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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 10:01 GMT
Do we need a European rapid reaction force?
EU defence ministers have pledged some 60,000 troops for a rapid reaction force capable of being deployed at short notice.

Ministers say Europe needs to co-operate more closely on defence matters. Critics say the rapid reaction force is tantamount to the creation of an EU army.

Does a rapid reaction force ensure that Europe deals with conflicts more efficiently? Does it make the world safer? Or does it amount to the creation of a European army that would undermine NATO and therefore global security?

We discussed this issue in Talking Point ON AIR, the live phone-in radio programme from BBC World Service and BBC News Online. Diana Madill presented the programme and was joined by BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Select the link below to listen to Talking Point On Air.

A RRF may help end some of the televised genocide that we have witnessed in the past 10 years. Then people may begin to see the positive aspect of respecting the rules of humanitarian law set forth by the Geneva Convention. But then again there will also be people asking the timeless question, "Why should I care what happens to another people as long as it doesn't directly affect me?" I wait for the day our when our economic interests are trumped by our desire to be human.
Bill, USA

I feel that the rapid reaction force is yet another step towards a European super state. If such a thing was to happen, it would mean a loss of national identity and as William Hague said, the United Kingdom will only be a name.
A. McKenzie, England

I hope the people who support the RRF are prepared to pay a lot more tax to fund it

Graeme, England
I hope the people who support the RRF are prepared to pay a lot more tax to fund it. Our services are overstretched, poorly equipped and badly maintained. We (Europe) have no heavy lift capability, no reliable AEW capability and lack many of the modern military resources necessary for carrying out the type of missions envisaged. Do you want to pay for this?
Graeme, England

I think that in principle the idea of a European Rapid Reaction force is a good one. However, I do have reservations. These are that it will, even if in only a small way, undermine Nato's position. Additionally, at a time when British forces are over-stretched and underfunded is it wise to take on yet more commitments? Lastly, as the action in Kosovo and the continuing policing of the Gulf has shown, it is very difficult to gain a consensus from European governments on how best to use a military force. To go into battle with less than total support from colleagues is dangerous. If these issues could be resolved prior to any deployment of such a force then I think the EU force would work.
Brendan Neeson, Manchester, England

I believe that Nato is too large and unwieldy to be an effective deterrent in today's environment of economic power blocs

Dale R. Smith, USA
I served in the US Navy for 20 years. I do not see a problem with the European Union establishing a limited rapid reaction force with specific mission goals. The US Congress would welcome the benefit of fiscal relief that would come with this type of force being utilised. I believe that Nato is too large and unwieldy to be an effective deterrent in today's environment of economic power blocs. I believe that you cannot send an army every time some tinpot dictator loses his grip. An example in point is the Nato intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo. I believe these interventions will ultimately be proven to be abject failures on the part of the US and of Nato.
Dale R. Smith, USA

People talk about how we must break away from American influence and instead look to Europe alone. Surely we must look to work with both - greater co-operation between all is the way ahead. Every one of us has an interest in world peace being kept as best we can.
David Goodman, Durham, England

What is this Rapid Reaction Force supposed to react to?

Lesley H, Devizes, UK
What is this Rapid Reaction Force supposed to react to? National disaster or international conflict? If there was a force we could call on when there was something like an earthquake, then fine but if one of the nations in the EU had an escalating argument with another, would the force be expected to stand between the two sides to stop it? I feel that the limits have not been worked out, or if they have, then they certainly haven't been explained.
Lesley H, Devizes, UK

We need fewer armies, not more. I am sick of seeing my hard-earned taxes going towards oppressing other nations, such as Serbia during the bombing last year. The UK spent 73 million pounds a day during the 10-week bombing campaign. Imagine how many fabulous schools and hospitals could have been built with that money. If I had a choice, not one penny of my taxes would be spent on defence. Armies create their own wars - it is the condition of their existence.
Natalie Law, London, UK

I expect like most things associated with the EU, it will be a slow reaction farce.
Greg, British living in The Netherlands

It is clear the USA does not wish to sustain any casualties in a European crisis

James Cavanagh, Skelmersdale, England
It is clear the USA does not wish to sustain any casualties in a European crisis. Therefore Europeans must take responsibility for the policing of their own back yard. What has to be considered, however, before European forces become committed to any crisis is the procurement of effective military equipment and guaranteed political will. When Europe has the required military capabilities it should then set up the RRF.
James Cavanagh, Skelmersdale, England

It is about high time the European rapid force was established in order to keep peace and security within the European continent, only without any help from the USA. What is beyond the European continent should be taken care of by an international force.
Hany Mekkawi Rengier, Cologne, Germany

Europe will never do it. Stop living in Disneyland. Hope George W. cuts off the 1-800-USA-HELP line. Do you think we are here to protect you forever? Also note, it is normal for any country to protect and defend its national interests. The US armed forces are not Red Cross workers and I see nothing in Bosnia or Albania that concerns me as an American. If they want to kill each other, just let them. What makes them any more special than Lebanon or the Sudan?

