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soldier-of-the-crimean-warWe have just marked another Remembrance Day.

For reasons that I don’t understand, the remembrance event that I attended had lots of pictures of central London and focused entirely on the First World War and the appalling loss of over 16 million lives. World War Two – the most murderous war in history with some 60 million dead (approximately 3% of the world’s population) – was completely ignored.

This year’s Remembrance-tide coincided with a renewed proposal to form an EU army in the face of threats by President-elect Trump to pull the US out of NATO if its European allies don’t start paying a fair share of the defence bill.

There are a few problems with this:

  • If most EU nations aren’t forking out now, is there any reason to suppose that they’re going to start forking out when they start to go it alone?
  • It fails to learn the lessons of history. If Western Europe couldn’t defend itself without American support in two world wars despite the fact that both Britain and France had the resources of large colonial empires to call on (including, in Britain’s case, nations such as Canada and Australia), then why does it think it could do it now?
  • The USA spends vastly more than any other country on defence – why would the EU not want to be on the same side?
  • In Europe, according to one source, the UK alone spends more than Russia – only China, Oman and Saudi Arabia spend more (but Oman and Saudi Arabia spend a lot of it in the UK, which may explain how we can spend so much)*. Again, why would the EU not want the UK as an ally?

Expenditure, of course, isn’t everything – just because we spend a lot of money on defence, doesn’t mean that we spend it well. It may be that an EU-controlled defence budget would be spent more judiciously and effectively. Discuss.

Put simply, the proposal for an EU defence force has everything to do with hubris and nothing to do with the defence of Europe.

Figures vary and some sources use %GDP rather than actual money spent.  I used  Defense Budget by Country published by the worryingly titled Global Fire Power

Other sources include:
SIPRI Military Expenditure Database which has comfortingly downloadable data sets
CIA World Factbook about which there is nothing comfortable