A European Joint Expeditionary Force


Last year the Royal Navy and the French Navy conducted joint operations in the Mediterranean during cougar 12. This was a prelude to the Anglo French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force due to take shape in 2016. With Europe’s southern shores ablaze with revolution, the USA pivoting towards the Pacific and the poor budgetary state of most European governments I would like to ask if we can turn this Joint Anglo French Force into something more.

French and Royal Marines on Exercise Together
French and Royal Marines on Exercise Together

Many nations in Europe have naval and marine units they can contribute to such a force. Others may presently not have them but if given time may feel able and willing to also contribute to such a force.

Europe accounts for close to a quarter of world military spending but is unable to conduct relatively small operations on its periphery without major US support.

A standing task force providing both naval, air and marine forces may go some way to help redress some of these problems and let Europe get a better return on its military expenditure.


USS Enterprise leads ships of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.
USS Enterprise leads ships of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.

What I would like to see is Europe having the ability to maintain a joint task force consisting of a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) either at sea or on high readiness at all times. This would give a force not dissimilar to a US Naval Fleet.

The force would be based in the Mediterranean and would typically operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Gulf and Western Indian Ocean.

Carrier Strike Group

HMS Northumberland with French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle
HMS Northumberland with French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

MS Northumberland with French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle

Currently only France operates a true aircraft carrier in Europe. However in a few years the UK will also begin to operate two large aircraft carriers. In addition both Italy and Spain operate fixed wing aircraft from smaller LHD’s.

For a Carrier Strike Group we will typically require a minimum of:

  • 1 Aircraft Carrier
  • 1 AAW Destroyer
  • 1 ASW Frigate
  • 1 SSN
  • 1 Stores and Logistics ship
  • 1 Fleet Tanker
  • 1 Air Group

The size of the Air Group will be important. US Navy carriers typically carry 3 squadrons of fighter’s as well as a host of support aircraft. The CDG and our CVF’s will typically only carry a single squadron of 12 attack aircraft. To be more than a token force and to hopefully go some way to supporting our even replacing a US Fleet in the area we will probably have to have an Air Group with 2 squadrons of 12 aircraft. This will mean that ultimately neither the Spanish or Italian Vessels’ will be able to perform the role of the carrier. However with the CDG and the two Queen Elizabeth Class we would be able to meet this requirement post 2022 when POW is ready to enter service.

Until this date however the Italian and Spanish vessels could be slotted into this role to give an interim capability.

Strike Aircraft


Getting enough aircraft will be a big challenge. While the French could provide 24 Rafales for a third of the year at a push, the UK would be unable to provide 24 F35B’s for two thirds of the year under current procurement plans.

However Italy will be operating a fleet of 15 F35B’s which could be used to supplement our aircraft. In addition it may also be possible to encourage other European nations to also buy F35B to supplement this force.

On June 14, 2012, F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. BF-2 flew with an AIM-9X Sidewinder inert missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25 mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard internal weapon bay.
On June 14, 2012, F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. BF-2 flew with an AIM-9X Sidewinder inert missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25 mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard internal weapon bay.

Many EU nations will operate F35. Most will use the A variant however it would present no significant difficulty to change some of those orders for the B variant. If EU nations operating the F35B pull their resources in the way that the Norwegians, Danes and Dutch are proposing to do with their A variant then we could take away much of the associated cost of operating a small fleet of aircraft. We may even find that eventually, smaller nations are prepared to purchase F35B’s to be able to participate in this force.

Would it be possible to have for instance a squadron with 8 Dutch and 4 Belgian F35B’s flying off of Queen Elizabeth alongside a Squadron from the Fleet Air Arm? I don’t see why not.

There would be some divergence in capability between operating F35B and Rafale however both are highly capable combat aircraft and both will likely be more than good enough for the required tasks.

Airborne Early Warning

ROYAL NAVY Seaking Surveillance Helicopter over Afghanistan
ROYAL NAVY Seaking Surveillance Helicopter over Afghanistan

This is one area where there is a larger divergence. The French operate the E2C Hawkeye where we currently use the Asac7. In the future we will likely be using a CROWSNEST derivative of the Merlin for this task.Both systems have their virtues but provide very different levels of capability. However the likely areas of operation are well within range of European Airbase’s and it would present little difficulty to use land based AWACS provided by the UK, France or NATO to Supplement the CROWSNEST System.

Naval Units

Royal Netherlands Navy De Zeven Provinciën Class AAW Frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803) at sea
Royal Netherlands Navy De Zeven Provinciën Class AAW Frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803) at sea

European Navies can provide a wide range of excellent AAW and ASW Frigates and destroyers to attach to this force. We also have a decent range of logistics’ support vessels and tankers which could be relatively cheaply supplemented by other EU navies keen to participate.

The UK and France will have 13 SSN’s between them so should be able to make one available to the Carrier Strike Group

The Álvaro de Bazán class are a new class of Aegis combat system-equipped air defence frigates entering service with the Spanish Navy
The Álvaro de Bazán class are a new class of Aegis combat system-equipped air defence frigates entering service with the Spanish Navy

Amphibious Ready Group

Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group Formation
Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group Formation

If we are to mirror something similar to a US Expeditionary Strike Group or Amphibious Ready Group  then we will require the following components:

  • 1 LHD
  • 1 LPD
  • 1 LSD
  • 1 Marine Expeditionary Unit
  • 1 AAW Escort
  • 1 ASW Escort
  • 1 SSN
  • Land Based MPA


Juan Carlos
Juan Carlos
BPC Dixmude (L9015) in Jounieh bay, Lebanon 2012.
BPC Dixmude (L9015) in Jounieh bay, Lebanon 2012.

Italy operates the Cavour and Spain operates the Juan Carlos. In addition France operates three mistrals.

All of these vessels would be capable of operating in the LHD role.


HMLNS Rotterdam
HMLNS Rotterdam


The Royal Navy operates 2 LPD’s of the Albion Class while the Dutch have 2 LPD’s of the Rotterdam Class. The Spanish have 2 LPD’s of the Galicia-class and the Italian Navy have 3 San Giorgio Class although they plan to replace them with 2 LHD’s in future.


RFA Largs Bay
RFA Largs Bay

The UK operates 3 LSD’s of the Bay Class and the Dutch and Spanish LPD’s are based on a similar design and could also slot into this role. LSD’s are relatively cheap to build and are very cost effective to run. Many smaller navies shy away from such vessels as they lack the rest of the fleet to make sense of having such a capability.

However it may be possible over time to get other EU nations to acquire such vessels to make a contribution to the expeditionary force.

Marine Expeditionary Unit

In the USMC this is typically a force of some 2200 men based around a reinforced marine battalion. Many European nations such as the UK, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands have dedicated Marine forces. Many other EU nations operate highly professional army units that could be adapted to operating inside a marine expeditionary unit.

The force will also require transport and attack helicopters. Again these could be provided by many EU nations.

Over time these helicopters could hopefully be harmonized to provide a more homogeneous force. Indeed due to the smaller size of Marine forces it’s probably far easier to harmonize equipment across all European Marines than to do the same with national army’s.

Maritime Patrol Aircraft

German Navy P3 Orion
German Navy P3 Orion

Many nations in Europe could make a contribution of Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Many already operate a relatively similar fleet of P3 Orion’s.


 Royal Danish Navy frigate HDMS Iver Huitfeldt (F361) transits in the Arabian Sea
Royal Danish Navy frigate HDMS Iver Huitfeldt (F361) transits in the Arabian Sea

Again there is a wide capability amongst EU navies to provide escorting Frigates and Destroyers and the UK and France could also provide an SSN for this force.

FS La Fayette
FS La Fayette


Cost to the UK

The UK would be providing probably the largest contribution to this joint force. The main cost would be giving up sovereign capability for much of the year when our vessels are attached to the force. Our carriers in particular would be practically continuously attached to this force.

The larger number of European Amphibious support vessels would probably give us enough flexibility to still deploy our RFTG for at least part of the year for exercises with non-European allies.

Benefit to the UK

Firstly, almost any conceivable operation we conduct will be as part of a coalition. This force would be our primary way of acting in any such operation.

Using other EU nations to supplement our forces could free us up in areas where we are short or have capability gaps. If Portuguese P3’s are escorting our amphibious vessels then we may be able to afford not to buy an high end MPA capability.

If French Frigates are escorting our carriers then it frees up our own escorts to cover standing tasks. Getting other nations in Europe to purchase F35B’s will help to bring down our operating costs while at the same time allowing our carriers to reach more of their potential. Anything that makes EU forces more capable of acting in the world should help to take some pressure off of both the UK and the USA.

The large contribution by the UK would make us vital in providing European defence and power projection. As the Eurozone moves to ever close integration and the UK seeks to renegotiate its relationship with Europe this may give us some desperately needed political leverage in any future discussions.

Command and Politics

I would prefer to see this force operating under a loose NATO umbrella rather than an EU Naval Command. To reach its maximum potential it should be seen as an assist to the US Navy in the Med and IO and not a rival. It’s also important to avoid contributions from nations like Sweden and Ireland while gaining support from non EU players such as Norway. Generally speaking we are on the same page as the Italians, Spanish, Dutch and French when it comes to military interventions.

These nations would make up the bulk of this force. It’s probably important to avoid German contributions as they often seem to have a different view on international interventions.

However this fleet is commanded it will need to provide nations with flexibility in being able to recall assets if needed in a national emergency whilst at the same time avoid becoming a debating club every time it’s called to respond to an international incident. It’s also worth offering senior command positions 2 star and above to smaller nations like the Norwegians, Belgians and Danes as it would encourage them to make more contributions.


Operating a combined European fleet based around a Carrier Strike Group and Amphibious Ready Group is certainly within Europe’s capability. Most of the necessary components are either in place or will be shortly. Most of what is required is a rota of vessels and some harmonization of refit schedules.

The force will look a little ad hoc in the early years but if it’s in place long enough we may see strong moves towards harmonization. This will also give smaller EU nations a longer term goal to procure equipment to participate. It may also help to take some of the pressure off of our own forces and free up resource’s to be used elsewhere.

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Two dedicated task forces ready to deploy is a good thing, far beyond the capa(city)bility of any EU country. I’d argue the key thing is freeing up UK and French escorts so they can get on with other things (such as covering and improving standing maritime tasking for the UK).

Will this pave a path towards as EU Navy, with countries just maintaining small-boat (OPV and below) ‘Coastguards’?


Caveat’s should be in place to allow retasking of large assets (our carriers) to national security missions as and when needed. I’m obviously thinking Falklands…

Also, in light of recent Spanish activity, I can’t be totally sure that everyone in the EU really wants to play ball with one another. All it takes is a fit of pique at a perceived slight and we have to start asking around for another frigate to come out and play.

On the balance of probability I’m probably in the ‘for’ bracket, but it’s a pretty close call.