Europe should be able to operate on its own

Andy, Scotland
This EU-RRF should be the first step towards independence from US domination. At least when it comes to crises within Europe, Europe should be able to operate on its own. It is time for the US to feel that Europe is not their playground anymore (or at least should not be).
Andy, Scotland

Can the UK defence industry afford to grease enough palms to secure those all-important contracts to supply the proposed new force? Just watch: this is going to be Europe's biggest-ever gravy train for corporate lobbying, the bribing of bureaucrats and begging for taxpayer subsidies.
Henry Case, UK

The only rapid reaction force we need is one that will sort out EU bureaucracy
Martin, Oxford, England

I feel that this RRF is a step too far

Matt Hyland, Birmingham, England
I feel that this RRF is a step too far. We already have our troops spread across the world in various trouble spots and they are over stretched as it is.
Matt Hyland, Birmingham, England

When will people realise that we should be making decisions for the future rather than the past? Whilst the UK may have had a 'special relationship' with the US in the 20th century, US interest is moving towards the Pacific Rim in the 21st. The US and its advocating of its own kind of imperialism - the economic sort - means that it is not necessarily a benevolent influence on Europe. And with regards to language problems, surely similar objections could have been raised to NATO before it began. After all, how many different languages are spoken in its member states?
Sebastiano di Espinoza, Sevilla, Spain

How does anyone expect to create an RRF when our forces are already under-manned, under-paid and under-funded? Can anybody also tell me when I am likely to see my husband when he has completed a six month tour of Bosnia followed by a six month tour of Kosovo as well as all the normal three or four weeks away on exercise to train? It's a good job I have a photo otherwise I might forget what he looked like.
Jo, London, England

Why don't we augment this force instead of trying to reinvent the wheel?

James Jeffrey, USA, but ENGLISH
Lets just review one thing, the UK is already part of a Rapid Reaction Force, what else do people think HMS Ocean and her complement of Royal Marines do when they sail off at a moments notice to trouble spots around the world. Why don't we augment this force instead of trying to reinvent the wheel?
James Jeffrey, USA, but ENGLISH

It is true that we need to be independent of the U.S.A. They stood back for years whilst Europe was devastated during the WWII and only came into the fray due to Japanese aggression. They also charged very heavily for their contribution which led to much extra hardship. Having said that, it will be an enormous challenge to have one united European force. The practical problems involved are great. What language will be used? Who will be making final decisions? How will the financial burden be divided between the countries etc. I love Europe and our wonderful heritage and culture but I am not sure if we are ready for one army. It is something we should work towards, but realistically taking into consideration the advice of military experts and not the words of an ambitious but ill-informed Blair.
Annie, Dubai, U.A.E.

I can't help finding an underlying premise of much of this questionable. Namely the notion that the US protects us and reluctantly takes on peacekeeping missions as part of its "duty" to freedom or democracy. The US intervenes whether under UN flag, NATO flag or alone purely when its own national interest can be furthered. As far as humanitarian issues go it can be seen that the US will choose to intervene to prevent human rights abuses only when it wants to intervene anyway. From this I think that US intervention in Europe and European affairs can only be bad for us and anything which prevents it can only be good.
Jon Valentine, Leeds, UK

I love America but think it impertinent to expect the USA to act as our protector

G. L.Spencer, Andover, England
How much longer can we citizens of Europe expect the take the major responsibility for our defence and security? We have a poor record in the U.K. of sorting out our own problems e.g. .Ulster and it seems to me that with 50 or so years since the 2nd World (European!) war we should at last take responsibility for our own future. I love America but think it impertinent to expect the USA to act as our protector.
G. L.Spencer, Andover, England

Unfortunately, the decision to establish a European Rapid Reaction Force is based solely upon political reasoning. This force, (about as effective as the Euro) is to give the EEC the trappings of statehood in preparation for the inevitable.
Malcolm D McKeating, York, England

Problems like Yugoslavia are European problems, to be solved by Europeans and nobody else, otherwise what is the point in us "Europeans" having armies and at the first sign of problems go running to Big Daddy the Americans to resolve our problems. It is the mark of a strong country or coalition of countries to resolve problems on our own doorstep, to say otherwise shows a remarkable lack of national pride and cowardice
Roy, Glasgow, Scotland

France and Germany continue in this charade when everyone can see straight through it

Matthew, Australia
I do not understand why France and Germany continue in this charade when everyone can see straight through it. They should simply call it the United States of Europe and close the deal. One currency, one government, on army. It is what they want in the end anyway.
Matthew, Australia

No doubt, we will invest the most into this RRF in terms of personnel and capital, when it isn't us that are endangered. We have the British Armed Forces to protect this country, and NATO to protect our international interests; a RRF will be surplus to OUR requirements.
Richard Bowyer, Birmingham, UK

