affari internazionali, 2002
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