The problem with Europe, surprisingly, is that it does not have enough rules. The basis for the Eurozone’s current financial crisis is that establishment of a monetary union was not accompanied by the creation of a fiscal one. The root cause of the current Euro crisis is the unwillingness of the nations of Europe to relinquish their sovereignty at the time the monetary union was created. The extremely apt metaphor employed recently by historian Niall Ferguson is that Europe’s situation is as if the United States was still operating under the failed Articles of Confederation which preceded our Constitution. The Articles had been written so as to hamstring the central government and preserve almost all power in the states. The results then were pretty much what we are seeing in Europe today. However, the political and financial crises which resulted in the calling of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were minor compared to the scale of the problems facing Europe today.
It has become transparently clear that the price of saving the Euro must be closer fiscal union among the member states. Without such a union, and specifically enforceable rules to prevent nations from repeating the mistakes made by Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain, no more money will be forthcoming to prop up these debtor nations. But no nation will be willing to subordinate its sovereignty on fiscal and budgetary matters to the European Union without the creation of new political institutions that guarantee that the will of the people and not the whims of faceless, grey bureaucrats in Brussels determine how such power is wielded. Europe must take not just one but two giant leaps toward integration if it is to survive.
Actually, make that three leaps. Political and fiscal integration is not enough to secure Europe. There is also a need for military integration. The involvement of Europe in a series of expeditionary military operations over the past decade have clearly demonstrated that while in the aggregate, the continent’s military establishment is large and relatively expensive (almost $300 billion a year), the whole is actually less than the sum of the parts. The reason for this is, once again, national sovereignty. Each country gets to determine the size and structure of its military and the kinds of equipment that will be acquired. Each of the large nations still tries to maintain a full spectrum military. As defense budgets continue to decline across the continent, this disaggregated system of national preferences, priorities and sensibilities is no longer tolerable.
NATO has provided the basis for a degree of integration. There are NATO standards for most military activities and even for a lot of hardware. There are cooperative defense programs such as the multi-national NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force that collectively operates eighteen E-3 AWACS aircraft and the new NATO Airborne Ground Surveillance Program which will acquire and operate five Block 40 Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems with an advanced radar. But in most areas, there are neither sufficient national capabilities to go it alone nor adequate arrangements for collecting and sharing assets.
The key to an effective defense of Europe, whether conducted by NATO or a coalition of the willing, is a pooling of national assets. This is at the heart of NATO’s Smart Defense Initiative. Nations would promise to make their particular capabilities available to other nations. By unifying national contributions in such pools, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts that individual nations can afford. In addition, nations could afford increased specialization in their military force structures knowing that there were pools of assets available with which to fill any capability gaps.
In its own way, this would constitute the military equivalent of fiscal union, a mutualization of security in much the same way that the creation of Eurobonds and a fiscal oversight mechanism would mutualize financial risks and responsibilities. However, just as fiscal interdependence will require political union, effective pooling of military assets would require a military union. No nation would risk its security by planning on the use of assets belonging to other nations without a certainty of access to them. Access would have to be formalized in a legally binding agreement. Both those providing the resources and those accessing the pool would have to have a priori agreement as to the circumstances under which access would be provided and conditions under which it could be denied. From this point it is just a short step – well, maybe another leap – to full integration of national security policies.