Europe has depended on the US for its defence for far too long

Russell, UK
Europe has depended on the US for its defence for far too long. Initially, this was because Europe was too weak and disunited after WWII to defend itself from the USSR. Now that the Cold War is over and Russia does not pose the kind of threat (in terms of conventional weapons) that it once did, Europe needs to focus on events in it's own 'backyard'. Issues like Bosnia could have been dealt with much more quickly had we not had to wait for the US to commit to action. US interests do not always coincide with European ones, so it makes sense for Europe to come up with a European solution to European problems. More rather than less military co-operation should be the order of the day.
Russell, UK

Europe does not have a single political body which is capable of responding to a series of rapidly unfolding events (on a timescale of days) and making effective and coherent decisions. I do not therefore look forward to the first time the rapid reaction force is deployed. The EU is incapable of providing the kind of clear direction and leadership required to successfully direct any kind of military operation. The skills and experience required are not to be gained from decades of regulation of meat production or political correctness enforcement.
Neil, UK

A thousand times, yes. The nations of the EU spend 75% of the amount that the US does on defence, yet the capability of their armed forces is puny in comparison. Why? Duplication of effort, bureaucrats, management..... The need for streamlining is evident. The rapid reaction force is a very welcome first step. The second reason is that the US are plainly afraid to put their soldiers in the front line, particularly when their national interests are not directly at stake. If George Bush comes to power, this attitude will only get worse. If the EU can come up with a force for the peace keeping missions the US cannot sell to CNN, so much the better.
Phil , UK

There is space for a rapid reaction force. As long as it is only the most developed European Nations. It hopefully can by-pass UN bureaucracy and go to areas too dangerous for peacekeepers. It also frees it from the US and Eastern Europe states that are now in NATO which was always supposed to be a defensive union.
Nich, England

The Labour government should wise-up and opt for a stay-out to the proposed EU force

Steven Mun, Malaysia
I do not welcome the idea of Britain joining the rapid force as I do not wish Britain to lose its military independence and supremacy when it has already lost its economic independence. The Labour government should wise-up and opt for a stay-out to the proposed EU force.
Steven Mun, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

America pursues only its interests and Europeans should do likewise. To do this they need an independent force that is controlled by themselves and nobody else.
Desta, France

A British military officer said on the BBC recently that US dollars were behind this EU force.
Ken Carstens, USA

Why won't you better strengthen U.N. peace-keeping forces?
Sergey Chripkov

Not creating such a force would be undermining the integrity of the European union

George Thundiparambil
The European joint armed force appears as a logical component of the general efforts towards a comprehensive European union. Such a force will certainly enable Europeans to intervene in Bosnia-Kosovo-like contingencies without any delay. In fact, not creating such a force would be undermining the integrity of the European union, having to drag in the Americans and others in matters that are strictly European.
George Thundiparambil

Would we see a possible expansion of the scope of this force in future to intervene in any crisis in Africa and Asia (especially in the former colonies)?
Sivam Rajagopal, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The US has long complained of having to "do all the heavy lifting" because Europe has hitherto been unable to get its military act together. The ERRF would do a lot to mitigate this and potentially even strengthen Nato as well as Europe.
Keith Jones, Bristol, UK

Counting on the US to continue its role as a major financier of Nato is unrealistic

James Dillin, USA
Will there always be a NATO? or USA? I don't think, by the comments so far, that Britons have any idea of just how divided the US has become. Counting on the US to continue its role as a major financier of Nato is unrealistic.
James Dillin, Melbourne, FL, USA

Your comments before we went ON AIR

NATO has been very effective in its defined role. Many contributors allude to growing isolationism in the US and concern if Bush is elected. The Republicans and Democrats are committed to global involvement. The European Force sounds appealing but I am cynical that it become a bureaucratic money-laundering machine. Britain has far different values from her European counterparts.
S Francis, Princeton, NJ

Everybody is forgetting history. This EU "army" is a prelude to political union in the EU, one government. If people think that the Germans or French are going to like taking political orders from each other - you are mistaken. This EU army does not bode well for Europe. If it all goes ahead, there will be another war in Europe within the next 50 years purely down to nationalism, and this time the US won't be able to help because they become withdrawn from world affairs.
Mike Baker, UK

Everyone interested in protecting democracy and human rights must surely welcome the RRF

Tony Stayne, UK
At last, a force which will have peace not war right at the top of its agenda. How can we ever police the complexities of our new Europe unless we can move more quickly than those disruptive elements who would take advantage of our lack of readiness? Party politics aside. Everyone interested in protecting democracy and human rights must surely welcome the RRF.
Tony Stayne, Sidcup UK

A Rapid Reaction Force would be the next logical step only when you have a true European Union. It seems that the EU has a lot of other more important problems to sort out before it should consider duplicating what is already in place.
Sheila, Chicago, USA

