The choice of scenarios for conventional high-end defensive wars doesn't seem to be great for European thinkers on military affairs.
The bad, bad Russians in the East who didn't recognize the Baltic states yet, the bad, bad Russians in the East who might sometime use military force in the Ukraine and finally the bad, bad Arabs. Actually, neither Arabs nor Russians are really in a position to cause much trouble in the short run, so most attention is being diverted to stupid expeditions that have marginal relevance to European security. Their "bad, bad" factor is also quite unimpressive to date. This continent has experienced much worse.
There's another, very serious scenario, though. The recent events have made it a bit easier to write about this seemingly devious scenario; a European Civil War.
|(c) see below|
There was no really sustainable multi-national state or empire in history - at least none without frequent internal conflict up to civil war and genocide levels.
The Austrian-Hungarian empire, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were large examples that crumbled shortly after the iron fist of a party or dynasty lost control. That iron fist seems to be necessary to conserve multi-national empires that were built by rulers.
The USA represents an exception to the rule because no immigrant nationality can claim a halfway coherent area of it as a result of the immigration. That's different in Europe. A unified Europe would leave most nationalities with easy-to-define borders of their homelands, and they could easily claim them for an independent state.
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We're not at the point of real unification yet, but it's certainly a powerful movement - and in large part a top-down movement - in favour of further unification.
I think there lies the primary risk of conventional future warfare for Europeans. A bottom-up unification with real national consent may prove to be very stable, but a top-down unification could happen before the conditions are right. Politicians in several European countries have avoided plebiscites about European unification treaties because they feared a "No"; a disagreement of the majority. That's neither a way to go for a honest democracy nor for the European unification ideology.
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The common currency € (Euro) was such a case of top-down, mostly plebiscite-free, unification. Plebiscites were more seen as obstacles for the €, not as sources of legitimacy during the late 90's.
There were economic theories pro and contra the common currency. The pro arguments were mostly about easily visible, easily understood and reliable symptoms (such as no need for changing money on vacation).
One of the contra arguments was a doom scenario. That doom scenario focused on the lack of flexible exchange rates and their loss as an important balancing factor. The theory supported the view that the Euro area was too dissimilar and the production factor work not mobile enough due to language barriers.
The predicted results were trade balance deficits and huge economic troubles in the South (especially Portugal, but also Greece, Spain & Italy) and a need for transfers from the richer nations.
The pro-EUnification ideology hammered down such worries, and the result fits well to the economic theory predictions; Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal are increasingly in trouble. The currency is a major, albeit not the only, reason for the troubles.
Spain would have devalued its Peseta without the €, and that would have increased its exports, reduced its imports and generally would have helped to balance its economy.
It didn't have the Peseta; it had the € together with a country like Germany for which the € is apparently not valuable enough. The result was that Spanish goods and services were relatively expensive and thus not competitive enough. They had much economic growth, but much of that was a construction sector bubble.
Their annual trade balance deficit is 2% of GDP, or almost 950 € per working person and year.
Spain was actually one of the less serious examples; especially Portugal is about four times worse off.
There are first discussions about whether Portugal and Greece need to leave the € zone to fix their problems (instead of just fighting the symptoms) - or whether they need to be kicked out by pressure. The case is especially strong for Greece, which can be considered to have violated the relevant treaty. Portugal on the other hand was known to not have been ready for the €, its inclusion was a quite obvious mistake from day one.
This example shows how a quite ideology-driven top-down unification can risk a collapse of the unification if it advances without waiting for the right conditions being set.
A European Civil War would have a tremendous destructive potential; the Yugoslav Wars would look like a tiny anecdote by comparison.
The security and peace policy of European countries should therefore include a careful, thorough process of European unification and a hasty, top-down unification process should be avoided due to the great risks involved. Rational policy should win over ideology.
(c) photo of burning government building in the centre of Sarajevo '92: Mikhail Evstafiev