European Union Crisis Management in a No-Win Situation

Article excerpt

John Bolton's description of a European Union (EU) rapid reaction force is woefully misleading ("Risking NATO's future?" Commentary, Dec. 15).

The decisions taken by the EU heads of state and government in Helsinki last weekend are the result of hard, detailed work among military experts, not least in France and the United Kingdom. To dismiss them as "inevitable EU verbiage" is not only insulting, but is a demonstration, once again, of the deeply ambiguous attitude that one of our friends across the Atlantic harbors about any European effort to become a more reliable military partner to the United States. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Europe's leaders emphatically are not challenging the role of NATO, which, as they acknowledge, "remains the foundation of the collective defense of its members." We are determined to avoid duplication. But it is surely in everyone's interest for Europe to have some collective ability to prevent conflicts and manage crises "where the Alliance as a whole is not engaged."

Mr. Bolton worries that Europe's determination to create a 60,000-troop capacity for conflict prevention and crisis management threatens NATO's "military rationale." He should be concerned, rather, that Europe might fail to meet the legitimate expectations of its citizens and of its greatest ally. …