The Brits have, over the years, proven themselves to be quite capable of getting involved, being active in military intervention activities, be they UN or European. The last thing the UK needs is getting its military tied-up in the oft-discussed Euro bureaucracy and inter-nation bickering.
Reg Swinnerton, Frankston, Australia

Nato is far greater a force than any European army will ever be

Simon Wholey, UK
Nato is far greater a force than any European army will ever be. Still serving myself, I feel this could undermine our work as a world leader both within Nato and outside of Nato.
Simon Wholey, Grantham, Lincs

One might well have expected such a response from Geoffrey Howe, did he not contribute to Mrs Thatcher's downfall with his conflict of views over Europe? And of course we all know only too well that Michael Hesletine is quite firmly in favour a federal European superstate. It is about time these has-beens from a previous Government kept their big mouths quite firmly shut and stopped trying to dilute William Hague's job of opposing a shortsighted scheme that, as Lady Thatcher has said, is a "monumental folly" that is only designed to boost President Blair's personal popularity in Brussels.
Peter Davies, Bedford, UK

Most of the arguments I've seen in favour of the RRF are ill informed. First, we don't need the RRF/European army to make another European war less likely. All the major European powers have been allies for years, either through NATO or the EU. Second, the RRF still won't make Europe militarily independent of the USA. Only the Americans have heavy airlift and satellite intelligence capability; the RRF can't operate without either. As for Britain's supposedly disproportionate burden in American-led NATO operations, who do you think the EU are relying on to supply all the know-how and skilled personnel for the RRF? Belgium?
Paul Hicks, Aberdeen

If there are two multi-national forces in Europe, eventually there's going to be a dispute over which one should be used

Gavin Sherriff, UK
If NATO, set up to deal with the Soviet threat during the Cold War, and over-reliant on American troops and equipment is no longer appropriate, why not alter it? The world has changed - why shouldn't NATO? If there are two multi-national forces in Europe, eventually there's going to be a dispute over which one should be used in a particular situation, and that can't be good for anyone.
Gavin Sherriff, UK

What the world needs is a resource capable of ending "low intensity conflicts". A European rapid reaction force which focuses exclusively on Europe and which can take 60+ days to deploy is not the answer. Is it time to consider the use of private military companies who have already demonstrated an ability to successfully address these situations?
Mark Green, Guernsey, CI

As we have far more in common with the USA than Europe lets stick with NATO. It will probably cost us less financially and we won't have to be under the thumb of the two countries who think that they ARE Europe - France and Germany.
Belinda Darwin, England

Europe is not pulling its weight with regards to defence and world security. While the americans can be patronising etc, they are being far too generous as allies and it can not last for ever. Perhaps the EU force will spur the Europe to stand on it's own two feet with regard to military capability.
Michael Gahan, Ireland

There has simply been no proper debate in Parliament

John Collins, Kent UK
The answer is that we don't really know whether we need a Euro Army or not. There has simply been no proper debate in Parliament. Judging by the ever increasing almost daily press releases from the EU which are seldom discussed in public, how are the general public supposed to know if we need them or not? Unfortunately we have a weak, non-listening, non-understanding PM who I'm afraid to say, cannot be trusted to handle such complex issues.
John Collins, Kent UK

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought that the EU as a whole spends more than the US on defence, but due to duplication has about 1/10th of the capacity. So a joint force would in fact reduce our spending whilst increasing our capacity. What is the problem with that?
Neil Gage, UK

We don't need a rapid reaction force. It's rapid reaction leadership that's needed.
ben, Eindhoven, Netherlands

it seems to me that our politicians are constantly looking for ways to enhance their personal power and influence. They also like to find reasons to sort out problems that are not their responsibility on the grounds of "humanity" when they are incapable of sorting out problems at home. A European army is an excellent vehicle for much more posturing and would be a totally unnecessary burden on the already over-taxed people.
Ron Baker, Newport, UK

Of course we need an RRF. It is indeed time that we broke away from the US

Ed Ford, Winchester, England
Of course we need an RRF. It is indeed time that we broke away from the US. In numerous conflicts, Kosovo in particular, our forces were the first in and the ones who bore the brunt of the situation there. This is also true with regards to Bosnia, a supposedly NATO operation. Why is it that British troops are constantly being used as the spearhead for American led operations. Why is it always American Generals, whether capableor incompetent who lead NATO operations where, British troops are used far more on the front line than the Americans?
Ed Ford, Winchester, England

Only the EU could define 60 days as "rapid"! I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
David K, England

The European Rapid Reaction Force is an important step forward. With the Cold War over the United States is looking to reduce its commitments across the globe. Europe needs to be able to look after its own problems without having to ask the United States for permission. NATO will not be undermined; it will always remain an important European-Atlantic institution.
Gavin Elliott, Lancaster, UK

