American Diplomacy

Highlight map


Support American Diplomacy RSS Mailing-list Subscription Email American Diplomacy Facebook

Part II
Since the London Declaration in July 1990, the Alliance has repeatedly called upon the allies “to enhance the role and responsibility of the European members.” Furthermore, it has welcomed the “efforts of the EC to strengthen the security dimension in the process of European integration and recognized the significance of the progress made by the EC countries towards the goal of a political union, including the development of a common defense and security policy.”12

The Europeans took the initiative and, thus, the Treaty on European Union, finalized at the European Council meeting in Maastricht on 9-10 December 1991 and signed on 7 February 1992, declared as one of its first objectives “the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time led to common defence.”13 The Treaty further requested WEU (which it referred to as “an integral part of the development of the Union”) “to elaborate and implement decisions on actions of the Union which have defense implications.”14

In two “Declarations” attached to the Treaty, the nine nations that were then WEU members stated their aim “to develop the WEU as the defense component of the European Union and as [a] means to strengthen the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance.”
15 Simultaneously, states which were members of the European Union and not, at that time, members of the WEU16 were invited to accede to the WEU17 and the WEU proposed that other European member-states of NATO18 become associate members of the WEU in a way that would give them the possibility of “participating fully” in its activities.19

The Maastricht Treaty was the outcome of fierce debates and battles within and among states, and the section dealing with the CFSP, which is riddled with ambiguous language and concepts, reflected the lack of consensus on Europe’s future role. It was clear that the twelve had not taken a significant qualitative step towards a common, integrated European policy on foreign and security matters. But the important contribution of the Treaty has been that the member countries of the Union started to work together in a tighter and more coordinated framework on CFSP matters.

At the same time, it may be well that Maastricht has marked a crucial shift in Western defense, from U.S. leadership within an integrated Atlantic Alliance towards an integrated West European pillar within NATO and towards an independent ESDI dimension.
20 Thus, it is important to understand the motivations of the main protagonists (especially Germany and France) and the American perspective on this important event. In the negotiations, as during many previous attempts to define Western Europe’s international identity, “France and Britain represented initially opposing positions, with the U.S. an outsider and Germany attempting to hold close to France without losing touch with the others.”21

Specifically, the French retained their traditional suspicion of NATO, the integrated military structure and the institutionalized U.S. leadership within it. The Federal Republic of Germany shared not only the Atlanticism of some European capitals (such as London and The Hague), but also the French pro-European declaratory policy. Bonn wanted to reassure all its allies that “Germany was anchored firmly in the western community, as the process of unification was completed, as Soviet acquiescence was gained and as new links with the former socialist states were made.”
22 In the German perception, a closer EU legitimized the pursuit of German aims in Central and Eastern Europe.23 Neither the French nor the German government had an entirely coherent position throughout the interconnected negotiations of 1990-1991.

At the same time, from the German viewpoint, certain factors promoted the development and implementation of an ESDI.

First, in the context of German unification, strengthening and enlarging cooperation within a West European structure24 would lock Germany into tight security framework.

Second, the future direction of U.S. policy towards Europe after the end of the Cold War did not appear to be outlined clearly.25 Europeans wanted to be prepared for a possible American withdrawal from Europe.

Third, Russia remained Germany’s main security concern in Europe. Russia’s view of NATO was always more critical than its view of the EU and ESDI. In the new European context, Western Europe could aim at balancing Russian and Western (implicitly German) interests.26

In this context, the Maastricht Treaty “has been approved by an overwhelming majority in the Bundestag, and no major political party has voiced substantial objections against a further strengthening of the EU, even in the field of foreign [, security and defense] policy.”27 The belief that a Germany more integrated into Europe could balance also the Euro-Atlantic disputes—especially by continuing its role as a mediator between France and the United States—was prominent in Germany’s post-Cold War political arena.

The U. S. position had similar inconsistencies. Repeated support for a stronger West European role within the Atlantic Alliance was matched by warnings about the adverse impact of moves towards a European caucus on America’s European commitment. Bilateral tours of prominent U.S. officials cautioned European governments against any practical steps towards a separate European Defense identity. The U.S. administration communicated its views more directly to a WEU ministerial meeting in February 1991, through the so-called “Bartholomew Telegram,” laying down U.S. preconditions for a European Defense Identity— although some officials were evidently embarrassed by such a peremptory intervention in the European debate.28

Preceding the Maastricht Treaty provisions, the most significant of the Franco-German initiatives on the European defense identity was the Kohl-Mitterrand proposal of October 14, 1991. Its purpose was to develop the existing Franco-German brigade into a complete European army corps.
29 The Eurocorps plan reflected the willingness of France and Germany to move ahead of their partners in the EC, with the hope of subsequently drawing those partners in their wake. This proposal was a direct challenge to the NATO Rapid Reaction Corps30 and stimulated a debate about the WEU’s role between NATO and the EU.31