Paul Robinson

Marine Nationale BPC Tonnerre? French equivalent of landing ship dock/helicopter carrier. Also a useful bit of kit. Recently used simply as a transport ship, because of French being in the in between stage. Retiring old equipment too early, like UK, before the new equipment comes into service. Why they’re getting over excited about their first AM400. Oh for the day we can operate independently of the US. Yeah i know – i believe in fairies too.


I really cannot come up with a reason for this force to exist, unless it’s all just another piece of engrenage in the service of building the european superstate.

We lack enough common interests at the moment to want to build anything like this. The French and British have global interests, but absolutely very little in common with either of them. And does anyone really believe all the governments would actually agree to act together?

Jeremy M H


“Caveat’s should be in place to allow retasking of large assets (our carriers) to national security missions as and when needed. I’m obviously thinking Falklands…”

Congratulations, you basically just shot the whole concept in the head right from birth. For such a force to be a useful policy implement it has to be predictable and stable. It cannot be those things if national interest can trump this mission.

The theory is not awful but the politics of it are crappy to the point of being impossible to overcome.

Answering a simple question like who decides exactly what this group can do is almost impossible.


Sorry Martin but I don’t think Cavour has a dock so can’t be the LHD.

However, it’s a good article consolidating Europes assets.

This is from some notes I made a while ago…

European Task Groups (2000 troops each)
QE + Rotterdam + Mistrale + Bay
PoW + Johan de Witt + Tonnerre + Bay
CdG + Galicia + Dixmude + Bay
Cavour + Castilla + Juan Carlos + Siroco

1 sustained, 2 surged.

Pittiful :-(

Gloomy Northern Boy

This might be deliverable in a real crisis – if the EU can ever agree on what constitutes a real crisis, which I am inclined to doubt – and to that extent some planning and more joint exercises might be useful; but as a standing task I think the politics make it a non-starter…if we needed our CVF back to head south our Spanish “Allies” would almost certainly try to sink it!

The EU are our neighbours but not our friends, and never likely to be…we should by all means work with them on matters of obvious joint concern, but do so only in the clear knowledge that they would much prefer to do us a bad turn than a good one, and if they could they would readily shut us down altogether…

A euro-sceptic and distrustful Gloomy…


Work and train with our EU neighbours, absolutely. Closely integrate our assets into a EU muddle, madness. We should be able to sustain and support an always on call RFTG which is independent from the EU chain of command, but can join up with allies as the need arises.

The only exception I would make is to invite Holland to provide a frigate and LPD to the RFTG permanently, as they are already closely integrated with the RMs and the relationship works well.


I think cooperation in Europe should stay away from co-dependency of actual fighting forces. There have been numerous projects such as the Eurocorps and Battlegroups which are created to ‘demonstrate solidarity’ and as a ‘political message’ but are never used in combat. Different strategic cultures, willingness to suffer casualties and burden of cost are all factors to consider before we even consider Falklands-esque scenarios.

Where cooperation does benefit is away from sharp edge capabilities. Training facilities, maintenance facilities, pooled spares, development of coalition skills and joint research and procurement. As frustrating as some common European projects are, the UK is becoming increasingly unable to afford developing kit purely for its own use. It’s either pan-European plus exports with the subsequent economies of scale, bureaucracy, jobs, technology and manufacturing, or it’s buying off the shelf from the US. Although imperfect, European cooperation grants us both more long term benefits and independence.

What Europe does need is more strategic maturity, and it will only develop that from responsibility. The pivot is helping on that front but it’s not enough, there needs to be a 100% European military command the way there is currently a NATO command. Without it Europeans will continue to stick their heads in the sand and shirk their responsibilities by relying only on the big countries who are increasingly unable to take the weight.

This should take the form of a European pillar in NATO. NATO is effectively a multi national institution dominated by one member. If they shift most of that institutional apparatus to a European pillar, then they turn NATO into two autonomous self-dependent administrative pillars (EuroNATO and CanUS) which then coordinate for interoperability and strategy at the top.

Brian Black

“If Portuguese P3’s are escorting our amphibious vessels then we may be able to afford not to buy an high end MPA capability.”

With all that we’ve invested in carriers, landing ships, Lightning, etc. I think it’s important that we have the ability to use them independently.
I don’t want to see billions of pounds worth of British military hardware hamstrung because Portugal, or some other third party, refuses to provide the last piece of the jigsaw.

Cooperation is great, dependence is not.


Mr. Radwulf,

You don’t see a contradiction between your first paragraph and the suggestion that there should be a 100% European military command? What will this, no doubt expensive, new command structure actually command?

It is also far from clear to me at least why having such a European command will suddenly make countries face up to their responsibilities and treaty obligations. Will Belgium, for example, rush to increase its defence spending to 2% of GDP because they now a have 2 star general sitting in Paris or wherever the new HQ will be homed?

As for NATO, and I risk going off at a tangent here, I think its day has passed and it should now be wound up, because it is now based on a lie. The core of NATO was that an attack on one was an attack on all and likely to be met as such – with the full might and fury of all its members. Does anyone still believe that to be the case? Suppose, God forbid, the Russians fell out with the Bulgarians or Poles and that led to war between them, are we really going to join in? Could we even do so with meaningful forces if we wanted to? We went to war on behalf of Poland once before and that didn’t work out too well. I can’t see us repeating the experiment, let alone dear old Belgium, who, it should be remembered, wouldn’t even sell us artillery shells for use in Gulf War 1. NATO was created for a particular set of circumstances, they have gone and so should it be.



Thanks for the response for helping me develop my ideas. I don’t consider there to be a contradiction yet. There is a difference between between standing combined forces and common command structure. With common forces you suffer problems regarding strategy, standing and ad hoc operations, casualties and burden of costs. With a common command you have constant shared costs (and benefits), no casualties, institutional memory and structural bias towards shared strategic commonality as well as the means for supporting them (using independent European assets like Galileo for example and subsequently providing the US with GPS strategic depth). Most standing operations will be split into areas of national or multinational responsibility in accordance to national interests (like Nordic cooperation in the North) which could take pressure off the budgets of larger countries to develop core expeditionary capabilities for coalition operations.

The reason why I think a European command will help contributions to operations is because the Europeans will understand that they are needed. NATO currently has perverted incentives for military contributions. As most European countries are small they don’t have the ability to act themselves so need to rely on bigger countries. The US is easily the biggest country in NATO responsible for about 70% of spending and is the only truly independent power. This gives them an effective veto so that operations can only happen with US support. If operations can only happen with US support and the US has the abilities to do so itself, why bother maintaining spending or capabilities to contribute to operations? Being part of a fully European organisation with firmly defined areas of responsibility and no dominant country would force them to contribute or share the consequences of failure.

Although it will likely be more expensive in large part the money should come from cannibalising other institutions like many of the multinational elements of NATO and EU defence capabilities which duplicate NATO ones.

The reason I suggest NATO is due to several reasons. The idea of ditching NATO for a European organisation will not get support, duplication is expensive and might lead to capability dilution, and expanding EU capabilities is highly contentious and currently lacks institutional experience outside of low level crisis management (and the UK might leave). There are other reasons to remain within NATO. The US will firmly oppose any threat to its power and an independent European capability will be that. European countries’ long term independence and security requires European cooperation and this won’t happen without US acquiescence. The best way to develop an independent capability therefore is within NATO for the foreseeable future.

Being part of NATO also gives us preferential access to the world’s most powerful military. Amongst other things this allows Europeans to rely on the US to help protect Europeans’ extensive interests in Asia that they can’t protect themselves. Article 5 is not useless either. European countries are not under any realistic threat but its existence discourages a future Pearl Harbour which gives the US greater robustness and ability to suppress non status quo powers in Asia who could threaten European interests.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Radwulf – the key issue for me is how long the US will be either willing or indeed able to underwrite the whole shebang….mind you, I am with @HurstLlama in believing that the sooner they stop and wind the whole thing up the better…fear concentrates the mind wonderfully…the EU (and to a lesser extent ourselves) have had a free ride for far longer than is good for us.

By way of example, the USA have a population of just over 300 million, of whom between 2 and 3 million are in uniform (regulars and reserves), at a cost of 4% of GDP.

We delude ourselves that we “punch above our weight” but for us to even make the weight in US terms would need us to more than double our current expenditure and build up force levels to between four and six hundred thousand; the only weight we punch above is that of the other Europeans who have all but disarmed…

“Think on”, as we say in these parts…



Re: GNB and “…if we needed our CVF back to head south our Spanish “Allies” would almost certainly try to sink it!”

Presumably you are being dramatic to make a point and don’t really think that the Spanish would precipitate what would be a full scale war, because surely no-one thinks that that Spain would actually sink CVF and trigger a war that has a good chance of starting WWIII do they?!?

It’s a long way from deploying OPV’s to disrupt shipping off the coast Gibraltar (and possibly firing at and missing a jet ski with a .50 cal) to launch a full scale attack on an aircraft carrier.

In deed, I question if anyone, apart from Venezuela would actually go to war for Argentina over the Falklands, and I bet good money that a number of countries currently backing Argentina over the Falklands are only doing so as they have a history of border disputes with Argentina, and would rather Argentina focus on us rather than them (as some Argentines think that most of South America is theirs and still sulk over the break of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, and I suspect you will find a fair few who think that all of Patagonia should belong to Argentina as well).

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Tubby – got me! Although I believe the first time round an Argentine Sabotage Team was sniffing round Gibraltar with apparently “unofficial” help from the Spanish Authorities, so it is at best 95% hyperbole….

On the other question, I agree in respect of Latin American powers…my concern on that score is China…

As to why, the lesson I derive from our acquisition of India is how very easy it was to go with a view to trade, but then get involved in local politics in order to enforce our own contractual rights, or help out our trading partners with superior military technology…China has thus far been different because their Empire (and it is) has waxed and waned from the existing land frontiers of the Han Chinese…but they have now started going to sea for the first time in 400 years…


Mr. Radwulf,

Thanks for your full reply, which contains points I will need to think through. For the moment I am still stuck on what this new Command element will be commanding.

Suppose a conflict kicks off and only some European states are prepared to join in (a not unlikely scenario based on past experience); do you see this new command giving orders to the members of this “coalition of the willing”? Doesn’t that mean that permanent members of the command whose own countries are not involved should be able to give orders to fighting troops whose countries who are? You don’t perhaps see a problem with that? Alternatively are the posts in the command structure are to be suddenly switched so that only those nations joining in may have a say, but then the individuals may not of have worked together, may not understand how the command structure works and, dammit, when it comes down to it, if you are going to switch key players around what is the point of pretending you have a joint permanent HQ.

Perhaps we should have a European Command with 30 plus (this has to be bigger than the EU) people for each and every job, so we can mix and match a command team when something kicks off? I think the the idea of a European Command is a nonsense, because it can’t work. If there is not a common foreign policy then there cannot be a common military HQ. NATO understood that, but even then in Afghanistan it came close to breaking (actually I think it broke but that is a whole different debate).