I did NOT enlist and pledge loyalty to the European Union

Flt Lieutenant E Ford, RAF, Conningsby, England
I did NOT enlist and pledge loyalty to the European Union. Myself and my colleagues all agree that this is a totally brainless scheme from which nothing can amount. We are enlisted as BRITISH SOLDIERS, not some bureaucratic task force.
Flt Lieutenant E Ford, RAF, Conningsby, England

Of course Europe should be responsible for it's own defence. However in both the Gulf and Kosovo, Europe has been divided. The UK firmly for action, the French against. Would Europe have supported us in the Falklands war? I doubt it. So whilst Europe should take responsibility, the Americans are our greatest ally.
Steve, UK

A European Rapid Reaction Force does not automatically mean that politicians are trying to create a European super state. Nato is a multinational defence alliance and it worked throughout the cold war against the members of the Warsaw Pact on the other side. That part of history has gone, the lines are being redrawn and it is time that Britain realised that the days of our "special" relationship with the US are over. We are geographically and politically part of Europe and it is time we realised that and started taking part.
Jenny, UK

As an African living in Britain I am becoming increasingly bored with the scare-mongering which seems to start with the appearance of every new EU measure. The EU rapid reaction force is a logical step in reducing Europe's dependency on the USA.
Anton Zimmermann, UK

The world has moved on

Mark Edwards, UK
Why do some Europeans, namely those "little England" Europeans, think that the Americans will always be around to defend our continent. With the prospect of a US isolationist President - we need to make sure Europe has its own effective military force. Little Englanders need to accept that the world has moved on and Uncle Sam could be a much more distant relative in future when it comes to European military issues.
Mark Edwards, UK

The most annoying thing about this whole episode is the way it has been steamrollered through without any proper debate in Parliament. It smacks of New Labour's persistent ignorance towards it's own people and is another sad example of how political debate (or lack of it) is carried on by the whole European facade. Europe within Nato has been the basis of peace for almost 60 years. Why not put the RRF within that tried and tested structure? Probably because it doesn't allow France the political prowess she would like. Blair should try to remember the past a little more often (Beef, EMU, even the fickleness of our "friends" in the last war). He might learn something, and treat his more experienced colleagues with a bit more respect.
Chris, U.K.

I'm all for it. Nationalism causes wars. If the whole of Europe has a common army, we can all look forward to a more harmonious Europe - banishing the threat of war to the history books!
Matt Law, UK

What exactly will the escalation procedure be

Martin Taylor, UK
Apparently, this force is "not intended for fighting full-scale wars or contingencies where European security as a whole is threatened. This, London says, will remain the preserve of Nato." What exactly will the escalation procedure be, do you suppose, when it becomes clear that European security as a whole is being threatened by a conflict previously thought to be localised? Will there, in fact, be a Nato to escalate it to? Isn't it very likely that the Americans, perceiving that this European force is taking over some Nato's role, will be tempted to downsize their contribution to Nato and thus reduce its efficacy below the level at which it is capable of restoring European security? This whole business appears horribly ill-thought out, and needs much wider and more public consideration. I don't find Tony Blair's reaction to newspaper reports at all helpful in addressing the issue.
Martin Taylor, UK

As a serving member of the UK military I'm always delighted to see a bit of political rubbish dressed up as progress. So we're committing X number of troops, ships and aircraft to this "Force". Is there going to be any actual increase in capability? No. The reason NATO needs the USA is the simple fact that they provide the vast bulk of "our" forces; who in Europe can provide military outsize heavy airlift? The most basic question of all is who has the money the support extended operations? The answer to these is, I'm afraid, the US. Europe does need to be able to stand on it's own two feet and pull it's own weight in defence matters but it won't do it by creating paper armies that exist solely to make politicians look good. If you want the USA out of your defence matters then I'm afraid you're going to have to spend money, a lot of it.
Simon, UK

Does the EU really want to spend that sort of money?

Russ Black, USA
Having an RRF is one thing. Don't forget the bureaucracy that is needed to keep it going. Does the EU really want to spend that sort of money?
Russ Black, USA

It is a very good thing. Europe needs to be able to sort out its problems quickly within its own borders to prevent them growing to a scale that we have seen this century, with disastrous consequences. The only real problem is that the major burden will fall upon the British, who at this point are the only nation in Europe capable of fielding a trained fighting force at short notice.
Ian Petty, US

I don't get it. The US wants us to take more responsibility for our own defence; we want to reduce our dependence on US-led missions. Where is the problem with this Rapid Reaction Force? Can it undermine NATO? Well, if you substitute the EU for the Atlantic Council, it will be identical. The communication and military command structures are the same - just that the political leadership will come from Europe alone.
Donald Stark, UK

The family of democracies as a whole is strengthened

Adam, US
I sincerely hope that this European force is constituted. Europe needs to be able to hold up her end of the NATO alliance, a strong European army with the leadership of Britain, Germany, and the other EU nations strengthens NATO. Furthermore, a strong European force will allow the US to back away from the talk of increased military budgets that Governor Bush has argued for. A strong Europe with a strong European Army means that the family of democracies as a whole is strengthened.
Adam, US

