Perversely, Europe’s military weakness is partly the fault of short-sighted American foreign-policy makers. Had the United States moved to dissolve NATO at the end of the Cold War – once its mission had been accomplished – Europe might be more capable today. European defense officials began planning for European military integration in the 1990s, but then-Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright insisted in 1998 that not only must NATO survive, but any autonomous European defense efforts must not violate what she termed the “three Ds.” In her words, Washington would oppose any European cooperation that produced diminution of, discrimination against or duplication of existing NATO capabilities. This posture helped strangle the European Union defense baby in the cradle.
Today, as the Europeans grasp for coherent military policies, the new fad is called “permanent structured cooperation.” Despite the anodyne term, the ambition is staggering: to specialize and partly decouple military capabilities from the nation-states that produce them. This development reveals the startling human tendency to expand failing enterprises. As the University of Birmingham’s Anand Menon notes, however, “given the jealousy with which governments, whatever the limited potential of their national armed forces, protect their control over defense, significant progress in terms of a more coordinated European response to capabilities shortfalls is unlikely.”