It was never a good idea to install as the head of NATO a man who was previously considered for the post of ‘European President’, as the rejected European Constitution would have had us accept.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Danish Prime Minister, forged his career in terms of foreign policy by following the Ellemann-Jenson Doctrine, which states that small states have little hope of achieving leverage on the international stage unless they build alliances and cooperate with the big, powerful states, in their expeditions.
Hence Denmark, under his leadership, cantered off to war in Iraq alongside the United States, in the hope of gaining increased political weight and significance in the world.
Naturally, Rasmussen also saw cooperation with the European Union as another way to increase Danish leverage, resulting in which he became a leading contender for Tony Blair’s desired job: President of Europe.
Thankfully the people of Europe were allowed a say and the chance to reject these follies, and thus Blair went off globe-trotting and Rasmussen became Secretary-General of NATO.
However, as Rasmussen’s actions and words testify, he has not left his pro-European views behind. Indeed, he often sounds like a man with a vision to merge his organisation into the European Union.
An article he recently wrote for the journal Foreign Affairs, entitled ‘Nato in Libya’, reflected that NATO had the firepower and capabilities to do everything it wanted. The constraints it had were not in terms of physical assets, but political will. However, he feels that in the long-term, the constant cuts in European defence spending are a real danger to future operations.
European’s just can not think forwards. Whether it is the inevitable problems from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ Euro, or the inability to predict a conflict in Libya (most Europeans thought Afghanistan would be the last major military venture), European policy makers increasingly are ignoring hard-facts. Sadly, British ones are also heading the same way – the defence cuts and sharing of aircraft carriers being classic examples.
Rasmussen fears for the decline in European defence spending, noting that as the world gets richer, more is spent on defence (in China and India), but in Europe it is the other way round. Increasingly, the defence burden of spending falls on America and Canada in NATO – 21% is now paid by Europeans, leaving 79% for the North Americans to pay for. Rasmussen notes the European tendency to talk about ‘soft-power’, and rejects that too – it is not soft-power that stopped genocide in Libya, or soft-power that halted the Taliban, or stopped Slobodan Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia.
At this point Rasmussen’s European intentions come to the fore. Pointing out that the US is not always going to lead, and faces it’s own debt crisis, he see’s a great opportunity for the EU to step up and be a global player. For that to happen, he argues, their needs to be better and more efficient defence spending (by which he means more cooperation and less duplication of what one state is doing by another) and greater cooperation in the pooling of resources between NATO and the EU.
Rasmussen clearly wants to push the EU to use the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty to integrate further. He wants Article 24.1, “the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence”, to be implemented and for Article 24.2, the integration of Member States defence capabilities, to become a reality. Lisbon contains all the provisions for Rasmussen’s dream: Article 42 demands that Member States must provide their military forces for EU expeditions and ventures, and that a new body, the European Defence Agency, will coordinate military activities and military build-up across Europe, to improve European capabilities, exactly as Rasmussen wants. This is not about individual states developing, it is about a top-down approach which sees the resources of states being coordinated for the development of a European force.
Article 42 has rules on Permanent Structured Cooperation for those states which want to go further, allowing and encouraging deeper integration and cooperation than the treaty was permitted to talk about.
It is clear that, as the Secretary-General of NATO, Rasmussen is concerned about its future. NATO is facing a US president who is losing interest, economic problems, and a European base which is reluctant to spend any money. However, the Lisbon Treaty contains all the articles and powers that he dreams of, to integrate Europe and build a stronger force. If Europe can start this process, the overlap between NATO and the EU can be removed and slowly NATO will be merged into Brussels.
Article 21 of Lisbon does demand that the EU build relations with NATO.
However, from Brussels’ point of view, it could easily be argued that NATO is a useful tool that will never be fully redundant. Whilst Brussels would love to take most of NATO under its own control, it is a useful cover and umbrella for unpopular actions. European forces could be deployed under the NATO name when the EU is too weak to admit it wants to do something, and of course, NATO ties the US into European security, which ultimately is a safety net if Europe continues to axe defence spending.
Rasmussen’s view of the world is very much shaped by his Danish background, and his belief that Denmark could never impact the world without integrating into some greater alliance. Facing a declining NATO, Rasmussen wants to integrate it into the European Union. And such an achievement would surely mark him out for a job as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.