(AP) BRUSSELS, Belgium – The United States cautioned France and Germany on Tuesday against going ahead with plans for a European military headquarters separate from NATO, warning it would be an expensive duplication of resources and risked harming alliance unity.
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns said the Europeans should focus on modernizing their armed forces to deal with global terrorism rather than build an expensive new headquarters.
“The rules of the road are that NATO and the European Union are partners … that the EU will not develop duplicative institutions,” Burns said at a breakfast meeting organized by a Brussels think tank.
The United States and some European nations are uneasy about plans announced in April by France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg to set up a European military planning center outside Brussels to run military operations independent of NATO.
Many saw it as a threat to NATO solidarity, which had been strained by differences between those four nations and the United States over the Iraq war.
“It does cast a doubt about where those countries are headed and what their intentions are,” Burns told fellow diplomats, business representatives and journalists. “Europe does not need more headquarters.”
Other EU nations have not backed the proposal, he noted. Britain has proposed an alternative that would see a European military planning group integrated at NATO’s military headquarters in southern Belgium.
While backing European plans for stronger defense in partnership with NATO, Burns said ideas promoted in France to build up the European Union as a counterweight to U.S. power in the world would be “a recipe for failure.”
Instead, he said, European nations should give a higher priority to developing more flexible military forces able to move quickly around the world to confront security threats.
Burns praised France, Britain, Norway and former east bloc nations such as Romania and Poland for pushing ahead with such military reforms, but named Germany, Belgium and Canada as needing to do more.