Bill Carmichael: Brussels spearheads new threat to Nato

Soldiers from NATO countries attend an opening ceremony of a military exercise in Lithuania last year. (PA).
Soldiers from NATO countries attend an opening ceremony of a military exercise in Lithuania last year. (PA).
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Nato – the great military alliance between Western democracies that has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years – is under threat like never before.

One line of attack comes from federalist fanatics in Brussels, who, even as their grand project crumbles about their ears, still have deluded dreams of creating a European superstate.

They already have a flag, an anthem, a “parliament” of sorts (even though it is essentially powerless), and a president (unelected and unaccountable, of course).

Now they want an army.

You may recall during the summer’s EU referendum that the Remain camp gave us cast-iron assurances that there would be no European army – a pledge that was exposed as a blatant lie after the vote when plans for a joint EU defence force were immediately resurrected.

The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, is a particular enthusiast, and a blueprint was drawn up for an expensive new headquarters for the EU army, complete with thousands of lovely new jobs for Brussels pen pushers.

But unfortunately, although there is always plenty of money in Europe for expense account lunches and chauffeur-driven limousines, EU member states were less keen to stump up the necessary cash to pay for actual soldiers, tanks and warplanes.

So under the original plans, before our vote to leave the EU, any actual fighting would have to be carried out in the main by the UK’s Armed Forces with the assistance of one or two other countries, all under the command – heaven help us – of people like Mr Juncker.

After Brexit that plan lies in ruins. Without the UK’s input the “EU Army” is nothing but an empty shell. The combined military might of Luxembourg and Belgium are not going to cause many sleepless nights in the Kremlin.

What will they do if Russia invades Estonia? Send a strongly worded memo?

But although the EU Army is a joke, it still serves to undermine and destabilise Nato, which thanks to US support, actually has the military clout to deter Russian aggression.

The other threat to Nato comes from the US’s President-elect Donald Trump, who has regularly questioned the commitment of European countries to the military alliance that keeps us safe.

And he has a point – the US supplies 73 per cent of total military spending by Nato countries, despite the fact that the European countries combined have a bigger GDP than America.

In 2006 Nato set a target for member countries to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence, but so far only five countries have hit that target – the UK, the US, Estonia, Greece and Poland.

Many countries are simply failing to pull their weight, including the economic powerhouse of Germany alongside Spain, France, Italy and Norway.

It is hard to escape the conclusion, voiced by Barack Obama earlier this year, that European countries are “free riders” who expect the American taxpayer to pick up the tab for their security.

For seven decades Europe has grown lazy and rich while sheltering under the American military umbrella. With Mr Trump promising to take a long, hard look at spending on Nato those balmy days are over. Europe needs to take more responsibility for keeping its own people safe, and the way to do that is not by indulging in grandiose fantasies about an EU Army but by re-doubling our commitment to Nato and substantially increasing military spending.

Trump hysteria

I said some harsh things about Donald Trump during the US Presidential campaign and if I were a US citizen he would not have got my vote.

But if anything will make you warm to the President-elect it is the hysterical, positively unhinged reaction to his victory from his opponents.

Have you ever seen such a bunch of lip trembling, bedwetting, screeching crybabies in your life?

Well actually yes, because we had much the same reaction to Brexit and the UK version Project Whinge has been going on for almost five months now with no sign of running out of steam.

There is plenty to disagree with Mr Trump about – but he is not Hitler, the Republicans are not the ‘new Nazis’ and there are no concentration camps in the US.

Calm down, take a deep breath and try to grow up a bit.