The NATO summit in Rome on 7-8 November 1991 brought some of these disagreements to a head. The United States was irritated by the different signals coming from European capitals. President Bush was reported to have said, “if your ultimate goal is to provide independently for your own defense, the time to tell us is today.”
32 Furthermore, some U.S. officials arrived “enraged” by apparent French encouragement for the “development of alternative structures to NATO, interpreting this as a sign that Paris hoped and believed that the United States would soon leave Europe.”33

The German delegation at the summit was relatively silent. This silence reflected the inherent tensions in Bonn’s position; it wanted to retain a central role for the United States and NATO, while at the same time it wanted to cooperate with France in plans for a stronger European defense identity. At the summit, Chancellor Kohl had “stoutly defended the Franco-German proposals, hinting that Washington had been kept fully informed about these plans from an early stage, and affirmed his commitment both to the continuance of NATO and to the evolution of a common European security policy.”

The attitudes of the Europeans discussed above throw light on some of the obstacles that have hampered progress towards ESDI. First, any positive development towards ESDI inevitably raises difficult questions concerning the responsibilities of Europe’s existing security institutions.

Before Europe can establish itself as an effective actor in international politics, the respective roles of the EU, the WEU, and NATO should be clarified. This argument would be inevitably linked with the possible risk of “regionalization” of European security, in the context of the simultaneous processes of “deepening” and “widening” the EU—that is, strengthening the EU’s supranational institutions and an ESDI and CFSP, while enlarging the EU.
Last, but not least, the problem of resource allocation for the establishment of the autonomous defense structure would be another issue to be solved by the Europeans.

In this context, the WEU is playing the role of a passe-partout in European security and defense affairs: it could be considered both the possible defense arm of the EU and the European pillar within the Atlantic Alliance. Taking into account the fact that the WEU does not possess many assets that could be used as a framework for developing an ESDI, its role in crisis management and peace operations deserves analysis.


  1. “London Declaration on a Transformed North Atlantic Alliance, 5-6 July 1990,” NATO Review 38 (August 1990), pp. 32-33.
  2. Article B, Title I of Treaty on European Union, Maastricht, 7 February 1992. Available [On line]: [http://europa.eu.int/en/record/mt/title1.html]. [10 February 1998]. The signing took place some eight weeks later because of the need to consolidate and translate the text properly.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Treaty on European Union, Final Act, Declaration on Western European Union, Declaration I, par. 1. Available [On line]: [http://europa.eu.in/en/record/mt/final.html]. [10 February 1998].
  5. Greece, Denmark, and Ireland.
  6. Treaty on European Union, Declaration II.
  7. Turkey, Norway, and Iceland.
  8. Treaty on European Union, Declaration II.
  9. However, only the broadest outlines of such a pillar were defined at Maastricht.
  10. Anand Menon, Anthony Forster and William Wallace, “A common European defence?,” Survival, vol. 34, no. 3 (Autumn 1992), p. 104.
  11. Menon, Forster and Wallace, p. 105.
  12. If a decision were to be forced, Paris was more important to Bonn than London, because France was the preferred (if difficult) partner with which Germany had worked closely for more than 30 years. However, Washington was as important as Paris, because the United States offered a special relationship for global economic cooperation, as well as for European security. Ibid., pp. 105-112.
  13. This was seen, at that time, as the only real alternative to NATO.
  14. Some speculated that the United States might adopt a Pacific orientation or domestic policy as its priority. For a complete analysis of the impact of the possible U.S. orientation toward the Pacific on the transatlantic relationship, see Robert O’Brien, “Manifest Destiny and the Pacific Century: Europe as No. 3,” in Jarod Wiener, ed., The Transatlantic Relationship (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), pp. 95-127.
  15. Schmidt, pp. 38-40.
  16. Ibid., p. 52.
  17. Menon, Forster and Wallace, p. 105.
  18. The original proposal was, in fact, no more than a two-line footnote at the end of a long letter on political union, but it soon took on larger proportions. The text can be found reprinted in Europa Archiv, vol.46, no. 22 (1991), pp. 571-574. The text called for expanding the joint brigade into “the basis for a European corps, to which the armed forces of other WEU member-states could be added.”
  19. The ministerial meeting of the NATO Defense Planning Committee on 28-29 May 1991 agreed on and announced a NATO command structure review, which involved the creation of the multinational Rapid Reaction Corps for ACE, under British command. This multinational corps brought together British, Dutch, Belgian, and German troops.
  20. Britain wanted agreement on a statement setting the future role of the WEU and its links with the EU before the Maastricht summit; France wanted the grandes lignes alone to be outlined. Germany was generally supportive of the French position.
  21. Robert Mauthner and Lionel Barber, “Bush calls on Europe to clarify role in NATO,” Financial Times, 8 November 1991.
  22. Information from European participants at the NATO summit, as presented in Menon, Forster and Wallace, p. 111.
  23. The Franco-German letter of 14 October 1991 had specifically identified political and economic relations with the former members of the Warsaw Pact as a priority area for the CFSP of the EU.

white starAmerican Diplomacy white star
Copyright © 2012 American Diplomacy Publishers Chapel Hill NC