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  • Writer's pictureThe Red Line

Episode 65. The Feasibility of an EU Army

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With Washington and Beijing continuing to engage in a new competition for international influence, Europe stands in an odd place. Added together the EU has the largest GDP in the world, but from a military standpoint, the continent has become a patchwork of forces with wildly varied operability. To maintain its position as a world power should Europe double down on its continental experiment and form a united European army, or do the scars of history and millennium of violence still prevent Europe from standing defensively on its own?



Philip Breedlove

  • Retired Four Star U.S. General of the U.S. Air Force

  • Former Supreme Allied Commander for NATO Forces

  • Former Supreme Allied Commander of European Forces

  • Former Commander of U.S. Europe Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Air Forces in Africa, former Vice Chief of Staff for the U.S. Air Force, Assistant Chief of Staff for Air Operations

Sophia Besch

  • Senior Researcher at the Centre for European Reform

  • Expert on the political and military interplays between EU Nations.

George Freidman

  • Geopolitical Forecaster and Strategist, specialising in International Affairs

  • Founder and Chairman of the think-tank Geopolitical Futures

  • One of the most respected Futurists and Authors in the geopolitical realm


Part 1: United We Stand, Divided We Fall (4:59)

  • Philip Breedlove takes us through the history of the EU's relationship with military forces. While the idea of an EU Army was raised as early as the Treaty of Rome in 1957, actual progress or action to move towards it has been extremely minimal. We examine why this is, including the important countries who advocate for it and stand in the way respectively, and whether Britain's exit from the EU has changed the calculus.

  • Of course we also turn to the impact of recent events, and analyse the likely geopolitical consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In Germany we saw the invasion essentially result in Germany doing a 180 in their foreign policy in 72 hours.

  • We tackle NATO's view of an EU Army, which in Philip's view is almost entirely positive. As long as effort and money are not wasted on developing capacities that NATO already covers, the EU improving its capacity and collective function is basically all upside from a NATO security perspective.

  • We analyse the difficulties posed by Europe's wide sources of supply, and whether a joint EU defence manufacturing project would be strategically advisable.

  • We turn to the questions of EU-NATO interoperability, including the questions of Finland, Sweden, who have significant military capacity but are not part of NATO, and vice versa with Turkey.


Part 2: A House, Divided(24:29)

  • Besch helps us look beyond the headlines of today to examine the EU political environment in recent years as it relates to the feasibility and likelihood of creating a United European Army.

  • Additionally, examining the withdrawal from Afghanistan and European response to the invasion of Ukraine, we look at how dominant NATO has been in the leadership and discussions responding to these events, reflecting on how it makes calls for an EU army sound a bit hollow.

  • Against the backdrop of this scepticism however, is the EU's work in Somalia, in which a combined force helped to dismantle the booming piracy trade in the region. Is this a model going forward for what a combined EU force should be? A functioning humanitarian and crisis response force, rather than a military one?

  • Sophia helps us understand the internal divisions and complications when it comes to the practical possibility of creating an EU army, an EU Defence Industry, and an EU Crisis Response Force. We also look at the risk of a renewed U.S. hostility to NATO, as was the case during the Trump administration when he raised the possibility of the United States departing the alliance


Part 3: Drums from the East (47:02)

  • Friedman analyses the core aspects of the European Union that pose difficulties. Convincing a 20 year old to enlist and fight on behalf of a treaty organisation is, in his view, fundamentally unfeasible, and there is a core lack of trust that makes such a deeply involved relationship and project highly unlikely to come about.

  • He helps us understand the scepticism amongst some in the U.S., and the overarching shadow of their military and political involvement in the region. We examine the difficult necessities in the case of an EU army being developed; a deal with Turkey in regard to the Black Sea, the problem of who can fire a General, who has the authority to deploy troops, and the societal, generational change that is required to develop a strong military infrastructure and workforce.

  • We contrast the way that the U.S. treats its military with how the EU does, and the fundamental issues that this dichotomy highlights. To field an army, to launch a fleet, you have to have people who want to serve in these difficult and dangerous roles. Loyalty to a treaty organisation aside, most EU countries do not have a culture that values the military, that values the soldier, and so there is a lack of ability to recruit enough top talent for a more complex military structure and industry.

  • Friedman gives us high wider view of the Geopolitical trends and multipolar world that Europe is faced with, and analyses what it would take if Europe looked at some kind of federation.


The Red Line's EU Army Reading List:

We’ve compiled a list of further reading should you be interested in delving deeper into the geopolitics of the EU and the prospect of an EU Army.


The Storm Before The Calm

George Friedman


George Friedman

The New Map

Daniel Yergein


For episode transcripts, monthly geopolitics Q&A’s, member-only videos and to support the show, check out our Patreon here:

This episode is dedicated to Patreon member Lev Goldiner.


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