Gloomy Northern Boy

@ Martin – I don’t read the Daily Mail, although I do read a range of serious newspapers and a lot of history, thank you for asking…and yes, we do work with European “Allies” where it suits us both, as it often does, and I am all for practising that as I said…

On the other, our one world-beating industry which could benefit the whole of Europe if they chose is the City; actually, they want to shut it down and beggar us…that is not a friendly act, and my views on it have absolutely nothing to do with the Daily Nazi…



“It far easier politically for most nations to have say a frigate escorting such a force than to actually put boots on the ground or bomb someone”

Agreed, now let us think about that for a moment. If I can contribute some clapped-out 1980’s, second-hand, frigate with 1970’s sonar then the chap who has contributed the aircraft carrier alongside me will be happy that he is being protected against modern subs and his government should think I should have an equal say on how the task force should be used? I think not.

Capability matters.


@Martin: yes, but barring Libya (which given how it has panned out will never be repeated) all of these are COIN army campaigns. No requirement for large naval forces. Unless we get the Barbary Pirates redux in the Med, or the Bear reawakening, I can’t see the need for large naval forces around Europe at the moment.

Asia is different, but we or anyone else don’t have much there as possessions anymore. The trade routes are important, but the ANZUS / Singapore /etc are more important partners.

Most importantly of all, such “coalition” groups can be used to mask the loss of independent capabilities. The Euro fanatics then presumably assume we will be hogtied and will then learn to love our Brussels overlords. More likely, when it breaks down we will hate them in a way that makes the Greek’s current opinion of the Germans look like that of an annoyed wife


@ Martin

Mr. Martin,

“There would obviously have to be qualitative assessments on asset assigned to the task force”

What does that mean? “Sorry, your obsolete piece of junk is no good to us, so piss off?”

“…. As I pointed out many nations in Europe operate escorts every bit as capable as our own. ” Many? Care to list them?

Come on, it comes down to who wants to play and who can play if and when a push comes to a shove. I don’t see a lot of point setting up a European defence or, even just, naval identity because it won’t work, cannot work, without a common European foreign policy, and that is never going to happen.



I can’t see the US abandoning NATO formally for a good decade at least. The EU is the world’s largest economy and amongst the world’s most technologically advanced. The US isn’t a charity. Europe is still important and it’s in America’s interests to retain dominance in Europe’s international affairs and NATO does that. Europeans will support NATO because they fear the sacrifices of having to take responsibility for themselves. The only scenario that I can think of for US abandonment is continued Chinese belligerence and power with the US balancing against it with an alliance with an India which is much stronger economically and more strategically proximate and relevant. Should things kick off India would likely embargo China to Europe’s detriment with the US neutral. This would be a massive breaking point.

@Martin; @HurstLlama

You’re right that I haven’t been clear in what the EuroNATO can control (downright misleading perhaps), but this is still a work in progress. The idea is that all European NATO responsibilities for territorial defence, standing or not, will be shifted to the EuroNATO command. There will be no standing expeditionary forces under its command because they just don’t seem to work well in practice, although they will likely be needed in the more distant future. Expeditionary coalition operations will not be under the EuroNATO command but will have access to its assets and capabilities, similar to how NATO assets were used in Libya. The EuroNATO would effectively be configured and operate like today’s NATO, whereas transatlantic NATO would be downsized.

As for smaller countries in expeditionary operations, expanding bilateral relations with like minded countries (like Dutch frigates in UK carrier groups) on a more permanent basis might be the way forward. Europe is already forming into blocks of enhanced cooperation like the Visegrad or Nordic countries. But I don’t think standing European expeditionary groups will work, there is simply too much differentiation at present.

This is why NATO is important……


Not a Boffin


UK, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Denmark, Belgium. Let’s see if we can see what they all have in common? Wait a mo, they’re all in NATO and they all have navies!

Once upon a time we used to have Standing NATO Forces (STANAVFORLANT, STANAVFORMED, STANAVFORCHAN) and the like, which basically comprised a number of ships from individual NATO countries that operated and exercised together on a semi-permanent basis. Command was rotated every 3-6 months if memory serves.

They were (largely) disestablished because Ivan went away and then everyone wanted a Peace Dividend. Later post-Balkans, the EU decided it wanted to create it’s own armed forces and so most people took their toys home. The counter-piracy ops in the Gulf of Oman are of that ilk, but with much wider (and looser) membership and less formal procedures and scope of interoperability.

Ivan appears to be coming back, thanks to that nice Mr Putin and there’s enough North African and Middle Eastern nonsense afoot in the Med to suggest that a permanent NATO naval presence might be a good idea.

There is no reason why one or more of those Standing Forces could not be reconstituted and equally no reason why a perfectly good operating mode should be duplicated by an EU structure which has not been created let alone ratified.


“UK, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Denmark, Belgium. Let’s see if we can see what they all have in common? Wait a mo, they’re all in NATO and they all have navies”

The problem as I see it, Mr. Boffin, is that between the Sovs going away and now coming back again under that nice Mr. Putin, the countries you listed have taken their “peace dividend” and now do not have the will, even if they had the money, to get back into defending themselves. The Standing forces cannot be re-introduced because there ain’t the people, ships or aircraft to do so.

Mind you the Sovs are a shadow of their former selves too, but they are investing hundreds of billions over the next few years in changing that. So I wonder what will Europe’s defence be when Mr. Akula comes to call.

Think Defence

Does anyone else think instead of winding the Russians up we should be getting closer, we share a lot of common interest but seem unable to get over old history and completely unable to see things from their perspective


@ BB – “With all that we’ve invested in carriers, landing ships, Lightning, etc. I think it’s important that we have the ability to use them independently.”


@ Admin – likewise

Not a Boffin

No, the ships and people are still there (just). Whether the will to commit a ship to a Standing Naval Force for three months is there or not, is indeed debatable.

To be fair TD, “winding the Russ up” as you put it is a relatively recent phenomenon and tends to be thought of as relating to Syria and Libya. I don’t recall us tickling the Russian ADIZ with nuclear capable bombers recently, although I’m sure the RAF were grateful for the justification of QRA(N).

We do indeed have common interests (fundamentalist nutcases), but equally significant conflicts (nuclear technology to the peace-loving mullahs of Iran). Seeing things from their perspective is fine and dandy, provided we recognise that doesn’t make the Russian government a cuddly social democratic entity ready to discuss further applications of diversity and equality.


“Does anyone else think instead of winding the Russians up we should be getting closer…”

Gosh, yes, Mr. Defence. However, I think we have made some really serious strategic blunders that have sent the message to Mr. Putin that might is right and the “West” doesn’t believe a word of the UN led, rule of law stuff we have been waffling on about for decades. Two egregious examples Iraq and Lybia, especially the latter as we managed to persuade the Russians not to block our humanitarian-reasons no fly zone. Then we turned it into an air war to support rebels and bring about regime change, in a nasty, and even worse in Russian eyes, in an incompetent manner.

So Mr. Putin got the message – the international rule of law is a nonsense, the only thing that matter is what you can do and that the West are prepared to play by that but don’t have the balls or competence to do it properly. Russian re-armament and intransigence (over for example Syria) has followed as surely as night follows day.

It is going to take a long time and some serious action, not just words, before the Sovs will listen to us again.


Utter madness.
And people call fantasy fleeting delusional.

When the US does intervention, it send Three Super Carriers, not one.
Even if the UK and France sent a carrier, we couldnt offer a third of the airpower those ships provide.

When the US does intervention, it send a Marine Division of 20,000 fighting men plus logistics, not an MEU.
The EU 27 dont have boat spaces for half that, Do we even have that many real marines?

Where are our B2s and SSGNs to provide 0 hour strike?

And thats just the obvious stuff, how many imaging satellites can we retask over the target warzone? How many survivable recon aircraft do we have? U2s? Blackbirds?

We ran out of laser guided bombs in Libya and despite six months of planning were issuing 5 rounds of ammunition in Iraq.
No one is Europe keeps any more war stocks on hand than us.

What volume and weight of supplies can this coalition ship to the warzone, and at what rate can it unload them from the ships to shore without a functional port?

10kg of MREs and bottled water a day per soldier on the ground.
Tens of thousands of litres of fuels, oils and lubricants, a challenger burns a litre of diesel a minute give or take doesnt it?
8 tons of 105mm shells, per gun, per day.


Llama, Russian “intransigence” was not only about Syria or Libya, they were already objecting to the West long before that.

I do believe the main reason there is a difference in opinion between the countries is that Russians don’t THINK like the West, which was all about freedom and liberty, the Eastern mindset, both the Russian and Chinese, center around structured governments as opposed to people power in the West. So the West will side the “freedom loving rebels” while China and Russia will end up on the side of the original government. You could say they are conservative in the sense that “structure is better than anarchy”. It’s a mindset thing.


Interesting to think that the Russians are foolish enough to think that the West is about “freedom” and “liberty” rather than a slightly cleverer construct of “perceived freedom”, “perceived democracy” and absolutely nothing to do with control by Imperial commerce and elitism.

…a rather gloomy Southern Boy :-)


@Martin: True that the Scandinavian countries could integrate with the RFTG also, but none currently have either the same level of complementary kit or has trained so closely as the Dutch. Also, I would see their capability as a bolt on rather than a dependency.


Simon, I was being polite. Replace “freedom” with “anarchy” and you might get a closer picture to reality.

That is the biggest problem our foreign ministry has with the US, their foreign policy can change with a single TV program, makes it damn hard to predict what the loonies are going to do.


“…some planning and more joint exercises might be useful; but as a standing task I think the politics make it a non-starter” – Perfectly sums up my reaction to Martin’s post. This is the sort of force we might throw together in an emergency, so sure train for it, but do we really need/want this as a standing task? If we did, how likely is it to happen? The words “fat” and “slim” spring to mind.

“Does anyone else think instead of winding the Russians up we should be getting closer…” – I don’t know about the Russians. Haven’t been there since student exchange in the seventies (Cold War on yet we swapped kids with them – funny old world isn’t it) – isn’t the place run by gangsters?

Also, this business of “borrowing” other peoples’ capabilities (e.g. Portugese MPA) – just gives our sorry lot of MPs an excuse not to fund our own.

BTW, while I’m here, can someone please explain why the Dept. of Transport is getting a 9% budget cut and yet we’re planning to chuck £32billion at some new railway lines? Also I don’t read the Daily Mail either, but I do sometimes spend a couple of minutes doing their crossword. :-)

Think Defence

this is a good read on Russia and NATO enlargement



We are basically part of the same continental land mass as Russia

I really don’t see why we don’t learn to accept that we have differences and just get on with getting along. I know that sounds “pie in the sky” rubbish. But Putin is not stupid and whilst he is not stupid we may as well start to form some alliances even if it just allows us to understand enough other a little bit more.

They’ve got to be worried about China, but will never turn to the USA for help, but Europe… especially with the Eastern block… why ever not?


