Europe to Launch Joint Military Intervention Force Because It Can't Count on NATO

A French Air Force Caracal helicopter takes off over soldiers during the Salamandre joint French Air Force and U.S. Air Force Combat, Search and Rescue training exercise at the Cazaux airbase in La Teste-de-Buch, France, on November 9, 2016. Mehdi Fedouach/AFP/Getty Images

At least nine members of the European Union have agreed to launch a joint military intervention force in Europe.

The effort, known as the European Intervention Initiative, is led by French President Emmanuel Macron and supported by Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain and Portugal. The intervention force will operate outside of the general structures of the EU. Consequently, Britain joined the initiative despite the country's plans to leave the EU. Italy had originally intended to support the initiative, but the country's new populist government is unsure about whether it will participate.

Some analysts argue that the initiative is being launched because European countries no longer feel they can rely on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to protect them, especially given President Donald Trump's constant criticism of NATO and reluctance to support it. NATO officials have also expressed some concern that the initiative could undermine NATO or set up parallel institutions.

Meanwhile, other critics of the European Intervention Initiative have worried that the project will be too heavily influenced by Macron, its initiator, and that the plans for how the initiative will operate are too vague. Macron originally floated the idea for the joint initiative in a speech last September.

"There was undeniably a lack of Cartesian clarity in Macron's description of what he was actually proposing," Nick Witney, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an op-ed. "At one point in his speech he declared that: 'At the beginning of the next decade, Europe needs to establish a common intervention force, a common defense budget and a common doctrine for action.' Yet his description of the E2I seemed altogether less ambitious: his call was for an initiative 'aimed at developing a shared strategic culture.'"

Witney described Macron's proposal as a type of military Erasmus, the European Commission's educational exchange program, and added that "other Europeans may be forgiven a degree of confusion" about the project.

The European Intervention Initiative will allow for joint military responses outside of both the EU and NATO frameworks. Meanwhile, the EU is formulating its own defense initiative, called the Common Security and Defense Policy.

"The EU and its member states have been celebrating the most recent steps in this direction: the launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), to deepen defense cooperation; the launch of the European Defense Fund (EDF), to finance joint research and capability projects; and finally, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defense (CARD), which is supposed to synchronize EU defense planning," according to Carnegie Europe, the European center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.