A "Rapid reaction" force? Exactly what trouble is it expected to deal with? What if one of the contributing countries disagrees with the objectives? I know we'll get politicians to make decisions shall we..? Sounds like we are headed up another blind alley......good idea in principle but in practice it won't work......
Mike, Singapore

To prove we can cut the mustard without the US

Roger Franklin, UK
The difference between NATO and the EU force is that NATO doesn't have and never has had any intention of becoming a single army as a prelude to becoming a state in itself. The EU force does. This is just part of the EU trying obtain for itself its own currency, flag, anthem, government, legal system, constitution, army, budget, foreign policy etc. I just wish those people who are in favour of that would just come out and say so and then we could have an honest debate about it. At the moment they justify everything on the grounds of its practical benefits. The fact is that our foreign policy interests are traditionally far closer to the USA than to Europe and it is ludicrous that we should collude in this continental ploy to pathetically attempt to undermine the US. We will just get involved in loads of petty conflicts to try to get ourselves a role just to prove we can cut the mustard without the US.
Roger Franklin, UK

The creation of the EU Rapid Reaction Force is not the most important issue. The real question is whether or not the EU would have the will to use such a force. The ability to make quick and decisive decisions has not proven to be a real strength of the EU given past experiences. Europe should stand on it's own without relying on the US, but does it have the will to do so?
Philip, USA

Please be our guest. We spend untold sums to provide protection for Europe
James Work, USA

Although in theory a rapid-response unit may serve an effective role against minor conflict; if it is to be successful, then it must have the support of populations of the countries involved. As history has too often proven, to commit troops otherwise tends to result in failure. Would not a referendum on this issue therefore be a positive idea? Especially when it may also threaten the basis of NATO.
Brigadier (Retired) Andrew George, Australia

It's about time that the world was given an alternative to the U.S. as an international police force. While they have had some reasonable successes, they act all too often in their own interests. As the only other sympathetic world force, Europe has failed miserably in its half-hearted attempts at mediation in world crisis-points. Hopefully this new force will give it the diplomatic clout it needs to be a strong voice on the international stage.
Denis Healy, Ireland

It is time Europe dealt with its own problems

Somi, Manchester,UK
Of course we do! It is time Europe dealt with its own problems, stopped acting as a dog on lead to America and maybe, just maybe the "international police" act and "influence" of US can be restricted!
Somi, Manchester,UK

Appalled yet again by the further push towards European integration. The two fundamental key issues which surround our nations independent status - it's currency and it's fighting capability. Not content with trying to dump our sterling they have taken the first steps towards turning control of our fighting forces over to the mad men of Europe. I despair at the stupidity of this government and wonder what is really behind these moves towards a more integrated Europe. Be suspicious, be very suspicious!
Steven Spencer, England

This is another European initiative that is doomed to failure from the outset, fragmented political control of a multinational force will NOT work.
Nick, UK

Other aspects are unnecessary and undemocratic

Jon Wood, UK
The European rapid reaction force is another step towards putting in place the components of a United States of Europe. Its raison d'etre is purely political. Militarily, what will it do that NATO cannot? European union needs only to be economic, other aspects are unnecessary and undemocratic.
Jon Wood, UK

Whichever way the US election turns out the country is going to have a president and congress with no real mandate rule. The result will be an impotent US on the international stage for the next four years. This gives even more emphasis to the need for Europe to go it alone to protect its interests as well as provide peace-keeping operations where they are needed around the world. Arguments about surrender of national sovereignty hold little water if they are coupled with a desire not to undermine (US dominated) NATO.
Barry Huett, USA (UK Ex Pat)

Please do form an EU Rapid Reaction Force. It is time that Europe step up to the plate. Far too many Americans have died in the effort to do what European nations have not had the guts to do themselves. Maybe this will turn that tradition around.
Kent, USA

Well, yes. Of course we do... Look at how the Americans handled the Kosovo crisis, look at how all countries during that conflict suffered a major communication breakdown. It just seems such an obvious solution.
Alex White, UK

Vital operational detail is wholly ignored by politicians

Chris (ex Army), Germany

What language will they speak? What radio procedures and equipment will be used? Who will be responsible for resupply of ammunition, food,batteries, water,fuel and to whom etc etc. At what point in the ladder of command will communication break down, worse, be misunderstood? I understand fully all the moral and ethical chattering, as well as the factual statements concerning Nato, the USA etc. But my own experience shows clearly that vital operational detail is wholly ignored by politicians, who are looking at a much wider picture. Mind you, they are also not slow at apportioning blame when things go wrong having been informed of potential pitfalls. Why does anything have to change?
Chris (ex Army), Germany