WiseApe – ref DoT budgets and shiny new trains. I have, elsewhere, argued that building a TGV look-alike to move people from London to Birmingham to Manchester and no stops between is a white elephant; it would be in direct competition to domestic flights that similarly go between big cities with no stops along the way. And the domestic flight infrastructure is largely in place. Creating HS2 is a very expensive way of increasing city-to-city passenger throughput compared to making the domestic air travel system a bit more slick. In my opinion. Further I argued that if our dearly beloved government were serious about building infrastructure for business, any investment in the rail network would be better directed towards an efficient high capacity freight network, possibly connecting (pick a number) a dozen freight terminals at strategic locations such as ports, industrial heartlands etc. with lesser goods yards where appropriate.

There have been a few glossy government presentations referring to the spirit of the Victorians and how their vision made Britain great, which is why this government also wants to build railways. I am pretty sure that the Victorian railway entrepreneurs created their rail networks solely for the movement of goods; paying passengers were a happy adjunct to their freight businesses. If MPs want to emulate the Victorian way of doing things, freight and business transport should be the focus. But sadly I suspect the reasoning has been as shallow as “Well the French have done quite well since TGV entered service, and the Japanese did really well after their bullet train service started, so if we build a shiny really fast train, obviously we will also do well.” Someone should explain to the decision makers the difference between “coincidence” and “causality”. Unless of course its just a trophy project to show off to visiting dignitaries of nations we want to impress, in which case its all surface gloss and no substance.

Either way HS2 is burning a lot of cash for little real benefit.

HS2 is crap because it competes with the Internet not other transportation systems.

Who is going to want to travel in an age of 4k screens and surround sound teleconferencing? Certainly no more than travel today, probably a lot less, and our transport systems are already scaled to move them.

£30 billion is 12 times as much as BT is spending on its latest programme that should bring in billions to the economy.


Railways are rubbish, just look at how inefficient and unused they are in Europe, the USA, India, Japan, etc.

They are no where near as cost effective as hoisting 200 tonnes of airliner into the sky, burning fuel as you work against air friction, and then nearly bending the thing every time you land. Oh, I much, much prefer to go through loads of security screening every time I want to hop from one industrial center to another.


I commute to the USA on a regular basis and also do work over Skype, WebEx and GoToMeeting. There is absolutely no question in my mind which is more efficient for communication. Being There. This is also the view of nearly every other senior “manager” I’ve ever spoken to or worked with.

Having said this £30b is quite a lot of money, but hey, this is the UK government and they wouldn’t know value if it slapped them in the face :-)


I travel to London a lot on East Coast and struggle to understand the (huge) cost / (limited) benefit analysis of HS2, a bit of new rolling stock, some enhancement of a few bits of the route (eg extra track from Doncaster to Leeds) is all that is needed. I know London is one of the world’s greatest commercial centres but couldn’t some more stuff be pushed out to the regions negating the need for so much pointless travel?

Incidentally, 1st class East Coast used to be full of NHS and other public sector types, but there don’t seem to be as many these days


Amen to that Chris. As I said the other week, I had to stand for an hour on the train to Liverpool. How much of that £30 odd billion will go into more rolling stock rather than reshaping the countryside?

Anyway, apologies Martin for shunting us off into a siding talking about trains instead of carrier battlegroups. Hopefully we can now get back on track.

Think I’ll have an early night.


Simon – I think its a matter of system boundaries? Your statements are supportable if the aeroplane as a vehicle is compared to the train as a vehicle. The physics says planes are energy-wasting and inefficient, and railways much less so. But as I noted the infrastructure (airports) are by & large already in reasonable shape to deal with (oh dear I don’t wan’t to use this phrase) inter-city passenger traffic. Laying some 400 miles of new railway line over new routes is a big deal – just look at the expense and duration of works to upgrade the North West Mainline (wasn’t that expensive upgrade heralded as the answer to all problems on the London to Manchester route? Oh well, obviously not.) Thereafter the permanent way as it was once known needs maintenance and signalling and security/safety measures along its full length, whereas the air between cities is for the most part maintenance free and secure. It would be an interesting study to see in total terms what the amortised build costs, maintenance costs and operating costs of rail and domestic air travel including airport aspects are between the same start and end points.

Taking it to extremes, if I remember the figures correctly a single horse can pull maybe half a ton of goods on a road wagon, maybe two tons on a horse-drawn rail wagon, and maybe 12 tons on a canal barge. Therefore canals are much more efficient than railways in tractive power terms. By this logic a new high speed passenger canal network should be built immediately between major cities.

I suspect there is a good deal more to the sums than the basic physics. Just saying, like.

As for security, I do wonder how long it will be before long-haul rail services gain the same security screening before boarding as aircraft – if the things get close to 200mph then a wilful act of sabotage would cause as much devastation as knocking an aircraft from the sky. So you may yet find yourself in a long and boring queue at the rail terminus, being asked to check-in an hour before departure.

Anyway. As WiseApe said, we are supposed to be discussing the finer points of defence and not public transport. Apologies one and all for going off the rails – sorry – setting off on the wrong track – d’oh!



I have a theory that all sensibly run countries should be inherently selfish – the government should be putting the best interests of the country ahead all else (I know this is not entirely true as the reality is the ruling class puts their interests ahead before else, and a lot of the time their interests coincide with the country’s best interests) .

This does mean that despite being allies with many European countries, it isn’t in their best interest for the City of London to be a major financial market at the cost of other European cities, so it makes perfect sense to introduce a transaction tax.

It also means that the clue to understanding what China may or may not do is to work out what are their best interests lay. As far as I can tell the ruling elite want to transform the economy without any of the social upheavals that normally accompany the transformation of agrarian society to highly industrialised one, they want to secure all their borders, and guarantee their food, energy and natural resources needed to support one sixth of the worlds population.

The problem is how they might do all this.

While the logical part of my brain tells me that the Chinese would never attack directly UK forces – particularly in the US’s back yard, they are actively courting Argentina for military sales (there is talk that in the mid term they will sell the JF-17 Thunder to Argentina with a full weapons package as Fuerza Aerea Argentina have accepted that they cannot buy a new western type), and the Chinese will likely offer weapons for mineral rights, so they may well see benefits of change of ownership of the Falklands leveraged by cheap weapons and military advisors. Though my guess would be that they will be much more interested in undermining US influence in South America, particularly if the US strengthens ties with countries bordering the South China Sea.

I wanted to write a lot more but when I read it back it sounded a little paranoid.


I think the UK really needs new transport infrastructure & I am not against fastrail, but I wonder if alternatives to HS2 were looked at. Would extending the M11 motorway to Edinburgh do more for the North than HS2? I understand a Pendolino train did a test run on the East Coast route. The latest version of the Pendolino can do 155 mph. How much would it cost to upgrade the East Coast track & signals to take 155 mph Pendolinos? Why no plan to build the missing bits of track to allow a Heathrow to Gatwick direct railway? Would the South West benefit from extending the A303 dual carriageway to Gatwick airport?


One massive change to the railways and a positive one from my perspective would be allowing a “travel partner” to travel with you at a fraction of the cost of another ticket. When I have a passenger in the car my fuel costs don’t double. And neither should a train fare. Bring in that and we’d see use explode, even if it was just an off-peak or advance concession. I’d use the train far more if we could buy such tickets like we could in Germany.

@ Simon

Yes. But to the upcoming generation, the so called Digital Natives, being there in a physical sense won’t matter. We used to run an empire with letters and sailing ships. At one time it was believed man would be asphyxiated travelling over 30mph. In my grandfather’s youth you were lucky to go on a day trip never mind a week’s holiday. Now some stamp and scream like toddlers if their flight to the Med’ is two hours late. There will be still business travel and office blocks I am sure. But we really are going to see a move to that much vaunted, always around the middle of next decade, move to home working. Paradigm shifts do happen.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Radwulf – I too give NATO eight or ten years, but I think we would benefit if it went sooner rather than later…

@TrT – I agree – hence my desire to see the end of NATO – fear concentrates the mind wonderfully…

@Tubby – one man’s paranoid fantasist is another man’s hard-bitten realist…and I’m with you on this one…


All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same


The NATO standing groups still exist. They are called SNMG 1 and 2 FF/DD groups one of which is at the moment always East of Suez providing the core of TF 508. The 2 small ship groups are SNMCMG1 and 2.

As for the end of NATO, well Libya reinforced its role, the respect between NATO military personnel is huge. The only people who think it should go are marginal political parties and eccentric internet posters.

Since the formation of NATO we have avoided a major war in the Western hemisphere and been able to face down or defeat every conventional threat we have faced.



We’ve been here before and I know we don’t agree. Business is done now the same way it was done 2000 years ago. With the shake of a hand. Perhaps we’ll see the 20/80 split move to 40/60 over the next decade, but I’d wager it will never get to 100/0 from home meaning people will need to travel.


Well, a canal network… great idea. Do you think a 400m road or canal is substantially cheaper than a railway? The road would probably cost about £12b going on a few googleing figures but you’d then have to add all the cars necessary to move the same numbers of people with each car doing 30mpg. Canals look very cheap. Possibly 1000 times cheaper (assuming there are no hills). However, they’re not great for commuting ;-)

I think we’re avoiding doing some actual analysis of these transport mechanisms. You have tonnage (or people), speed and cost so a good measure of efficiency is tonnes delivered per hour per pound (£). The final cost has to be both the build and exepected running costs. I have very few figures to hand but would suggest that air travel is the least efficient by a long way.

You could also add long-term damage to the environment as a parameter, which will probably end up with trains and horses as the most efficient (lots of methane from horses of course and no cat-conv).



Martin hit the nail on the head when he said the big issue is capacity and if you build new capacity you might as well make it high speed.

Face to face meetings can be reduced with technology, but for tricky situations and relationship building video conferencing is substitute for being there.

The idea of encouraging freight onto the rail system is interesting. So many people live within ‘hearing / rumbling’ distance of trains increased night traffic would be unpopular. Daytime capacity is likely to be insufficient to make a real difference. A national plan to increase freight on rail should however be in place, it will need to happen at some stage so why not start now.


I see some issues with this. Some are logistical which, while not insurmountable, require expense and time: Where would it be stationed? Homeport? Does it get split up among the contributors nations until they are needed or do they stay together? How often do they train together? If there is a Homeport, where is it and will they have storage for the different constituent nations’ forces? Who commands the group? Is it permanent or does the leadership rotate?

How many of these Navies actually having forces trained for forcible entry? Could they even attempt what a USN/USMC MEU could do? It seems most Euro Navies Marine forces are more suited for Commando operations rather than engaging and defeating the enemy at or near the beach. As a previous poster mentioned, do the Europeans even have enough troops for anything besides a small amphibious mission? There will be 180000+ Marines by 2017, how many troops can other NATO nations even deploy? Do they even have enough for an MEBs-sized equivalent?

The most serious issue, however, is the one that cannot be ignored: Political will

If one nation decides to not send its oiler or stores/logistics ship out to supply the group’s ships because of holding differing views of the situation at hand, then certain nation’s could upset the entire mission. How do you source a replacement quickly? Portugal is out, what is Belgium doing on Tuesday?

If the participating nations cannot come to consensus on how or if the group should be used, what happens? The remaining nations go it alone with a smaller force? The mission is scrapped? I just don’t see Europe capitals coming together quickly enough to act and in sufficient numbers to be able to create such a force for intervention on NATO’s periphery e.g LIbya, Mali, etc.

