EU Countries Decide to Create Their Own Rapid Response Force

Olivier Renault

A European military unit – the rapid response force – must, in the future, specialize in evacuation and stabilization. The operational availability of this new military force is planned for 2025. A first mission could ensure a future cease-fire in Ukraine, ensures Die Welt. But, it is under the political and military command of Berlin that everything must take place. And, it was with the agreement of NATO that it was decided to set up the rapid response force.

Faced with the increasingly precarious security situation in the world, the European Union is working hard on a new rapid military intervention force of up to 5,000 soldiers. In November 2021, Continental Observer specified that « the EU validates pan-European defense ». As required, the rapid reaction force should include not only ground troops, but also air and naval forces. According to information from Die Welt, EU defense ministers want to take a fundamental decision on Tuesday: the first two of the five scenarios planned for the military operation must be adopted.

Germany wants to lead the EU rapid reaction force. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, explained the project to the German media, which is being drafted in Berlin: « First, we created two possible deployment scenarios for [ the EU rapid reaction force ]: rescue and evacuation operations and, in a second scenario, the start ( initial phase ) of a stabilization mission. These deployment scenarios will help us to better define the capabilities required for [ the EU rapid reaction force ] and to organize the first military exercise in the second half of 2023 ».

Die Welt underlines that this will take place in Spain « and that » Germany wants to be the first country to lead the new intervention force after its launch in 2025 «, but that, » however, this has not yet been decided ».

An evacuation mission mainly consists in rescuing European citizens from regions in crisis in the event of an emergency, argues Die Welt. Again, another largely unplanned withdrawal from Afghanistan should not be seen as in the summer of 2021. The EU wants to prepare for such cases in a timely manner, and Somalia or Libya would be possible as target countries for such a scenario.

Soldiers of the EU rapid reaction force will be placed in Ukraine and Moldova. The EU rapid reaction force has a stabilization mission. This means that crisis response forces, if necessary with robust military means, bring stability and ensure peace in the short term. The soldiers of this European force could be heavily armed, hammer Die Welt and indicates that, despite the conflict in Ukraine with Russia since last February, « the possible locations for this could be Ukraine or Moldova ».

Markus Kaim, the safety expert of the Science and Policy Foundation ( Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik ) based in Berlin, said the new working group could also be used to secure a « protection zone in Ukraine » – for example, if the UN accepts a future ceasefire agreement between Moscow and Kiev, as a mandate for a peacekeeping force. When adopting this historic strategic document for the European Union ( the strategic compass ) Emmanuel Macron a insisted on the fact that he wanted to define a « European strategic sovereignty » and that « this concept, which seemed unthinkable four years ago, allows us to anchor that we Europeans, whether we are members of NATO or not ( … ), have common threats and common goals ».

Funding is still unclear. The precursors of the new EU rapid reaction force are the battle groups. However, they have never been used, resulting in considerable funding problems, and their deployment has suffered from the reluctance of member states to send enough troops. This situation should change now. Rapid reaction force formation is significantly intensified, warns Die Welt. In addition, there should be different « modules » which can be combined according to deployment needs, for example, during’ a wave of politically organized refugees as was the case from Belarus to Poland in late 2021 and early this year. Another novelty is that the participating States will no longer have to bear the costs of training and deploying soldiers themselves. However, the exact way in which the new working group will be funded is still the subject of intense debate. A significant part of the funds will probably come from a special fund for EU global crisis operations: the European Peace Facility.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, said, as explained by the media Die Welt, that the new force is « crucial to enable the EU to react quickly, vigorously and effectively to conflicts and crises, both in our immediate vicinity and beyond ». And, according to him, « the unit is one of the most important results of the strategic compass which was decided in March 2022 ». It should be mentioned again that a particular priority of the French Presidency is to strengthen the defense capacities of the EU.

 Continental Observer made known that « in the margins, French diplomats note that the adoption of the strategic compass – launched under the German presidency – in early 2022 is a fundamental task, otherwise the process may be completely buried ». Also, in full awareness of Berlin’s desire to establish its military and political domination over the defense of the EU, France has validated this new project.

Do not compete with NATO. The head of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAllister ( CDU ), stressed that this would make the EU « more capable of acting » in the future: « Judging by the obstacles that European cooperation in security and defense policy has encountered in overcoming in recent years, this intervention force is a milestone » ; « The concept must be implemented by 2025 at the latest ». For Die Welt, the rapid reaction force is intended to improve respect for the security interests of the EU, but it is not expressly intended to compete with NATO. An EU document from March states: « NATO is and will remain the foundation of the common defense of its members ».

Repression also in the civil field. Continental Observer warned that the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defense of the European Union welcomed on 16 November 2021 the project for a new defense strategy ( strategic compass ) which now leads to this force rapid reaction for the military aspect, but which EU officials are also targeting, in particular, systems for repression in the civil field.