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One State, One World

The EU And NATO, Side By Side

Originally, the EU and NATO coexisted with separate goals--the EU worked on economic integration, and NATO dealt with defense.

nato soldiers

Photo: MATEUS_27:24&25 (Flickr)

As the EU attempts to create a Common Security and Defense Policy and engages in its own foreign missions, some wonder whether the two organizations will have complementary or overlapping roles.

Originally, the EU and NATO coexisted with separate goals–the EU worked on economic integration, and NATO dealt with defense.

However, as the EU attempts to create a Common Security and Defense Policy and engages in its own foreign missions, some wonder whether the two organizations will have complementary or overlapping roles.

There were several motivations for wanting to create a more unified EU foreign policy. The first was the assumption that speaking with a more unified voice on the world stage would help the EU achieve its economic and political goals more easily.

Second, some states, mainly France, wished to reduce the European reliance on America. For them, a more robust defense and security component to the EU would help displace the American-dominated NATO.

In recent years the EU has engaged in several military missions, mostly in Africa. In 2007 the Council approved the deployment of several thousand soldiers from EU member states to Chad and the Central African Republic to protect Sudanese refugees who had fled across the border.

The European External Action Service has a full list of the various EU peacekeeping and military missions here.

The response by American policymakers to the EU’s military operations has been varied. On the one hand, many proponents of NATO worry that a growing EU security and defense strategy might make the two organizations competitors (pdf).

There are indeed points of contention between the two organizations. For example, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar has been a vocal proponent of expanding NATO eastward towards the Russian border. Some EU members worry, however, that further expansion eastwards might harm Europe’s relations with Russia, because Russia is wary about NATO’s expansion to its borders.

Learn More

This episode of One State One World is produced in partnership with the EU Center at Indiana University.

Read more about the European Union on the EU Center’s blog, Across the Pond.