For a threat that might trigger an Article 5 response, it behooves NATO’s nations (including the US) to train and promote interoperability in amphib operations because such a force could be quite formidable.

Imagine a situation where NATO actually agrees to act in unison. The Euro portion of an Amphib Force might not be able to react quickly enough, BUT it could provide an Amphib follow-on force for a USMC force. The US forces move first, followed soon after by other NATO amphib ships and troops to reinforce them. The US has the assets for forcible entry, but the other NATO navies can quickly reinforce the US forces before other USMC can arrive.

If they could train and plan for a 1-2 punch combo with a USMC MEU or MEB, quickly reinforced by a Euro-equivalent to an MEU or MEB, such a NATO contribution would be extremely valuable. Considering the limitations of the size of current non-US NATO amphib forces, it might be necessary to have non-US NATO armies to cross-train their airborne/air assault elements for amphib operations so that NATO follow-on forces can arrive in sufficient numbers beyond MEU or MEB equivalent.

Imagine a REFORGER sized exercise where the following forces rehearsed follow-on echelons to sustain an attack:

1.) USN/USMC forced landing (MEB)
2.) NATO Amphib reinforcement (MEB equivalent)
3.) NATO/US Rapid Reaction Forces reinforcement via ship and/or airdrop (3-4 brigades)
4.) Heavier NATO/US Follow-on reinforcements arrive via RO-RO (3-4 Brigades)

Possible mission within exercise could be to seize airfields and port facilities for the follow-on reinforcements. The goal would be to sharply intervene, then rapidly reinforce as needed to overwhelm an adversary’s ability to counter the initial sharp intervention.

Again, though, would European politicians even bother to commit funds be able to train and equip such a force? And if they did, would the politicians have the will to employ such forces without it turning into a worker’s soviet and delay during critical early hours of an intervention?

I doubt it.


Simon – a point of historical interest here; we did of course have military canals in the UK, to transport ammunition from the industrial heartland to the ports. They were also used to move army pay from the banks in London ultimately to the troops in far flung corners of the world. Not only were the canals efficient at moving the tonnage, they were also seen as the more secure, as each cargo shipment travelled with its own moat.

Now wasn’t that a slick link back to defence?



Nicely done :-)

I remember watching this documentary by Dan Snow (I think) about the railway system. It trumped canals by not being frozen over in the winter and not being dried up in the summer.



There are bigger things at stake here, It has taken the US and UK nearly 80 years to establish a close intimate working relationship in the form of co-operation, intelligence sharing, right down to cryptographic material and equipment.

By integrating ever closer with the EU, and some of the more selfish EU partners who will quite happily pass information in a duplicitous manner, is it a good idea to do so and jeopardise our “Special Relationship” with the worlds Dominant Military Power?

France in particular can be relied upon to do what it sees fit regardless, and can be very mercurial. The Exocet debacle during the Falklands, passing information to other regimes in return for favours etc etc

In my own Experience, US/UK Eyes only was there for good reason.

Not a Boffin


Thanks. I knew the tupperwares were still committed from time to time, but thought the “Standing” DD/FF Forces were more dormant or gapped (ie no longer permanently standing), with the EUNAVFor or similar EoS.


@Paralus: I think you miss the point. This is a Euro project, whose primary purpose is not to produce anything of worth, but to advance the Project. Throw the idea straight in the bin



I’m still not convinced that this could work under a NATO framework. There is still the problem of national crises in overseas territories and NATO is still not an out of area organisation (a fact for which I for one am grateful for). Any large country that forms the core of such a group will have to know that if it has to scramble that carrier/assault vessel that it won’t have to drop all other commitments because its allies won’t follow through.

Not only will this cause general problems in posture but the end force will not have sufficient experience in escort duties for the carrier for example because the responsibility is normally delegated. With bilateral relationships, out of area and overseas territory defence could be part of the package. The combined force could be seconded to NATO responsibilities but that isn’t the same thing.



“It seems most Euro Navies Marine forces are more suited for Commando operations rather than engaging and defeating the enemy at or near the beach”

As far as I know all European Commandos/Marines are specifically for winning the beach. You make a distinction between the USMC and the Euro Marine Force that I do not understand.

The USA has two (proper) MEFs, each one consisting of three front-line MEUs (working on rotation). This is not that much different to, say, the UK’s 3Cdo. However, the USA have dedicated USMC resource for aviation, logistics and reinforcements whereas the UK has to call on the RAF, RFA and British Army to field a similar capability.

In a nutshell the UK can deliver a similar response to an MEF.

I would suggest the French and Dutch combined can deliver the same again.

So, in an expeditionary sense Europe can field a similar capability to the USA. The major exceptions are a lack of naval air power (as provided by the USN) but then again, between us we own quite a lot of strategic airstrips which the USA simply does not have.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Is Afghanistan not out of area? How many brigades have been pulled from there due to national commitments? The reality (having actually worked in a NATO HQ) is that units get pulled all the time but 95% plus are pulled before they join and 80% plus are replaced.
As for sufficient experience as escorts, Bulwark used to produce an escorting for dummies guide in 2005, it is about doing your job in the right place.

That is why we have different levels of secrecy.

@ Simon & Martin

Never said face to face/physical business and inter business transactions would completely disappear just that would be a sizeable reduction. As I said “we” used to run an empire via sails and letters there was a time travel only happened when it was needed. Wars on other Continents have been planned and controlled by politicians who only knew their own local population centre and London. The virtual and abstract aren’t new. Information is always easier to move than things physical. Why do you think the Victorians invested in undersea cables? Businesses only started using cars and aeroplanes about to move decision makers quite recently. Much of that during the same period that the telephone became truly common. You mustn’t rule out the novelty or jolly or perk factor either. Lots of companies have relationships where this is surprisingly little contact. Often it is only computers of one talking to another and even acting without human intervention especially in finance which is sadly what drives our economy. Further you have to factor in companies not tying capital up in buildings so sometimes there isn’t a physical place to travel anyway. Lastly a lot of the meetings that start or create business aren’t time critical. Those taking part in such meetings are working at such a level that the “meeting” will be the day’s or two day’s or week’s activity; getting there half an hour earlier isn’t going to make much difference. If it were that critical well we have modern communications for that. So we are talking here spending about £30 billion to shave what 30 minutes off the travel time to London from Birmingham for probably less than 1% of business men? And the top .01% will fly anyway; the top .01% who are the real money makers. That they can’t secure the funding for the project seems to point to the big business powers not really seeing much of a future in it. In railway parlance the track, the actual system, is called the permanent way. Not 800 yards from where I live there is the trackbed of a branch line no longer in use. There must be a dozen such lines hereabouts. So the permanent way isn’t so permanent.

I say all that as somebody who actually likes and knows railways. As somebody who in a previous life was a large retailer’s printer guru; I had to endure meeting after meeting in the 1990s about the Internet and the end of paper. That company is still printing stuff now and will still be printing stuff in a decade’s time. Not as much stuff but I think it will diminish rapidly. Finally I also say that as somebody who has been online since 1985-ish and so I am familiar with online sociology and have pretty deep understanding of the issues of working in “cyber space”. Anyway my stegosaurus needs walking and there is crazy German guy who wants to sell me a Bible in English…..

Gloomy Northern Boy

@apats “eccentric internet posters” I like that…but the two questions not answered remain as follows:

1 Is a Military Alliance where one party provides the overwhelming proportion of both mass and capability sustainable in the long term…especially if the only serious partner increasingly sees it’s own interests as lying elsewhere…and the free-riders are very frequently unhelpful and indeed obnoxious to the one serious partner?

2 Can a continent wholly unable to get it’s act together in respect of genocide and systematic mass rape taking place in beach resorts where they were sunning themselves the previous year ever be taken seriously as a force for good in military or indeed moral terms?

Just asking…in a spirit of wilful eccentricity of course…




The US and Europe share hundreds of billions of pound of trade between each other every year as such they have a massive interest in ensuring that still happens. Which means peace and security and so they will remain involved. Free trade stops wars is the slogan I believe.


*cough* “trade deficit” *cough*…


Afghanistan was not out of area. The NATO alliance mutual defence obligation covers all member countries in the North Atlantic area but excludes many overseas territories (the main exception seems to be Hawaii, but not the Falklands). For Afghanistan NATO was involved because the US itself was attacked by terrorists, Article 5 was triggered in solidarity, and the US decided that the terrorist attack was effectively an attack by the Afghanistan government thereby justifying a NATO invasion. This was stretching the remit to the limit but it still held. By out of area I mean wars not started through an attack on a member state. Iraq was not a NATO fighting operation. Libya was supposed to be one, but that was in NATO’s back yard and still had patchy support (ie. a failed attempt).

I’m not that knowledgeable regarding training and maintenance of skills. It seems logical to me that if you routinely delegate escort tasks to others your skills may atrophy. But if it isn’t a problem, it isn’t a problem.

I don’t think that you can really compare brigades being pulled due to national commitments with aircraft carriers (groups). The latter is much more valuable and rare than the former. That being said, thanks for the insight.


“… it won’t have to drop all other commitments because its allies won’t follow through.”

Isn’t this always a problem in European operations? National interest always has and always will trump “collegiate” responsibilities, and no government is going to allow their people and ships to sail into danger on a mission that they regard as harmful to their own interest.

Then we have the situation of who, realistically can play. As Mr. Martin points out up thread, to take part a nation would need kit that is good enough (and people who are competent and sufficiently motivated to fight). So in naval task force terms that rather limits it to six players, tops (again using Mr. Martin’s definition of good enough kit – which I am not sure I accept but let that pass). So, for a start, this pan European naval command can only include decision-makers from those six countries – nobody without skin in the game is going to be accepted (the French carrier taking orders to go in harms way from a Rumanian Admiral, tain’t going to happen).

Now, let us suppose, all is in place and a crisis blows up in, say, the Eastern Med, and it is the UK’s turn to provide the carrier for the task group. The European command wants to order the task group into action, but the circumstances are such that British interests would be harmed by taking part, or even that HMG’s perceived chances of re-election might be damaged. Do you really think that the Carrier would be allowed to continue?

You could switch it around so that the UK would want to fight but the countries providing the escort, or even a chunk of the escort, wouldn’t. The effect is the same. If and when Europe becomes one country, it can have a full time combined military and navy. Until then it can only ask for coalitions of the willing for tasks as they come up, and train together in preparation. All else is folly.

Eccentric from Sussex
(but at least I am not gloomy)

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Mark – The USA is actively working to achieve energy security from domestic sources – repatriating manufacturing industry – has always been self-sufficient in food and most resources (others being available in the near-abroad) – and the population practically always prefers to “buy American” (by which they mean from the USA)

Although a very few people from the US have a certain sentimental attachment to GB, or another European country of family origin, the overwhelming majority own no passport, never will, and couldn’t give a stuff – and at least as many loathe and distrust Europe and all it’s works as have any warmer feelings towards it.

