Royal Navy under French command

Royal Navy warships may form part of EU fleet – Telegraph

Royal Navy vessels could take part in a new “European Union fleet” being planned by France.

carrier I am not sure that I see a problem with this, in fact it could well be a good idea. It is about time that the EU had more clout and in the current climate, where the UN is ineffectual and bogged down with bureaucracy and the US is already over stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be good to have another power looking after humanitarian interests.

But back to the real world, all this means is that EU countries will have one of the most powerful navies in the world protecting them, the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy has the second largest carrier fleet in the world, as unbelievable as that may sound, with a whopping 3 carriers. France has just 1, Germany 0, Italy 1, Russia also has just 1.

France is currently building another aircraft carrier, but Britain is building two big new carriers that will take the fleet to 5 (although three will probably be decommissioned), giving the EU quite a carrier fleet at about 8 carriers. The US has 24.

The Royal Navy also has the largest submarine fleet in the EU, twice the size of its nearest rival, but only half the size of the Russian and Chinese fleets, and a third of the size of the US one.

I can see why France would want a European Union Fleet, all of the benefits of the Royal Navy and none of the costs, but this isn’t all one way traffic. I am sure that the British government is thinking the same thing, after all why build the destroyers that the Royal Navy desperately needs, when we could use the French and German ones? The RN has just eight destroyers, the French and Germans have twelve each.

This could be the start of another cost saving plan by the government to scale down the Royal Navy and have other nations fill the gaps.

The other concern is spelt out by the Conservative Defence spokesman:

“We need to know if this is an attempt by the Government to ingratiate itself with EU allies and in so doing sell the Royal Navy down the river. “

Both France and Germany have shown their unwillingness to risk their own armed forces in Afghanistan so will the EU Fleet simply be a way of France and Germany getting the British to once again do the fighting for them?

This scheme has grand aims but I think that it will be forever bogged down with just who contributes what for each mission and more importantly, who controls the fleet, and the French have never been much good at compromising.

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4 responses to “Royal Navy under French command

  1. The EU Navy ? I think about some of the joint force NATO operations and wonder what the point is to having a EU Navy. The EU portion of NATO naval units can’t really project power and even combined would not likely be able or willing to risk losses. As far as humanitarian actions I see that as fitting but wonder if not unlike China the EU can sustain a true blue sea force.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    I suppose that is probably the primary motivation for France wishing to create the EU fleet, at present just the US has a navy capable of fighting and winning wars and influencing world events, there is no real balance at sea.

    The Russian navy is tiny compared to the old Soviet navy, China’s navy is growing but still pretty small.

    It is now America that rules the waves, virtually unchallenged.

    It is only really the EU that could field a comparable fleet, the EU has the money and certainly has the numbers but as you point out, not the stomach. In all likelihood this is just an attempt to scale down many European navies yet further by pooling them together if needed, but making it appear that the EU has some clout at sea.

  3. The question is a simple one: What are the commitments and obligations of such a proposal. The fact is that The US Navy (like the Chinese, Russian etc) are a unified command.

    An EU naval task force would be similar to the current political arrangement in that it would be a very loose coalition and any actions undertaken would be dependent on full agreement from all member states.

    For example if Britian ever faced another Falklands crisis it would, in my view, be very unlikely that the French or Germans would want to risk lives lost in such an operation and we would face the prospect of going it alone.

    Unless there exists a cohesive and comprehensive foriegn policy to which everyone agrees with you simply cant have a worthwhile table of strength.

    My fear is that any such EU navy would be a paper tiger

  4. I agree with you Mark.

    I don’t think it will just be a serious situation like the Falklands. I think that the EU navy will be fantastic on exercises, but come any major operation I think that everyone will pull out one by one until just the British are going.

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