NATO official warns EU force would be ‘unwise’

A top uniformed NATO official warned Friday the European Union army concept endorsed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would be “duplicative” and “unwise.”

Polish Army Major General Andrzej Reudowicz (left), commander of NATO's Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway, accompanies UK Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, on a visit to the JWC on May 4, 2018. Peach warned against a European Union army concept to compliment NATO on Friday. (NATO photo)

In an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum, UK Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, pointed to NATO’s strength as a single set of forces, with a unique command and control network and planning process.

“It’s not rhetoric based. It’s real planning based on real data,” Peach said. “And therefore, why would you wish to duplicate or replicate the strengths of an existing strong alliance.”

The comments came after Merkel on Tuesday floated the idea of a “real, true European army,” to compliment NATO during a speech before a session of the European Parliament. Those remarks virtually echoed Macron’s call a week earlier, in an interview with Europe 1.

U.S. President Donald Trump called Macron’s comments “very insulting” in a spate of Twitter posts as the two held a meeting last week in Paris.

Trump himself has tested the strained bonds with some of America’s closest allies by pressuring NATO allies to rely less on the U.S. and dedicate a greater percentage of their gross domestic products to defense.

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg alluded the proposal of a European force at a NATO conference in Berlin, saying he welcomed, “increased EU efforts on defense, because I think that can actually help to strengthen NATO.”

European allied militaries can act without the U.S. so long as they use NATO command structures, Stoltenberg said.

“It will be not a wise decision by all those nations who are members of both NATO and the European Union to start to have two sets of command structures, or duplicate what NATO is doing,” Stoltenberg said.

On Friday, Peach referred to Stoltenberg’s remarks, saying, “Of course, as chairman of the military committee, I agree with [Stoltenberg]. It’s unwise to duplicate.”

Peach emphasized that NATO has a, “single set of forces, and in our processes, those forces are trained, and assured and certified by NATO.”

At the conference, Peach had a broader message that the alliance’s 29 members member remain committed to it — and that it is adapting with the times.

“Throughout the history of the alliance there have been inevitable tussles about how to go forward,” Peach said. “But throughout as a military alliance, we have adapted our command and control structure, responded to new challenges, embraced new members and continued to adapt to new types of warfare and new threats.”

Separately, Finland and Norway intend to launch diplomatic discussions with Moscow over suspected GPS signal-jamming by Russia’s military, which overlapped with NATO’s Trident Juncture exercises, the largest maneuvers in the High North since the end of the Cold War.

Peach on Friday would not confirm the interference took place, but called the principle of freedom of navigation, “very, very important, both to NATO and the International community.”

“Freedom of navigation is not just freedom of navigation at sea, so we need to analyze claims with data. And anything that interrupts freedom of navigation is important to be reported," he said.

How to manage and operate within the electromagnetic spectrum are important topics that deserve more attention, he said.