Granted, very few actively loathe GB quite as much as their current President (read his books, review his actions) but his election is a clear indicator that a century or more of East Coast Atlanticist Presidents has come to an end, almost certainly for good – as demonstrated by the pivot to the Pacific and their near-abroad – and that leaves aside a very strong strand of US isolationism and “American Exceptionalism”.

Furthermore, China is a real competitor in the Pacific and increasingly in Latin America – they are re-arming hand over fist, and by all accounts waging pretty unrestricted cyber warfare – they are not at any level a paper tiger, and the coming confrontation is likely to cost attention, blood and treasure in full measure.

Could you explain again why exactly the USA should choose to continue to beggar themselves to defend European states – who are unwilling to defend themselves at any serious level – into the indefinite future, and in the face of a genuine opponent much more likely to badly undermine their vital interests, and whose sphere of operation is their main trading area (the Pacific) and their own backyard (Latin America) ? Why – subject to the successful evacuation of Israel – it should matter to them if the entire Mediterranean (North and South) was aflame from end to end ?

Just asking

@HurstLlama – It’s raining here – I bet it’s sunny in Sussex…

thus Gloomy

Sgt Pep

What’s this “Special Relationship” I keep hearing about?!

Are we talking about Britain slavishly following the US into ill advised wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have achieved absolutely nothing positive and had tremendous costs in both lives and treasure?

Are we talking about the US refusing to share the source code of the F35 with Britain despite the huge investment Britain made in the aircraft?

Are we talking about the US only reluctantly helping out allies like Britain and France in Libya?

The US, like every other nation, cares mostly about its own interests and those will increasingly diverge from Britain’s and other European countries regardless of any “special relationships”.

Jeremy M H


I think NATO continues to be important but I could see a new alliance structure emerging from it. Frankly as someone from the US I would like to see this.

1. NATO replaced by a US-CAN-EU mutual defense treaty that is only operative in the event of a direct attack on any of the powers. This is really what most of NATO has become anyway. The US has real interest in keeping involved in Europe and this would satisfy most of those. This would end the blurring of lines that has happened with NATO being an expeditionary force.

2. A more maritime and expeditionary oriented alliance between the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan. All these nations have fairly common security situations and have a broad interest in keeping trade and energy supplies moving. This would be something more formal with standing combined groups, basing agreements and a much more activist approach to the world. The overall idea is to get the difficult powers out of handling things in the rest of the world so that actual decisions can be made.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Jeremy MH – If you decide to run for President, I’ll volunteer for your campaign – but I would like to see a discussion with @Observer about the desirability of integrating other seafaring traders (like Singapore) with your “Active Anglo-Sphere Plus” Plan…

Churchill (and indeed Rhodes) would be proud of you…but I hope the current POTUS doesn’t have your e-mail address…

Cheered and thus less Gloomy.



Surely the USA has a vested interest in European stability, just as we have in South American or Asian stability? Even if you totally divorce our Atlantic neighbours from Europe it would only come and bite them later on.

A shift of focus towards China (and possibly a China/Russia coalition) should not be left to the Americans alone. It’s in the interests of the entire world to not allow another build-up of force that can sweep away the infidel. The best the UK can do is coerce Europe to support the USA when necessary, and of course, lead by example.

The UK should therefore concentrate its efforts on self-defence and the provision of an MEF/MEU style capability. If the French, Dutch, Spanish and Italians can deliver a similar expeditionary capability then even better.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Simon – I don’t doubt that the US has some interest in European stability; but not enough for us to assume that they will do all the heavy lifting in perpetuity, in the face of much more obvious challenges in the Pacific and their near-abroad, and whilst Europe closes it’s eyes, sticks it’s fingers in it’s ears and goes “la-la-la-la-la”…and even we who reckon to “punch above our weight” actually manage less than half of it by US standards…

Furthermore, that interest will fall rather than rise in any possible future that I can readily imagine…


Gloomy Northern Boy

@Martin – my point is “Why” not “Who”…I assume when you proposed your Task Force, you had a “Who” in mind, so I’ll settle for them, whoever they were…and on that original post, my only thought was that the European Politics of (non) Defence made such a thing a complete non-starter,

That led to some wider thoughts about the long-term viability of NATO in the face of a continuing European assumption that the US will readily continue to do all the heavy lifting in perpetuity, a proposition which I think doubtful…but I’m not clear on what your view is, so much as I’m happy to debate the issue I don’t know where you stand?

A puzzled Gloomy


@wf: ah, I see your point.

@Simon: Apart from amphib units that the Spanish, French, San Marco Regiment, Turkish marines have, most of the European amphib forces don’t have any armored units that are permanently attached to them.

USMC has AAVs, LAV-25s and M1 Abrams that are organic to the USMC and will be featured in any landing. These can rapidly move inland. The Royal Marines, Dutch Marines, etc. don’t have that capability (Bv206 are not the same as a LAV-25).

I’m not suggesting that the USMC is intended to engage in armor duels with a potential enemy, but they have enough armor to protect and support their infantry to the point they can bring direct fire from armored vehicles to take out enemy strong points.

I don’t think that the Royal or Dutch Marines couldn’t overcome such obstacles, but it would need more planning/coordination less it prove too costly.


Surely the USA has a vested interest in European stability,

They have an enormous, fundamental interest in European stability. But they also have an enormous, fundamental interest in having a stable and dependent Europe. Yes, don’t let them think they’re doing us a favour – that’s just for ignorant domestic and Congress consumption. The reality is this: if Europe started to become strong and independent it would become a MAJOR problem to the US even if both blocs remained on peaceful terms we both come to different conclusions on a lot of world affairs. The US doesn’t need the headache of a headstrong, militarily independent Europe when they have their hands full in the rest of the world.

Europe is the only thing going right for them at the moment.

Jeremy M H


“Europe is the only thing going right for them at the moment.”

I think that is overstating it fairly comfortably.

The Russian-Chinese alignment is really one where the only thing they have in common is a desire to keep the US from stopping their ambitions. There is a reason that Russia supplies what it does to India after all. That is not just about money but also about keeping external pressure on China. That is the real bind everyone is in.

China wants a free hand in parts of Asia and to do that they would likely prefer the US be tied up in Europe bickering with the Russians. The Russians don’t want to cause too much actual trouble for the US in the end because they don’t want to see China running free anymore than the US does. Europe figures into that equation to a degree in as much as it could be a serious check on Russian ambition even absent US help.

I honestly think the US is pretty agnostic about European military power. It is not something that would worry me in the slightest but it is something that would freak Russia out pretty quickly. The only way European military power would really worry those of us in the US is if it was grafted to a very different set of governments than it now is. As it stands we have almost no reasons to have any substantive disagreements and a more regional or globally responsive military would, IMHO, move Europe closer to rather than further from US attitudes on a great many issues.


@Jeremy M H

Maintaining a territorial defence only alliance between the US, EU and Canada in principle might be good but I don’t think it is practical as changing the current system would require significant political courage and momentum which is lacking and the EU doesn’t have the legitimacy or competence as a defence actor (and doesn’t include Turkey). Just look at how Eurozone member states screwed up the Euro. Hysteria over a future European super-state would also be accentuated and justifiably so if you consider that a problem.

A UK, US, Canada, Japan and Australia alliance for me is a non-starter. This seems to be heavily slanted towards the national interests of Japan and the US as the future focus will likely be around China, who has major tensions with Japan (who is still pacifist) and Japan is the core of the US line of defence in the region. Australia is split between commercial ties with China and military ties with the US and wouldn’t want to pick sides. Canada would be reluctant to be dragged along with everything the US does. The UK is the only country that wouldn’t be directly exposed to Chinese regional power and has no interest in being dragged into an East Asian war if Japan is attacked for example.

The interests of the US and EU and how they pursue them are diverging with the US and Japan and perhaps most of the anglosphere going one way and Europe and the UK another. If the US wants help, it needs India, not Europe.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Radwulf – “US, Japan and most of the Anglo-Sphere going one way and Europe and the UK going another” How so? Are you writing from Paris, Brussels or Berlin?

An outward-looking and euro-sceptic Gloomy


I honestly think the US is pretty agnostic about European military power.

It might be at the moment because Europe doesn’t have the capabilities to go it alone.

But the US has no tolerance at all for Europe going about looking after it’s interests in it’s own way. We’ve seen that time and time again. Suez is an excellent example, as are many others. Combine European thinking with US style military projection and the US will have a disaster on its hands. It cannot look after its interests in a world that is self-confident and assertive and has the military power to simply ignore or defy the US.

A nice quiet stable, dependent Europe is just what the doctor ordered for the US.



Even more reason to get into bed with Russia.

I don’t know, someone should topple these Imperialistic ba$t@rd5 ;-)


I’m with Phil on this one – if Europe was able to pull together a coherent unified defence posture, and then fund it at a realistic level of say 4% GDP, then the US would have a real problem on their hands as they would have to contend with another superpower, and in many ways one that is more dangerous than China as it would be hard to cast Europe as an out an out villain, as increasingly the want of the US. Instead they would have Europe as an unreliable ally that on many occasions puts it own interests ahead of the US, and has the clout to make it stick. At the moment Europe is a lazy, slumbering giant that has been lulled to sleep by the lack of any real threat. Lets hope the Russian’s keep this at the back of their minds in their quest to be taken seriously by Europe – if hurt Russian pride cause’s them to act out in a way that scares the more influential European countries then we could see the giant awake – and the UK would have to decide which way to turn.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Phil – just wondering what we might want to fall out with the USA about? Providing effectively for our own defence at our own cost in blood and treasure? Sorting out future problems in the Balkans without yelling for help? Keeping the peace in the Mediterranean and North Africa? Being willing to face down Russia if they go after the Baltic Republics or those odd corners of the Caucasus not willing to take orders from Moscow? Backing the one fully functioning democracy in the Near East in the face of various neighbours keen to re-open Auschwitz?

A genuinely curious Gloomy



The way I see it, China is the key (but not necessarily most powerful) actor going forward. Competition will be around keeping Chinese ambitions in check and will focus on the Indo-Pacific. For China to break out it will have to diplomatically or militarily neutralise Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Russia and the US. A combination of these countries will be proximate and powerful enough to control China.

As the US pivots to Asia, Europe will have to focus more on its periphery and looking after itself but fragmentation and differences this will hinder effectiveness. European and UK military interests focus primarily on securing access to trade, energy and raw materials but would only likely be enough to cover up to the Indian Ocean and the unstable neighbourhood. Given the lack of proximity and more local problems, involvement in East Asia doesn’t seem worth the cost, particularly given more local actors could do the job. Getting dragged into an East Asian war with a Japanese alliance could lead to serious retaliation and I can’t see there being either the national interest or public support in the UK or otherwise.

I’m English but I don’t have a principled opposition to a European Superstate. The EU needs reform, and it shouldn’t happen yet, but I’m open to the idea decades in the future. The world is changing very quickly and we have to keep our options open.


If Europe can come together properly then we should start proper trade with Africa and close the doors on the Middle East and Asia. It’s a more viably controllable “rising star”?

