It was NATO that prevented Soviet tanks rolling through the Fulda Gap, not the European Union, says Comment Central.

In another act of cynicism that has come to be the hallmark of this referendum campaign, EU officials are alleged to be holding off on announcing plans for the formation of a European defence force until Thursday’s vote is out of the way.

Under plans drawn up by the European Union’s chief of foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini, the EU is looking to establish a joint headquarters to oversee shared military assets provided by member states. The move would mark the first step in fulfilling Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s dream of his very own EU Army.

Junker’s officials argue such an army would enhance defence cooperation, afford the European Union greater standing on the world stage, and ensure it is taken more seriously as an international force.

The proposals have been met with alarm on this side of the Channel. A string of policymakers and military types, including former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Guthrie, have criticised the proposals, arguing that they risk undermining NATO.

Most troubling, and in a shameless attempt to justify their position and bolster their own sense of self-importance, European officials have sought to rewrite the history books by claiming it was the EU, rather than NATO, that brought peace to Europe’s shores.

But the plans are dangerous. By forming a force to rival NATO, far from boosting our security, they threaten to destabilise it.

As Lord Guthrie recently explained: “There are [already] too many ministers, officials, HQs, generals, admirals and air marshals as it is. [An EU Army] would mean, even more than today, that we would not be spending money on the people who make the difference.”

An EU Army would be like having two sets of hands on the tiller of European security. It would split resources, duplicate efforts and waste vast sums of European taxpayers’ money. All of this at a time when Europe is facing the greatest migration crisis since the Second World War, and an increasingly belligerent Russian neighbour on its Eastern periphery.

Another shortcoming with a European Army is that it would lack effective leadership. Like it or not, a key advantage of NATO is that America, due to its size and military clout, offers direction. There is a clear chain of command, able to make decisions quickly. Without America, it would be left to representatives from the 28 member states to make decisions by committee. Never an easy task.

And on that point, a continual bugbear for the US is the seeming inability of many of her European allies to allocate sufficient resources to their military budgets. By offering more junior players a seat at the top table, you remove any incentive for them to invest in their respective military budgets. They get prestige and positioning on the cheap.

Better to base defence agreements on willingness to act, rather than geographical proximity. This would allow the flexibility for countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, all of whom have effective militaries, to play a role.

An EU Army is a bad idea. The European Union would do well to tend to its more pressing priorities. It has the slowest economic growth of any continent on Earth (with the exception of Antarctica). One-in-five young people living in the Eurozone is out of work. Meanwhile, far-right extremism, the likes of which have not been seen since the War has returned to the continent. Tackling these problems should be Europe’s priority, not embarking on Euro-vanity exercises like setting up its own army.

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