The sensible solution must be to encourage a greater European contribution to NATO, not to set up a totally separate entity. The EU has an appalling record when it comes to 'rapid reaction' - for example in the use of funds for emergency relief - and one would have serious doubts about the effectiveness of this force. In any case, despite the kind of denial we have heard before, on other Euro issues, there must be a serious risk that this would be a step on the road towards the army of a European superstate. A dreadful prospect, and a good reason to draw a line in the sand, right now.
John, UK

If it is used for humanitarian missions then it will have my blessing

Mark , Portugal
The question of if we do or do not need a rapid reaction force depends on what the force is to be used for. If it is used for humanitarian missions then it will have my blessing, if however it is to be used as an army in the traditional way then it will not.
Mark , Portugal

Yes we do need a force that is not dependent upon the USA. Not having one is neither sensible for us nor fair on the US which is usually called on to sort out European problems. To suggest that the force as specified is a "Euro Army" is similar to suggesting that NATO is a North Atlantic army. From the what the conservatives talk, I guess they would rather the UK be run from Washington.
J Davies, UK

The phrases "Rapid reaction" and "European Union" don't really sound right together.
Nigel, UK

Europe needs to be able to stand on its own two feet in terms of defence

Chris Pratley, UK
Europe needs to be able to stand on its own two feet in terms of defence. It has relied on the USA for far too long, both as a deterrent against invasion from outside, and to resolve conflicts within the European region. No single European power has the necessary military might on its own. Therefore, a joint European defence force is a good idea.
Chris Pratley, UK

No one would disagree that Europe has proved woefully inadequate when dealing with international crisis. But this will not be resolved by pooling our military assets, since Europe's problems start with the chronic under funding of the high technology, which America excels at. We attempted to resolve this in projects such as the Eurofighter, and the Horizon frigate, which have are either massively over budget and late, or have been abandoned completely. With the Tracer project, and the Joint Strike Fight, for Britain it has been proved that we are better off in partnership with the US.
Solomon, UK

I do not see the need for a European army as such, but for a well-co-ordinated group of national units capable of doing what their title suggests

Colin Basham, Germany
At any given time there are many conflicts brewing up around the world, where rapid reaction could avoid escalation into all-out war. Indeed, I believe that allied actions in both the Gulf War and the Kosovo crisis demonstrated the ability to avert something which had the potential to become a world war. I do not see the need for a European army as such, but for a well-co-ordinated group of national units capable of doing what their title suggests. Although the 'A' in NATO means Atlantic, I often think that the US dominance makes it stand for American, i.e. to protect US (commercial) interests abroad. The European partners should play the leading part within Europe.
Colin Basham, Germany

The military capability of the EU states will be the same whether a 'Eurocorps' is established or not. Joint operations in such peace-keeping operations as that seen in Kosovo are under a single command structure already. Why cloud the issue by introducing a further unnecessary strata of command? The answer is that this is a purely political decision. Comments suggesting that this is a sensible decision, designed to create a more co-ordinated 'European' response to crisis situations is clearly spin. Make no mistake, this is the start of a federal Euro-army.
Beaklington, UK

I'm afraid this whole issue is one of those Euro-scares that right wing politicians like to banter about. A European Reaction Force, from a military point of view, is something that has been in the pipeline since the 70s - with the greater need for closer integration of national forces to ensure cohesive and effective defence. There is nothing frightening or ominous about a Euro-Force, it is simply another way in which British forces can react to any given emergency.
Stephen Beat, United Kingdom

This EU initiative threatens to undermine the USA's engagement with its NATO European allies and should therefore be stoutly resisted

Major (Retired) Chris Klein, UK
Europe already has a rapid reaction force. It is called the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). The HQ was formed in 1992 and I was present at the formation ceremony in Bielefeld. This NATO formation will employ units allocated or earmarked by the member nations. We therefore already have an effective formation that, most importantly, includes the USA, the only NATO ally with the resources available to move forces to trouble spots swiftly and to mount high intensity operations. This EU initiative threatens to undermine the USA's engagement with its NATO European allies and should therefore be stoutly resisted.
Major (Retired) Chris Klein, UK

Let's face it: by NATO we mean the US. They are foremost in almost every aspect of its operation. Scenarios where there is little US interest can result, therefore, in lethargy. A perfect example of this was Kosovo (where the US was hesitant and eventually committed no ground troops until after the fighting was over). Kosovo showed Europe how ill-prepared it was for this type of situation. The result is the Rapid Reaction Force. In this way, Europe can react quickly to such atrocities without having to wait for a decision from the US. I had to laugh when I read recently the suggestion that the RRF would "undermine British sovereignty". And what exactly is NATO: a British association? Any 'sovereignty' argument you might make against the RRF equally applies to our NATO membership.
Craig Duncan, Germany

I hope this European force does undermine NATO. I think it is time that we recognise that NATO is purely US-led and therefore an instrument to keep Europe a protectorate.
Escartin, Spain

We still need a force for security in Europe and this Rapid Reaction Force must fulfil that role