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Radwulf – No keener than you on an avoidable conflict with China, but I think we have sufficient investments, interests and familial connexions with the area as to have a dog in the fight…and a clear interest in containing Chinese ambitions in Latin America (they are being very pally with the Argentine) and Africa (maintaining supplies of key resources). On the question of public support, I suspect there would be a strong public reaction to the Red Star of China floating over Sydney Opera House…

On the question of a European Superstate I disagree on so many different levels that it would need a book…the most obvious one being that I think there is good reason to believe the whole anti-democratic shambles to be beyond any kind of meaningful reform…

@Simon – agree about trading and working with Africa – on the Mid-East and Asia how exactly do we close our doors on an area that sits right next to us?



“Does anyone else think instead of winding the Russians up we should be getting closer, we share a lot of common interest but seem unable to get over old history and completely unable to see things from their perspective”

@TD;If there is one thing which is very scary to the US then it is a EU block which includes Russia,during the cold war it was communism which prevented EU states to come closer to Russia for obvious reasons although somewhere in a dark future someone might suggest that it was the US which was playing the good old “Impero et Divide” song which worked so well for centuries for various empires(the Dutch in the east Indies for instance).
We are a long way away from anything close to a Russo/Euro superstate but if it comes it will likely dominate the entire world,not coexist,it is not in our nature to do that.


Been watching the “Rise of Continents” series. Much is made of the US “pivot to the Pacific,” but we should take comfort in the fact that the Americas are only moving away from us at the rate of about 2cm a year. Mind you, Australia will one day find itself nestled against mainland China. Will render ownership of the China Seas moot. :-)

Quite apart from the obvious political dimension I wonder about the technical problems of Martin’s proposed “Euro Task Group.” I mean, all those disparate sensors and comms equipment – might they not interfere with one another? How well would they integrate – e.g. would T45 Sampson give the same threat rating to a particular incoming threat as say, an Italian Empar or Spanish Aegis? Who decides what to shoot at what, and when, when you’ve only got seconds to decide? Now you see why we really needed 12 T45s.

Gloomy Northern Boy

Are people seriously preferring to team up with a paranoid kleptocracy run by gangsters than with the USA? Have you all invested in “Slav Brides by e-mail” ?!#?

An utterly baffled Gloomy.


just wondering what we might want to fall out with the USA about?

I’m talking about Europe. But in any case we’ve had fundamental differences with the US a number of times – our Empire wasn’t exactly going down well in the first half of the 20th Century and when it suited the US it used its then enormous power to simply shut us down, lean on us and effectively take what they wanted.

We’ve diverged on foreign policies numerous times with them, Europe as a whole, more so. The US and EU have largely the same fundamental interests but differ in the way they think they should be defended.

Imagine a confident, assertive Europe able to simply ignore the US and continue with a Suez style operation or one that constantly meddles and undermines US influence in favour its own? Just as this happens to the US on a global basis. They don’t need that shit as the youth might say. Especially when that power straddles the Med, juts out into the Atlantic and borders the World Island and the Middle East. There are very good reasons why anything approaching a united Europe has been a nightmare for other civilisations for millennia.

The example you cite are not the US acting out of the goodness of its heart – whilst the rhetoric might have sometimes been all mushy mushy and welcoming the hard reality is the US has never lifted a finger to help us if it hurt their interests to do so. A dependent Europe remains a US asset. The trick is getting your cake and eating it and fine tuning the dependence so we can crack on in our own spheres of influences without dragging them in and ensuring we don’t suddenly extend that sphere and back it up with the ability to confidentally meddle.

I don’t envisage war, or military confrontation – not even a jot. But I do envisage a Europe that is a monumental headache for a US state whose worldwide influence is waning in relative terms.


@ Paralus – “The most serious issue, however, is the one that cannot be ignored: Political will. If one nation decides to not send its oiler or stores/logistics ship out to supply the group’s ships because of holding differing views of the situation at hand, then certain nation’s could upset the entire mission”

Well said.

In broad terms; a EUropean military capability will become relevant and useful at precisely the moment that there is a EUropean foreign policy.

I am not holding my breath.


It’s a more viably controllable “rising star”?

Most of Africa is nothing like a rising star: it’s stagnated, corrupt and probably will forever stay that way. It certainly has natural resources fit for exploitation but you won’t see that translating into viable economies and secure states. Indeed, some economists see Africa’s natural resources as more of a blight since they encourage an economy that cannot diversify and which is dominated by large companies that redistribute the wealth out of a dangerous and unstable Africa.


@GNB;Nope we are not serious on merging with a gangster state,however like another poster said,the world is changing,rapidly,the Russian middle class is growing and China is on the rise.Could a more liberal Russia face China alone?or would it ask for help from the EU?think about it,Russia today will problably not be the same anymore in 20 years time or so,nor will the rest of the world.

Napoleon once said let China sleep because if you wake it the world may tremble,I think he meant let the EU/Russo superstate sleep ….

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Phil – I was talking about Europe as well – and laying out potential conflicts that we might feasibly choose to undertake without US support – and about the future not the past – so I ask again…what would we want to fall out with them about? Why would a group of European Democracies want to seek conflict with a North American one?

I should add, I also have considerable misgivings about the underlying conflict between the USA and the British Empire…up to and including Suez, although past discussion suggests there may be some US regret about that error of judgement…but that was then and this is now….


Jeremy M H

I do get a kick out of the idea of an EU with all these Eastern European states cuddling up to Russia. Those places hate Russia and want nothing to do with it. That is why they all begged to join NATO and the EU in the first place was to make sure the Russians left them alone. I suppose one could trot out some old fashion partitioning to get things done though. I am sure the Poles won’t mind.


“The trick is getting your cake and eating it and fine tuning the dependence so we can crack on in our own spheres of influences without dragging them in and ensuring we don’t suddenly extend that sphere and back it up with the ability to confidentally meddle.”

Good wording Phil!

Well I am off to bed for now .
Cheers everyone!


Why would a group of European Democracies want to seek conflict with a North American one?

Because they believe Americans actions would undermine European interests.

I don’t have a crystal ball I can’t see what the future will throw up but I do know that history will continue true to form and different actors coming from different contexts and having different outlooks will come to different solutions. That’s fine at the moment as there’s not much Europe can do to assert those different solutions on anything other than a local basis or in parts of Africa the US has no interest in like Mali but it’s a different matter altogether if a confident Europe felt strong enough to stick its nose into the Israeli-Palestine thing for example. Simple diplomatic statements from Europe on the subject already antagonises the US.

So we can see fault lines along a lot of policies right at the moment – the Israel first policy of the US; the US attitude to energy and climate change; US policy toward Iran, Iraq and Pakistan to name a number. Much of Europe differed absolutely with the Iraq invasion: what if Europe had simply not allowed US forces overflight rights and had not allowed US equipment in Europe to be loaded at European ports and refused to allow US forces passage if they reasonably believed those forces were going to invade a sovereign state in an illegal war? It’s happened, I argue that it happening writ large across a whole continent is a US nightmare.

There’s no sentimentality here, there’s no impetuous desire to assert. Just the common sense conclusion that having Europe under its thumb is more in the US interest than it is having a confident, assertive Europe that disagrees and could disagree with US policies and worse, act unilaterally or simply defy.



I must say I agree with what you’re saying but would like to ask a question. What could the US do about it if the current Europe decided to “act unilaterally”?

Would they “manage” us? Would that mean they have to redistribute their carrier assets back to how they currently are rather than the swing to China. They simply don’t have the capability. Of course, they could up defence spending to 8% but that would set the alarm bells ringing in Russia and China (and Europe too).

The thing is that I’m of the opinion that Europe’s interests are in similar locations to China, Russia and India. Between us we call the shots, not the USA.


What could the US do about it if the current Europe decided to “act unilaterally”?

In my opinion there is not much the US could do. Force isn’t going to be an option (but we should bare in mind for the distant future that GB has been to war with the US as many times as it has the German state) and any sort of economic slap or US withdrawal of forces is simply going to speed up what the US doesn’t want to happen – it becomes self fulfilling.

At the moment the prospect of a united and confident Europe is not on the cards so it is not high on the agenda I imagine but the current trend is a slow but steady creep of European confidence and power projection underpinned by an economic bloc more powerful than the US. US domestic politics as so often happens doesn’t help when it calls for further disengagement from Europe because it is no longer important – it is no longer so important precisely because it has become so boring and dependent. A swifter pace toward confidence and strength would change opinion very quickly and unfortunately I think US attitudes would harden considerably further driving change.

The US is in the shit and it knows it increasingly. Iraq really showed the limits of the new US position in the world. It can still wield enormous force and clout but slowly but surely that clout is becoming less and less important.

The US needs to focus, regionally it will be unstoppable for probably almost a century but being able to focus regionally means having quiet backwaters to divert forces and energy from which is why a nice, quiet and pliant Europe, straddling as it does so many important places, is the key to future US security.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@ Phil and Simon – I am imagining a Europe that would welcome the obliteration of Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran, the collapse of Iraq into a fast spreading Shia/Sunni Religious War, and an explicitly Islamist Pakistan (with nukes and a substantial diaspora in GB)…and one that shares most of it’s essential interests with the authoritarian and quite often murderous gangster-led kleptocracies of Russia and in a rather different way China…

I’ll admit it isn’t easy…pretty much up there with Ecuador as a haven of liberty and free speech to which gallant whistle-blowers against the iniquities of the US World Tyranny are compelled to flee…

Keen for us to work more closely with India though.

An imaginatively challenged Gloomy



Common cause between Europe, China, Russia and India seems unlikely. It reminds me of statements by Chinese that Asians should unite (behind China) to kick out the Westerners (because they’re not Asian), ignoring intra Asian tensions. There are dramatic differences in interests between Eurasia’s major power centres, all of who have great power themselves and no real joint reason to gang up on the current superpower. There are areas for cooperation in diversifying and securing trans Eurasian trade routes and preventing drug smuggling, but that’s it.

@Jeremy MH

Agreed. Close European cooperation with Russia seems unlikely. There is still antipathy in Eastern Europe and Russia’s tactics (Georgia, gas cut offs, domestic clamp downs) will not be appreciated. Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus are also areas of competition for expansion. Furthermore Russia will be juggling great powers on all its flanks whilst dealing with a jihadist insurgency to the south. This is also why Russia would not be a good choice to join the EU. Europe is effectively an island and dynamic power projector. If it includes Russia, large forces will be locked down protecting the borders and it would expose Europe directly to Asian Great Power competition.



