ANY plans that Europe may have had to form its own joint military force ended this week with the sweeping cuts announced by the Ministry of Defence in Britain. They follow similar measures announced by France, Germany and Spain. There is no way that the European armed forces could handle a repeat of the Kosovo crisis and it is doubtful that the Europeans could handle a major United Nations peacekeeping operation without the support of the U.S. While cross-Atlantic relations may have been better Europe has never depended so much on the United States when it comes to military muscle. In the words of Colonel Tim Collins, whose rousing speech before the Iraq war caused such a stir, Europe doesn't have armies anymore, just a form of home guard. While NATO has often called on the European nations to spend more on defence, the reverse has happened, leaving Europe with meagre armies who have run to the United States at the first sign of trouble. I will not bore you with the military aspects of the sweeping defence cuts in Britain but I will say that if the British armed services are going to become more sophisticated, like the Ministry of Defence said, then they should start ordering the equipment right away because there is nothing on the horizon which in U.S. terms could be described as sophisticated.
What makes matters worse is that the need to maintain the illusion of European independence is that the ill-fated and outdated Eurofighter will soon be joining the depleted ranks of the Royal Air Force. This plane was designed in the 1980s and would have been out-of-date in the first Gulf war. There is another aspect of this illusion. The two giant British aircraft carriers which will join the fleet when I am close to retirement will probably be built and designed in France. There we go, who said that the Ministry of Defence is un-European? Shame, though, that thousands of British shipyard workers will lose their jobs.