When the EU-loving head of NATO condemns EU military plans you know it’s serious

Graham Charles Lear
6 min readSep 5, 2021

EU announces plans for new ‘First Entry Force’ of up to 20,000 troops, in addition to existing EU battalions

Last week the regular meetings of defence and foreign ministers took place separately in Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council. The defence ministers announced that

“The experience from Afghanistan had revealed the need to accelerate the building of the EU’s defence and military capabilities”.

“The EU must therefore strengthen its strategic autonomy by creating a first entry force capable of ensuring stability in the EU’s neighbourhood.”

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, made a statement and responded to questions.

“Were we ready to send a mission to take control and secure the perimeter of Kabul airport? No. The Americans yes, we no. If we want to be able to act autonomously and not to be dependent on the choices made by others — even if these others are our friends and allies — then we have to develop our own capacities. And this is what — I think — we will be able to agree, and this is something that has to be built.”

“Afghanistan is a good example — very timely example — in order to mobilise the will of the Member States and understand that there is no other way to face the new situation than having the capacity to act by ourselves.”

Speaking of troop numbers for the new ’First Entry Force’, the EU’s de facto defence secretary said:

“No, it has never been in our mind to talk about 50,000. The real figure, the one that the military experts consider good enough in order to implement the new kind of missions that modern warfare requires is about this figure: 5,000.”

[Note: Senior officials in Brussels are privately talking about 20,000 troops.]

- Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, 02 Sep 2021

The new ‘First Entry Force’ is on top of existing ‘EU Battlegroups’

As a result of the level of disinformation from pro-EU politicians in the UK such as former LibDem leader Nick Clegg, the existence of all the EU military structures and EU command centres has been invisible to the British public.

I have published a few reports on this subject. In order to keep this report as short as possible, I will mention just one fact. The latest ‘EU Battlegroup’ (EUBG) formed in 2020 is German-led and consists of 6,600 soldiers from many EU countries. In addition, there is an Italian-led EUBG. Many other EUBGs exist but are not considered to be ‘on call’.

NATO comes out fighting against an EU Army

It can be no coincidence that the Secretary-General of NATO, the former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg, then chose to give an interview to The Daily Telegraph’s Sunday Political Editor, Edward Malnick (paywalled), published today, 05 Sep 2021. In the course of this interview, Mr Stoltenberg gave the strongest repudiation yet seen from NATO of the EU’s military ambitions.

“I welcome more European efforts on defence but that can never replace Nato and we need to make sure that Europe and North America band together. Any attempt to weaken the bond between North America and Europe will not only weaken Nato, it will divide Europe.”

Secretary General of NATO, the former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg

In a not-very-subtle side-swipe at all the EU countries failing to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence, he added:

“This is partly about money — 80 per cent of our defence expenditure comes from non-EU allies…”

“Any attempt to establish parallel structures, duplicate the command structure — that will weaken our joint capability to work together because with scarce resources we need to prevent duplication and overlapping efforts.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

In pure money terms, the UK was by far the EU’s biggest spender on defence in 2019

  • The United Kingdom spent €46.9 bn on defence, according to the EU. This was:-
  • 31% more than France
  • 43% more than Germany
  • More than double Italy’s spending
  • Four times that of the Netherlands and Spain

The EU is developing its military plans without telling NATO

Finally, and despite the EU Commission constantly saying that they liaise with NATO all the time, the NATO Secretary-General made a surprising announcement.

“The specific proposals have not been discussed in Nato, we have not seen any details.”

On the British role in Afghanistan specifically, Mr Stoltenberg said: “It is critical, and this is from the bottom of my heart, also to praise the United Kingdom and the efforts of British soldiers in conducting the evacuation. That was a massive undertaking.”

The slow, inexorable march of the EU Army

I have been publishing detailed reports on the EU’s military developments and ambitions. As far as I know, we have published more articles on this subject than Eurosceptic organisations specialising in defence.

Regular readers will know that I have been consistently critical of the EU-loving Mr Stoltenberg for ‘cosying up’ to Brussels during his tenure as NATO Secretary-General. This is the former Norwegian Prime Minister who twice attempted to persuade the Norwegian people to join the EU. His efforts were resoundingly rejected each time.

For Mr Stoltenberg now to be so openly critical of the EU’s military ambitions is therefore even more shocking.

Can anyone seriously imagine the EU managing the Afghan evacuation?

The retreat from Afghanistan was chaotic enough as it was, with the regime crumbling in days rather than months, and huge quantities of military hardware — to say nothing of Afghans who had helped the British and Americans — being left behind.

That said, can anyone seriously imagine the EU having managed the retreat? I shudder at the thought. The only major military power left in the EU, now that the United Kingdom has left, is France. Even then, during the recent rescue effort for French colonies ravaged by a hurricane in the Caribbean, the French had to ask the RAF for help. Naturally, the RAF flew to the rescue using its extra-large transport aircraft, as France did not possess any. Even more damaging for the French was the debacle that saw them leave Afghanistan two years early than they were supposed to have done when they were attacked and had a few killed. The truth is No one can ever now trust the French. It's as simple as that.

Yes, individual EU countries did evacuate people from Kabul in significant numbers, but these were far fewer than the overall number taken out by the Americans and the British.

There is a force that has kept the peace in Europe and has the military capability — it’s called NATO

The problem in the EU is not that it doesn’t have a credible military. The individual EU countries have spent pitifully little on defence for decades. Step one is for EU countries to start spending the NATO minimum of 2% of GDP on defence — much more if they want to catch up. If they do that for about 25 years, they might get close to having forces to draw upon for any kind of serious military scenario.

[ Sources: EU Commission | EU ‘External Action Service’ | Slovenian government |



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.