This is why there interested and will be for a significantly long time https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/g8-summit-us-eu-trade-statement

And I would disagree Europe has significant capability to defend its borders within the European nations its the force projection assets european nations lack as most aren’t interesting in that an important difference.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@ Mark – I don’t doubt that there will be a continued interest in trade where it is mutually beneficial (although those benefits will steadily diminish unless Europe improves it’s performance radically)…but I do not think the US will choose nor indeed be able to underpin European Defence in perpetuity, and nor should it; likewise, Europe can probably manage some sort of minimal self-defence if every other option is exhausted…against some potential opponents it might even win…but this article was about a Joint Expeditionary Force, which as you yourself say is not the same thing at all…



Gloomy – read the line “Keen for us to work more closely with India though” and got to thinking. Dangerous. The thought was whether the far-thinking experts writing here would be more comfortable with a Commonwealth defence alliance than with an EU one. Whether such a thing would be those nations who hold HM the Queen as monarch (Aus, Canada, NZ, UK and many Caribbean and island states) or the full 50 plus nations which would mean India and Pakistan would be in the same defence force…

Probably a ‘no point in doing it’ idea, as the Commonwealth is spread all around the globe and not focused on security of a single defendable multi-state territory, but it has worked before and might still have benefits in the modern world?

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Chris – possibly, and as the skies darken, some of the smaller states might welcome closer UK involvement…especially if they have unfriendly neighbours; however the question for me is if the UK has any appetite to do more in that direction…although I don’t rule out the possibility if they have resources that others covet and we need and would pay a fair price for…rare earth minerals in Sierra Leone come to mind.

Connects with a previous discussion about using the DfID more systematically to build a network of small, prosperous and friendly democracies in key areas…and also the further development of our relationship with the BOT’s.

As to the bigger members of the Anglo-Sphere, I have long thought we needed to strengthen relationships there wherever possible.

A mildly post-imperial Gloomy.


I think Phil makes a good point about the US not being served well by a strong Europe. The two parties don’t even have to disagree on all issues. The conflict comes from disagreeing on a variety of areas where their interest diverge (Iraq was a good example). There doesn’t even have to exist a cold war style stand off, with tanks staring each other down over borders for their to be conflict.

A US-EU “conflict” would likely be much more subtle, behind the scenes. Funnelling money into politcal entities of third party countries that were beneficial to the interests of the respective nation groups. One day I’ll get round to writing a piece on the way Russia managed the Cold War via proxy, you’d be surprised how much of an arse ache you can cause someone just with a bit of funding and assistance behind the scenes, aside from the more obvious examples like Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

As for an EU-Russia alliance, can’t see it happening. A UK-Russia alliance, if only informaly? Now that would be interesting, harking back to the days when we were at our peak. Divvy responsbility for most of the world between us, you manage your bits, we’ll manage our bits, and we’ll both manage the US individually when it impinges on individual interests, and collectively when it impinges on shared interests.



You might even want to do a compare and contrast on how the US does their proxy wars too, they don’t really have a good record. Banana republics, assasination of allied leaders, attempted regime change of friendly powers which soon became not friendly, infiltrating and suborning friendly government’s security etc. The US State Department was a classic case of not being able to find its arse with both hands.


Re: “gangster-led kleptocracies of Russia”

It really isn’t that bad, newspapers tend towards hyperbole, which is why their reliability ratings have been dropping.

According to the Russian foreign ministry, they have less problems with Asia than Europe due to proximity save the territorial dispute with Japan, and there, they are trying for the soft power approach, their opinion is that as they and Japan get closer economically, the more both parties will be willing to settle for a 50/50 resolution.



Your argument was why would the US be interested in Europe and that’s the question I answered. As for European performance I think I’ll disagree with you there to a point the Northern European countries are ever bit as competitive as the US.

I think the European defensive capability is better than what you suggest
As for expeditionary capability well that really depends on what you want them to do capabilities are being acquired to allow this type of operation. Are Europe going down town Tehran alone no but then the biggest of battles will be a UN security council action IMO.

Gloomy Northern Boy

I don’t doubt the competitiveness of some Northern European economies, although our social costs are universally higher than the competition…my issue there is the slow motion collapse of the Euro, and the appalling toll of that on stability and indeed democratic legitimacy of Governments in Southern Europe…

On the question of the effectiveness of unused and largely risk averse European Armed Forces in a real shooting war when big numbers are required we’ll need to agree to differ…and as I say the post was about Expeditionary Capacity, so that was what I was referring to…

Off to Bovington for Tankfest now,,,taking Boy to see his Grandad’s Tank…or a version of it…his ended up in bits near Caen…


Gloomy – not sure if I will get over to Bovington – busy day – but its good to go pat a tank or two on the nose. I’m sure you will teach your lad well…

Will keep an eye out for anyone sporting a slogan relating to Gloom or t’North

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Chris… Just look out fer me whippet…it’ll bi t’one ayting tripe sarnies!



Back from Bovington where I saw stick-thin, beach-ball-round, young and old shaped people, but I didn’t notice a Gloomy shaped one.

I did however have a brief chat to a lad in civvies but who I found out was a soldier recently in Helmand. One tour with the very tall Scimitar 2, one tour with the very topless Jackal. His verdict – Scimitar 2 pretty good, Jackal pants. Didn’t feel protected in Jackal, the half doors opened at the slightest pressure, no windscreen or roof to keep bugs from teeth or rain from back of neck. It was clear he found Jackal duty pretty miserable. As for Scimitar 2, apart from generally new condition and the knowledge it had better blast protection than original Scimitar, its biggest advance to the User was more space inside.

Still looks like a Spartan with a turret on top, though.


“Back from Bovington where I saw stick-thin, beach-ball-round, young and old shaped people, but I didn’t notice a Gloomy shaped one.”

Always tricky trying to detect a gloomy person at any English public function. The odour of tripe should have given him away but to pick that out over the stench of diesel exhausts, especially some of that Russian stuff they had running last time I went to TankFest, might have been a very tall order. Probably your best bet in identifying GNB would have been too look for the clogs, the string around the trousers just below the knees, and, of course, the cloth cap and trailing whippet.

Interesting what that young lad said about Scimitar 2 and Jackal, but I am not surprised. The Jackal might suit the likes of Mr. Trousers of this parish, in their deeds of daring-do behind enemy lines, but for anyone going out in a vehicle looking to get in a scrap better protection has to be a no brainer, even if it does look like a Spartan with a turret. Mind you when the push comes I’d sooner be out on my feet.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Chris & HurstLlama – sorry I missed you chaps – highlight for Boy was the Challenger 2 in the ring, and the Warthog in the Helmand display (a family friend is Major, RM) – he graded both 11 out of 10 on the cool scale; also a free T-shirt from the crew running World of Tanks (several visits for Boy to keep computer skills up to scratch…)

I had a pleasant chat with the WO2 Engineers running the bridge-building display…and was oddly moved talking to a Senior NCO from the Oglaigh na hEireann looking after General Michael Collin’s Silver Ghost about our shared but not altogether happy history…seemed happy about recent rulings on their WW2 veterans, and having their guys in Mali…

Then drove into heavy traffic and delays heading north, and became characteristically Gloomy.


You neglect politics.
Several European nations can order hardware together with each of them saving costs. Establishing one to two common European amphibious warfare and carrier template/s is within the realm of the possible.
Having some alliances of European nations operate such a selection of hardware jointly is also within the realm of the possible. The Skandinavians, Baltics and the Dutch are one alliance group.
Italy and Spain another, France and Great Britain the most powerful.
Europe falls into small regions which can cooperate, but as soon as more players are directly involved things get chaotic. We can organize few design templates, few alliances within and an arrangement of all inner European alliances to cooperate with each other, but no Belgian air wing on the Queen Elizanbeth. Look at the organization of NATO’s rotating air forces in the Baltic republics that highlight our problems.


I don’t doubt a minute that if the United Kingdom was in danger, France would send all his forces in battle, we are reliable partners , but there is the problem of a common defense industry, which would mean that we have a joint logistics. For example, if we make a common war by 2025 we will have a high-quality material, but a variety of material incredible, all your main vehicles will enter in U.S. C-17, you have seven C-17, Americans have more than 200. You are going to buy A400M which none will be used to carry anything other than Foxhound and other light vehicles and helicopters, all your infantry vehicles and your recce vehicles are not deployable, you will have the best vehicles in the world blocked on your island. While we can go anywhere in the world in a few days or weeks.
It would require a major reform of our industrial cooperation and a joint doctrine to go together anywhere.


“I don’t doubt a minute that if the United Kingdom was in danger, France would send all his forces in battle, … ”

I have no doubt that you would, on whose side though? :P

“It would require a major reform of our industrial cooperation and a joint doctrine to go together anywhere.”

You make a good point. I wonder if the situation you describe is by design, “Love to help. Look, you fly your chaps out there and get stuck in. We’ll be along in a couple of months to back you up.”

Gloomy Northern Boy

@frenchie – a bit puzzled – didn’t you need help from us to put what I assume was a Demi-Brigade in Mali? Didn’t we deploy a full scale Armoured Division for GW2 and keep a reinforced Brigade in Afghanistan for some years?

Am I missing something?



@Frenchie: forgive me for raining on your parade, but I was under the impression that France’s first move when recently deploying to Mali was to request a couple of RAF C17’s. My memory must be at fault however, since the French forces no doubt have a perfectly matched air transport and rapid deployment forces which require no additional support :-)

Gloomy Northern Boy

@wf – SNAP!

Red Trousers

@ HurstLlama, GNB & wf,

Far be it for me to defend French honour. After all, I wore as my cap badge the French Eagle we captured at Waterloo back in 1815, and who was tremendously proud to engineer an inter-allied Ministerial talks session where the French MinAF arrived on a Eurostar at Waterloo station on 18th June, and who was then driven in a long black stretch number via Trafalgar Square to the MoD. (A bit of an outer office giggle, and probably unnoticed by the principals. It won me a bottle of champagne though from CGS’ MA, who’d said I’d be rumbled)

But, I also served with great pride in the Cabinet of Géneral de Corps d’Armée Bernard Janvier in Yugoslavia, a wonderful and tough French Légion officer, whose other staff were also tough fighting officers and proud Frenchmen, and I learned some lessons from them in how the French see the British. And Bernard Janvier arranged for me – as a gift – to spend 3 months commanding the anti-sniping platoon of FREBAT 2 in Sarajevo when the end of my tour did not coincide with my next British Army appointment, so I saw French soldiers up close while fighting. Those boys need not take second place to any British battalion.

I think you are all very ungenerous to Frenchie. My French is pretty reasonable, but probably not as good as his English.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same


I for one will never doubt the effectiveness of the modern French armed forces but it is slightly ridiculous criticising UK air mobility when they were scrounging C17s to intervene in Mali. He also neglects to mention that all French light armour in theatre was either already in a neighbouring country or shipped in on a Mistral Class amphib.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@RT – Like @apats, I have the greatest respect for our Gallic Cousins…but I fear that their political class have let them down rather more than ours have let us down, that was my only point.

Vive La France! Vive L’Empereur!



Yes, thank you for your C-17 in Mali, but I speak for the future, you are talking about the present and the past. I would be happy that you cancel the order of A400M and have more C-17, this would be best fits your future military equipment. What I mean is that you simply can count on us, that a common military industrial policy and a common military doctrine we would save a lot of money. This would avoid the quirks about aircraft carriers, and all those sorts of things.
French people have a great respect for the British Army and the UK in general.