NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that he supports the European Union’s plans to form a common defense policy, but warned against any rapid reaction forces that could duplicate allied operations.
He said this in an interview with Reuters.
EU defense ministers are considering a “first force” of 5,000 troops, stressing that the bloc needs to respond to conflicts beyond its borders caused by the West’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“We welcome more EU defense efforts, but this cannot replace NATO. This effort should not duplicate NATO because we have one set of forces, we have limited resources,” Stoltenberg said.
EU force-building efforts have been paralyzed for more than a decade, despite the creation in 2007 of a battalion-sized battle group system of 1,500 troops that have never been used because of funding disputes.
“What I mean by that is to make the best use of them. The EU has had battle groups for years but hasn’t deployed them,” he said.
NATO created the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
The EU, most of which members are NATO members, argues that it must be able to act independently of its ally the U.S. to protect its own interests.
Earlier, EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell said EU governments should continue working on a European rapid reaction force to better prepare for future crises, as in Afghanistan.