Toby Jones, UK
If Bush gets in at this election, then US foreign policy will amount to virtually bricking up New York Harbour, and would probably be the beginning of the end of NATO. We still need a force for security in Europe and this Rapid Reaction Force must fulfil that role.
Toby Jones, UK

Any credible military force needs three things: a clear chain of command, a well-defined and achievable mission, and the capability to execute that mission. Let's see how the "EU rapid reaction force" measures up, shall we?
Leadership: anyone think the EU Commission or Council of Ministers are capable of speedy consensus decisions, let alone sticking to them if things get rough?
Mission: who remembers how long it took the EU to put even a draft statement together regarding Bosnia, with 'neutral' countries shy of losing their political virginity even as the Bosnian Muslims were losing their lives by the tens of thousands?
Capability: we are promised a force "capable of being deployed at short notice". The fact is that if the force is required anywhere beyond the EU's immediate neighbours, there will be nothing 'rapid' about it - only the US has the logistical capability to move a force of that size any significant distance - and I don't recall them being invited.
Sean, France

It depends on who you believe. The anti-Europeans are busily setting up straw men (or is it straw elephants?) about a European army. On the other hand the Secretary-General of NATO welcomes the move as addressing American concerns over European inability to deal with issues in our own back yard. On the whole I don't see either France or Germany signing up to anything which gives us the right to commit their forces without right of veto, so it sounds like a good idea. After all, we co-operate on pretty much everything else in the defence field these days.
Guy Chapman, UK

I fear that despite various politicians assurances, this "EU-army" will create another wedge between the EU and the USA. The EU must have a cost-effective ability to act independently where our vital interests are threatened, but could this not be achieved within NATO? The USA and EU, broadly speaking, share many of the same vital interests. The constant bickering, such as the banana / beef trade war, threatens to create a split to be exploited by certain third parties.
Mike West, UK

A rapid reaction force would allow European nations to more effectively deal with security problems on their own doorstep without necessitating such a great reliance on the US

Simon J Funnell, England
A rapid reaction force would allow European nations to more effectively deal with security problems on their own doorstep without necessitating such a great reliance on the US, who's actions are not solely governed by NATO but also by the characteristically isolationist stance of Congress. The Kosovo conflict illustrated the changing and disparate nature of post cold war conflicts and Europe's inability to deliver peace in the Balkans was only rescued by the adoption of a strong NATO rather than UN / European presence - forcing the Serbs to the negotiating table. The NATO action spearheaded by the US was key to this but such action cannot always be relied upon. Note the US's reluctance to commit ground troops to the Balkan theatre. Thus the issue is surely that yes NATO is by far the most effective structure to instigate the use of controlled force but such action is highly reliant on US commitment.
Simon J Funnell, England

Income tax can be reduced if the 15 EU states share the costs of defence by creating a single army under single command. The 15 small, expensive European armies should be unified in a single army, for *half* the costs of 15 armies. Obsolete military equipment should be sold to peaceful, developing countries. Europeans will pay lower taxes and Nato would be formed of the EU and its allies, Canada and the US.
Hubert Johnson, European Union

Whether we need one or not is almost academic - The fact of the matter is that it can not work for the following reason: National interests and Union interests are often contrasting, and since this Union force will have to have the nod from all its respective governments for it to operate effectively and with a consistent level of commitment it is doomed to incoherent incompetence.
Philip, UK

How exactly would NATO help deal with a conflict within Europe if Bush wins the presidency? There are very real reasons why a combined-arms force for Europe is necessary - let's listen to what the generals have to say and help them save lives.
Richard N, UK

Our Armed Forces are already vastly over-stretched and under-manned. Where are all these extra resources going to come from?
Rob M, UK

The importance of security is such that the decision on whether or not to establish a European rapid reaction force should be based on rational thinking, not on Europhobia

Ed Thomson, UK
This kind of international co-operation has become a necessity for major European states, including the UK. Operations such as the Gulf War and the NATO campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo demonstrated quite clearly that no European state possesses the full range of capabilities necessary to conduct anything but the smallest operations without outside help. European security interests are often intertwined, and creating the structures for international co-operation of this sort will increase the efficiency of allocating resources and capabilities to where they may be needed most at both the strategic and tactical level. As for NATO, it served its function well during the Cold War, but it does not necessarily follow that it will preserve our security equally well in a multi-polar environment. The importance of security is such that the decision on whether or not to establish a European rapid reaction force should be based on rational thinking, not on Europhobia.
Ed Thomson, UK

Tim Crowther, UK
"Good for stability"
Keith Jones, UK
"Any cooperation within Europe is a positive thing"
Mark Watson, UK
"The government hasn't been open enough about this"
Christopher Skelton, UK
"I don't wish to rely on the Americans any longer"
Chad, US
"The US wants less involvement"
Percy, UK
"It will compliment NATO"
See also:

20 Nov 00 | Politics
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